Gigabyte: New Flagship, Mini-ITX, USB 3.0
Gigabyte announced its "king of motherboards" at this year's show, the GA-X58A-UD9. The company claims this one is ideal for four-way graphics configurations (both SLI and CrossFireX are supported). This ATX motherboard is bigger than the standard at 345x262 mm (as a reminder, normal ATX is 305x244 mm). It has seven 16-lane PCI Express 2.0 slots, so you can install up to four dual-width graphic cards (if your PC case allows it).
Thanks to two Nvidia bridges, PCIe 2.0 lanes from chipsets are dynamically shared between all installed graphic cards, so even if your setup has four PCIe graphic cards, they will be connected to the NF200 bridges via x16 lanes each. This monster also sports 24 phase power, which is claimed to help extreme overclocking configurations. According to Gigabyte, this board is even able to deliver up to 1,500W to the CPU. Crazy. If you want to spend more than $600 on a motherboard, this one's for you.
Switching to the other side of the scale, we have a new mini-ITX board from Gigabyte, the GA-H55N-USB3. Despite its compact form factor (170x170 mm), it supports all modern LGA 1156 processors (even new unlocked CPUs).
You also get USB 3.0 connectivity and all of the necessary ports, so this model is very interesting for building compact office PCs or HTPCs. The board does come with a single PCI Express x16 link capable of taking a discrete card, or you can use the HD Graphics core built into Intel's Clarkdale-based processor (HDMI output is available on the board's back panel). This is an attractive product, we think.
Pay attention to lower right corner of this motherboard. The white socket, which accepts a USB bracket, is special. You can use connected ports, even your PC is off (in standby mode). So, you can always charge your phone from your PC. Gigabyte calls this technology "On/Off Charge," and it is available on many of the company's new motherboards.
By the way, Gigabyte also provides high current for all USB 3.0 ports, so you can charge devices that require up to 2.7A (iPad, for example). Gigabyte calls this function "USB 3x power," so be cognizant of this when you pick a board and intend to drive a high-current device. Most motherboards can only provide a maximum of 0.9A over USB 3.0 ports (or 0.5A through USB 2.0).