What does concern us more is the location of the five SATA connectors. If you install a humongous Radeon HD 4870 X2 – unlikely we know but bear with us – then all five SATA ports will be blocked. If you choose a more ”conventional” GeForce GTX 280 graphics card you’ll find that three SATA ports are covered, leaving two available for your hard drive and DVD drive.
The other annoyance is the four-pin ATX 12v connector, which is located at the top of the board between the CPU socket and the VGA output. There’s nothing wrong with this general location except that it is slap bang next to a large capacitor so you don’t have the option of using an eight-pin connector as the capacitor will get in the way. Provided your power supply has a four-pin 12V connector all will be well.
Installing Windows Vista on the Gigabyte was quick and easy but we found it impossible to decide whether Gigabyte had newer drivers on its website than the versions on the DVD. You can download chipset and VGA drivers from Gigabyte but the zipped files don’t have any version numbers so we installed the drivers on the DVD and then tried the updates to see whether anything changed. As the two files weigh in at a combined size of 150MB that’s a bit tedious so we are happy to report that chipset driver 20.08 and VGA driver 178.13 on the DVD look like they are up to date.
We tested the Gigabyte with a Core 2 Duo E8500 running at 3.16GHz along with 2GB of 800MHz memory and were impressed to see that the extra clock speed of the GeForce 9400 graphics gives some 30 percent advantage over GeForce 9300. That’s a big step up but even so the Gigabyte is a long way shy of being able to play Far Cry 2, for instance. This new first person shooter may not sound like a fair test of integrated graphics but the fact is that you can play Far Cry 2 very happily on a £100 Radeon HD 4830 and it’s not too bad on a £65 Radeon HD 4670. The problem is that GeForce 9400 is considerably faster than the baby brother 9300 but it’s still a long way shy of a proper gaming graphics which leaves a big ‘So what?’ hanging in the air.
The Gigabyte GA-E7AUM-DS2H is indeed relatively fast but it’s still not fast enough. The other problem is the price. The P5N7A-VM is on sale at £89 while the Gigabyte costs £113 which is a huge amount of money for faster integrated graphics. Asus deliberately choose the cheaper 9300 chip and MSI seems to have given both 9300 and 9400 a wide berth so Gigabyte has been brave in choosing the 9400 but it looks like a duff decision.
Gigabyte has delivered the fastest integrated graphics that money can buy. The trouble is we’re talking about a great deal of money that would be better spent on a budget graphics card.