Features of the 8S655FX Ultra
Package and Contents
Gigabyte packs a mean bundle with its high-end motherboards and the 8S655FX Ultra is just that, a high-end desktop contender. Within the box you will find your goodies. This includes your board, two user manuals (one for the board, one for the IDE RAID Controller), USB/Firewire combo bracket, two Serial ATA data cables, Serial ATA power splitter for two SATA drives, I/O faceplate, IDE and FDD cables and a 5.1 sound bracket along with the driver CD.
The board, Layout, Highs and Lows
Now we take a look at the board itself. The layout of the board is almost identical to the Intel i875 and i865 series boards. This is no surprise as the SiS 655FX chipset is almost identical to the Intel solution.
Like most of Gigabyte's boards coming out now, the 8S655FX Ultra uses an AGP slot which is color-coded green, which has been the color Gigabyte has chosen for its 1.5v only slots. Along with this, 5 PCI slots are included for additional devices like WiFi, high quality sound cards and video capture cards just to name a few.
When it comes to layout and accessibility, you get the goods with the board. First off the good. Gigabyte has once again color-coded its DIMM sockets so you can match Channel A and B without having to look through the user manual. The Southbridge powered IDE and FDD connectors are well located on the upper left of the motherboard, giving easy access to the ports when using full tower cases. The 20-pin power connector is located just in front of the FDD port, well out of the way of any heat generating devices.
For the bad part, well there is only one, but it is one that is made over and over, and in which other companies have solved with great ease. This is the placement of the 4-pin power connector. Once again Gigabyte has placed the 4-pin connector between the Northbridge and the I/O panel. This means the supplemental 12v power cables need to be draped over or around the CPU heatsink, not a good sign for overclockers, that's for sure.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. This is our first board here at TweakTown based on the SiS 655FX chipset. The 655FX chipset is the next step chipset from the original 655 released at the same time the Intel E7205 "Granite Bay" Chipset was released. The SiS 655FX chipset uses a Dual Channel Memory controller supporting DDR-266/333/400 memory modules for a maximum memory bandwidth of 6.4G/s. Coupled with this is Intel's Hyper-Threading technology support and an AGP 8x video controller with support for 800MHz FSB. In all, the same features as the Canterwood, Springdale and VIA PT880 chipset.
To accompany this, SiS has introduced a new Southbridge chipset. This new Southbridge, as you might have guessed, is the 964 (since the last as the 963). The new Southbridge has added a few features and removed some since the 963. First off what has been removed.
SiS has, for some reason, chosen to remove the IEEE1394 Firewire controller that was built into the 963 Southbridge. This was what drew me towards SiS chipsets based on the 963 Southbridge; standard Firewire. What has been added is native support for Serial ATA like Intel and VIA have already done. SiS has added a 2-port Serial ATA controller supporting RAID functions as standard. This means your total amount of drives has now been extended to 6. A new version 2.2 AC'97 audio controller has been added for 6 channel sound. While it isn't able to compete with the SB Audigy, it is nice to have sound onboard if you can't afford a high quality sound card.
While Serial ATA and Serial ATA RAID are now taking a hold on the market, Gigabyte hasn't forgotten the rest of us who still have IDE drives in RAID arrays. Gigabyte uses the ITE212F Dual Channel IDE RAID controller supporting 4 IDE Hard Disk drives. This is great if you are upgrading from a board that had IDE RAID onboard and you want to now go to a newer, more powerful board without buying an IDE Controller card.
While SiS has removed it's built in Firewire controller from the Southbridge, Gigabyte isn't going to let that stop them. A 3-port Texas Instruments Firewire controller hip has been added to give you Firewire support. This is a fantastic effort!
Gigabit Ethernet controllers are now becoming a mainstream requirement to have the best board out there. Intel has been the only company so far to integrate a Gigabit Ethernet Bus into their chipsets. VIA, nVidia and SiS have to still deal with the PCI bus until PCI Express is launched. Gigabyte has used a Realtek RTL8110S-32 PCI based Gigabit Ethernet controller chip for 10/100/1000mbps Ethernet support.
It simply wouldn't be a Gigabyte motherboard without DualBIOS onboard. This board has just that in order to protect the BIOS from viruses and bad updates. This may be very simple by today's standards, but Gigabyte has been refining its DualBIOS technology ever since the BX chipset.
Using the Award BIOS for its base, they have given a mild set of overclocking options. Under the Frequency/Voltage control section you will find memory bus ratio, CPU ratio, FSB ratio, DRAM, AGP and CPU voltages, which we must say are a mixed bunch.
First off you get your FSB adjustments. These are selectable from 100MHz up to 355MHz in 1MHz increments. This gives the biggest range possible so you won't max the FSB speeds out.
CPU Ratio can be selected on unlocked CPU's only, if your CPU is multiplier locked (all but a few engineering samples), it will show up locked and you will not be able to select it.
CPU voltage is rather well set with a maximum of 1.75v for Northwood CPU's and 1.85v for Willamette CPU's. While 1.85v would be nice for the Northwood as well, 1.75v is much safer for the average overclocker.
DRAM voltage, unfortunately, is rather lacking. You can only adjust it 0.1v above standard. This gives your 2.6v only, nowhere near enough for a good overclocking experience.
With these limited settings we were only able to get our System 33MHz over standard due to a very limited DRAM voltage. With a higher memory voltage we should see a better result, however there are no BIOS updates giving higher RAM voltages, so for overclockers at this stage, this board is a no no.
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