Gigabyte GA-G1975X (Intel 975X Express)


Motherboard

Turbo Extravaganza

The Gigabyte GA-G1975X motherboard takes a departure from the norm with a radical new cooling design and one cannot help but wonder if Gigabyte has been taking lessons from Abit. Dubbed as the Turbojet Technology, the board features two plastic duct-like tubes on both sides of the CPU socket, enclosing motherboard power circuitry and Northbridge. Not only that, the area is also littered with LEDs to provide that 'cool' look. Both tubes are open-sided towards the CPU socket and sport two fans, one on each end to help direct air flow. However, the design isn't just an exaggerated attempt to cool the motherboard MOSFETs. The design of the Turbojet also helps ventilate the airflow from the CPU cooler and with its semi-closed shell design, it effectively traps in hot air in its surrounding and forces it out through its exhaust. The two front intake fans then make sure that ambient air is continually circulated within. This also doubles up to promote air circulation outside the Turbojet construct and along the DIMM slots as well.

While this design is obviously meant to compliment air cooling, it would also be a blessing to those on liquid CPU cooling as well. Since most water cooling kits do not feature any fans at ground zero, MOSFETs and capacitors tend to heat up faster from the lack of airflow. The Turbojet design would remove this problem entirely. From our tests, this method of contained air circulation works out pretty well and provides ample airflow for good cooling, but you can expect a rise in noise levels from the quad fans at work. Still it didn't bother us much, but if you're partial about noise, consider this a warning. Because of the compactness of the Turbojet tubes, the top right retention hole for the CPU coolers may be too close to the edge, making it hard to access. The good thing is that the tubes are very easily removed; the bad news is that the row of LEDs across the top of the board closest to the Turbojet construct has a high chance of being scraped off. We know this because that's exactly what happened to us.

With half of the board occupied by Turbojet, let's take a look at what Gigabyte has done with the other half. Two standard PCIe x16 slots are available for dual graphics and CrossFire setup. Surprisingly, Gigabyte has even included an SLI bridge with the board, but since NVIDIA's official stance is not to allow SLI on third-party chipsets, it will probably never be used. Gigabyte adopts the two-slot distance between each PCIe x16 to allow sufficient clearance for even the largest of graphics cards. Instead of regular PCIe x1 slots, the board features two open ended PCIe x4 slots that should work with both x1 type cards as well as x4 or even future cards. This is an excellent way to open up the board for expansion capabilities. However, we don't really like how they sacrifice both PCI slots in this manner. Since many add-on cards are still PCI based, a CrossFire setup will have a high probability of removing any ability to install a PCI card and if you're a hardcore gamer, we know you'd be pissed about not being able to get in that Creative X-Fi.

Now because of the Turbojet design taking up precious PCB space, Gigabyte has limited themselves to the amount of features that can be included on the GA-G1975X. Taking a departure from its ultra-packed predecessor (GA-8I955X Royal), the board only comes with the essentials. Legacy serial and parallel ports are sacrificed and even their own U-Plus D.P.S. module does not make an appearance. Feature support from the ICH7R Southbridge remains unchanged while an ITE IT8211F controller is used to provide an extra Ultra-ATA connector. Networking support has been reduced to a single Gigabit Ethernet controller (Broadcom BCM5789) and Gigabyte has also toned down the FireWire-800 found on the GA-8I955X Royal to a standard 3-port FireWire-400 controller. However, as a gaming motherboard, Gigabyte wisely replaced Intel's HD Audio with a more gamer friendly Sound Blaster Live! 24-bit. Not anywhere near a Creative X-Fi, but if you have to give up both PCI slots, this is your best bet for gaming audio.

Overclocking

The following overclocking features are available to the Gigabyte GA-G1975X:-

  • FSB Settings: 100MHz - 600MHz (400MHz - 2400MHz QDR Mode)
  • RAM Frequency: 1.5x, 2.0x, 2.5x, 2.66x, 3.0x, 3.33x, 4.0x, Auto
  • PCIe Frequency: 90MHz to 150MHz
  • PCI Frequency: 33.3MHz, 34.2MHz, 35.2MHz, 36.3MHz, 37.5MHz, Auto
  • CPU Voltage Settings: 1.0625V to 1.6000V (in 0.0125V steps), 1.65V, 1.70V, 1.75V
  • CPU Overvoltage Settings: +0.05V to +0.35V (in 0.05V steps)
  • Memory Voltage Settings: + 0.1V to +0.7V (in 0.1V steps)
  • PCIe Voltage Settings: + 0.1V to +0.7V (in 0.1V steps)
  • Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)

The overclocking options on the GA-G1975X is almost identical to that of the older GA-8I955X Royal, which is a good thing since it features a comprehensive list of voltage adjustments. The board is also internally certified by Gigabyte to be able to run memory up to DDR2-888 speeds. However, what surprised us the most was that the board came pre-overclocked by Gigabyte. After double-checking with Gigabyte, they've confirmed that they feel confident enough of the GA-G1975X and Turbojet's effectiveness that all retail boards would be shipped with their FSB clocked at 275MHz. This is the first time we've seen a factory overclocked motherboard, but judging from market trends, if the GA-G1975X is successful, we'd be seeing more from competing manufacturers. With the pre-overclock in mind, we pushed the board further in our overclocking tests and found that it still has plenty of bandwidth available to it. Our final stable FSB overclock was 317MHz (1268MHz QDR); an excellent achievement for the new Intel 975X Express chipset.