Original Link: http://www.anandtech.com/show/337



Gigabyte has traditionally provided solid boards while remaining relatively low profile. To some, their products were the best kept secret in the industry. Now Gigabyte is trying to make themselves a bit more prominent in all facets of the motherboard market. That includes, of course, the high end multiprocessing server/workstation boards. The GA-6BXDS is the first dual board from Gigabyte that AnandTech has had the opportunity to look at. How's it fare in the land of Tyan and Supermicro?


New Anand Tech Report Card Rating
87/B
Do not compare newer ratings to older ones, the newer ratings are much more aggressive

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Dual Slot-1
Chipset Intel i440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds

66 / 100

Clock Multipliers 3x - 5.5x
Voltages Supported Auto Detect
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots

1 AGP Slot
0 AMR Slots
4 PCI Slots (2 Full Length)
3 ISA Slot (1 Shared / 1 Full Length)

BIOS Award 4.51PG

The Good


Click to enlarge

Gigabyte's GA-6BXDS is a dual Slot-1 board with on-board SCSI all on a (fairly) compact PCB. The Intel i440BX chipset is at the heart of the GA-6BXDS, with Adaptec's 7895P handling dual channel Ultra Wide SCSI duties.

The 4/3/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP) slot configuration is a little dated these days, especially for the server/workstation market that this board is targeted towards. Only two of the PCI and one of the ISA slots are full length. An optional RAID port was also included on our evaluation board as well. Fortunately, four DIMM slots are provided to adequately cover memory expansion. ATX specifications are followed fairly closely, with all HDD/FDD/SCSI connectors located just in front of the DIMM slots. The ATX power connector is along the right edge of the board and shouldn't cause any cable clutter. The board is fairly small for a dual processor board, but much larger than most single processor boards. A few mid towers will be able to accept it without any trouble, but many will not, so be sure you check ahead of time.

Nine beefy 1200uF capacitors surround each CPU slot with a few smaller ones spread out around the board. Two 3 pin fan connectors are located next to the CPU slots for use with fans with a tachometer output. Two fold down universal retention kits are included, but not installed, and will hold any Celeron, Pentium II, or Pentium III CPU securely in place. Also included in the box are a CPU terminator card for enhanced stability with one CPU and an external SCSI port/backplate.

A single jumper provides for bus speed selection, either 66 MHz, 100 MHz, or Auto. Auto, of course, uses the state of B21 to set the bus speed and the other settings force the specified FSB. It would be nice to see some overclocked bus speeds here, but Gigabyte apparently does not think those are necessary for a multiprocessor board. Four DIP switches control the clock multiplier settings, which is of course not necessary to set on today's multiplier locked CPU's. Stability is excellent as we've come to expect from Gigabyte.



Gigabyte has also taken the standard Award BIOS and improved upon it just a bit, starting off with a feature well known on AOpen boards - a set of BIOS options that can be loaded and are already tweaked for performance. These options pretty much are optimal for the majority of users, but if you're a real hardcore tweaker, you'll want to go through and double check that everything set the way you like it. Upon boot, the BIOS reports the core voltage of each CPU and any voltages that may be out of spec. The onboard SCSI chip can be enabled or disabled from the BIOS as well.

Power management consists of pretty much the standard stuff these days. Wake on LAN and wake on modem ring headers are available to allow the system to power on in the presence of network activity or incoming call. The BIOS can be set to turn on the system at a specific time. The CPU fan can be shut off when the system suspends to quiet things down a bit. ACPI support is built into the BIOS for added power management under an ACPI compliant OS like Windows 98 or Windows 2000. The system can be configured to power on via hot key or mouse click as well.

Since it is a server board, which might be running 24/7, Gigabyte was wise enough to include a jumper that would force the system to power back on in the case of a power failure. When enabled, the system will return to its previous power state upon a loss of AC power.

For hardware monitoring, the GA-6BXDS uses the extremely popular Winbond 83781D to monitor both onboard fans, 7 voltages, and up to 3 temperatures. The reason for "up to 3 temperatures" is that the Winbond hardware monitor can only monitor one temperature on its own - the temperature of the Winbond chip itself. In order to monitor the other two temperatures, such as that of the CPU, the Winbond chip requires an external thermistor. Gigabyte has included a decent thermistor mounted directly in front of each CPU slot. They stick up about 1/4 of an inch and respond to temperature fluctuations within a few seconds. The included CD features Intel LANdesk Client Manager (LDCM). Of course, a variety of shareware/freeware hardware monitoring utilities are available on the web as well.

Although lacking details on installing a motherboard, the manual is otherwise pretty good for the experienced user and includes detailed information on all connector pin outs as well as the various BIOS settings. A separate manual is included for the onboard SCSI controller. The CD includes Intel LANdesk Client Manager (LDCM) for hardware monitoring, Trend PC-Cillin 98 (OEM) anti-virus software, a suspend to disk utility, and even DirectX 6.1. Of course, there's also the traditional chipset patches and drivers. The CD is not board specific and does not include an online version of the manual.



The Bad

Unfortunately, the Winbond 83781D on the GA-6BXDS is an older hardware monitoring chip that does not support reading the temperature straight from the CPU's on board thermal diode.

It is extremely rare to see core voltage adjustments on a multiprocessor board like the GA-6BXDS, but it's still something that could come in quite handy when overclocking. Of course, bus speeds are limited to 66 and 100MHz on the GA-6BXDS. Combined with the locked multipliers on all recently manufactured CPU's and overclocking becomes quite difficult anyway.

A potential source of confusion is the inclusion of SCSI termination options in both the Award BIOS and Adaptec BIOS that loads after it.

USB Compatibility

  • Number of Front Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 0

  • Number of Rear Universal Serial Bus Root Ports: 2

  • USB IRQ Enable/Disable in BIOS: Yes

  • USB Keyboard Support in BIOS: Yes


Recommended SDRAM

Recommended SDRAM: Mushkin SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM; Memory Man SEC -GH PC100 SDRAM
SDRAM Tested: 1 x 64MB PC100 SDRAM

Manufacturer: The Memory Man
Purchase Web-Site: http://www.memory-man.com

Manufacturer: Mushkin
Purchase Website: http://www.mushkin.com




The Test

In recent times, choosing a motherboard cannot be completely determined by a Winstone score. Now, many boards come within one Winstone point of each other and therefore the need to benchmark boards against each other falls. Therefore you shouldn't base your decision entirely on the benchmarks you see here, but also on the technical features and advantages of this particular board, seeing as that will probably make the greatest difference in your overall experience.

AnandTech Motherboard Testing Methodology

Test Configuration

Processor(s): 2 - Intel Pentium II 400 - OEM
RAM: 1 - 64MB Mushkin PC100 SDRAM DIMM
1 - 64MB Memory Man PC100 SDRAM DIMM
Hard Drive(s): 9GB IBM Ultrastar Ultra Wide SCSI-3 HDD
Video Card(s): Matrox Millennium G200 (8MB SGRAM - AGP)
Operation System(s): Windows NT 4.0 Service Pack 4
Motherboard Revision: Gigabyte GA-6BXDS Revision 1.6

 

Windows NT Performance

Winstone 99 Multiprocessor Performance
Business High End
Intel Pentium II 400 x 2 28.2 25.3 2.93

 

The Final Decision

Gigabyte has produced a very solid dual processing solution with the GA-6BXDS. Quality, documentation, and performance are all above average, while stability is excellent. Not to mention the fact that all the little details are taken care of quite well. All of this at a reasonable price (around $400), makes the Gigabyte GA-6BXDS a good choice for a workstation or server.

How it Rates


AnandTech Motherboard Rating

  Business
Performance 87%
Price 87%
Ease of Use 87%
Overclocked Stability N/A
General Stability 91%
Quality 87%
Documentation 87%
Reliability 85%
Overall Rating 87%

Click Here to learn about AnandTech's Motherboard Testing Methodology

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