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Computex 2009: Gigabyte pushes motherboard boundaries

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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: Gigabyte
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Gigabyte's Motherboard Madness

While we have already looked at a couple of Gigabyte graphics cards and even a Gigabyte docking station for netbooks, we would be remiss to leave out our walk through of the Taipei 101 showroom of motherboards. 

First up on the presentation is the early sample of the Gigabyte P55 motherboard for the upcoming Intel Lynnfield processors.  The motherboard offers some great features including support for three PCIe cards and 6 DIMM slots - unique to this design from Gigabyte as opposed to other P55 motherboards we saw.  Gigabyte did say they were still testing how the memory configuration was going to perform - if for some reason having double the memory in one channel drastically affects performance of the platform, they will likely move it back to 4 DIMM slots. 

You might also notice there are two chipset heatsinks - one above the blue PCIe slot and one near the SATA ports. 
Don't be confused - the P55 motherboards still only require single chip - the other heatsink will be used for the SATA and other logic.  Gigabyte says that the heatpipe system they designed requires the entire series of heatsinks to work most efficiently so they would keep both "chipset" coolers even though the SATA controllers, etc don't really NEED the cooling on them. 


On this P55 motherboard there are a couple of other interesting new features including "eSATA USB".  Though we are still working on what to call this, the ability it provides is awesome: if you remember that previous eSATA connections have required external power in order to work, even something like the OCZ eSATA drive.  These new connections now combine an eSATA data connection and USB power connection so that should no longer be required. 


Other than the upcoming P55 motherboards, Gigabyte was showing off a completely refreshed line of X58 motherboards - 5 in total. 
Along with updates like support for SATA3 (most refreshed X58 and P55 boards will have SATA3) via a Marvell chip, a new set of applications and BIOS tricks are going to be found on all these boards.  The collection is going to be called Gigabyte's "Smart 6."


The first of these applications is a password saver - it allows you to record your passwords that you keep forgetting in BIOS itself.  How do you access these passwords?  Another password, of course! 


The other tab labeled "Date" actually allows you to input important
dates like your anniversary, birthdays, etc and the system will remind
as those dates approach.


The QuickBoot feature offers two options; the BIOS option basically lets the motherboard completely skip the POST steps of the boot process and the OS option enables a combined S3/S4 state (suspend AND hibernate).  That allows you to quickly wake up the PC but if the power should go out while in the state, it can still recover from the data stored permanently on the hard drive, ala hibernate. 


This QuickBoost application simply allows you to enable some single click overclocking and it will actually tell you what processor your new overclocked CPU is emulating.  For example, if you have a Core i7-920 and "Turbo" mode takes it to 2.93 GHz, then it will tell you are running at the speed of a Core i7-940.  Nothing you can't find on your own, but it could be convenient to see.


This tool allows you to make Apple Time Capsule-like backups of your system and files to a local storage location.  You can then revert back to previous revisions of files individually, or in larger blocks.  I do NOT think, however, that this is going to be a complete system backup option should your primary hard drive die and you are looking for a quick restoration process.


The TimeLock feature is for either vindictive roommates or angry parents: here you can limit the amount of time users are allowed to use the PC based the day, etc. 


Another new feature coming soon for Gigabyte motherboards is a very unique version of the TPM features.  Using a Bluetooth dongle, Gigabyte demonstrated the "key" to a secure drive being a cell phone with Bluetooth support.  Imagine if you have a phone in your pocket and when you are near your PC, the secure drive is accessible but when you walk away, the drive disappears from system completely.  A very clever and easy to use security option.


There was one interesting AMD-based motherboard on display as well - the Gigabyte MA785G-UD3H based on the AMD 785G chipset.  It integrates the ATI Radeon HD 4200 graphics core on the chipset and supports DDR2 memory speeds as high as 1333 MHz.  Oh, and it also is one of those boards that allows you to unlock 'missing' cores in the new Phenom X2 CPUs...


Here are all the refresh X58 motherboards...

And some of the brand new P55 motherboards coming this fall!
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