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.
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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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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)
- 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)
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.