955X-based mobo shoot-out
We test the top LGA755 motherboards
Gigabyte 8I955X Royal
Gigabyte knows that retail i955X-based boards from other manufacturers will be littered with every conceivable feature under the sun, so it has equipped the 'Royal' with a generous level of deluxe componentry. There's everything we expect nowadays, including dual PCI Express Gigabit LAN, excellent on-board audio, copious amounts of SATA, FireWire, and, as proprietory measures, the company's own U-Plus DPS and Dual BIOS features.
Gigabyte is a fan of colour-coded layouts. You'll either love it or hate it, although it does it make it easy to spot various ports and sockets easily. How on earth could one miss the lime-coloured IDE ports on the left-hand side?
One of the Royal's more interesting features is an orange slot that's reserved for Gigabyte's U-Plus DPS (Dual Power System) system. Once the additional (and supplied) U-PLUS board is inserted, the Royal is transformed into a motherboard featuring eight-phase power circuitry. Gigabyte reckons that it adds further stability when the motherboard is overclocked and overvolted, and the heatpipe design is helped by the airflow generated by the CPU's fan. The U-PLUS DPS board is designed to fit around a reference heatsink, and we can see no problem if you're inclined to use larger aftermarket coolers, too.
There are four blue LEDs on the U-Plus DPS which serve as a rudimentary troubleshooting guide during the POST sequence. The four-pin power connector is located close to the power-delivery system. It makes the contact shorter but also makes installation a little messier, as you have to place the cable around the CPU's heatsink.
Gigabyte opts for a passively cooled heatsink, and a large one at that, which seems to be the norm for i955X boards. It's not large enough, however, to cause problems when installing or removing a reference heatsink.
Floppy, a single IDE - which is common on all i955X boards - and the main 24-pin power connector are all sensibly located, just below the four DDR 2-compatible RAM slots which are located high enough to allow RAM installation/removal without having to remove the PCI Express card. The i955X chipset is designed with performance in mind, and our benchmarks have shown it to be up to five per cent faster than Intel's very own i945P. Unlike ABIT's offering, Gigabyte only offers three usable fan headers.