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Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6: Overclocking Champ, Continued

X38 Comparison Part 1: DDR2 Motherboards
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The Ultra ATA connector faces forward to tuck under long expansion cards, and cable installation into "tight" cases is still possible if the cable is installed before dropping the motherboard into place since ATA cables use 90-degree ends. The only problem we perceive is a possible cable-length issue when trying to reach the upper drive bays of tall cases, but it's about time builders started using similarly-priced Serial ATA optical drives.

Gigabyte is the last company to ditch rear-panel parallel and serial ports and has instead positioned headers at the bottom edge of the board, which is a convenient location for connecting breakout plates. IEEE-1394 and USB 2.0 connectors located forward of these headers are also forward of the bottom PCI slot for easier cable installation.

Gigabyte's placement of front panel audio connectors near the middle of a board's rear edge makes sense for two reasons: First, it's adjacent to the rear panel audio jacks, which can reduce trace length for decreased noise. Second, this location makes it easy to connect a front-panel audio cable to either top- or bottom-mounted case jacks.

Gigabyte always appreciates any mention of its "Ultra Durable" features, comprising ferrite core chokes in addition to all solid capacitors. However, most other brands have copied these efforts simply to steal a bit of Gigabyte's thunder.

Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 (Revision 1.0)
Northbridge Intel X38 Express MCH
Southbridge Intel ICH9R
Voltage Regulator Twelve Phases
BIOS F5i (10/19/2007)
333.3 MHz (FSB1333) 333.3 MHz (+0.0%)
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 2x PCIe x16
3x PCIe x1
2x PCI
2x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x IEEE-1394 FireWire
1x Parallel Port header
1x Serial Port header
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA (2 drives)
8x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x CD-Audio In
1x S/P-DIF In
1x S/P-DIF Out
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU/System)
3x Fan 3 pins (System/Power)
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
2x RJ-45 Network
8x USB 2.0
2x IEEE-1394 FireWire
2x Digital Audio Out (S/P-DIF optical + coaxial)
6x Analog Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH9R 6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)
GigaByte SATA2 (by JMicron) 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
2x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1, JBOD)
Network
2x Realtek RTL8111B PCI-E 2x Gigabit LAN Connection
Audio
HDA (Azalia) Controller Interface Realtek ALC889A 8 + 2 Channel Codec
FireWire
Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 3x IEEE-1394a (400 Mb/s)

Gigabyte continues its use of Realtek's top-quality ALC889A codec, advertising a full-rate lossless signal at a 106db signal-to-noise ratio in addition to multi-streaming independent sound streams to the front panel and rear panel ports.

Because the GA-X38-DQ6 has only the two native PCI-Express x16 and three x1 slots, the three remaining PCI-Express pathways are able to provide two gigabit network controllers and the added-in SATA/Ultra ATA controller with full bi-directional bandwidth.

Ditching the parallel and serial ports gave Gigabyte a lot of room for connectors. The back panel features PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, optical and coaxial digital audio outputs, two IEEE-1394 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, eight USB 2.0 ports and six analog audio jacks. Eight rear-panel USB 2.0 ports appear impressive but reduce the number of internal USB connectors to two (supporting four ports). With a large number of cases providing four "front panel" USB 2.0 ports and the popularity of additional USB drive bay devices, we'd have liked to see at least one more internal USB header even though it would have reduced the number of rear panel USB ports to six.

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