Gigabyte X38-DQ6 Motherboard Review - Intel X38 Arrives!
Gigabyte X38-DQ6 Layout and Features
The first X38 motherboard to hit our test bench was from Gigabyte in the form of the X38-DQ6. The first X38 motherboard we got also turned out to use DDR2 memory, not the faster but more expensive DDR3 memory. While this at first surprised me, it does make sense from Gigabyte's point of view -- with the current price and availability of DDR3 memory where it is at, the majority of users buying these boards now will be DDR2 users.
A first glance at the board shows us a fairly standard dual-GPU motherboard layout but as we'll see Gigabyte has done a great job with the features and layout on this board.
The CPU socket on the X38-DQ6 is a little bit more crowded than I would prefer but I didn't run into any issues with standard heatsinks or with the Koolance water cooling blocks that we installed on it throughout the testing phases. Gigabyte has gone the extra mile for motherboard longevity by upgrading to lower RDS MOSFETs, ferrite core cores and longer life solid capacitors. These power advantages provide a lower temperature by 10 degrees around the CPU without active cooling in Gigabyte's tests.
The back of the motherboard shows Gigabyte's "Crazy Cool" system that dissipates some of the heat from around the CPU to the back of the board and these copper heatsinks. The south bridge also has one as you can see. The only issue I had with these is that the screw that attaches the Koolance mounting kit to the boards makes contact with the heatsink in the top right location (in this photo).
The four DIMM slots support DDR2 memory up to speeds of 1066 MHz officially, though with overclocking you can go beyond that. The ATX power connector and alternative 4-pin Molex power connection are seen here, well placed and out of the way. A fan power connection is located next to the DIMM slots for users that may have alternative memory module cooling fans.
The Gigabyte X38-DQ6 motherboard is completely passively cooled with a heatpipe running from the south bridge to the north bridge and to the top over the CPU power regulation components. The all-copper fins are well built and didn't have any problems cooling the system during our overclocking tests; though I do wish Gigabyte had included an external fan option for cooling the heatpipe setup as Asus has done for some time. Users of water cooling would definitely appreciate it.
The expansion configuration on the X38-DQ6 includes two x16 PCIe 2.0 slots for dual graphics cards, three x1 PCIe 1.0 slots and two legacy PCI slots. Use of the second PCIe x16 2.0 slot will render the top legacy PCI slot useless and would leave you with only a single spot for older cards.
Gigabyte continues to use my favorite PCIe x16 retention clips that can be released by pushing on the rear nub or by pulling on the front disc shaped item. They are by far the easiest and most versatile on any board.
The storage options location on the motherboard shows a slew of SATA connections including six provided by the ICH9 south bridge and another set from the Gigabyte SATA2 chip that also supplies the single IDE connection.
The bottom row on the motherboard consists of the headers for things like a legacy COM port, extra Firewire and USB 2.0 connections as well as the TPM security module.
The external connections are very unique on the Gigabyte X38-DQ6! There are still two legacy PS2 connections as well as built-in support for 8-channel audio with both optical and coaxial outputs, but the eight USB 2.0 ports and two Firewire (one large, one small) connections is the most we have seen on the back of any motherboard. I know that I would definitely appreciate the additional USB ports on my system now as I quickly run out of them and not all boards come with dongles for extra ports; and if you are running SLI or CrossFire, you might not have any rear slots open anyway. Both of the network connections on the back here are Gigabit Ethernet and are powered by a Realtek 8111B chip.