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Gigabyte's GA6CXC i820 w/ SDRAM Support
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Date: Dec 15, 2001
Section:Motherboards
Author: HH Editor
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Gigabyte's GA6CXC i820 w/ SDRAM Support - Page 1

The Gigabyte GA-6CXC Motherboard
The i820 With  SDRAM  Support

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta - 5/9/00

Usually when Intel releases a new motherboard chipset, there is a big rush to upgrade.  Power users, OEMs and do-it-yourselfers gobble up motherboards based on the new chipset to take advantage of new features, increase performance or simply to have bragging rights.  :)  With Intel's new i820, this hasn?t happened just yet.  There has been some acceptance, but with the high price of RDRAM (or Rambus SDRAM), which is native to the i820, many users are unwilling to upgrade.

When you sit back and think about it, what features over the aging BX chipset does the i820 offer?  Hmmm?easy, AGP4X, UDMA/66 support and 133MHz. FSB support for the full PC133 spec.  Those sound like impressive features.  AGP4X however has shown very little performance benefit as of yet.  UDMA/66 can be added with a simple card (many newer BX motherboards even come with it on-board) and most BX motherboards can hit the 133MHz. FSB when overclocked (video card permitting).  Then there?s the VIA Apollo 133A.  It costs less and has the main features everyone is after.  All of these options leave a potential i820 buyer thinking, ?I wish I could use my old RAM with a new i820 board!??

Enter Gigabyte and the GA-6CXC.  The GA-6CXC offers all the new features of the i820, but will accept standard SDRAM DIMMs.  This is done by using Intel's "MTH" chip or Memory Translator Hub.  Here is the feature list of the GA-6CXC.

Specifications / Features Of The GA-6CXC
Well rounded

GA-6CXC

Slot 1 (Intel Pentium II/III Processors)
FSB?s 100/105/110/115/117/120/125/127/133/135/140/145/150 MHz

CHIPSET
Intel 820 AGPset
Winbond W83627HF I/O chip
On-Board Aureal AU8810 PCI sound chip
Winbond W81181D USB controller

MEMORY
4 x DIMM Sockets (64MB to 1GB)
Supports 64/128/256/512 MB SDRAM?s

SLOT Configuration
1 x AGP Slot Supports 2X/4X mode
1 x AMR (Audio Modem Riser) Slot
5 x PCI Slot Supports 33MHz & PCI 2.2 compliant
1 x ISA Slot

I/O 
2 x Ultra DMA 33/66 Bus Master IDE ports on board
1 x FDD, 2 x COM, 1 x LPT, PS/2 Keyboard, PS/2 Mouse on board
1 x Joystick, 1 x Line-in, 1 x Line-out, 1 x MIC on board
2 x USB ports on board

POWER
Power-on by K/B, PS/2 Mouse, LAN, RTC, Modem & Switch
Supports USB device wake-up
Suspend / Wake-on by ACPI & APM device
AC Recovery ON/OFF control ; 3 Level ACPI LED Support

FORM FACTOR/PCB
ATX , 4 layer PCB (30.5*22cm)

H/W MONITORING
Auto speed down and alarm when CPU overheat or fan failure
(OS independent & Driverless)
3 Fan Power & Speed Detection Connectors; Case open Detection
System Health status detect & report by BIOS, LDCM and SIV

BIOS
Includes DualBIOS technology ; 4Mbit Flash RAM

OTHER / OPTIONAL FEATURES

2 x USB ports by cable (optional)
CIR TX / RX Header (optional)
IrDA TX / RX Header (optional)
Suspend-To-RAM (STR)
Includes Wake-On-LAN Header (WOL)
Includes Wake-On-Ring (WOR)

Installation and Setup With The GA-6CXC
Well made but that darn ATX Power Connector...

If any of you have read my earlier reviews, you know before I install any product I like to physically give it a good look and do a quick quality inspection.  I opened the box, picked it up and began to look closely at the mounting of the slots, connector positions, ?sturdiness? of the capacitors etc. The physical quality and workmanship seemed very good.  At the risk of sounding trivial, the board was heavy and ?felt? very solid. For example, hold a fake Rolex in one hand and a real one in the other and you?ll know the heavy, solid ?feeling? I?m talking about.  However, I do have one gripe with the placement of the ATX power connector.  If you look at the pic above, you?ll notice that it?s located between the Slot 1 connector and the DIMM slots.  Anyone wishing to use a large heatsink/fan combo may have some trouble with clearance, so overclockers should take note.  My Tennmax P3STF had no trouble.

There are some noteworthy additions to this board that are not present on many others.  Notice the thermal probe mounted directly in front of the processor slot.

click image for full view

There is also something Gigabyte calls "Dual BIOS" installed.  This is a great feature, the days of a bad flash ruining your rig, or a virus wreaking havoc are over.  Should there be any trouble, the Backup BIOS can be used to get you up and running in no time. 

click image for full view

Physical installation obviously went without a hitch, this is a standard ATX board.  However, one major consideration must be made as this board is completely controlled by jumpers.  That?s right folks, no jumperless BIOS setup here.  I don?t have any word from Gigabyte on this, but I believe this board was designed this way for stability reasons.  When jumperless setups were first introduced, some big names waited a long time to get on the bandwagon (namely ASUS) claiming a jumpered setup was more stable.  If stability was Gigabyte?s major concern, they made the right choice because this board was rock solid throughout testing. 

Once mounted and all cards were installed, it was time to fire it up.  There is an extra step to take here also.  Support for the i820 is not native to Windows 98, so you MUST install drivers for the board and for the integrated UDMA/66 drive controller.  I installed the drivers from the CD supplied by Gigabyte and was off and running. 

There was also on-board sound installed on this board.  A Genuine Aureal Vortex 1 is present to handle all the audio.

Should you choose to use the onboard sound, it?s simply a matter or installing Aureal?s reference drivers and plugging in your speakers.  Sound quality was excellent, but it made me miss my 4 speaker/Vortex 2 setup.  If you don?t have a 4 speaker setup and don?t mind the higher CPU utilization of the Vortex 1 chip, using the on-board sound is still a good choice. You can also save you a few bucks, if you plan on building a new system around this board.

 

Benchmarks and The Rating

 
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Gigabyte's GA6CXC i820 w/ SDRAM Support - Page 2
 

The Gigabyte GA-6CXC Motherboard
The i820 With  SDRAM  Support

By, Marco "BigWop" Chiappetta - 5/9/00

Hot Hardware's Test System
Standard Issue

GA-6CXC, PIII 733mhz & 770mhz, 256mb Mushkin 7ns RAM, nVidia Geforce 256 DDR, IBM 22GXP 7200 RPM HD, Plextor UltraPlex 40max, Win98SE and DirectX 7.0a


I ran our standard SiSoft Sandra 2000 benchmark suite, so without further adieu...

Click all images for full view

PIII @ 733                                        PIII @ 770
    

As you can see, the processor was running very nicely in this board.  Lets see how the hard drive likes the new Intel UDMA66 controller.

 

PIII @ 733                                        PIII @ 770
    

Again, some nice numbers are shown.   Intel has been releasing upgraded drivers fairly regularly.  If there are any major developments, we will update these scores in the future.  I would also like to say that there is a slew of software installed on this drive.  Should I have done this test on a fresh install of Windows on an almost empty drive, I'm sure these scores would have been higher.

 

How does the SDRAM perform in this board?  Let?s find out?

PIII @ 733                                        PIII @ 770
    

Ouch, the Achilles heal.  There are a few things to remember when looking at these scores.  First, even though the FSBs were set to 133MHz and 140MHz in these test, the RAM runs asynchronously at 100MHz.  When overclocked to 140MHz the RAM is still only running at 104MHz. Second, the Memory Translator Hub adds a significant bottleneck.  What the MTH does is translate the RDRAM signals of the i820 chipset, to signals which regular PC100 (or PC133) RAM can use.  It?s in this translation, much of the performance is robbed.

Why Couldn't You Translate Faster?

(This is what the MTH looks like)

 

I also ran ZDWinbench 99 to give you an idea of application performance:

PIII @ 733                                        PIII @ 770
    

The overall performance of the board is very good.  With the exception of the memory throughput, there is not much to complain about.

 

Overclocking The GA-6CXC
Not quite there yet...

There is one more gripe however.  When overclocking, I tried all the FSBs above 133 to see how high this board could take me.  This particular processor will do 825MHz (150MHz. FSB) in my Tyan Trinity 400 if I set the RAM speed to 100MHz. using the ?33 setting in the BIOS, but on this board, the max I could hit was 770MHz. (140MHz. FSB).  At 798MHz. (145MHz. FSB) it would post, but Windows would not run reliably and I couldn?t complete any of the benchmarks.  825MHz. was out of the question, as Windows would not even load.  I think I can conclude with reasonable confidence, that the board itself is the reason for this as all of the components used in testing work fine at the higher settings with a different board installed. 

 

 

In conclusion, my overall experience with the GA-6CXC was a good one.  The extra features like DualBIOS, on board thermal probe and Aureal audio are welcome, but I could see the lack of a jumperless menu turning some people off.  However, I?ve been around hardware so long I can set jumpers with my eyes closed so it didn't affect scoring too drastically.  My main concerns here, are with the memory and overclocking performance. Hopefully with future revisions and updated drivers, these blemishes will be cleared up.  We?ll keep you posted.

 

We give the Gigabyte BA-6CXC a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of...

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