|Gigabyte X48-DQ6 Motherboard|
|Written by Hubert Wong|
|Thursday, 20 November 2008|
Gigabyte X48-DQ6 Motherboard
It isn't based on Intel's latest, but if you're looking to grab an "older" X48 but still don't want to part with your DDRs, this board from Gigabyte may be for you.
The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 Motherboard is interesting not because it's a X48 board, but because it's a X48 with DDR2 support. The Gigabyte X48 board itself isn't that cheap, but the cost of the platform should be less than other X48 motherboards since DDR2 is still al ittle cheaper than DDR3. That, or if you got a stock pile of DDR2, you don't need to throw it out. From an engineering standpoint, this was also a no brainer since the X48-DQ6 design mirrors their own X38 board so a simple chipset swap was all they needed to do at a fab level.
The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 Motherboard is packed in a large box, multi-tiered with smaller compartments to hold all the board accessories. I was pretty impressed with the manual and quick start guide as it does a good job explaining the steps needed to put the system together. I wouldn't say it's beginner friendly, as some experience helps, but everything is clearly outlined and coded. The driver CD contains all the drivers needed and offers a one step install of key board drivers to make installation easy. Some software, such as Kaspersky 6 is included, though the Kaspersky license they provide is only good for 3 months.
There is a custom rear IO shield and a small bag containing some mounting screws for the North Bridge which we will explain later. There are data cables as well as an eSATA bracket which will allow you to hook up a SATA harddrive, without needing a special enclosure. All the SATA cables feature a metal clip which serves to secure the cable to the motherboard and/or the harddrive.
You'll need a full sized ATX case in order to fit the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 into your system. I was a little irritated they put stickers over some parts of the board. I didn't detect any "gum" when I peeled them off, but you never know. I went over these areas with an eraser for good measure to be sure. At first glance, I didn't detect any problem areas with the layout. We'll address each section as we move through the review.
The X48, and hence the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 supports up to 8GB of memory. Where Gigabyte differs from Intel's reference is the X48-DQ6 supports 1.8V DDR2 at 1200, 1066, 800 and 667 speeds.
A detailed list can be found at their website. The slots are colour coded for dual channel. The slots are a bit close to the PCI Express graphics #1 slot, but not as tight as I've seen with other boards. There is enough room to swap out memory without having to remove the video card.
Gigabyte has a feature called "CrazyCool" where they place a couple heatsinks strategically under the motherboard. The idea of course is to wick away heat from the CPU, North and South bridge areas. I'm not a thermal engineer, but I aways thought it was puzzling to remove heat by passing it through the PCB. In the second picture, you'll see an example where you cannot install an aftermarket heatsink that requires a custom plate with the CrazyCool in place.
Fortunently, Gigabyte does allow the user to simply unscrew the CrazyCool and remove it. By doing so, you unscrew the North bridge cooler and the CrazyCool pops off. The bagged screws we mentioned earlier is then used to secure the North bridge back in place. Does the CrazyCool really work? Maybe the test CPU we used isn't hot enough, but we were unable to see much of a difference using an Asetek Vapochill Micro. However, we were able to install the much more efficient ASUS Silent Square with the CrazyCool removed and it performed 3C better than the Asetek.
The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 uses the Intel ICH9R South Bridge which handles most of the storage and connectivity needs. Six SATA II connections are grouped together near the edge of the motherboard. The chip supports up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices as well as SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10. The GIGABYTE SATA2 chip takes care of the lone IDE connection, supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices. The two SATA connections you see above supports 3Gb/s and SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD.
Moving on to the peripheral slots, there are two PCI Express graphics x16 which supports PCI Express 2.0. The PCIE_16_1 slot supports x16 and the PCIE_16_2 supports x4. While there are not a large amount of supported devices, there are three PCI Express x1 slots present on the board. There are two traditional PCI slots as well.
Near the edge of the motherboard is the Realtek ALC889A audio chip. The chip is High Definition Audio compliant and is a flexible 8-channel audio solution that is also jack sensing. This the board can detect which jack you plug a speaker or headphone into provided you install all the required sound software. It also supports DTS.
Rounding things out are the external inputs and outputs. From left to right we have; two PS/2 ports, coaxial and digital S/PDIF, 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports, two IEEE 1394a ports, two LAN and six audio connections.
The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 uses the familiar AMI BIOS. There was a time I wasn't wild about it but over time it has grown on me. Since we're familiar with it, for the most part, the BIOS is similar to many other boards we've worked with, even when they are from different manufacturers. The menu is very intuitive, with each option opening a new page with further options for modification. Most of the items are straight forward, but there are a few areas of note. The Advanced BIOS features page is the first place you would go to to configure the boot order and some of the basic chipset features. You can enable or disable the boot logo as well as choosing a quick boot or something more verbose.
The Advanced BIOS Features allows the user to make basic configuration changes with storage and some CPU functions. Despite the advanced name in the title, I never felt this was a page to get really excited about.
Under Integrated Peripherals, all of your adjustments to the onboard items can be made here. By adjustments, I mean you're limited to turning things on and off, but this page is important as you do not need to enable features you will never use. Given the power of today's computers, this page won't make a huge impact on system performance, but any little tweak is great.
The PC Health is an often neglected, but very important page in that you can keep close tabs on how your system is doing with temperatures and fan operation. While this page has never "saved" me, it is something I pay attention to on a fairly regular basis.
The MB Intelligent Tweaker page is where the fun really begins. It is here where the majority of tweaks and tricks are done to improve performance. You can adjust the CPU FSB or ratio if your processor is unlocked. If doing things manually scares you, Gigabyte's CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2 is designed to automatically adjust CPU power to maximize system performance. There's a number of presets which will come into play depending on the CPU load. The minimum Cruise control is 5%, and the maximum Full Thrust is 19%.
Like the CPU, graphics and PCI Express can be tweaked as well as the memory.
The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 will be equipped with an Intel E6750 clocked at 2.66GHz and Corsair Dominator DDR2. A Seagate Barracuda 1TB will handle the storage duties and a GeForce 8800GTX running ForceWare Release 169 for our video needs. Windows Vista Ultimate is the OS of choice, fully patched up to the time of testing.
The comparison motherboard will be the MSI X48 Platinum with identical hardware save for the memor which will be Crucial's Ballistix DDR3.
The software used is as follows:
- We ran the memory bandwidth benchmark.
- A good indicator of CPU/Motherboard performance is version 4.2, by Xavier Gourdon. We used a computation of 10000000 digits of Pi, Chudnovsky method, 1024 K FFT, and no disk memory. Note that lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
- CDex v170b2 was used to convert a 440.5MB Wav file to a 320kbs MP3. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
- We used an Animatrix file, titled , and a WAV created from VirtualDub. The movie was then converted it into a DVD compliant MPEG-2 file with a bitrate of 5000. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
DVD Shrink - We ripped the War of the Worlds bonus feature off the disk at 100% and compressed the file from the hard drive to 70%. Times are in minutes:seconds, and lower is better.
- Photoshop is perhaps the defacto standard when it comes to photo editing tools. Given that it is so popular, we incorporated DriverHeaven's latest test into our review process. Lower scores are better, and times are in seconds.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars @ 640x480 and Crysis @ 800x600 at LQ Settings - While higher resolutions tax the video card, lower resolutions rely on CPU and subsystem speed. Higher scores are better. We used Guru3D's Crysis benchmark tool and the for ETQW.
All benchmarks will be run a total of three times with the average scores being displayed. Any system tweaks and ram timings were configured to the best possible for each platform. Despite the slight differences between the motherboards, we matched the tweaks as close as possible. The drivers otherwise were identical.
Sandra XII Memory
The MSI X48 is slightly quicker here given it's using faster memory. The difference is not incredibly wide though.
Very close results here. Both take 28 seconds basically, but the MSI still comes a little ahead.
Like our PiFast test, there's a very small margin between the two boards.
Six seconds separates the two boards. Naturally, as with many of these tests, if the length of the movie clip is longer, then obviously so would the time difference be greater between these two.
Dead heat between the two.
Another close race between the boards. The Gigabyte X48 grabs a 1 second lead here.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars
For your potential gaming needs, the Gigabyte looks really solid.
When it's all said and done, from a performance standpoint, the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 performs on par with other X48 boards we've tested. Save for a couple memory score losses, the overall performance is very good.
If stock performance is not enough for you, overclocking is a snap with the board. With little effort, we were able to reach 490Mhz on air, which isin line with other boards we've tested. We did need to push the voltage up though to do so. We were able to bring our Intel 6750 up to 495FSB, but were not able to stay stable for more than 15 minutes.
One thing we don't talk about often, mostly because it's uninteresting, is the software. The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 is amongst the easiest one-step installs we've experienced. Well, it's actually several steps, but the software does it's own reboots and install on its own once you select what you want to install and click next.
Another nice tool is the Dynamic Power Saver. For today's power conscious consumer, this is a nice feature. As the plans are to use the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 as a HTPC, power savings are important as I normally leave it on all the time.
The extras are nice and compared with some recent boards, Gigabyte X48-DQ6 has really gone all out with all the goodies that make it fun to play with hardware. The eSATA adapter for example is incredibly useful if you have a spare SATA drive and no enclosure. Through use, it does perform as expected, but I still find enclosures better over the long run as the better ones typically have special cooling. Even a bare drive, out in the open got very hot during testing.
Truthfully, the only real fault we can find is the board is very expensive. It is very well built and comes with a plethora of extras, but the price can be a bit steep for some people, even if they do not have to spring for DDR3 memory. As DDR3 drops in price, it may be more feasible to buy some of that with a cheaper X48 package if you do not need all of the extras that comes with the Gigabyte X48-DQ6.
Otherwise, the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 is one of the best motherboards we've had the opportunity to test the past year. Except at the highest overclocks, stability was simply excellent and we did not experience one issue during testing and the build process. The board is a tad expensive, but it is very well built and does come with peripherals normally not included in cheaper, more basic packages. If you have plenty of DDR, this board is certainly worthwhile.
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