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Gigabyte GA-8NXP-D

The U-Plus DPS module or Universal-Plus Dual Power System 2, adds 8-phase power regulation, which, according to Gigabyte results in higher stability and cleaner power being fed to the motherboard. It is however very hard to test this, but it should at least allow for more power to be delivered to the CPU as long as your power supply can cope with it.

The new DPS module has improved cooling in the shape of a heatpipe drawing the heat away from the mosfets, which are covered by a copper plate and a small heatsink, out to an oddly shaped heatsink on the end of the heatpipe. This design is meant to take advantage of the airflow from the CPU cooler to help cool the heatsink at the end of the heatpipe. There are also four blue LEDs that tell you that the DPS module is working correctly and if nothing else gives you some more blue lights inside your case.

Finally we have the 802.11g Wireless network card, which offers backwards compatibility with 802.11b. The antenna shouldn’t cause any positioning issues as it is no taller than the bracket of a standard expansion card.

The manuals are pretty good and Gigabyte supplies separate manuals for the RAID controllers and a pamphlet for the Wireless network card, although you don’t get a quick install sheet. One handy feature if you want to test your setup before you put it in the case is that the box can be converted into what Gigabyte calls a mini setup platform. This allows for the hard drive, optical drive and floppy to be placed inside the box through pre-cut-out holes and the cables routed through cut-outs at the back. How useful this really is, is debatable, but hey, it’s not costing anything extra.

Generally the GA-8ANXP-D is a well designed board, with a whole host of features. But at £154.42, it’s a lot more expensive than the ABIT board. At this price you would expect top performance and Gigabyte does indeed deliver here - something that ABIT doesn’t quite do with the AA8-DuraMAX.

There’s not a lot between the boards, but the Gigabyte scores four points more in SYSmark 2004 than the ABIT board. This is however not good news for ABIT as it means that the AA8-DuraMAX is three points slower than the ASUS P5GD2, which should be slower considering that it features the 915P chipset. The PCMark 2004 scores are very similar, but the Gigabyte board comes out on top in most of the tests and oddly enough performs a lot better in the 3D tests.

A BIOS upgrade might solve this for ABIT, but I can’t fully explain why the AA8-DuraMAX is so much slower on 3D, especially in X2: The Threat, as the Gigabyte and ASUS boards are pretty close to each other.

So which one to get? Well, that depends on your budget, but it seems like ABIT has fallen behind the competition - Gigabyte has a far superior offer here if you consider what you’re getting for your money. It might cost more, but that extra £35 buys you a lot of extra functionality. If however, you feel you don’t need all the extra features, then the ABIT might be worth considering.

Verdict

The ABIT AA8-DuraMAX might be cheap, but compared to the Gigabyte GA-8ANXP-D it lacks both features and performance. Gigabyte has an excellent board on offer, but you’d get similar performance and more features from the 915P based ASUS P5GD2 Premium if you were happy with the 915P chipset that is.

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