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ATI and Pentium 4 - The Right Stuff?

By: Cameron Johnson | Editorials in Motherboards | Posted: Nov 1, 2004 5:00 am

Features of the 8TRS350-MT


Package and Contents



The 8TRS350 motherboard series from Gigabyte is more of the OEM and system builders' board than the enthusiast board, and this is evident in the packaging. You get your standard user manual that covers all the basics for installation of the board as well as the software that Gigabyte provides. Two IDE and a FDD cable comes as standard along with the driver CD and a TV output cable. At one end you have the S-Video port that connects into the rear panel of the board. At the other end you have an S-Video and an RCA port, so no matter what TV type you have; this board will give you TV out support straight from the box.


The Board



The board itself is based on the Micro ATX format. In fact, it is almost the same PCB as the original RS300 based board we tested some months ago, however, a few revisions have been made to accommodate a few new features. For a board not based for overclocking its placement of the power and cable connectors is quite acceptable with the 20-pin ATX power connector behind the DIMM sockets along with the two IDE and the FDD port. The 4-pin power connector is still placed between the Northbridge and the I/O ports, however, without any overclocking in mind it isn't as important.


Expansion wise it's a standard mATX layout with one AGP slot and three PCI slots. For easy of installation Gigabyte has color-coded the DIMM sockets for Channel A and B identification.



One of the things I liked with this board is the thought put into the boards support. Prescott CPU's, as most of us know, draw a lot of power. 4-phase boards are the recommended, however you can get away with 3-phase if you cool the Mosfet's, which is what Gigabyte has done. A small heatsink is attached to both the front and back of the PCB in order to draw the heat off the mosfets and allow a more stable voltage supply to the CPU.



The RS350 is ATI's second attempt at the chipset game. First came the RS300 core. This was designed to take advantage of the 800MHz FSB, dual channel DDR memory as well as integrating a Radeon 9000 graphics core into a two chipset system. The IGP9100Pro is the original RS300 core with an updated memory optimization system. In the original RS300 core ATI put all its time and effort into optimizing the UMA system, trying to squeeze as much performance and compression technology into the chip to allow the 2.1GB/s bandwidth of the AGP 8x bus to run the system memory graphics memory. While these did work, ATI forgot to balance the system memory performance so the graphics card got a huge boost, but the CPU to memory bandwidth suffered a huge hit, resulting is less than stellar performance. Now ATI has learned that this needed a few new tweaks and out comes the IGP9100Pro.


The Northbridge uses what is known as A-Link to connect the Northbridge to the Southbridge. This link is similar to the Intel Hub Architecture, however, it isn't electronically compatible, so the idea of ICH5R on the IGP9100Pro system isn't possible, however, its link speed is 266MB/s, the same as Intel's design.


ATI has also come up with a newer Southbridge since the RS300 core. The IXP200 that was shipped with the RS300 was even at release date, too far behind. It lacked its own built in Ethernet controller as well as Serial ATA support. Now ATI has come up with the IXP300. This new Southbridge supports two Serial ATA ports with RAID 0 or RAID 1, two ATA-100 IDE channels, 5.1 AC'97 Audio, 8x USB 2.0 ports as well as a built in 3Com Ethernet controller.



While supporting a 3Com Ethernet controller in the Southbridge, Gigabyte has chosen to use a hardware PCI based Ethernet solution with the Realtek Ethernet controller chip being used. This does take a bit of load off the CPU especially when running at 100mbps.




The 8TRS305-MT isn't a board you will want to look at for its overclocking potential; in fact it has none whatsoever. The only overclocking you will find is the FSB adjustments, and without any voltage tweaks you run into barriers very quick. Though we must stress this isn't an overclockers board.


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