Articles: Mainboards

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Now we should check out the stylish black-and-orange exterior of Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC mainboard and discuss all of its unique exclusive features.

Let’s start by saying that they have updated all of their electronic components. We already know that the latest Gigabyte mainboard models have processor voltage regulator circuitry built with Driver-MOSFET, where two MOSFETs and a control unit are combined inside a single chip. We saw small rectangular tantalum capacitors on some MSI mainboards, and here we see them all over the place. Take a closer look and you won’t find even one single cylindrical shaped solid capacitor on this board, not to mention the practically fully retired electrolytic ones. Besides, the board is equipped with two eight-pin ATX12V processor power connectors, and the available DIP-switch allows changing the processor voltage regulator frequency.

A little above the processor socket you can find a small black Clear CMOS button for resetting the BIOS parameters. However, most of the buttons – and this mainboard has a lot of them – are located to the right of the memory DIMM slots.

The mainboard is equipped with a POST-code indicator panel, then we see a row of contact spots for manual voltage monitoring with a voltmeter, and right above them a small blue Reset button. The large red button will power the mainboard on, the “4G” button will automatically overclock your processor to 4 GHz frequency. Two buttons with a “+” and “-“ on them allow changing the processor clock frequency multiplier and base clock on the fly. The “Gear” button allows adjusting the frequency increment from 1 to 0.3 MHz.

There is one PCI and four PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots for expansion cards. Two of the graphics card slots work at full speed, and the other two share the bandwidth with them, so if you use four graphics accelerators, then the slots will work at only half the speed. The additional power supply, which is recommended if there are more than one graphics cards in the system, is implemented in a very unusual way. There are two power connectors next to the Serial ATA ports, which look like SATA power connectors. These connectors are indeed the ones delivering additional power to the graphics cards. Moreover, they also specifically stress that there is enough free space around the processor socket and graphics card slots for isolating material used with extreme cooling systems in order to protect the PCB from condensate.

The back panel looks very unusual. We only see two PS/2 keyboard or mouse connectors, two USB 2.0 ports (two more can be connected to a single onboard pin-header), two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via EtronTech EJ168A controller, one local network connector (network adapter is based on Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E controller), and only three analogue audio outs delivered by an eight-channel Realtek ALC889 codec.

Since the back panel is only half full, the heatsinks of the cooling system get very close to it and this way some of the hot air can be removed from the system case. The heatsinks are pretty large, with ribbed profile, heatpipes and orange highlighting. But it was strange to see that only chipset North and South Bridge heatsinks were screwed to the PCB, while the voltage regulator heatsink was fastened with regular plastic push-pins. There are seven four-pin fan connectors on this mainboard, out of which only the processor and one of the system fan connectors allows adjusting the rotation speed of the three-pin fans.

The overall layout of the Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC mainboard is of exceptional quality, which is always the case with Gigabyte products. We were particularly pleased to see that the location of thermal diodes responsible for system and North Bridge temperature are marked. I also have to mention that SATA 6 Gbps is implemented via Marvell 88SE9182 controller. Besides, many years ago Gigabyte mainboards were the first ones to start using two BIOS chips, the primary and the reserve one, but only now they also integrated a switch that allows you to decide which of the two chips will be the primary one and will boot the system.

Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC has very few additional controllers and a significantly limited number of ports and connectors. This mainboard can obviously become a good base for a personal computer, but it will serve best as an open testbed. Especially with all the buttons and indicators that allow changing operation modes rapidly.

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