SEMIACCURATE MANAGED TO snap a few pics of six new Gigabyte mobos, from fire-breathing Intel X58s and AMD 890FXs to diminutive micro-ATX systems. There is a lot to like in this new round of motherboards.
The first one is the new 890FXA-UD7, a 4 PCIe2 16x slot monster. It has all the usual Gigabyte goodies, 2oz copper layers/Ultra-Durable components, USB3 direct from the northbridge, and SATA3 courtesy of the AMD chipset and it’s SB850 south bridge.
The PCIe slots can be configured as 2x 16 electrical, 4x 8, or 1x 16 and 2x 8. In case you didn’t catch it from the four ATI cards in the system, this thing can run quad CrossfireX all day long. Although it isn’t part of the system, the Lian-Li case and Enermax 1250 PSU are both excellent choices for a high end system.
CrossfireX in a Gigabyte 890FX board
There are a few nice touches to this board. The first is the USB3 and SATA3 controllers. If you look at the bottom of the picture, there is a WD external USB3 HD prototype hooked up, and the case has three Micron C-500 SATA3 SSDs raided in the bottom. Using the SSDs, the system, nowhere near fully tuned, was getting over 700MBps read and more than 330MBps write speeds. I guess we can conclude that any AMD south bridge SATA problems should now be spoken of in the past tense.
The other really cool trick is that Gigabyte has two of the USB ports that keeps power alive even with the system off. Some other mobos have software solutions to do that, but you need to plug the devices in before the machine is powered off to keep the juice flowing. Gigabyte’s version is just plug and charge, on or off, an extremely useful and easy feature.
Micro-ATX 880G with USB3
Next up is 880GMA-UD2H micro-ATX board. Not much to say here, just a nice little micro-ATX board with USB3, SATA3, and a GPU that gets out of it’s own way about as much as any integrated GPU can. Add in the always on USB ports, and you have a very respectable media center machine. As a bonus, the Gigabyte BIOS will detect certain AMD CPU SKUs and auto-unlock cores. If you plug in an unlockable 4-core, you instantly have a 6-core, you don’t have to even press a button. It couldn’t be easier.
The Intel equivalent is a P55 micro-ATX board, so you will need a GPU, but that is a good thing. This board has one feature that is new, Gigabyte calls it Smart TPM. Just setting up a typical TPM is a pain, but if you encrypt the HD and your mobo dies, if you didn’t back up your keys, you are toast.
What Gigabyte did is put in software to simplify the setup to a few easy steps, then dump the keys to a USB stick. You can take it with you, and the keys can either be typed in manually, or read from the stick. The demo had a hidden encrypted HD partition that was totally invisible to Windows. When you plugged in the USB stick with the Smart TPM keys, it just popped up like any other partition. Pull the key, the drive goes away. It just works.
Next we have the big boy, GA-X58A-UD9, a 4-way SLI X58 board. It has two Nforce 200 PCIe decellerators on it, mandatory if you don’t want Nvidia to have the drivers ‘mysteriously’ break on your board. “Nice place youze got here, shame if it burned down”. Ah well, if you can afford 4 GF100 based cards, what is a $100 or so cost premium to run them?
Quad-SLI with a single Enermax PSU. Damn.
New to the UD9 is 24 phase power, but it is a very different 24 phase power unit. The board has new VRMs, a new power layout, and new controllers. The 24 phases are truly 24 phase, but 12 of them are active and 12 passive until they are needed. The active one changes every reboot to keep the power circuitry cool, giving it a longer life, especially in overclocking.
The older 24 phase units could step the phases up with power demand in groups of 2 phases, or ‘gears’ in Gigabyte speech, one per bank of 12. The new one can do the same, 6 gears of 2 phases per bank of 12 phases, not split between them. If you go over the first 12 phases, then the second 12 wake up, and you get a lot of clean power to the CPU. This is a VRM design for overclockers, pure and simple.
There is also a P55 based board based on the same 24 phase power delivery, but this one only has one Nforce 200 PCIe decellerator, so it is artificially broken by Nvidia drivers to 3 way SLI.
The last new board from Gigabyte is the H55 based H55N-USB3, a media center focused micro-ATX board. With an Intel ‘dale chip, this would make a dandy media center box, but Intel can’t seem to release a driver that has video acceleration for Linux, so it is, well, close to interesting. Until they do, you are much better off with the 880GMA-UD2H.S|A