Gigabyte's motherboards are always products we look forward to, especially the budget/midrange solutions. These boards represent features and performance that often belies their price. Recently, Gigabyte has also been making strides into the high-end of the motherboard market. The first product of Gigabyte's aspirations using an Intel chipset was the GA-X38-DQ6 motherboard. The board was generally well received and had a decent set of features and performance. In short, we would not hesitate to recommend the GA-X38-DQ6 for a top-end overclocking or gaming system.

The only gripe about the GA-X38-DQ6 by hardcore overclockers is that it has slightly lower clock for clock performance when compared to other X38 motherboards. The GA-X48T-DQ6 we are reviewing here today obviously uses Intel's higher speed binned X48 chipset. Instead of just plugging the X48 into the existing X38 board design, Gigabyte listened to the concerns of users. Gigabyte made a wise decision to refine the existing X38 motherboard design to take advantage of the additional performance potential of the X48 speed bin.

A few months ago our feelings about the X38 chipset were a little mixed; we felt it really did not bring anything exciting to the table. As time has progressed since the chipset launch, motherboards based on the X38 chipset have become our favorites for overclocking, for many different reasons. In fact, the primary reason is that they have proven to be extremely reliable for overclocking use on a 24/7 basis. Once set up correctly, we find these boards to be able to run the same settings day-in day-out, so long as the demands are reasonable. Naturally for the budget minded users, we would still lean towards the P35 chipset as far as single graphics card use goes. However, as the focus shifts, the prices of X38 based boards should come in lower than the higher end P35 boards, making the decision of which one to choose all too easy.

It really is no surprise that Intel CPU's are at their very best when teamed with Intel chipsets. Understandably, the release schedule of all the tier-one suppliers includes motherboards in either DDR2 or DDR3 format using either the X38 or the updated (speed binned) X48. While we have always felt that the synthetic performance figures of the X38 in DDR2 form have been lower than expected, the 3D performance gains over more attractively priced P35 chipset is always apparent. In DDR3 format the X38/X48 is the performance choice, and outperforms the DDR2 boards overall in just about every benchmark… well, at least by a few percent. Of course, this slight increase in performance comes at an expensive cost, with DDR3 memory prices being double that of DDR2 - if not more - depending on what speed bin you order.



A couple of weeks ago, we were able to provide a small glimpse of the high-end extreme benchmarking that the DDR3 based GA-X48T-DQ6 is capable of in current form. We managed a clean sweep of current single card 8800 GTS 640MB 3DMark world records using this motherboard. The board's overclocking performance impressed us, but using a motherboard in a normal operating environment like most users is always an important part of our testing. Things were still quite rough around the edges at the time of the preview. In fact, we were unable to install Microsoft Vista due to our boot drive being unrecognized as a valid partition after Vista had completed formatting the drive. Issues like these are not new to us; most of the boards always need BIOS updates in their early stages. Our real concerns at the time revolved around non-working memory dividers and general unpredictability when overclocking.

Things have certainly progressed in some areas since our first look; we have received a few BIOS spins addressing improvements and compatibility in several areas. In truth, this has not been the most solid pre-release board we have received of late. We were actually beginning to feel a little spoiled, as most of the X38 based pre-release boards we received have been remarkably ready for good overclocking right from the get-go. In spite of this, we decided to keep the length of time between the first look and our review as short as possible. This is especially important in light of the fact that we are endeavoring to provide users with meaningful BIOS insights before Gigabyte releases the board. Naturally, this process takes time, but we think it's well worth the wait considering the options available in the BIOS. Indeed, we are intrigued to see what Gigabyte has managed in bringing performance and reliability together in one package using the X48 chipset.

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  • Ozlaw - Monday, June 23, 2008 - link

    I recently switched the inner workings of my computer from a Sriker Extreme, X8000 CPU and an 8800 GTX, to the Gigabyte GA-EX38T-DQ6, with an Asus HD 3870 X2 1gb (and I was about to add another in crossfireX, until I found out AMD was rolling out the 4000's series X2 early, actually possibly in Q3 of this year). If I had known, which is the story of my life and computers, that a newer chipset was coming out so soon, I would have waited for the 48T. The funny thing is that ever since I studied coomputer progaramming in college in the 70's, and began building my own computers when costs became parctical to do so, I suscribe to all the industry news but always miss something big.

    Oh well I can say that the 38T, since it was designed aroung quad core, including the extremes, instead of relying on BIOS updates to recoginize and work with critical hardware, such as the 680i in my old Striker Extreme was doing (I had the QX6850 in int for a time)in and of itself made an ennourmous difference in my computer's speed and functionality.

    THanks for a good article and now I am going to have to decide whether to buy a new motherboard when I buy the new graphics cards as I admit to being on of those weak early consumers of tech products, althhough I am getting better when it comes to Intel's cpu's now that they have become a CPU of the month club.
    Reply
  • papatsonis - Wednesday, April 16, 2008 - link

    "(G)MCH Overvoltage Control

    Default voltage is 1.45V, and the available voltage scale provides an overvoltage of 0.025-0.775V. There an actual undervoltage of 0.2V from the BIOS set overvoltage. For example, as the stock voltage is set to 1.45V a BIOS setting of +0.50V would imply a voltage of 1.95V. However setting +0.50V gives an actual voltage of 1.75V, suggesting an undervoltage of 0.2V. "

    The default voltage of X38/X48 is 1.25v (and in the article explaining tRD values , states that also) , the gigabyte in fact OVERvoltages MCH , when set to normal , to 1.45volt , but when adjusting values, it sets correct values (multimetered) e.g. +0.125 ->~ 1.38v
    Reply
  • Galvin - Monday, April 28, 2008 - link

    I dont have a volt meter. But I did verify thats what happening.

    I have the x48 ddr2 version. Normally the NB heatsink is too hot to keep my fingers on it. So if you run less voltage the heatsink should be cooler to the touch. Which is what happened. I set the overvolt for the MCH to 0.025 then rebooted. Waited a few min and I was able to hold my fingers to the heatsink without burning. I did this 2 more times to be sure.

    Surprised no one has found this before. That explains why the NB heatsink was crazy hot.

    Thanks
    Reply
  • neat1 - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/intel_skulltra...">http://www.firingsquad.com/hardware/intel_skulltra... Reply
  • neat1 - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    Does this board supp sli or is there still only crossfire support on the x48 chipset? (which would be kind of odd)
    Looking fwd 2 see the ASUS X48 tested
    Regard/neat1
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    Hi,

    Right now Nvidia has no plans whatsoever to allow SLI on the desktop Intel chipssets. Skulltrail may be the only exception to this. Of course, that's assuming Skulltrail ever gets released.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • Rob94hawk - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    Benchmarks with skulltrail or just hype? Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Sunday, January 06, 2008 - link

    Hi Rob,

    Personally I have not seen anything of Skulltrail myself, Intel are notably tight-lipped about publishing anything. Of course we'd all love to have a play...lol

    regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • kilkennycat - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Is Gigabyte paying Anandtech for front-cover "pseudo-advertising"? I though Anandtech exclusively reviewed quality products. Seems as if the pre-fitering within Anandtech of products for review needs to be strengthened.

    This review is so full of wishful thinking about future BIOS updates (whhich may never materialize) that I want to scream. Surely there are computer-related products in a far more mature state begging for serious technical reviews?
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    At least the preview/review let's people know what to expect at present. I guess I am wishful, because I hate to see good products go to waste via an inadequate BIOS. Immediate maturity with top-end performance boards (the reviews I concentrate on) is hard to find, almost impossible in fact. Occasionally we find a gem, when we do, we write about it. Not every board that comes down the channel is going to make the masses happy, especially in this segment. It's one of the toughest segments of all, the budget minded will never be happy with it. But then these products are not aimed at the budget segment at all. In the PC world there's no such thing as linear performance scaling per dollar. This board needed a 2 stage review, because fo the length of time the cascade cooled results can take. Where this may not be the typical approach, the performance boards are used by a percentage of this crowd. The rest is the more stable down to earth stuff which we endeavour to cover with the BIOS guides. It just so happens this all fell in with the Christmas season, when most companies go into shutdown.

    We review these boards in a way that the people who have the dollar or inclination to spend this kind of money will use them, no more, no less.

    regards
    Raja
    Reply

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