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Gigabyte GA-G1975X G1-Turbo Motherboard
Date: May 17, 2006
Author: Robert Maloney


Trends in PC hardware usually come about for a good reason.  As processor and memory speeds continued to rise, many manufacturers responded by producing more elaborate air cooling apparatuses.  Some of them worked well, while others offered almost no improvement at all.  In either case, lowering temperatures in this way usually resulted in an unwanted side effect: excessive noise.  As high-speed fans were placed over this and that chipset, the cacophony of whirring and buzzing machinery became a little more than most users were willing to bear. 

So the next trend to come along was to not only cool down a PC, but to do so with more style and less noise.  Water-cooling devices serve that purpose well.  But less elaborate methods were also employed, starting with larger heatsinks with heat-pipes, such as those seen in Shuttle's I.C.E. technology, or over-sized, quiet fans from companies such as Zalman.  These products are less effective than water-cooling, but they are also easier to install and maintain. And they offer better cooling performance than most stock devices.

Gigabyte, however, has decided to stray from the current trend with their line of G1-Turbo branded products.  The first product of that line, which we will be evaluating in this article is the GA-G1975X; a motherboard based on Intel's latest chipset fused with large cooling turbines (hence the term 'Turbo').  In doing so, Gigabyte eschews the idea of quiet cooling for over-the-top cooling for the CPU, Northbridge, and surrounding components.


Specifications of the Gigabyte GA-G1975X
Gigabyte gives us the Royal treatment
- LGA775 Intel Pentium D / Pentium 4 Processor
- Supports 1066/800/533MHz FSB

- Northbridge: Intel 975X Express
- Southbridge: Intel ICH7R

- 4x DDR2 DIMM Memory Slots (supports up to 8GB)
- Supports Dual channel DDR2 533/667/800/888 unbuffered DIMMs
- Supports 1.8V DDR2 DIMMs

   ICH7R Southbridge
- 1 IDE connector with UDMA 33/ATA 66/ATA 100/ATA 133 support allows connection of 2 IDE devices
- 4 SATA II connectors allow connection of 4 SATA devices

- Supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, or RAID 5 for Serial ATA

  IT8211 chipset
- 1 IDE connector with UDMA 33/ATA 66/ATA 100/ATA 133 support allows connection of an additional 2 IDE devices
- Supports ATAPI mode for HDD
- Supports IDE bus master operation

- Onboard Creative CA0106 chip (SB Live!)
- Supports 2/4/5.1/6.1/7.1 channel audio

- Supports S/PDIF IN and S/PDIF Out connection

IEEE 1394
- Texas Instruments IEEE 1394 controller

- Supports up to 3x 1394 ports with transfer rate up to 400Mbp


- Onboard Broadcom 5789 chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

- Two PCI Express X16 slots:
- Two PCI Express x4 slots

- Two PCI slots

Internal Connectors
- 4 x Serial ATA 3GB/s connectors
- 1 x UDMA ATA 133/100/66/33 connector (ICH7R)

- 1 x UDMA ATA 133/100/66/33 connector (ITE IT8211F)
- 1 x FDD connector
- 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 connectors (supports 6 ports)
- 1 x audio pin connector (supports 7.1 channels)

- 1 x IEEE 1394a connector (supports 2 ports)
- 3 x Cooling fan pin headers

Rear Panel I/O
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/ 1 x PS/2 mouse port

- 1 x RJ45 LAN port
- 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 3 x audio jacks (Line-in, Line-out, MIC-in)

- Uses licensed AWARD BIOS
- Supports Dual BIOS/Q-Flash/Multi-language BIOS


- ATX form factor 30.5 cm. (L) x 24.4cm. (W)

Additional Features
- Multi-GPU support (ATi Crossfire)
- C.R.S. (CMOS Reload Switch)
- Xpress(TM) Installation and Recovery 2
- C.I.A. 2 (CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2)
- M.I.B. 2 (Memory Intelligent Booster 2)

The Bundle:
Much like the GA-8N-SLI we reviewed earlier, the G1975X comes in a box that is nearly double the size of ordinary motherboards, and every square inch is packed with various highlights of the board's features, including an inner flap with two windows that clearly display the twin turbines.  Gigabyte seems to know something about marketing, as a sale or two can easily be made by looking at the list of features as opposed to a boring box without much explanation as to what's going on inside.

In support of the numerous drive combinations available on the G1975X, Gigabyte has included flat-ribbon ATA and floppy cables, a single red SATA cable, and four orange-colored SATA cables which match the on-board SATA connectors.  The orange SATA cables utilize a nifty locking mechanism that prevents them from accidentally coming loose, although the red version does not.

The G1975X's unique structure provides not only better cooling, but it requires a different layout than typically expected.  Those two large fans need an exterior position from which air can be expelled from the case.  To accommodate this need, two blue-rimmed exhaust holes are carved into the I/O shield.  However, doing so limits the number and type of other ports in the backplane.  There's room for two PS/2 ports, three audio jacks, two USB ports and the LAN jack.  Legacy connections such as Parallel and Serial ports are left on the cutting room floor, and extra USB or Firewire connections require installing brackets provided in the bundle.

The i975X chipset supports ATi's CrossFire out of the box, using the two PCI x16 slots, but curiously Gigabyte has also included a graphics bridge in the package, which would normally be used by nVidia's SLI configurations.  Currently, there is no support for such a setup with the i975X, but future BIOS and driver updates might add this desired functionality.
Layout and Features


Layout and Features of the GA-G1975X
Kicking performance into Turbo-drive

The most identifiable feature of the G1975X has to be the dual translucent blue plastic tubes that run alongside the CPU socket.  These tubes make up part of the TurboJet technology that Gigabyte is using with the new G1-Turbo series of motherboards.  A 4 phase voltage regulation system is utilized, using some cleverly placed capacitors and heatsinks.  By keeping the area directly around the CPU mostly clear and positioning circuitry within the TurboJets' channels, heat build-up is almost non-existent, which should stability and overclockability.  Even the heatsink over the Northbridge is considered, and it winds up being placed directly near one of the interior fans.  In total, there are four fans that push heated air from the socket area directly out of the system.  Thus, the CPU, memory, Northbridge and other circuitry are all benefiting from this cooling apparatus.



Looking at the rest of the board, we have very few complaints concerning component placement.  Most of the board's various connectors or slots are color coded, like the DIMM slots, SATA connectors, and front panel header.  The main drive connectors are placed right where they should be: along the inner edge of the board, right where the drives will probably be installed.  This helps keep cable clutter down to a minimum.  Most optional connections, such as FireWire and extra USB are at the farthest end of the board, near the rarely-used PCI-E x1 slots.  Two larger x16 slots surround two standard PCI slots, which poses a bit of a problem.  Should the x16 slots be populated with two ATi video cards, users would have to install an add-in PCI card, such as a sound card, between the two.  We might have preferred mixing and matching the PCI-E 1x and PCI slots to allow for all installation options.  It's almost as if Gigabyte has no other intentions for the user other than to use on-board solutions for audio, LAN, etc. 



Although the two powered TurboJets are a major feature of the G1975X, passive cooling is employed on the Southbridge.  In fact, a rather smallish heatinsk is placed on top of the Southbridge, without any optional fans such as the one that came with the GA-8N-SLI.  This, in fact, turns out to be a good thing, at least for those with noise concerns.  As its name implies, the TurboJets on the G1975X run quite loud - louder than just about any other cooling solution we could think of in recent memory, in fact.  All other sounds, including the CPU cooler and PSU were simply dwarfed by the four spinning fans of the TurboJet duo.  It's almost as if Gigabyte has done the exact opposite of what many manufacturers are doing, adding noise instead of subtracting it.  While the components are definitely running cooler, the noise levels may hit a sour note with part of the market.



On-board additions include a Gigabit LAN solution from Broadcom, as well as an integrated version of Creative's Sound-Blaster Live!.  The quality of this chipset is good enough for most users, which partially takes away from the aforementioned poor PCI slot placement.  Supporting up to 7.1 audio channels, the Sound Blaster Live! controller also requires fewer CPU cycles than typical on-board audio CODECs, meaning that less performance is sacrificed for musicians and gamers alike.  And, although we weren't overly keen on the noise output from anything other than the SoundBlaster Live!, the TurboJets do add some panache to a windowed-chassis.  When the system is turned on, blue LEDs light up the cooling tubes, which exhaust out through a custom backplate. We should also mention that the G1975X features and on-board power switch and debug LED.  However, in a testament to stability, neither of these ever had to be used during normal or overclocked operation.

BIOS & Overclocking


Examining the BIOS of the Gigabyte GA-G1975X
Tinkering with this and that...

It's no secret that Intel has been marketing their boards more and more to the PC enthusiast crowd, and to cater to their whims Gigabyte has provided a BIOS for the G1975X with just about all of the options that a power-user could hope for...



If you've ever poked around an AWARD BIOS, then these blue screens should be quite familiar to you.  From the initial screen, you can access various sections of the BIOS dealing with everything from Integrated Peripherals to checking on the "Healthiness" of your PC.



This board also features a number of tools that allow end-users to do a little tweaking.  The main page to hit is called the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker.  Those lucky enough to have an unlocked CPU can opt to enable C.A.M, which allows users to set the clock ratio from High (default) to Low, and possibly provide an option for some higher overclocking speeds.  Those less inclined to handle overclocking on their own can simply choose a setting from C.I.A.2, or CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2.  C.I.A.2 is an automatic overclocking utility that only kicks in when the CPU is running full throttle for 10 seconds or more.  Choices range from Cruise (a safe, yet minor speed bump) and go up to Full Thrust mode, which overclocks the CPU by about 17-19%.  There's even an option to overclock the video card as well, using the Robust Graphics Booster.

Overclocking Tools
Time for a tune-up

More adventurous souls will have the ability to unlock even more untapped performance by overclocking their system by themselves, and Gigabyte is only too happy to provide them the tools...



The first step is to enable the CPU Host Clock Control, as this takes the bus speed and other settings out of the BIOS' control and puts into the capable hands of the user.  Once done, the CPU Host Frequency is manually entered to the speed desired, ranging from an underclocked 100MHz up to as high as 600MHz.  Bumps in speed typically come hand-in-hand with a bump in voltage, and here the board is no slouch either.  CPU Voltage is raised in steps starting at 0.025V until a 1.6V level is reached, and then in 0.05V steps to a maximum of 1.75V.  As the bus speed is raised, so too goes the other board components including RAM, video cards, and devices on the PCI bus.  To alleviate issues that can occur from running too far out of spec, frequencies can be set for both the PCI-E and PCI buses.  Memory frequency is a little trickier, requiring the use of multipliers.  Luckily, after choosing a multiplier, the new memory speed is shown on the M.I.T. page, so you can check that your memory can handle the multiplier, and therefore, the speed you've chosen. 

Overclocked Results

Overclocked to 3.88GHz
PCMark05 Details with CPU
Overclocked to 3.88GHz

Our foray in overclocking started off easily enough, moving from a front side bus of 200MHz up to 225MHz without any complaint.  Since the G1975X has the extra cooling around the CPU and power array, we felt confident that we would easily break the 4GB barrier that we typically run into with this particular CPU.  Moving up to 230MHz and beyond was a mixed bag - we could get back into Windows, but the system was unstable and most benchmarks would not complete, or even launch at all.  We backpedaled a few steps until we settled in at 228MHz, a relatively minor overclock, but still within the expected limits for our setup.  After all, this meant raising a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 to just under 3.9GHz. SANDRA and PCMark05 benching while overclocked showed the G1975X performing with an 11-12% improvement.

Testing Setup and SANDRA


How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, we first entered the system BIOS and set each board to their "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults".  The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 was installed. Then we installed all of the necessary drivers, and removed Windows Messenger from the system. Auto-Updating and System Restore were disabled, and we setup a 1536MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance", installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives and ran all of the tests.  We should note, however, that whether we left the board at its default settings or manually configured the FSB at 200MHz, the G1975X ran our CPU a bit higher than its default clock speed.

Test System Specifications
A little taste of everything out there
Motherboards Tested:
Gigabyte GA-G1975X (Intel i975X Express)

Gigabyte GA-8N-SLI Quad Royal (nForce 4 SLI X16 Intel Edition)
MSI P4N Diamond (nForce 4 SLI Intel Edition)
Asus P5WD2 Premium (Intel i955X)

Common Hardware:
Intel Pentium 4 550 Processor @ 3.4GHz
2x512MB Corsair XMS2 Pro DDR2-667 (CL 4-4-4-12)
Gigabyte GeForce 7800GT

On-board audio & LAN
Seagate Barracuda V SATA Hard Drive

Software / System Drivers:
Windows XP with Service Pack 2
DirectX 9.0c
nVidia nForce4 SLI X16 Chipset Drivers, v6.85
nVidia ForceWare Drivers v84.21

Intel INF Chipset Drivers, v7.22.1006

Preliminary Benchmarks With SiSoft SANDRA 2005 SR3

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran three of the built-in sub-system tests (CPU Arithmetic, CPU Multimedia, and Memory Bandwidth) that partially comprise the SANDRA 2005 suite of benchmarks.  All of these tests were run with the GA-G1975X powered by an Intel Pentium 4 550 3.4 GHz CPU with 1GB of Corsair XMS2 Pro DDR2 and compared against similar systems from SANDRA's database.

CPU Arithmetic Benchmark
Pentium 4 550 @ 3.4GHz
1024MB DDR2 (CL4)

Memory Benchmark
Pentium 4 550 @ 3.4GHz
1024MB DDR2 (CL4)

CPU Multimedia Benchmark
Pentium 4 550 @ 3.4GHz
1024MB DDR2 (CL4)

We decided on using scores that reflect not only comparable single CPU performance, but dual Core CPUs as well to show the benefit that one might have obtained with such a piece installed in the G1975X.  It can readily be seen that performance nearly doubles (as one might expect).  The single CPU scores are also slightly higher than SANDRA's reference scores, but aggressive clocking on Gigabyte's part can easily explain the difference.  We couldn't find an exact match for the memory benchmark, but performance-wise the 975X chipset seems to provide a little more bandwidth than previous Intel boards.  

PCMark05 Comparisons


Futuremark's PCMark05

For our next round of synthetic benchmarks, we ran the CPU and Memory performance modules built into Futuremark's brand new PCMark05.   In the course of working with PCMark05 we have found it to be even more robust in terms of test features than its predecessor.  That said, the CPU and Memory test modules we use for comparison are very similar to the '04 version of the test suite.  For those interested in more than just the graphs, we've got a couple of quotes directly from Futuremark that explain exactly what these tests do, and how they work:

"The CPU suite is a collection of tests that are run to isolate the performance of the CPU. The CPU Test Suite also includes multithreading: two of the test scenarios are run multithreaded; the other including two simultaneous tests and the other running four tests simultaneously. The remaining six tests are run single threaded. Operations include, File Compression/Decompression, Encryption/Decryption, Image Decompression, and Audio Compression" - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.

Proving our point from the previous page, the same Pentium 550 is running 100-150 points higher when installed into the G1975X than in the nForce4-SLI and 955X boards.

"The Memory test suite is a collection of tests that isolate the performance of the memory subsystem. The memory subsystem consists of various devices on the PC. This includes the main memory, the CPU internal cache (known as the L1 cache) and the external cache (known as the L2 cache). As it is difficult to find applications that only stress the memory, we explicitly developed a set of tests geared for this purpose. The tests are written in C++ and assembly. They include: Reading data blocks from memory, Writing data blocks to memory performing copy operations on data blocks, random access to data items and latency testing."  - Courtesy FutureMark Corp.

The i975X chipset is expected to reduce memory latencies slightly, and PCMark05's memory scores have the G1975X running just a hair over the rest of the boards  At best, this is roughly a single percentage point better than that of the others, so it's really not much to rave about.

WorldBench 5 - Photoshop 7 and OfficeXP


PC World's World Bench 5.0: Photoshop 7 & Office XP Modules

PC World Magazine's WorldBench 5.0 is a new breed of Business and Professional application benchmark, poised to replace the aging and no-longer supported Content Creation and Business Winstone tests. WorldBench 5.0 consists of a number of performance modules that each utilize one, or a group of, popular applications to gauge performance.  Below we have the results from WB 5's Photoshop 7 and Office XP SP2 modules, recorded in seconds.  Lower times indicate better performance.


We've found in recent testing with some of WorldBench 5.0's modules, that the time it takes to complete the tests are usually quite similar - only a second or two separated the boards here, with the exception of the Asus P5WD2 Premium which lagged behind a bit. The Photoshop 7 module gave us a sizeable increase in performance for the G1975X, as it completed the benchmark 7 seconds faster than the nearest competitors.  That lead was short-lived, however, as the other Gigabyte board in our testing suite captured top honors in the Office XP module.  The times were much closer than what we saw with Photoshop 7, with the GA-8N-SLI edging out the G1975X by just one second.

Encoding Speed Tests


World Bench 5.0 - Windows Media Encoder 9
Digital Video Encoding

We continued testing with another module from World Bench 5, this time based on Windows Media Encoder 9.  PC WorldBench 5's Windows Media Encoding test reports encoding times in seconds, and like the tests on the previous page, lower times indicate better performance here.

The Gigabyte G1975X easily bested the trio of competitors, completing the Windows Media Encoding test in 10 seconds quicker than the nearest board from MSI.  It's really quite a change from the last board we had reviewed from Gigabyte, the GA-8N-SLI, which had performed poorly in the same test, coming in last overall.

LAME MP3 Encoding Tests
Breaking the Sound Barrier

In our custom Lame MP3 encoding tests, we convert a large WAV file to the MP3 format, which is a very popular scenario that many end users work with on a regular basis, to provide portability and storage of their digital audio content.  In this test, we chose a large 223MB WAV file (a never-ending Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format.  Processing times are recorded below.  Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.

Just as we saw with Windows Media Encoder, the G1975X breaks from the pack and posts the best time.  We have been running this benchmark for some time now in our reviews, and rarely see any change in encoding times when using similar hardware.

Kribibench Benchmarking

Kribibench v1.1
http:// www.adeptdevelopment.com

Next up was Kribibench, a 3D rendering benchmark produced by the folks at Adept Development.  Kribibench is an SSE aware software renderer.  A 3D model is rendered and animated by the host CPU, and the average frame rate is reported.  We used two of the included models with this benchmark: a "Sponge Explode" model consisting of over 19.2 million polygons and a gargantuan "Ultra" model that is comprised of over 16 billion polys...


Both of the Kribibench model render tests were easily "won" by the G1975x.  In general, it seems as if the Intel boards were performing a shade better than nVidia's, as both nForce 4 boards consistently put up frame rates behind not only the newer i975X, but the older 955x as well.  While the differences in frame rates are quite small, the performance delta came out to a respectable 3% for the G1975X.

Cinebench 2003 and 3DMark05 Results


Cinebench 2003 Performance Tests
3D Modeling & Rendering Tests

The Cinebench 2003 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test, based on the commercially available Cinema 4D application.  This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below (listed in seconds). 


Speaking of trends, the advantage in Gigabyte's favor continues with the Cinebench 2003 testing.  Again, we're used to seeing very similar results in most of these benchmarks, so it comes as a bit of a surprise to see the G1975X creating as much distance between itself and the other boards.  

Futuremark 3DMark05 - CPU Test
Simulated DirectX Gaming Performance

3DMark05's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are generated with a software renderer, which is dependant on the host CPU's performance.  This means that the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the central processor.  The number of frames generated per second in each test is used to determine the final score.


Just as we had seen earlier with Kribibench rendering, Intel's boards seem to have a slight advantage with graphic-heavy benchmarks including 3DMark05.  In the past, we had reported that the Asus P5WD2 outperformed the nForce4 boards, including the GA-8N-SLI, which came out well later on.  Now, even the P5WD2's performance is eclipsed by the G1975X. 

Low-Res Gaming Framerates

Unreal Tournament 2004
DirectX 8 Gaming Performance

To start our in-game testing, we did some low-resolution benchmarking with Unreal Tournament 2004.  When testing with Unreal Tournament 2004, we use a specific set of game engine initialization settings that ensure all of the systems are being benchmarked with the exact same in-game settings and graphical options.  In the following two game tests, we used "Low-Quality" graphical settings and low screen resolutions which isolates CPU and memory performance.

One of the closest groupings so far, the low-quality Unreal Tournament 2004 tests have very similar frame-rates for all of the boards.  Gigabyte's G1975X does manage to make some separation, however, finishing with the top score of 139.26 frames per second.  

Benchmarks with Doom 3
OpenGL Gaming Performance

For our next game test, we benchmarked all of the test systems using a custom multi-player Doom 3 timedemo. We cranked the resolution down to 640 x 480, and configured the game to run at its "Low-Quality" graphics setting. Although Doom 3 typically taxes today's high-end GPUs, when it's configured at these minimal settings it too is more CPU and memory-bound than anything else.


Doom 3 frame rates were also close, with both of Gigabyte's recent entries vying for the top spot on the charts.  But, in the end, the G1975X stood alone pushing out a nausea-inducing 174.2 fps.  It's almost a full frame faster than the GA-8N-SLI, and 3-4 frames per second faster than the P5WD2 and MSI P4N Diamond.

Benchmark Analysis and Final Rating

Benchmark Analysis: The Gigabyte G1975X ruled the benchmarks, but this was probably due more to Gigabyte's aggressive clocking rather than anything specific in the i975X chipset. As the i975x chipset is not much more than an update of the i955x with a tweaked memory controller and support for additional CPUs and dual GPU configurations, we weren't expecting any major increases in performance, but we got some anyway.

We had the G1975X in the labs for an extended period of time, and our overall impression was that this was a solid, stable motherboard, but the noise issue was a bit of a disappointment. This division left us in a bit of a conundrum as to how we should come up with the final rating. So, let's present the pros first and see what we liked. The G1975X is an obvious attempt from Gigabyte to woo the enthusiast crowd. The board is feature-rich, providing users with the latest advances, such as an onboard Creative Sound Blaster Live! audio, ATi Crossfire support, and extreme cooling. While we didn't necessarily get too far in our own overclocking experiments, this is probably due more to our components than anything else. There are plenty of options within the BIOS to satiate even the most discerning overclocker, and the TurboJets will keep things running cooler and more stable than most other boards, even when using a stock CPU cooler. 

Now for the cons. Those same TurboJets that provide extra cooling cause two somewhat undesirable side effects, too much noise and fewer connectivity options in the I/O backplane. For the most part, we can live without Parallel and Serial ports.  To tell the truth, we can't think of the last time we used either.  But only providing 2 USB ports and a relatively poor slot configuration are major drawbacks. These shortcomings, combined with the overly loud TurboJets, may be a design trade-off that we will see repeated throughout the G1Turbo line. That being said, just as we were finishing up this review, a revision called the G1975X-C appeared on Gigabyte's website that looks essentially the same as the original sans the TurboJets. It doesn't appear that the rear I/O has been modified yet, but if it is, and the board supports Conroe CPUs, and Gigabyte drops the price a bit from the current mid $250 range, then they might have a real winner.  As for the original, we're handing the Gigabyte GA-G1975X an 8 on the HotHardware Heat Meter.

._Finished at the top of each benchmark
_Supports ATi Crossfire
_Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live! audio
._TurboJets are too loud!
._Few connections in the I/O backplane

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