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Intel 945P Motherboards from Gigabyte - Dual Core Compared

By: Cameron Johnson | Socket LGA 775 in Motherboards | Posted: Oct 12, 2005 4:00 am

Gigabyte GA-8I945P Pro


- The Layout



First we take a look at the GA-8I945P Pro. Gigabyte uses its trademark blue 30x30mc PCB. Colour and style is definitely the order from Gigabyte when it comes to the connectors - all of the major connections are colour coded for your convenience. Layout wise, Gigabyte has done a reasonably good job with a rather clean placement of cables and connections.


* Gigabyte GA-8I945P Pro Motherboard Pricing *


Gigabyte GA-8I945P Pro Motherboard


We have criticized Gigabyte in the past for the placement of its 4 pin power connector being located between the Northbridge heatsink and the I/O rear panel. It seems Gigabyte is finally listening to the users; after all, it is you who make their motherboards a success. The 4 pin power connector is located on the upper left of the motherboard behind the PS/2 ports. This is a much better place considering the size of the heatsinks that now go on Intel LGA775 CPU's.


The 24 pin power, Southbridge IDE and FDD connector are also well placed, you will find them on the right hand side of the board behind the DIMM connectors, which have been colour coded yellow for Channel A and red for Channel B.


Peripheral expansion is taken care of by a total of 6 slots. A single PCI Express x16 slot is used for the graphics interface, two PCI Express x1 slots for PCI-E add-ons and three PCI slots for your older PCI based sound cards and modems and so on.


- The Chipsets



The chipset in control is Intel's Lakeport I945P. The I945P has been introduced in order to replace the older I925XE chipsets. I945 series supports a Dual Channel DDR-2 memory controller with up to 866MHz memory support, 20 PCI Express lanes, 533/800/1066MHz FSB support to accommodate all of the Pentium chip range apart from the Pentium Extreme Edition.


The Southbridge is the ICH7R or 82801GR. The ICH7 is Intel's latest refinement of the ICH6 series. Only two major changes have been made - first off the Serial ATA protocol has been updated to take advantage of SATA-II with 300MB/s transfers possible. The next is the addition of four extra PCI-E channels, a total of 4 on the Southbridge alone. Intel still uses the DMI or Digital Media Interface, currently one of the fastest interconnect standards with 2.0GB/s transfer between the ICH and MCH, which means you won't have any issues with maxing out the bus like with the old PCI bus. Gigabyte has used an Active cooler on the Northbridge and a Passive cooler on the Southbridge.



IDE HDD's are still outnumbering Serial ATA, and I still use four IDE drives in a RAID array on my own system. With the Intel platform without any add-ons you would have to get rid of most of them and if you want a DVD-RW unit, only a single IDE drive could be used. Gigabyte solves this by adding an ITE GigaRAID PCI RAID controller chip. The chip itself is quite impressive in performance and features, as you can hook ATAPI devices to this controller and will function perfectly when in IDE mode but in RAID mode you will loose ATAPI device support. The only drawback of the ITE chip is the connection through the PCI bus which limits the throughput to 133MB/s if no other PCI slots are being used.



Firewire is now being used quite often as the transfer method of choice for external mass storage devices. While USB 2.0 does offer a theoretical advantage of 480mbps vs. 400mbps, it has been proven that Firewire being a dedicated hardware based transfer rather than using the USB which is CPU hungry, you will get better results from Firewire. Now Firewire adds another nail in the USB coffin. Firewire-B as it's being known as has started to show its face. Firewire-B or IEEE1394b as it's technically known allows for a throughput of 800mbps, a much more attractive figure for external HDD's. Gigabyte uses a 2 chip solution from Texas Instruments. The larger chip is the Firewire-A controller, allowing legacy support, the smaller chip is the Firewire-B controller, when Firewire-B is enabled, you will loose Firewire-A ports and the Firewire-B will be in use.



Gigabit Ethernet is now a standard for a good user's motherboard, especially for LAN users. The Gigabyte Ethernet is supplied by a Broadcom NetXtrme PCI-E controller chip. This chip is one of the first PCI-E based Gigabit LAN controllers to market when Intel released PCI-E and today it's a major player.


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