GIGABYTE 7VAXP-A ULTRA
Besides this model, Gigabyte offers the one without the “Ultra” suffix and without Serial ATA (like ABIT mainboards with and without the “S” suffix). It seems like the Serial ATA controller and connectors become the principle factor for positioning a mainboard in the market.
The mainboard of course comes with everything necessary for efficient work, and a few more items. First of them is the bracket with two FireWire ports. Have a look:
FireWire uses two types of connectors: 6-pin and 4-pin ones. Regular 6-pin connectors are used for all computer devices, which you usually come across. While 4-pin connectors are used for digital cameras. However, this shouldn’t be a problem even if one FireWire connector is not enough for you, because you can always get a 4-to-6 pin cable adapter. So, the availability of two FireWire connector types is a definite advantage, as it makes this product really excellent for work with any sort of FireWire devices.
The second item is really unique: a bracket for external Serial ATA devices. As you get a Serial ATA power adapter with the mainboard, you can easily use a Serial ATA HDD as an external storage device. The length of the Serial ATA cable (about 1 meter) allows doing this.
GIGABYTE 7VAXP-A ULTRA: Features
The specification of the mainboard lists two additional IDE controllers: PDC 20276 from Promise that supports two Parallel ATA channels and can unite them into RAID of levels 0 and 1. It doesn’t support RAID 0+1, but you can do nothing about it: Gigabyte is stubborn in using Promise controllers in its mainboards. The second controller, Sil3112 from Silicon Image, supports two Serial ATA channels with the option of uniting them into RAID 0 or 1. Thus, this Gigabyte mainboard can take as much as 10 IDE devices (and eight of them can be united into RAID arrays). More than enough, in my opinion.
The mainboard offers a rather strange way of changing the CPU multiplier. I didn’t think a modern Athlon XP mainboard might have a multiplier set by a DIP-switch (by the way, the maximum multiplier the mainboard allows to use is 18x). I’m quite at a loss guessing the reason for it. Maybe Gigabyte didn’t want the multiplier to be reset after BIOS re-flashing, but it would be no hard task to set it up again in the BIOS. Overall, a questionable solution.
The Gigabyte board also features DualBIOS technology. Its key point is the same as with the Die-Hard BIOS from AOpen: two BIOS chips onboard to stand up for each other in case of emergencies. By the way, there is one more BIOS-related technology – Q-Flash – that helps to update BIOS from a floppy, without booting the OS.
Now, about some unpleasant things. The mainboard carries no jumpers for choosing the FSB frequency range to be later fine-tuned in the BIOS. So, you set the FSB frequency as follows: you install the CPU and power the system up, then the mainboard automatically determines the FSB frequency of the CPU and adjusts the FSB range accordingly. This way, if you happen to have a processor intended for 133MHz bus, the mainboard won’t allow you to use it with a 165MHz-clocked bus. Considering that most AMD processors today have an unlocked multiplier, I would like to “thank” Gigabyte on behalf of all overclockers. The only thing you can actually do with the frequency auto-adjustment is to force the 100MHz bus frequency (and increase it further to 132MHz). It is evidently not the best thing to be done.