Now it's to the interesting part of the article, the board itself. GIGABYTE's new weapon is a full ATX layout with a 30x24cm profile on a 6-layer blue PCB. When it comes to the layout GIGABYTE has really listened to past criticism, especially for their top line of boards. The 24-pin power connector long with the single FDD port reside behind the DDR2 memory sockets. The 4/8 pin aux power connector sits between the PS/2 port towers and the Mosfet heatsink cooler at the top left of the board. One thing that is a bit of a pain is if you want to disconnect the 4/8 pin power lead, it's a tight fit to get into, especially without cutting your knuckles on the copper heat fins.
The six SATA ports that are controlled by the ICH9R Southbridge have been coloured yellow and the two coming from the JMicron controller are coloured purple so you know which ones are which and what ones to plug the drives into if you want to setup a six disk RAID array on the ICH9R. The single green PATA interface sits off to the lower right side of the board and is rotated 90 degrees so it keeps the IDE cable away from large video cards, something that was a problem on the P965-DQ6.
Moving to the CPU area we see a large heat-pipe conductor that cools not only the North and Southbridge chipsets but also 10 of the 12 phases of voltage regulation circuits that the board supports. The two extra phases are cooled by a small heatsink at the top of the CPU socket. It would be nice for GIGABYTE to incorporate these last two phases into the full line for an all in one cooling setup but I guess that's not happening due to space constraints.
Now we are going to get a bit dirty with the new DES or Dynamic Energy Saver technology that the board has. Designed to compete directly with ASUS' own power saving technology, GIGABYTE has gone the extra step here. The design on the ASUS power saver is that when the CPU goes to its idle state, four of the eight phases are shut off to save power, and when the CPU hits load the extra four phases come online and provide the CPU with as much power as it needs. While it sounds good in theory, GIGABYTE knew there was room for improvement with their design.
When the CPU hits an idle state on the GIGABYTE board, the DES shuts down all but four phases; as the CPU load increases the board turns on two phases at a time (up to a total of 12) so if the CPU doesn't require full power, it will only use as many phases as it requires, thus saving more power in the long run over the ASUS implementation.
During our testing with this feature turned on, we noticed that in a few tasks and games the system didn't go to a full 12 phases, resulting in an overall energy saving as well as generating less heat that the heatsinks would otherwise have to get rid of. Everest didn't cause the system to go to full power neither did PCMark05 during a few of the HDD and Graphics tests. However, one thing we found was that with this system enabled overclocking took a hit as the CPU needs more power at these levels and the switching didn't happen quite quick enough to keep the system stable. With the DES disabled, the board perfomed just as if it was a standard DQ6 series board, but it will eat up more power than with it disabled.
To keep the board as cool as possible for overclockers, the back of the board gets a special heatsink that covers the CPU socket and Northbridge in one. A smaller heatsink is placed on the back of the Southbridge chipset; we would like to see in future a small heatsink assembly below the voltage regulators to help take even more heat away for a more stable board.
Moving along we come to the rear I/O ports of the board. GIGABYTE has continued the same power arrangement that we saw on the X38-DQ6 motherboard with extra USB ports on the back as well as two Firewire ports rather than one. No e.SATA ports are included as you can use the expansion brackets to get e.SATA if you truly want it. There is no Parallel or Serial ports on the board so older printers and some older GPS users will not be able to connect their hardware to this board.
Lastly we come down to the expansion slots that the board comes equipped with. Thanks to the X48 basing a direct descendant of the X38 (same chipsets, just handpicked for performance) the Dual x16 slots are carried over allowing you to run Crossfire at full speed on X48 based boards, not only that but the PCI Express lanes are version 2.0 on the Northbridge side, so when graphics cards come out with PCI-E 2.0 support this board will support the extra bandwidth straight away which will be even better for Crossfire without link cables; the bandwidth will be doubled to handle the exchange between cards across the PCI Express bus.
The two graphics card slots are coloured blue; if you want to use a PCI Express x4 or x8 RAID card in one of these slots go ahead, you've got bandwidth to spare on these slots. To round the rest off there are three PCI Express x1 slots which are 1.0a compliant and run off the Southbridge along with two PCI legacy slots as well. Hopefully down the track GIGABYTE might put a third x16 slot in that is x4 compatible running off the Southbridge, this would be good for Physics GPU cards.
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- Page 1 [Introduction]
- Page 2 [Specifications]
- Page 3 [The Box and What's Inside]
- Page 4 [The Motherboard]
- Page 5 [BIOS and Overclocking]
- Page 6 [Test System Setup and Memory Performance]
- Page 7 [Benchmarks - PCMark05]
- Page 8 [Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0]
- Page 9 [Benchmarks - HDD Performance]
- Page 10 [Benchmarks - 3DMark06]
- Page 11 [Benchmarks - Prey]
- Page 12 [Benchmarks -Battlefield 2142]
- Page 13 [Benchmarks - Far Cry]
- Page 14 [Power Consumption Tests]
- Page 15 [Final Thoughts]
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