Features of the SINXP1394
Packaging and Layout
Gigabyte recently has gone to styling up their products with a good software and hardware bundle, along with an attractive outer packaging.
The packaging of the SINXP1394 has been changed from the original Blue and White box. This box comes with a gold colored trimming and a very large SINXP1394 logo on the box.
Inside the box you get yourself the motherboard, 3 user manuals (1 for the board, 1 for the Serial ATA RAID controller and one for the GigaRAID IDE RAID controller), 2 IDE cables, 1 FDD cable, 4 Serial ATA cables, 1 Serial ATA power cable, 1 Optical Audio Expansion bracket, 1 External Serial ATA connector bracket and 1 Add on 3 phase power module. Phew, that's a spicy meatball.
The board, Layout and Gripes
The layout of the board is an ATX board based on a 4 layer design measuring 30.5 x 24.4 cm. Being based on the 4 layer design reduces costs to the consumer. The board is outfitted with 1 AGP slot that supports rev 3.0 specs only. This means that you can only use either an AGP 4x video card that supports 1.5v AGP signaling or AGP 8x card that supports a 0.9v signaling. Gigabyte has moved to coloring the AGP 8x slots green. AGP 4x is Purple and standard AGP is Brown.
Along with the AGP you get 5 PCI slots. These slots are colored white like standard PCI slots. While it would have been nice to have six slots, with the most of the peripherals onboard five slots are more than enough.
Placement of the power connectors is something that Gigabyte has not put a huge amount of thought into in the past and that has not changed on this board. On the 8INXP, 8PE667 Ultra, the 4-pin power connector has been placed below the CPU retention module between the Northbridge and the I/O Panel. This leads to the extra 4-pin power connector cables obstructing the CPU heatsink airflow. The 20-pin connector has been placed in a good spot behind the DIMM slots. This is standard on all of the Gigabyte boards and is a great placement.
Another interesting feature is the DIMM sockets. The Sockets have been color coded, two orange and two purple. This is for the Dual Channel operation. In order for dual channel to operate you need to have two identical modules in parallel. Simply put, you need two identical modules. Since there are two channels for increased memory size, you need to know which two DIMM slots are on the same row. Gigabyte has given you a good key. If you only have two DIMM modules and want to use them in 128-bit mode, you only need to place them in identical colored DIMM sockets (providing they are of same size modules) and bingo, Dual DDR at work.
Chipset, SiS655, Intel's new ally
The SINXP1394 is based on the new SiS655 chipset. This chipset consists of two parts, the SiS655 Host Memory and AGP Controller (HMAC) and the SiS963 Southbridge.
The SiS655 is the first Dual Channel DDR chipset from SiS. This new chipset supports an AGLT+ 100/133MHz FSB (400/533MHz) designed for the Intel Pentium 4. It provides a 12-level In-Order-Queue to support maximum outstanding transactions on host bus up to 12. The host interface plays the role of processor transactions dispatcher. It dispatches transactions to Memory, I/O interface and AGP bus.
The SiS655 Dual Channel Memory Controller, being the first Pentium 4 chipset in the worldwide that delivers 5.4 GB/s bandwidth way adequate and satisfactory to the 133MHz Pentium 4 FSB bandwidth demand of 4.2GB/s. With only officially supporting DDR-333 technology, the 655 has divider options for DDR-400, so overclockers should find this board a delight.
The AGP interface can support external AGP slot with AGP 4X/8X capability and Fast Write Transactions. A high bandwidth SiS MuTIOL technology is incorporated to connect SiS655 and 963together. SiS MuTIOL 1G technology is developed into three layers, the Multi-threaded I/O Link Layer delivering 1.2GB bandwidth to connect embedded DMA Master devices and external PCI masters to interface to Multi-threaded I/O Link layer, the Multi-threaded I/O Packet Layer in SiS963 to transfer data w/ 1 GB/s bandwidth from/to Multi-threaded I/O Link layer to/from SiS655, and the Multi-threaded I/O Packet Layer in SiS655 to transfer data w/ 1 GB/s from/to Multi-threaded I/O Link layer to/from SiS963.
The SiS655 is based on a FC-BGA design that resembled the FC-PGA Intel Pentium 3 and the i845 design chipset. This chipset design allows for better cooling (although it doesn't have a big a surface area) cooling is done direct with the heat generating components like in the Pentium 3 and AMD Athlon designs. Gigabyte provides an active cooler on the Northbridge for better cooling under overclocked conditions.
Like her sister board, the 8INXP, the SINXP1394 motherboard comes equipped with two RAID controllers. First you have a standard IDE RAID setup provided by the ITE GigaRAID controller chip. This provides two IDE channels for up to four IDE devices with a maximum transfer rate of 133MB/s.
The second RAID setup is a new generation Serial ATA RAID provided by the Silicon Image Serial ATA controller chip. This chip allows for two Serial ATA devices to be connected and to be setup as stand alone drives or in a RAID configuration. While the chipset does support 150MB/s Serial ATA drives, the chip is connected to the PCI bus thus limiting the transmission speeds to a theoretical maximum of 133MB/s.
Gigabyte provides a new extension card that allows you to move the Serial ATA outside the case. This card has a power connector on the back and two Serial ATA ports. This gives external access to the Serial ATA ports. You connect up a standard power port into the card along with the two Serial ATA ports to the headers on the motherboard and bingo, external SATA. This was first available from Gigabyte on the 8INXP and is the first external Serial ATA on the market, thanks to Gigabyte.
Gigabyte has moved towards Gigabit Ethernet controller chips on their high-end motherboards. The chip used for this is the Intel RC82540EM Network chip. This chip was first introduced on the 8PE667 Ultra motherboard. This chip provides the best networking experience.