First Thoughts

It is hard to find any faults with the X38 chipset at this time. Even though we are working with an engineering sample that has been around the block a few times and an early engineering BIOS that is designed more for debugging the chipset than providing top performance, it still manages to outperform a fairly mature P35 equipped motherboard that offers excellent performance in its own right.

We are generally impressed with the Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 motherboard and look forward to providing updated results with our retail board once the release BIOS arrives in the lab. Even in its early state, the performance is very good and stability has been excellent throughout several days of 24/7 benchmark testing. In fact, we found the stability, performance, and compatibility of this early engineering sample to be better than several retail boards we are currently testing.

Although in early testing it appears the power consumption of this board is up to 18W higher than a similarly equipped GA-P35-DQ6 board, we did not find the increased thermal loads creating any issues during testing. With the added number of PCI-E lanes and the same process technology, we didn't really expect a decrease in power requirements, though it would have been nice to get that as well. We will provide full thermal and power consumption numbers shortly, but we can say without a doubt that the X38 MCH will bring a new meaning to the word "heat" when overclocking.


Speaking of overclocking, in testing to date with the engineering sample, we were able to match or exceed the levels reached with our best P35 motherboards when utilizing the quad core processors. We even managed several benchmark runs at 510FSB with our Q6600 set at an 8x multiplier and additional cooling. Also of note, at least with this particular board setup, we generally could run our CPU and memory voltages slightly lower at the same settings as our P35 boards. Dual core performance with a wide variety of chips was excellent also, but we will reserve final judgment of the capabilities of the chipset and board until we have a production release BIOS and additional retail boards. For now, we look forward to providing those results in the near future.

Despite being faster than the Intel P35 in our limited test suite, the percentages were minor to say the least. Expecting a large performance leap in stock performance is generally unrealistic with a new chipset release. The most promising results are in our Sandra unbuffered, MemTest, and SuperPI 1.5 results where we can see the strength of this chipset. It is still difficult to determine exactly what the performance improvements will be over the P35 chipset, but for now most of the motherboard suppliers think an average of 3% to 5% is the correct range and it should only improve as the BIOS matures. This does not take into account the projected improvements in overclocking or CrossFire performance, areas that the X38 is supposedly designed to excel in with the right components.

In the early stages, it certainly appears that Intel has another great enthusiast chipset on its hands and a worthy successor to the 975X. Of course, only time and retail boards will prove us right or wrong, but our early guesstimates indicate this chipset should have a long life... well, at least until Nehalem appears but that is a story for another time.

Gaming Performance
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  • BLHealthy4life - Thursday, September 13, 2007 - link

    According to the INQ, this mobo will be available on the 14th, tommorrow.

    I've only found retailers for this board in the UK.

    Anyone been able to find a USA retailer(s) that have this board for preorder?

    Thanks
    Reply
  • TokyoFerret - Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - link

    Are such powerful PSUs utilised in overclocking articles? I am thinking of buying this board and running it with an E6850, 4Gb RAM and a 8800GTX, 2 SATA drives and 3D Galaxy2 water cooling but my PSU is only rated at 500W (Enermax Liberty).

    Should I be buying a new PSU as well? Or try out my current one and upgrade if its voltage seems too unstable...
    Reply
  • TokyoFerret - Tuesday, January 22, 2008 - link

    Correction...

    Are such -> Why are such...
    Reply
  • bigphil1974 - Tuesday, September 11, 2007 - link

    Hi thanks for a great preview

    Would this motherboard pose any problems installing a large heatsink with backplate such as a thermalright ultra 120 extreme as I have seen similar gigabyte products where you cannot install bolt through coolers due to copper blocks on the back of the motherboard.

    Thanks

    Bigphil
    Reply
  • larciel - Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - link

    so not neglectible difference between P35 and X38, just like P965 and x975 weren't that much different.

    Upgrade bug is so addictive but I've learned to avoid it after spending $$$$$$$ just to satisfy my desire that dies the first day I get a new toy, or CPU, or motherboard in this case.
    Reply
  • 457R4LDR34DKN07 - Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - link

    What I want to see is the ASUS ROG Maximus Formula SE. Reply
  • Lord Evermore - Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - link

    Does having more PCIe lanes automatically mean higher power consumption? If they're unused, if you just have the same hardware installed, does power consumption go up significantly just because the lanes are available? I'd assume a small amount but not so much that you'd really notice it unless you actually were taking advantage of the increase. Reply
  • Dawgneck - Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - link

    Gary, can you confirm if the X38 chipset will only support Crossfire, or will it also support SLI? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - link

    This is an NVIDIA issue. NVIDIA needs to allow it in their drivers, or the only way to make it work will be hacking drivers. There have been various custom driver releases in the past to get SLI working on certain chipsets - i.e. the Alienware m9750 laptop and other SLI laptops are 945GM chipsets but still support SLI. The real issue here is whether or not Intel will pay NVIDIA... and how much NVIDIA wants to be paid, I would assume.

    Gary and I have had conversations about this, and while the NVIDIA GPU guys would love to get Intel chipset SLI support, the NVIDIA chipset guys are understandably not as gung-ho. Personally, I'd say their chipset business on the high-end doesn't do enough to compensate for the number of 8800 cards they could sell if they were to license SLI support to Intel. Besides, profit margins on 8800 chips (and even 8600) are *much* higher than chipset profit margins. For every 8800 card they sell, they probably make as much as they would off of four SLI chipset sales.

    Will we ever see SLI support on Intel chipsets? That's going to depend on the two companies and pretty much nothing else. It could work right now... heck, it could work on 975X, P965, P35, and pretty much any dual-x16 slot motherboard+chipset.
    Reply
  • PeteRoy - Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - link

    Anandtech is a great site to show Battlefield 2 benchmarks, this is the game I play the most and I find it odd that sites like THG and others tend to ignore this game and show benchmarks of doom3 which nobody plays anymore, and if they do they won't after they finish the single player. Reply

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