Gigabyte launches four-way PCI-E X16 motherboard, premieres AMD-style chipset for Intel CPUs

Taipei (Taiwan) - Gigabyte Technologies newest top-of-the-line motherboard, launched today, will support four simultaneous PCI-Express X16 slots, plus NVIDIA's nForce 4 SLI chipset. So if you've always wanted to hook up seven of your spare monitors, now there's a way. But when you look hard at one of the two editions of this decked-out dreamboat of a device, you'll find something actually missing: the southbridge.

It sounds like a luxury Ford sedan from the 1970s: the Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal. Based on information gleaned from Gigabyte's press release this morning, it appears the company will be attempting a novel solution on some - not all - Quad Royal models. Normally, NVIDIA's nForce 4 SLI Intel edition chipset is a two-chip contraption, whose northbridge and southbridge are joined using the HyperTransport memory technology that normally distinguishes AMD-supporting motherboards. This conventional configuration will apparently be available, according to Gigabyte. But as an alternative, Gigabyte will also be making available some models using the single-chip chipset normally used for NVIDIA's AMD-supportive option. In this configuration, the southbridge chip is eliminated, and its storage, networking, and USB support are all incorporated into the single chip, which routes them all together using HyperTransport.

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Gigabyte Technologies GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal

As Tom's Hardware Guide managing editor Patrick Schmid discovered in his extensive review of the Quad Royal with the AMD-edition chipset, eliminating the separate southbridge chip freed up Gigabyte to implement more bandwidth for multiple displays. If you ever wanted a Times Square effect in your basement or den, now's your opportunity.

"I'm happy to see that Gigabyte finally seems to be shipping this product," Schmidt told us this morning, "because many of our readers have been asking for it. Though this quad board is nothing an average user would need, it's the best imaginable choice for the real enthusiast and for professional users."

Looking closely at the numbers, Intel's northbridge is still present, with a 1066/800/533 MHz front-side bus. If you max out the Quad Royal's four DDR2 667/533 MHz slots, you can drive up to 8 Gb of DRAM. In addition to the four PCI-E X16 slots, there are two PCI-E X1 slots and one PCI-E 2.2. There's a single IDE port, so if you want mass storage, you'll have to settle for the four SATA 3 Gb/sec RAID ports, supporting RAID 0, 1, 0+1, and 5. Throw in three FireWire ports, dual PCI-E gigabit LAN, and eight-channel audio to go with your eight displays, and you might conclude Gigabyte should have called this "Octo Royal" instead.

In a test of pure pixel propagation that you'll only see in Tom's Hardware Guide, you'll see this motherboard driving not eight, not nine, but ten simultaneous displays. Of course, the result looks like the set of "Jeopardy!" if it were powered on-stage by an exposed nuclear reactor core. However, if you're using a CAD program to design a nuclear submarine, and don't mind the sinking feeling that you're the technical director for CNN's "The Situation Room," you'll appreciate all this power.

Ten displays, by the way, is the maximum number that Windows XP supports. Few people have ever had the opportunity to ask, so it's only appropriate that Patrick Schmid be perhaps the first to divulge this fact.

"In addition, there is the prospect of being able to run a SLI quad graphics setup using two dual GPU Gigabyte 3D1 graphics cards," Schmid added. "This would require an NVIDIA driver enabling it. But even without it this is the most sophisticated Pentium motherboard you can dream of."

Perhaps an excellent ad campaign for this board would feature a fried, smashed, smoking Quad Royal, dashed to the cement floor, below which would be printed the simple caption, "Have you ever seen a grown man cry?"

Pricing and availability for Quad Royals have not yet been disclosed.