Networking is provided a single Marvell powered Gigabit port. Audio is provided by Realtek with the ALC888 chip. This is 8-channel HD audio, with all the necessary analogue outputs as well as optical and coaxial S/PDIF.
On the back panel there are four USB 2.0 ports and a single FireWire port. Although there are another two FireWire headers and three USB headers on the motherboard, there is nothing provided to take advantage of this. Although most cases will have an extra two USB ports on the front, it would have been nice to have some blanking plate adapters as well.
Making up for this exclusion are two blanking plates, each with two external SATA (eSATA) connections on them. Unlike most implementations of this I’ve seen, it also comes with a cable that supplies power externally too. Until we see every motherboard with eSATA connections, this will have limited use and the hard drive won’t be as portable as you might want. I think a USB or FireWire enclosure makes a lot more sense as the drive will be protected somewhat and it will be compatible with almost any computer.
There is a single x16 PCI Express graphics slot, and a x4 slot that initially looks the same. It is worth noting that this won’t support CrossFire. There are three x1 PCI Express slots and two PCI slots.
Naturally, this board is aimed at overclocking and the board offers quite a few features. You can fully manipulate the FSB, PCI-E Frequency and CPU Multiplier. We had trouble increasing the multiplier on our X6800 but this is apparently being fixed in a new BIOS release (allegedly Intel changed the multiplier specification at the last minute). By pressing CTRL+F1, it opens up the options a little so that you can adjust memory timings.
There is also an option to adjust the memory multiplier, and even run it asynchronously at 1066MHz. DDR2 voltage can be increased by up to 0.775V, PCI Express voltage can be increased by up to 0.350V, the CPU can be increased all the way up to 2.375V and there is an “FSB OverVoltage” which allows up to an extra 0.35V.
That’s most of the important settings covered really, so kudos to Gigabyte. However, I had a lot of trouble overclocking this motherboard. Simply adjusting the voltage was enough for the system to just keep rebooting and never posting. At other times, I was stable running our benchmarks at 400MHz (compared to the default 266MHz) front side bus. Later though, the board again wouldn’t post.
This demonstrates that the the board is capable, but it’s a little buggy right now. I tried two BIOS updates, and then later discovered that I have an early board revision. I’m going to give Gigabyte the benefit of the doubt and put my issues down to this.