Articles: Mainboards

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Closer Look

At first glance Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 looks like a pretty common contemporary LGA775 mainboard. Like many other similar products it is equipped with four DIMM slots for DDR2 SDRAM and two PCI Express x16 slots for s single or dual graphics card configuration. The mainboard currently supports Crossfire technology that allows using a dual-graphics card configuration built with ATI based cards. The alternative SLI technology is not yet supported: this technology is not supported for Intel chipsets in Nvidia drivers. However, the PCI Express x16 bus supports 2.0 specification, which provides twice the bandwidth with new graphics cards (so far only Radeon HD 3800 and GeForce 8800 GT support PCI Express 2.0 x16).

I would like to remind you that another peculiarity of the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots is the higher capacity of the power lines that can ensure proper operation of 150W graphics cards without any additional cabling necessary. That is why Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 features the third standard MOLEX power connector located right next to the 24-pin ATI connector. You should use this connector if the system is equipped with powerful graphics accelerators (especially two of them) that can overload the standard power lines of the old power supply units.

There is one thing that stands out among all other features of the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 mainboard. This feature is specifically high-lighted on Gigabyte’s web-site as well as on the mainboard package. It is support of 1600MHz system bus. Intel is going to release a different core logic set aka X48 specifically for work with processors supporting 1600MHz FSB. However, Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 already offers this feature today, especially since all other differences between X38 and X48 will be minimal.

And the manufacturer’s promises are not just words. During our test session Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 worked absolutely stably with a Core 2 Extreme QX9770 processor on Penryn core that uses 1600MHz bus.

No wonder that Gigabyte engineers paid special attention to implementing a high-quality 6-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry. We were a little puzzled by the manufacturer’s intention to present it as a 12-phase voltage regulator, but this is not true, because there is a regular ISL6327 chip used in it. The voltage regulator is built with high-frequency power MOSFET that guarantees its longer life cycle as well as higher efficiency at lower operational temperature. At the same time the voltage regulator as well as the rest of the mainboard features solid-state capacitors with organic polymer electrolyte that are also extremely reliable.

Although the CPU voltage regulator circuitry is designed in such a way that no cooling is necessary, it still features a heatsink that is connected to the chipset North and South Bridge heatsinks with the heatpipes. Of course, the main intention of the Gigabyte engineers was to ensure better heat dissipation from the core logic components rather than the CPU voltage regulator.

The developers’ efforts were not vain. This passive cooling system with a unique marketing name “Silent Pipe” is pretty efficient. Despite high heat dissipation of the Intel X38 chipset, the cooling system works well even without additional fans. The system owes its success to solid copper heatsinks with thin rib arrays and three heatpipes: one connecting the heatsinks on top of the chipset North and South Bridges, and the other two – leading to the additional heatsink fastened on top of the processor voltage regulator.

Silent Pipe cooling system doesn’t strike you as massive. For example, Asus mainboards come equipped with much bulkier heatsinks. However, you may still encounter some problems with installation of large processor coolers on Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 mainboard. However, you shouldn’t really blame the heatsinks, but the DIMM slots placed too close to the processor socket. For example, during our test session we managed to install Scythe Infinity processor cooler only in one position: with the fan turned towards the rear end of the board.

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