Motherboard manufacturers often use big words in the names of their products, pretending to be top-level. However, the "entry" level (Gold etc) has been devalued in time. Such a motherboard name usually does not adequately reflect its properties, functions, and bundle (manufacturers' desire to color the truth is quite natural). The motherboard from Gigabyte we are going to review today has nothing to do with such half-done products. While MSI has recently spiraled to the new heights with its Diamond model, the marketing department of Gigabyte "has struck back" by christening the senior motherboard from its two 8I955X models "Royal". The motherboard with such a name is quite naturally based on the top chipset (Intel 955X) supporting dual core processors from Intel. By the way, we are going to review the other Royal model soon — Gigabyte 8N-SLI Royal (NVIDIA nForce4 SLI (Intel Edition)).
What's so royal about the Gigabyte 8I955X Royal? Except for multiple features of the chipset (including the support for four DDR2 modules with the total capacity of up to 8 GB with/without ECC), it also means additional IDE and SATA II [RAID] controllers, three GigaWire ports, and two gigabit network adapters. This motherboard is certified as a basis for Dolby Master Studio, that is it allows to use Dolby technologies not only when you listen, but also when you create multiple-channel music compositions. The excellent bundle is striking: it includes cables for all drives supported, as well as rear panel brackets with additional ports, an attractive U-Plus DPS module, and even an USB Bluetooth adapter. Among necessary drivers, the bundled CDs also contain Norton Internet Security 2005 (a very good personal firewall) and, of course, proprietary Gigabyte utilities that facilitate your operations with the motherboard.
Despite all its multiple integrated controllers, the PCB layout is quite convenient and does not seriously hamper the assemblage. The only trouble we had during tests is a very bad contact between the heatsink and the northbridge (the heatsink is loose, it's especially noticeable, when a cooler is installed). Access to the only jumper may be hampered, when long extension cards are installed into PCI slots. A brief description of its functionality is provided on the PCB. Gigabyte offers another 8I955X model, the Pro modification: it lacks an additional SATA II RAID controller, the second gigabit network adapter (the only controller is based on a different Broadcom chip), U-Plus DPS support; it also uses a different HDA codec (Realtek ALC882 instead of ALC882M).
The 4-phase switching voltage regulator of the processor incorporates eight 3000 uF capacitors and ten 560 uF ones. The board also contains a voltage regulator for memory (eighteen 1000 uF capacitors reinforced with L elements). In general, critical circuits incorporate electrolytic capacitors from Sanyo and United Chemi-Con (high quality and reliable components). The board incorporates a proprietary Gigabyte technology — DPS: when an additional VRM is installed into a special slot (in this case it's U-Plus DPS), the number of phases in a CPU voltage regulator is increased to 8. Theoretically, such a scheme provides better operating stability, which is very critical for overclocking. Motherboard dimensions — 305x245 mm (full-sized ATX, nine-screw mount, all motherboard edges are firmly fixed).
System monitoring (ITE IT8712F-A):
Onboard ports, sockets, and connectors
Our sample does not have an additional power connector (4-pin peripheral) for PCIE video cards, though the PCB provides a seat for this element. The latest user's manual (for the time of this article) does not mention this connector. Nevertheless, motherboard photos, published on the official web site, show this connector. If production-line motherboards possess this connector, the problem of insufficient PSU power capacity will be less critical. But models with a 24-pin connector are still preferable.
Back panel (left to right, blockwise)
Click the image to open the rear view of this motherboard
Note the skillful design of the U-Plus DPS module that provides high quality passive cooling for all field-effect transistors in the power converter circuit. It even incorporates a cooler with a heat pipe. But field-effect transistors in the main circuit of the on-board power converter (which can operate without DPS) enjoy no special cooling withal (they have to do with an airflow from the CPU cooler), so U-Plus DPS is rather a marketing move. The bundle of proprietary Gigabyte utilities includes applications to overclock and monitor your system, to change a graphics logo at startup, to search for the latest BIOS version via Internet and to flash it, etc. Nothing unusual or really interesting.
Gigabyte 8I955X Royal motherboard is awarded with Excellent Package for its complete bundle (with U-Plus DPS and BTD02 USB adapter):
General performance: Good (Details). The standard good quality of the analog audio output, no peculiarities.
According to the manufacturer, the motherboard incorporates the ALC882M audio codec, but the corresponding chip is marked as ALC882. There are no essential differences between ALC882 and ALC882M, the only difference is that the latter is certified for the "Designed for Dolby Master Studio" program and its drivers support as many Dolby technologies as possible (Dolby Digital EX, Dolby Digital Live, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Dolby Headphone, Dolby Virtual Speaker).
We used BIOS F5, the latest 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.
Preliminary test results
The table below compares the results of Gigabyte 8I955X Royal with those of
the fastest (according to the roundup
of six motherboards on Intel 925XE) i925XE representative —
Gigabyte 8AENXP-D. The fact is that the Gigabyte 8I955X Royal is actually
the first model on i955X that we tested in our lab, the rest will
be dealt with later. Nevertheless, this comparison is quite logical
and correct, it takes into account those minute functional differences
between i955X and i925XE.
Both motherboards expectedly demonstrated similar results, the new model is a tad faster, but the difference is insignificant. So we cannot obviously expect a performance leap from i945/955 compared to the previous generation of Intel chipsets.
Gigabyte 8I955X Royal is a typical top motherboard from this company. It does not offer any unique features, but it traditionally qualifies for the level, which is worthy of the royal status. If you keep in mind that the "Royal" suffix in the title is just a new marketing term, you will not be disappointed with your purchase - its features and bundle are on the excellent level, but it's pricey.
The motherboard is kindly provided by the manufacturer
Write a comment below. No registration needed!