When it comes to the biggest names in the motherboard industry, on the OEM side of things, Intel dominates in terms of sales. However if you ask a hardware enthusiast what company will be making their next motherboard, chances are that you won't be hearing anyone give you the name Intel as an answer. Instead, the most commonly mentioned motherboards are those that come from the plants of ABIT, ASUS, and AOpen. Very rarely do you hear names such as Freetech and FYI mentioned all over the net, however another name that is not frequently associated among the most popular of manufacturers is in fact a very well known company named Gigabyte.

Perfectly titled after the digital industry they participate in, Gigabyte has been pleasing their loyal customers for quite some time now, however their presence on the web and in newsgroups has been somewhat limited in comparison to the bigger boys of the industry. It seems like every motherboard manufacturer has at least one major claim to fame. ABIT took the industry into a new era with their SoftMenu jumperless CPU setup back during the time of the Intel 430VX/HX chipsets. ASUS redefined overclocking during the days of their T2P4 which first introduced the overclocker to the 83MHz Front Side Bus speed. And AOpen made it known to the world that if you want a well rounded motherboard, their high quality products would be an unmatchable force in the industry.

For years now Gigabyte has concentrated on the fundamentals of creating solid motherboards that provide the user with exactly what they purchased with the board, unfortunately in this highly competitive market, just giving the user what they paid for is not enough to stay on top. Gigabyte, in turn, is working to get their name engraved in the minds of hardware enthusiasts world wide, what is their claim to fame? Something a bit obscure actually...

New Anand Tech Report Card Rating

Motherboard Specifications

CPU Interface Slot-1
Chipset Intel 440BX
L2 Cache N/A (on-chip)
Form Factor ATX
Bus Speeds 66 / 68 / 75 / 83
100 / 103 / 112 / 124 / 133
Clock Multipliers 1.5x - 6.5x
Voltages Supported 2.8v / 2.0v (Auto-Detect)
Memory Slots 4 168pin DIMM Slots
Expansion Slots 1 AGP Slot
5 PCI Slots (5 Full Length)
2 ISA Slots (1 Shared / 0 Full Length)

The Good

Gigabyte supplied AnandTech with their latest concoction, the GA-BX2000. As the name is intended to imply, the BX2000 is the motherboard of the future, but it starts out as being a motherboard that looks much like those of the past. Gigabyte obviously did their homework while outfitting the board with the extremely popular 5/2/1 expansion slot configuration (PCI/ISA/AGP).

Click to Enlarge
Click to Enlarge

The 5 PCI slots are all capable of accepting full length expansion cards, however the one shared PCI slot is only capable of doing so if you do not make use of the on-board Infrared connector. The two ISA slots are able to accept full length cards, however the front panel connector pins (HDD lights, etc...) and the case fan connector can prevent you from doing so if you happen to be using either or both of those.

The BX2000 features a full set of 4 DIMM slots, the maximum the Intel 440BX chipset allows. Gigabyte did not outfit the BX2000 with an external data-buffer, however as AnandTech's internal testing has revealed, the Data Buffer did not seem to improve the stability of ABIT's BX6 while running with 4 installed SDRAM DIMMs. Plus, the short trace lengths between the 443BX North Bridge controller and the DIMM slots would indicate a rare chance that even in the most "mission critical" of memory applications the BX2000 would fail. Unfortunately, in AnandTech's 256MB memory module compatibility testing, the BX2000 failed to boot with even a single 256MB module, just something you may want to keep in mind.

Just south of the DIMM slots is a yellow power-on LED that essentially tells you whether or not the motherboard is running. It can be quite helpful if you have an unusually quiet fan on your CPU and have difficulty telling whether or not the motherboard is powered up while debugging. It can also help prevent you from accidentally installing a memory module, peripheral, or even worse, a processor (it has happened) while the motherboard is receiving power. Gigabyte took great care in placing the most amount of features into the smallest possible area with the BX2000, there isn't a square inch of PCB that is wasted with this motherboard. The ATX power supply connector is carefully tucked away on the very edge of the PCB, making sure it doesn't interfere with the installation or cooling of any components on the motherboard.

The BX2000 avoided the more conventional jumper driven configuration, yet refrained from boasting a fully jumperless design, leaving Gigabyte with the remaining option, a single dip-switch solution. The dip-switch is an easily accessible area of the motherboard, and its possible settings are clearly documented on the motherboard directly above it. The BX2000 supports the standard set of FSB frequencies, and unfortunately doesn't feature the newer 153MHz clock generator present on the BX6 Revision 2 and the AOpen AX6BC. The 112MHz, 124MHz, and 133MHz settings should be no stranger to the BX motherboard scene, and those are the settings Gigabyte provided unofficial support for. The BX2000 also allows, via a single jumper, the user to set the AGP frequency at a 1 to 1 ratio (66MHz FSB) with the FSB frequency or a 2 to 3 ratio (100MHz FSB). Remember that the failure to include any other ratios is not the fault of the motherboard manufacturer, as the AGP clock frequency is a function of the chipset. Intel won't introduce any additional AGP clock dividers with the BX chipset, however VIA should be the first to introduce another divider with their Apollo Pro Plus 133 already announced. The bottom line? The 133MHz FSB is highly unreliable, even at the 2:3 ratio, for systems with AGP video accelerators.

So what is Gigabyte's "unique" claim to fame with the BX2000? A technology known as dual-BIOS. Basically, Gigabyte outfitted the BX2000, along with two more of their newest motherboards, with two SST manufactured Award BIOS chips. The two chips are identical, and the benefit of having two BIOS chips (other than to boast that you have more BIOSes than your friends) is that if one should fail, you always have a backup ready and waiting for you. Why would a BIOS chip ever fail? It's rare that the BIOS chip will ever fail during regular operation, however sometimes there are errors when flash upgrading a BIOS that may result in an otherwise dead system. Gigabyte's BIOS fault protection system comes in handy in that case, however considering that you don't flash your BIOS every day, it doesn't seem like the technology will be something to write a book on. Gigabyte also provides the user with another safety net, CPU Over Voltage Protect, basically a feature that makes sure you don't nuke your processor by supplying it with too high of a Voltage setting.

The stability of the board was above average, outdistancing itself from ABIT's BX6 Revision 2 by a healthy degree, closely approaching the ranks of AOpen's AX6BC, one of the most stable and well rounded Single Processor Slot-1 BX motherboards. The performance is what we've come to expect from a well made motherboard, nothing to jump up and down about, yet nothing to bash the company for. Gigabyte definitely has a solid motherboard on their hands with the BX2000, but is that enough?

The Bad
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