Our first taste of Intel X48
The chipset world has been surprisingly active in the last 6 months or so with releases from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA all converging in way I haven't seen in quite some time. AMD is finally using the ATI acquisition to release quality core logic designs and NVIDIA is finally updating the aging nForce 600-series of chipsets for the Intel platform. Intel's own X38 chipset arrived to the scene in early October even though news of the pending X48 chipset launch was already circulating in the press.
And that brings us to today, where we are reviewing our first X48 chipset motherboard. Many speculate that Intel held off on the X48 launch in order to appease motherboard manufacturers that had bought a LOT of X38 chipset stock they had not yet sold through. More than likely that is true - the features and overlap of the two products are apparent. The X48 is really an upgrade that includes official support for the 1600 MHz FSB processors (that don't really exist still) as well as...well that's pretty much it.
Gigabyte has been improving their name in the enthusiast world for the last couple of years by release high quality, high-end products aimed squarely at readers like ours. In a field that was once dominated by the likes of ASUS, Abit and DFI, Gigabyte is adding their own say into the dialogue.
Specifications (from Gigabyte.com)
- Support for an Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme processor/ Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor/Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor/ Intel® Pentium® processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® D processor/ Intel® Pentium® 4 processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® 4 processor/ Intel® Celeron® processor in the LGA 775 package
(Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
- L2 cache varies with CPU
- 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz FSB
- North Bridge: Intel® X48 Chipset
- South Bridge: Intel® ICH9R
- 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 8 GB of system memory
- Dual channel memory architecture
- Support for DDR2 1200/1066/800/667MHz, ECC, non ECC memory modules.
Please refer "Memory Support List" for memory support information.
- Realtek ALC889A codec
- High Definition Audio
- Support for DTS (dts NEO:PC)
- Support for S/PDIF In/Out
- Support for CD In
- Realtek 8111C chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
- 2 x PCI Express x16 slots (The PCIE_16_1 slot supports x16; the PCIE_16_2 supports x4.)
- 3 x PCI Express x1 slots (share with the PCIE_16_2 slot)
- 2 x PCI slots
- 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
- Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
- 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
- 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATAIIA, GSATAIIB) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
- Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
- 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
- T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
- Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394 bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394 header)
- Integrated in the South Bridge
- Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
|Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- 1 x 4-pin PCIe 12V power connector
- 1 x floppy disk drive connector
- 1 x IDE connector
- 8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
- 1 x CPU fan header
- 2 x system fan headers
- 1 x power fan header
- 1 x North Bridge fan header
- 1 x front panel header
- 1 x front panel audio header
- 1 x CD In connector
- 1 x S/PDIF In header
- 1 x S/PDIF Out header
- 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
- 1 x IEEE 1394a header
- 1 x parallel port header
- 1 x serial port header
- 1 x power LED header
- 1 x chassis intrusion header
|Rear Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
- 1 x PS/2 mouse port
- 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
- 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
- 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
- 2 x RJ-45 port
- 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
- System voltage detection
- CPU/System temperature detection
- CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
- CPU overheating warning
- CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
- CPU fan speed control
- Supports QuadBIOS
- 2 x 8 Mbit flash ROM
- Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
- PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 1.0b.
- Support for Dynamic Energy Saver
- Support for @BIOS
- Support for Download Center
- Support for Q-Flash
- Support for EasyTune
- Support for Xpress Install
- Support for Xpress Recovery2
- ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
- Due to different Linux support condition provided
by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors'
website or 3rd party website.
- Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer
support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers
available, we will publish on website.
- Duo to chipset limitation, Intel ICH9R RAID driver does not support Windows 2000 operating system.
Intel's X48 Chipset - X38 weeps
Everyone knows the feeling - one day you're the favorite son and then your brother comes home with all "A+'s" on his report card, besting your somewhat degraded "A's". That's pretty much what happened to the X38 chipset from Intel: it was and still is a great chipset but with Intel's release of the X48 product it now seems lesser in some respects. "Seems" being the key word though because the only technical difference between these two products is the official support for 1600 MHz front-side bus processors and memory speeds.
The rest of the chipset design should be very familiar: PCI Express 2.0 support in the form of 32 lanes, integrated DDR3 and DDR2 memory controllers and a pairing up with the Intel ICH9 south bridge. The south bridge offers up the rest of the main feature set including support for six SATA ports with RAID options, a dozen USB channels, integrated 8-channel audio and a handful of PCIe 1.0 lanes for accessory support.
Again, while support for a 1600 MHz FSB and 1600 MHz DDR3 memory is good, in reality many of the X38 chipset motherboards have unofficially had support for those speeds. In fact, our initial tests of the only 1600 MHz FSB processor I have seen, the Intel QX9770, was tested on an ASUS X38 motherboard. Whether Intel is just using marketing to create another product in the line or there really are some kind of differentiations between the X48 and X38 really doesn't matter I guess - X48 is here and it's going to remain the high-end solution for Intel's lineup.