Intel has just announced a series of inexpensive i945 chipsets to support dual core Pentium D and Pentium Extreme Edition processors. Gigabyte 8I945P-G has become the first motherboard based on one of these chipsets that appeared in our lab. It's a middle end model, which rectifies the drawback of this chipset for a regular user of inexpensive systems: support for only one Parallel ATA connector. Thus, the board contains IDE RAID controller, Gigabit Ethernet controller connected to PCI Express, and of course HDA (in fact, it supports even 10-channel audio). Good modern characteristics, no excesses, but the price will be hopefully affordable.
The layout is generally standard, but the PCB is unified (for this motherboard series) and leaves no empty space on the narrow board. The only layout inconvenience is the DIMM slots area of the board, which is overcrowded with connectors. Access to the only jumper is not hampered even when the motherboard is in a case. There is a brief description of jumper functions on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates two 3300 uF capacitors, four 1500 uF capacitors, and five 560 uF ones. The board also has a memory voltage regulator incorporating twelve 1000uF capacitors and reinforced with inductive elements. It uses excellent electrolytic capacitors from Sanyo and Nichicon. Motherboard dimensions — 305x220mm (narrow ATX, 7-screw mount, motherboard edges may sag under pressure).
Gigabyte traditionally offers an entire series of motherboards on one or several similar chipsets, all this variety is usually based on one or two PCB modifications. For example, the motherboard under review resembles the 8I945G Pro (based on i945G), the 8I945P Pro and the 8I945G are just modifications of the 8I945P-G: the former differs in its functionality, being equipped with the majority of components that are missing on the 8I945P-G (GigaWire controller, additional Flash BIOS chip, power connectors), and the latter is based on a different chipset - i945G. The company's inventory also contains two twin mATX models on i945P/G and an interesting motherboard on i945P with two PCIEx16 slots (to organize SLI).
System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A):
Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors
Back panel (left to right, blockwise)
We can say nothing about the package design, because our sample was shipped in a white cardboard box. We should mention the bundled fan: the idea to offer users a choice whether to use active cooling of the northbridge or no (though anybody can do it using a screwdriver) seems very good. Our motherboard missed the power connector for this fan, but this is probably a defect of a prerelease sample.
According to the documentation of the manufacturer, the 8I945P-G should use IDE RAID controller from ITE (GigaRAID IT8212), as well as any other models from this series. Our sample used the VIA controller. Specifications of these products are the same, we cannot say for sure what you will see in production-line models.
General performance: Good (Details). The board is equipped with an interesting new codec Realtek ALC882, which supports 10 audio channels in HDA quality, that is two more channels are added to the standard 7.1-ch format. What concerns the quality of analog audio playback at 16 bit/44 kHz, it's on a good level for modern codecs, nothing more.
We used BIOS F1, the only available BIOS version at the time of our tests. The mentioned BIOS parameters are available in this version, but the viability of non-standard settings hasn't been tested. You can see a complete list of settings by pressing Ctrl+F1 in the main BIOS Setup menu.
Note that the motherboard we got from Gigabyte was the first model on the new chipset, which had not been announced yet at that time. But there were no PCB layout defects, so typical of engineering samples. The only complaint about the 8I945P-G is its relatively low performance. However, considering BIOS version — F1 (it's often a prerelease version), we have every reason to expect new BIOS versions by the time of our i945P roundup. But for now you can read about the motherboard performance (which looks like preliminary data) in the article, which link is published below.
The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer
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