Gigabyte 8I955X Royal Intel 955X Motherboard Review
Board Layout and Features
The Gigabyte 8I955X Royal fits into the mold of what has become the common next-generation motherboard layout. With PCI Express and four DIMM slots, this layout should ultimately look familiar to anyone having looked at motherboards over the past couple of years.
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The Royal series is Gigabyte's top line of products and the 8I955X Royal fits into the category nicely with its robust feature set. You can see from the picture above that the board itself has a wide array of colors on it, from blue PCB to green IDE and red and yellow DIMM slots. While the color of the connectors on any board don't really affect my choices in the long run, case modders may be more curious about such points.
A quick look at the processor socket on the motherboard shows the standard LGA775 situation components including the required four holes for heatsink mounting and the ever present 775-pin processor socket (covered by the protector still in this photo). There are low rise capacitors along the perimeter of the socket that still fit comfortably under the heatsink when installed. There at first appears to be quite a bit of room around the processor socket for higher-end cooling solutions but that can be deceiving from the photo above as the Gigabyte 'DPS' slot is not installed.
Here the Gigabyte DPS or Dual Power System module is installed on the motherboard. This unit comes with the 8I955X Royal motherboard and also comes with claims on being able to increase motherboard stability by adding additional phases to the board's power system. In my test, I found no difference between default configurations or overclocked configurations running with or without the Gigabyte DPS system installed.
There is even one drawback to having the unit installed — the copper fins that the heatpipe releases heat from the MOSFETs on the DPS board nearly comes in contact with the processor cooling fan's power connector. With the heatsink and fan installed, the copper fins actually made contact with the fan wires, making me somewhat nervous that the sharper edges of fins might cut through the protective sheathing on the wires. I'd suggest wrapping the fan wire with electric tape where they may make contact with the DPS cooling unit if you are going to use it.
The four DIMM slots on the Gigabyte 955X board support dual channel DDR2 memory modules and run within all the standard specs that the Intel chipset is able to support, including DDR2-667 memory speeds. I didn't have any problems completely populating all four memory slots without conflict.
You can also see in this image the 24-pin ATX power connector that will still support the 20-pin ATX power connectors of older power supplies just fine. The single IDE channel that the Intel south bridge allows is in red and the floppy channel is directly below it in black.
The 955X northbridge on the Gigabyte 8I955X Royal is covered with a heatsink only when it comes out of the box. Gigabyte does include a small fan that snaps onto the heatsink and a power connector on the board for its use, if you'd like to install it. In my testing, without a fan, the heatsink actually got hot enough to burn me after a few hours of testing, forcing me to put the fan on it if only to save my fingers! While I didn't notice any direct influence or change in performance with the fan, the northbridge definitely ran cooler and that is something that is always a positive.
The 8I955X Royal sports a single PCI Express x16 slot and two x1 PCI Express slots. The x16 will surely be used for your primary graphics card covering up one of the three legacy PCI slots right off the bat. This may limit some users upgrade options if they have more than a couple of PCI cards that they require for use. It really is time to start seeing PCIe accessories such as sound cards and SCSI/SATA interfaces in the market.
Here you can see that Gigabyte went with two Gigabit networking connections on their board, both powered by the same Broadcom 575 chip. These are both running on the PCI bus however.
At the bottom of the motherboard we can see all the storage options that Gigabyte has included on the motherboard. First, there are two additional IDE channels here, in green, from Gigabyte's own chipset that will allow you to support up to four more IDE devices. An addition like this is really good to see since Intel has dropped down to only supplying a single IDE channel on their south bridge chipset.
Speaking of the ICH7R, it powers the four SATA channels that you see pictured above as well, with support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and even the new Matrix RAID technology that allows you to run a 0+1 array with only two hard drives by partitioning them accordingly. The south bridge itself is only covered by a small heatsink and that seemed to be more than enough to keep the chip cool. There is a Silicon Image chipset on the left hand side of the board (not pictured above) that powers two additional SATA channels as well.
You may also notice that Gigabyte has their typical Dual BIOS feature on the 8I955X Royal motherboard. This backup feature allows you to restore a BIOS from such catastrophes as a crashed BIOS flash or corrupt BIOS install. In other boards without a backup feature like this, you are often required to send the BIOS chip back to the manufacturer for restore.
Finally, we can see here the remaining features that Gigabyte has included on this Royal series board as well. They did include a 7.1 channel audio solution with SPDIF and optical output capabilities, and this ALC solution is certified for Dolby Master Studio. The two Gigabyte networking connections are there as are four total USB 2.0 ports. There aren't any Firewire connectors on the external connectors by default, but by simply installing the header included in the package you can still have support for it.
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