Features of the 8VT880 Ultra
- Package and Contents
Gigabyte's packaging for its motherboards is ever changing in colour schemes and designs. Why? Simply so you won't mistake their motherboards in the shops for other companies or the different models they have, after all, Gigabyte is one of the most diverse motherboard manufacturers with boards based on just about every chipset for budget and hardcore users.
The package layout for its Ultra series is a very generous one with a user manual, IDE RAID users manual, driver CD, FDD for IDE RAID installation for Windows XP install, Internal to External Serial ATA adapter, 4 pin molex to SATA HDD power converter as all as your IDE and SATA data cables.
- Motherboard and Layout
The motherboard itself is a typical design from Gigabyte, with its highs and lows. For the expansion side of things you have your now typical AGP slot supporting 1.5v or 0.8v cards so older 3.3v cards are no longer universally supported. Five PCI slots are also included for adding external sound solutions, Firewire, SATA RAID cards and various other PCI devices you many have or wish to purchase.
As for component layout, once again, Gigabyte has a hit and miss affair. On the good side, the 20 pin power connector, Southbridge IDE ports and FDD ports are located behind the DIMM slots on the far right, keeping them away from the main components and allowing good air flow through the PCI and AGP slots. On the bad side, the 4 pin power connector is squeezed between the CPU retention base and the Northbridge heatsink. This makes the 4 pin cables drape extremely close to the CPU heatsink and can get in the way when changing CPU's.
Gigabyte has though once again done a great job with user friendly setups. The two DDR channels are colour coded for matching up the identical DIMMs for Dual Channel mode as well as the front panel LED and power/reset switches, which Gigabyte is now colour coding and putting + signs in the positive signal wires - no more plugging in those LED's to find out you have them around the wrong way.
- Chipsets powering the show
The chipset in question is the VIA PT880 which in our last encounter proved to be a great up and comer. Not only does it support Dual Channel DDR-400 as well as AGP8x, but its performance and price were right on the money for a budget/mainstream product. Gigabyte uses an active heatsink and fan combo to cool the PT880. The chipset doesn't get very hot under normal operation, when overclocking the memory and AGP, this baby does tend to warm up - the active solution is a great addition.
The VT8237 Southbridge, VIA's latest and greatest has been added to complement the design. With this Southbridge, support for two SATA and four PATA drives are provided as well as either 5.1 or 7.1 audio, depending on what audio link is used. 10/100 Ethernet as all as an 8 port USB2.0 controller are all standard on the VT8237 Southbridge.
Now I don't know about you but all the hype on Serial ATA and its new native RAID functions of Intel, VIA and SiS Southbridge's does gets me a bit steamed up when ultimate motherboards are being produces without an IDE RAID chip. Only a handful of us have SATA RAID, but quite a few of us I know have IDE RAID arrays. If you want a new motherboard, most of the time it means either ditching the IDE RAID setup and getting two SATA drives for the RAID or going and getting two of the IDE to SATA converters, which can sometimes be a pain and expensive to buy. Gigabyte has included its ITE GigaRAID IDE RAID controller supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD setups - perfect for the IDE RAID users we just talked about.
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