Now it's down to the good part, the motherboard itself. Gigabyte has really outdone itself in the PCB design this time. In the past Gigabyte had been one of the companies who, despite complaints, put their power connectors in the worst possible places.
Lately though, all of their boards have hand no faults for this. The 24-pin power along with the FDD and IDE controller all reside behind the four colour coded DDR-2 memory slots. The 4/8 pin combo port is located below the heat pipe cooler the board has for its massive cooling job, more on that part later. While this is a bit of a bother, when you look at the design of the cooling Gigabyte has gone to, it's totally acceptable.
Four of the six SATA ports controlled by the MCP are rotated 90 degrees to the board and places in 2x2 stacks. These are set at this angle to increase the amount of cables the board has without having too many of the SATA cables towering up blocking large graphics cards being installed, which is a problem the P965 DQ6 suffered when using Crossfire dual graphics mode.
When it comes to cooling and powering the board, Gigabyte has it all. First off the CPU gets its power from a total of 12 phases of energy. To keep it cool, Gigabyte has designed a fancy heat pipe called Silent Pipe 2 and Crazy Cool 2 that cools both the SPP, MCP, the front of the mosfets AND the back of the board under the CPU socket area - very nice indeed and should go a long way to keep everything operating as cool as possible under extreme conditions.
The rear I/O has changed again, Gigabyte has changed the ports at the rear of the board, as they have changed the features. Most notably on the back are FOUR RJ45 Gigabit LAN ports. This is somewhat of excessive but Gigabyte has employed so many slots allowing your PC to act as a home gateway and game server at the same time and also to support nVidia Dual-Net Technology. This allows you to team up two sets of 2GB connections which work as a single connection for twice the bandwidth and lower CPU utilization.
Firstly being nForce 680i based, there are three PCI Express x16 slots as standard on most of these boards and if not, you're getting ripped. Gigabyte has two blue PCI Express x16 slots which are designed to run at full-speed. The top most PCI Express x16 slot runs off the SPP and the bottom blue slot runs off the MCP. The orange PCI Express x16 slot only runs electrically at x8 and is designed mostly to either run a third graphics card for the still unreleased physics engine or extra monitors. If you want to use it for expansion, you can plug any PCI Express card into it - it's especially helpful for Highpoint's server PCI Express RAID cards that use either an x4 or x8 bus.
For the other half of the expansion there is a single PCI Express x1 slot the top of the topmost PCI Express x16 slot and 3 PCI 32bit slots for legacy cards. It will be nice when PCI is totally phased out and PCI Express has control of everything.
Lastly we are onto the final parts of the board that are supplied by Gigabyte themselves because they aren't supported on the chipset. First on the list there are two JMicron based PCI express SATA controller that have been relabelled to Gigabyte SATA II chips. These give you a total of four extra SATA ports that are coloured purple on the board. To be able to provide all of the Gigabit LAN ports, two PCI Express Marvell controllers are added to complement the two Gigabit LAN controllers that the MCP already has built in.
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