The Motherboard Continued
Expansion and onboard features are plentiful. The slots that are included are two PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x4 universal slots and two PCI slots. Because of the nature of the I975X Northbridge that drives this baby, Intel has Crossfire ready acceptance, which is the reason you have two PCI Express x16 slots. To setup your Crossfire system, you need a Crossfire master card to be inserted into the blue PCI Express x16 slot. The slave card is plugged into the black PCI Express x16 slot, at this point the BIOS automatically routes the PCI Express down to PCI-E x8 speeds on both slots.
If you don't want to use Crossfire, you can use multi monitors to the point of eight screens. This is done by installing two graphics cards into the PCI Express x16 slots and two graphics cards into the universal x4 slots. The PCI-E x4 slots have no key at the back, meaning you can install an x16 graphics card, however the card will only work at PCI-E x4 speeds.
For onboard hardware expansion there are major chips. First is the Broadcom Netlink PCI Express x1 Gigabit LAN controller. This is the newest chip from Broadcom to be based on the PCI Express architecture, and Broadcom's latest chip fixes a few bugs its original NetXtreme chip had such as falling back to 100mbps for no reason after an S3 resume.
Next we have the Creative CA0106 PCI Sound Controller. This chip from Creative is dubbed either the Sound Blaster Live24 or the AudigyLS chip. This chip is used to give high quality hardware audio over the software based HD Azalia Audio. Speaker configurations up to 7.1 are supported by this chip and are a very welcome site and gamers should be quite pleased with this offering from Gigabyte.
Next on the list is Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 PCI Firewire-400 Controller chip. This chip has been used by Gigabyte for some time to give IEEE-1394a compliance to Gigabyte boards, though the Firewire-800 based chip would have been a nicer inclusion for such a high-end motherboard.
Last on the list is an ITE IT8211F PCI RAID controller chip. While normally this chip supports two IDE channels for up to four IDE devices, Gigabyte has only used one channel. The RAID function is still available but limits you to two IDE drives. We would have liked to see the extra channel added. The green IDE port below the Southbridge SATA-II ports is connected to this chip. When the ITE chip is set to BASE or IDE mode, you can see the drives in BIOS under the Standard CMOS setup menu, a very handy setup indeed as normally you need to go through external BIOS see them and set manual parameters.