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Mega 12-way Intel 925 and 915 Motherboard Roundup

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Aug 30, 2004 4:00 am

Gigabyte 8ANXP-D


- Package and Contents



The GA-8ANXP-D is the first of two boards in the 8 Sigma series that Gigabyte is now pushing as its high quality and ultra performance motherboards with all the latest features and add-ons you could possibly want. Gigabyte puts the 8ANXP-D in a two box set that opens out like a book. In one box you get your motherboard, two user manuals, driver CD, driver floppy disk, USB/Firewire combo cable, I/O place and Serial ATA data and power cables.


In the second box, Gigabyte supplies its U-DPS module as well as its PCI 802.11g Wireless PCI card that is included in the 8 Sigma range. In all this is a really good package with absolutely everything you need to get started.


- The Motherboard



In the past Gigabyte have had a few mistakes with their layouts, while there have been requests around the web for change, Gigabyte still hasn't listened - let us explain. Gigabyte has had a history of placing the 4 pin CPU voltage connector between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O ports. This requires the 4 pin cable to be draped over or around the CPU heatsink assembly, which can result in reduced air flow, especially when using Prescott - good air flow is essential. Again Gigabyte has place the 4 pin connector in the same place. Apart from this the layout is acceptable. The 24 pin ATX power connector is located behind the DIMM sockets. The FDD and single IDE port attached to the ICH6 is located just below the DIMM sockets, which does keep them out of the way, behind the DIMM sockets would be better, but this is acceptable.


One PCI Express x16, three PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI legacy slots are included to give a full range of expansion capabilities. Gigabyte does provide six DDR-2 DIMM socket, however, it does require special arrangements to use all. Four is really all that is needed as most of the DDR-2 modules will be double sided.



This is the first motherboard in our suite that uses the full powered I925X chipset. This is almost identical to the I915 series, however, there is no onboard graphics version, nor does it support DDR memory - only DDR-2. You will need to have a PCI Express graphics card and DDR-2 memory which can make the price somewhat higher for upgraders.


This ICH6R Southbridge is also used on this version to give four Serial ATA ports with RAID option, which runs much faster than the previous ICH5R series chipsets. By default both chipsets are cooled passively, however, Gigabyte provides a fan that attaches to the Northbridge heatsink.



IEEE1394b or Firewire B as it's being known as is the latest serial standard to come out from Apple to take crown back for Firewire as the fastest interface standard. Firewire B improves on the IEEE1394a standard by doubling the maximum throughput to 800mbps. This give Firewire a great speed advantage in the serial standards war, and will soon become available in new DV Camcorders and other devices like external storage. A two chip Texas Instruments Firewire B PCI controller chip is installed to give two 6 pin and one 4 pin Firewire ports (only the 4 pin port is 800mbps capable).



Gigabit Ethernet is now the top standard for motherboards these days. With the prices of Gigabit hubs and switches now starting to come down, having a 1000mpbs network in the home will soon be a reality. To aid this, motherboard manufacturers are adding either one or two Gigabit Ethernet controllers onboard; it's how they go about it that makes the difference. Gigabyte has two on the 8ANXP-D, one is PCI Express based, the other simply on the PCI bus. The Broadcom NetXtreme chip is based on a PCI-E x1 interface, allowing the Ethernet traffic on this chipset to pass without any bottlenecks. The Marvel 88E8001 network controller is based on the PCI bus, which if you run 1000mpbs network traffic on this controller can and will get congested if you use the Silicon Image SATA controller. Best to use this as a link for an ADSL or cable modem where only 10mpbs is used which is nowhere near enough to take out the PCI bandwidth.



While the ICH6R supports its own four port Serial ATA RAID system, Gigabyte isn't happy with just that. The Silicon Image Serial ATA host controller is added on to give an extra four SATA ports which support RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and JBOD, bringing the total to eight SATA and two PATA drives.



Gigabyte for the past year has been adding its Dual Power system to their top of the line motherboards. These new systems are designed to give additional phases to the CPU voltage line, allowing a much more stable CPU voltage when overclocking, as well as reducing the amount of heat generated by splitting the load over six or more phases rather than just three or four. The new U-DPS system allows Gigabyte users to have a total of eight phases (four are already built onto the motherboard). This in theory will give the Prescott a much more stable and cleaner voltage, while allowing the workload to be spread across eight separate regulation stages for supreme stability.


The U-DPS doesn't use its own heatsink like the older DPS and DPS2 system do but rather uses a heatpipe. This is then routed into a 20 fin heatsink that sits near the CPU heatsink, borrowing the CPU's exhausted air to cool the U-DPS system. This results in less noise as there is one less fan in the system. Another neat feature is the 4 LED stress indicator. On the card itself there are 4 blue LED's that light up when each phase is in use. This lets you know when the full 8 phases are in operation then all 4 LED's stay permanently lit.



With the latest 8 Sigma series, Gigabyte is promoting Wireless connectivity. Wireless LAN is now becoming quite popular with speeds hitting 54Mbps and even now 108mpbs with turbo acceleration through binding of two channels. While Intel does make an ICH6RW with a built in Wireless LAN adapter, Gigabyte has decided not to use this but rather include a PCI Wireless LAN adapter. This simply plugs into a PCI slot.


- Overclocking


Gigabyte has been adding overclocking options to its motherboards for over 2 years now. Unfortunately over the last year, Gigabyte has slowly but surely reduced its overclocking options with some very crippling settings in some cases.


Gigabyte has redesigned its BIOS with the new MB Intelligent Tweaking (MIT) menu; here all the overclocking options are available. Gigabyte doesn't offer any PCI and PCI Express ratio control, however, after contacting Gigabyte we were told that the PCI and PCI Express ratios are locked at 33MHz for PCI and 100MHz for PCI Express, however, Serial ATA isn't locked, when overclocking the system, Serial ATA drives refused to work. Hopefully Gigabyte will consider locking Serial ATA in the near future with new BIOS updates.


Gigabyte incorporates an automatic overclocking system called C.I.A.2. Under this section you can choose from Cruise, Sports, Racing, Turbo and Full Thrust. When the System is under full load, depending on what setting you choose, the C.I.A.2 will automatically increase the FSB between 3% and 19%, however, when testing if anything above Cruise was selected, Windows refused to load for us.


Gigabyte also offers manual overclocking, with FSB, DRAM ratio, DIMM voltage, PCI-E/NB Voltage and CPU voltage.


FSB can be adjusted from 200MHz up to 355MHz. We found this motherboard was one of the absolute worst to overclock. We only managed to get 205MHz stable on this system. We were sent a BETA BIOS that did improve overclocking, however, CPU support was sacrificed, our Pentium 4 560 wasn't recognised properly neither was a 3.4GHz Extreme Edition - hopefully Gigabyte can quickly resolve these issues with a new BIOS.


Voltages are also nothing to write home about, DRAM voltage once again are limiting, however, since this is DDR-2 we aren't sure what DDR-2 will really thrive on just yet. You can adjust the DRAM voltage to a maximum of +0.3v of standard which for DDR-2 is 2.1v. For the PCI-E voltage also adjust up to + 0.3v of standard, which comes out at 1.8v total.


CPU voltage is not going to please Northwood core 775 users with a maximum of 1.6v no matter what CPU you have. This is only 0.5v above the default of 1.55v of the P4 EE; however, it does give enough for Prescott users, as 1.6 is as high as you will want to go with air cooling.


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