Features of the Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal
Gigabyte over the past year or two have been pushing well into the enthusiast market as well as the high end desktop, supporting not only the latest overclocking features but also a wide variety of onboard features, and this board is set to become one of them.
Layout on the 955 Royal is a mixed bag with a few gripes. Placement of connectors is something that could have been though of a little more but first off we will cover the good points. Gigabyte has placed the 24 pin power connector, Southbridge FDD and IDE connector behind the DDR-2 slots, to keep the full amount of bulky cables in the one area.
The bad is the location of the 4 pin power connector. We have seen Gigabyte move this on some boards, but why they would move it back to its rather ridiculous position between the I/O plate and the MCH is a mystery. Another gripe are the location of the extra two SATA-II connectors right at the bottom of the board below the last PCI-E x1 slot, routing SATA data cables from this position is definitely going to be a problem for some cases with regular sized SATA cables.
Expansion wise, Gigabyte has it all under control with one PCI-E x16 slot for your graphics card, below are three standard PCI slots and right at the bottom you have two PCI-E x1 slots - more than enough for today's requirements. Gigabyte has once again colour coded the DDR-2 slots to identify Channel A and B. Simply match colours with DIMM's and you are set.
The Intel I955X Express chipset is what Gigabyte has used to power the latest high performance board from their labs. The I955X is the ultra premium chipset from Intel, designed to handle all of the LGA775 CPU's including the Intel Pentium Extreme Edition with Hyper Threading - and in fact it is the only one available at this time that officially supports this CPU. Gigabyte uses a passive cooler with an optional fan that you can put onto the top if you want to overclock the system or are concerned about cooling.
Southbridge used is the ICH7R. This chip builds on the ICH6R series with 4 port SATA, RAID, HD Audio and 4 PCI-E x1 lanes. The main difference between the two families is the support for SATA 3Gbps aka SATA-II.
One of the main standards that Gigabyte holds to on its top of the line boards is Gigabit Ethernet. While Fast 100mpbs Ethernet served its purpose for quite some time, files are getting bigger and bigger, and in the age of high speed computing, who wants to wait 10 minutes to copy a file from one PC to another, after all, even USB2.0 flash drives are faster than fast Ethernet. Gigabyte takes this a step further with inclusion of two Broadcom PCI-E based Ethernet controllers, so if you want to use two separate Ethernets or have one connected to a broadband modem, you don't have to worry about which is Gigabit and which isn't since they both are.
Yet another of the "dual" features that Gigabyte provides on its flagship board, Dual RAID. In fact, it's more like triple RAID. First you have 4 SATA-II ports on the motherboard that are controlled by the ICH7R providing RAID support. Next is a Silicon Image 3132 PCI-E 2 port SATA-II controller chip giving you an extra two SATA-II ports at the bottom of the board. The last RAID feature comes from the ITE GigaRAID PCI controller chip which has two IDE ports supporting two drives per port. If, however, you don't want to use the RAID function you can use it to run your older IDE drives in base mode. While in BASE mode, the controller also support ATAPI devices like DVD-RW units and Zip drives, a very handy chip for a budget controller company like ITE.
Now we get to the last of the serial connectivity of the board. Firewire support, but not just 1394a, but also 1394b. Thanks to the 2 chip Texas Instruments PCI based Firewire controller setup; you can have your 1394a devices supported as well as the newer 1394b devices. Firewire-B or Firewire-800, whatever you want to call it, doubled the serial transfer rate from 400mbps of 1394a to a 800mbps total on the 1394b standard. This allows for a faster transfer rate when using external HDD's and various other external storage mediums.
Now we reach the last of the dual features of the board, Dual Power. Today's CPU's are power hungry and none more so than the Intel Dual Core CPU's using the Prescott architecture. Power requirements over 130 watts are not uncommon, and giving that much power requires a good voltage system. Gigabyte provides 4 phase voltage system on the motherboard itself, however, if you want to add extra power you can plug in the U-DPS2 power card to add and extra 4 phases, a total of 8 - this is a magnificent feature when overclocking, as stable and clean voltage means a better overclock.
While it may have had a big start to begin with, Bluetooth on the PC really is just more of a continence than a must have. Bluetooth is great for people with PDA's for updating calendars, transfer small files, but as a large scale LAN or transfer protocol, it's just too slow. Though with that said, Gigabyte provides a USB Bluetooth Dongle that supports the latest Bluetooth protocols to allow you to connect any Bluetooth enabled devices to your PC - just another value adding feature by the folks at Gigabyte.