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Gigabyte 8I848E i848P Mainboard Review

December 12, 2003



  • i848P chipset

This budget mainboard has two peculiarities that distinguish it from other i848P based boards. If you follow our reviews you must know about the Gigabyte's Dual Miracle suite of technologies. Originally these technologies delivered dual functionality (DualBIOS, Dual Power System, Dual RAID etc.), and the 8I848E/-L got the seventh Dual Miracle - Dual Chipset :). The models are based on the Intel 865PE/848P chipset and the outdated ICH4 south bridge.




This particular sample is based on the i865PE north bridge. Because of the short supply of the i848P chips and great demand for boards based on this less expensive MCH Gigabyte installs the dearer north bridge on some models to satisfy the demand (without ending up losing). The i865PE and i848P are not just compatible - they are based on the same die, with the second memory controller channel locked in the i848P. When the supplies grow up all the boards will probably have only the i848P installed.




But the fact that some boards are based on the more expensive chipset doesn't mean indicate their superiority: the Gigabyte 8I848E/-L supports only those memory slots which are controlled by one controller channel on the north bridge. You shouldn't expect the dual-channel support even if the board you buy is based on the i865PE, its speed won't differ from i848P based solutions (we'll check it later). Also remember that the ICH4  south bridge used on all 8I848E/-L boards limits their functionality (it supports 6 USB 2.0 ports instead of 8 and lacks for the Serial ATA compared to the ICH5), and it's not going to change in future supplies.




The board is narrower than usual, which affects its layout. Thus, the IDE ports are located behind the PCI slots while the audio-ins are in front of them.  It's not difficult to reach the only jumper when the board is already installed. Its functions are indicated on the PCB. The 3-phase switching voltage regulator incorporates 4 capacitors of 3300 uF and 3 of 1500uF. There are also voltage regulators of the AGP bus (2 capacitors of 1000 uF and several less capacious ones) and of the memory (4 of 1000 uF). 

Gigabyte offers a wide range of i848P based models (let's consider the 8I848E based exactly on this chipset). It includes two pairs of boards based on the same PCBs: 8I848E and 8I848E-L (the same features, plus a 100Mbit LAN controller on Intel's chip), and 8I848P and 8I848P-L (the same difference). These pairs differ in the PCB layout and chipset functions (the P series integrates the ICH5, that is why it has 2 SATA ports and 2 more USB), and the north bridge is based on the i865PE/i848P again. The board tested today doesn't integrate a LAN controller with an RJ45 connector; as there's space for a connector for an external COM port, this PCB must be also used for another model with integrated graphics; finally, a WOL and CMOS clear jumper are just left space for. The board measures 305x205 mm (narrow ATX, 6 fastening screws, the front edge might hang loose). One of the LEDs indicates that the memory slots are supplied power to, the other LED warns that 3.3V AGP cards are not supported. System monitoring is supported by ITE IT8712F-A chip. It controls: 

    • processor, memory voltages, +3.3, +5, +12 V
    • rotation speed of 2 fans; 
    • CPU temperature (built-in sensor). 

Ports & connectors onboard

  • CPU socket (Socket 478); 
  • 3 slots for DDR SDRAM DIMM (up to 2 DDR266/333/400, 4 banks in all (3 dual-bank modules can't be installed), one of the modules to be installed into the first slot); 
  • AGP slot (with a retention clip); 
  • 5 PCI slots (32bit, 33MHz); 
  • Standard power supply connectors (ATX, 4pin for 12V); 
  • FDD; 
  • 2 IDE (Parallel ATA) - on chipset; 
  • 2 connectors for brackets of 2 USB 2.0 ports; 
  • Connector for audio-out from CD/DVD drive
  • AUX-in port; 
  • Connectors for a bracket with additional audio-outs and S/PDIF;
  • Connector for a Game port;
  • Connector for standard IrDA;
  • 3 connectors for fans (2 with rotation control).
  • Connector for SMBus devices;
  • Case Open sensor;
  • 2 connectors for fans (with rotation control).

Rear panel (left to right, units)




  • PS/2 mouse and keyboard;
  • 1 LPT, 2 COM;
  • 2 USB (2.0);
  • 3 audio ports (Mic-In, Line-In, Front).

Accessories




  • Package of the standard design;
  • Documentation: user manual in English;
  • Cables: 1 ATA66/100/133, 1 ATA33 and FDD;
  • Bracket with 2 USB 2.0 ports;
  • I/O Shield;
  • 2 software CDs:
    • drivers;
    • user guide (PDF);
    • Adobe Acrobat Reader;
    • McAfee VirusScan Online;
    • DirectX 9.0a.

Integrated controllers

  • audio controller based on the Avance Logic ALC655 AC'97 codec; 5.1 audio system supported, front audio I/Os and S/PDIF connector provided.

Technologies

  • Q-Flash and @BIOS (BIOS flashing without booting from a diskette);
  • Xpress Recovery (creates a backup copy in the HDD hidden area to make possible to recover them);
  • Xpress Install (automatic selection and installation of drivers and software needed from the CD bundled).

Settings

jumpers and switches Password clear jumper  
BIOS based on Award v6.00PG  Setup of memory timings + CAS Latency, RAS Precharge, RAS to CAS Delay, Active to Precharge Delay, Refresh Mode Select
Setup of memory frequency + Auto, DDR266, DDR320, DDR400
Setup of AGP bus -  
Setup of PCI bus -  
AGP/PCI frequency setup + AGP(PCIx2) = 66-96 MHz
PCI IRQ manual assignment +  
FSB frequency setup + 100-355 MHz in 1MHz steps
CPU clock ratio + x8-x50
CPU voltage control + Default, +5%, +7.5%, +10%
DIMM voltage control + Normal, +0.1, +0.2, +0.3 V
NB voltage control -  
AGP voltage control + Normal, +0.1, +0.2, +0.3 V

We used the BIOS F6 RS as the latest available version. 

Performance

Among the i848P based models tested this one shows average results. It falls behind the leaders in real applications by less than 5% (except the extremely heavy 7-Zip archiving).
 

Benchmark ASUS P4P800S-E Albatron PX865PE Lite Pro Gigabyte 8I848E
7-Zip archiving, min:sec 6:31 9:43 7:05
MPEG4 encoding, min:sec 29:07 29:57 29:22
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Normal@1024x768x32), fps 197 185 189

 
 
Dmitry Mayorov (destrax@ixbt.com)
 

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