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955X-based mobo shoot-out

We test the top LGA755 motherboards

The ICH7R is hidden underneath another passive heatsink. The standard four SATA 2 ports are arranged alongside Gigabyte's tried-and-trusted Dual BIOS setup that's been present on high-end boards for some time now. Once the system is powered up, the board checks both BIOSes for integrity. If the primary one fails the secondary one is activated and the user is given the option of fixing the first or continue booting with the backup. We suppose it's also handy when the primary one is flashed with a newer BIOS.

The Gigabyte 8I955X Royal focus on storage flexibility is evidenced by the use of an ITE IT8212F ASIC which offers IDE-based RAID in 0, 1, 0+1 flavours. You just need to look next door to see where the accompanying ports are, and one can add up to four drives in addition to the four SATA-driven off the ICH7R's southbridge.

The board's two x1 PCIe slots are located in a sensible position, right below three regular PCI slots. However, we reckon that Gigabyte could have done a better job of locating the extra two SATA 2 ports hanging off the now-ubiquitous Silicon Image Sil3112A controller. The ports, we feel, should have been nearer the on-chip variety, thus making it easier to connect a number of drives without have to stretch cables. Also, if one decides to use the lower x1 PCIe slot, then cable connection is a slight worry. It's no surprise that Gigabyte uses the same Texas Instruments FireWire ASICs as ABIT does.

More similarities exist in the choice of audio codec that's used to route the ICH7R's sound to the speaker ports. Realtek's ALC882M is sufficiently capable for Gigabyte to proclaim Dolby Master Studio certification for the Royal. The Royal also features dual Gigabit PCI Express-connected Ethernet, although Gigabyte uses a couple of slightly older BCM5751 ASICs.

The Royal has a busy I/O section. There are co-axial and optical S/PDIF-out, old world LPT and COM connections. High-speed connectivity, on the backplane at least, is left to four USB 2.0 ports. Rounding it off are six speaker ports, which offer up to 7.1-channel sound.

We're impressed by the total number of features the Gigabyte 8I955X Royal carries, although, we reckon, the layout could do with just a slight refinement.

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