Gigabyte's motherboards are always products we look forward to, especially the budget/midrange solutions. These boards represent features and performance that often belies their price. Recently, Gigabyte has also been making strides into the high-end of the motherboard market. The first product of Gigabyte's aspirations using an Intel chipset was the GA-X38-DQ6 motherboard. The board was generally well received and had a decent set of features and performance. In short, we would not hesitate to recommend the GA-X38-DQ6 for a top-end overclocking or gaming system.

The only gripe about the GA-X38-DQ6 by hardcore overclockers is that it has slightly lower clock for clock performance when compared to other X38 motherboards. The GA-X48T-DQ6 we are reviewing here today obviously uses Intel's higher speed binned X48 chipset. Instead of just plugging the X48 into the existing X38 board design, Gigabyte listened to the concerns of users. Gigabyte made a wise decision to refine the existing X38 motherboard design to take advantage of the additional performance potential of the X48 speed bin.

A few months ago our feelings about the X38 chipset were a little mixed; we felt it really did not bring anything exciting to the table. As time has progressed since the chipset launch, motherboards based on the X38 chipset have become our favorites for overclocking, for many different reasons. In fact, the primary reason is that they have proven to be extremely reliable for overclocking use on a 24/7 basis. Once set up correctly, we find these boards to be able to run the same settings day-in day-out, so long as the demands are reasonable. Naturally for the budget minded users, we would still lean towards the P35 chipset as far as single graphics card use goes. However, as the focus shifts, the prices of X38 based boards should come in lower than the higher end P35 boards, making the decision of which one to choose all too easy.

It really is no surprise that Intel CPU's are at their very best when teamed with Intel chipsets. Understandably, the release schedule of all the tier-one suppliers includes motherboards in either DDR2 or DDR3 format using either the X38 or the updated (speed binned) X48. While we have always felt that the synthetic performance figures of the X38 in DDR2 form have been lower than expected, the 3D performance gains over more attractively priced P35 chipset is always apparent. In DDR3 format the X38/X48 is the performance choice, and outperforms the DDR2 boards overall in just about every benchmark… well, at least by a few percent. Of course, this slight increase in performance comes at an expensive cost, with DDR3 memory prices being double that of DDR2 - if not more - depending on what speed bin you order.



A couple of weeks ago, we were able to provide a small glimpse of the high-end extreme benchmarking that the DDR3 based GA-X48T-DQ6 is capable of in current form. We managed a clean sweep of current single card 8800 GTS 640MB 3DMark world records using this motherboard. The board's overclocking performance impressed us, but using a motherboard in a normal operating environment like most users is always an important part of our testing. Things were still quite rough around the edges at the time of the preview. In fact, we were unable to install Microsoft Vista due to our boot drive being unrecognized as a valid partition after Vista had completed formatting the drive. Issues like these are not new to us; most of the boards always need BIOS updates in their early stages. Our real concerns at the time revolved around non-working memory dividers and general unpredictability when overclocking.

Things have certainly progressed in some areas since our first look; we have received a few BIOS spins addressing improvements and compatibility in several areas. In truth, this has not been the most solid pre-release board we have received of late. We were actually beginning to feel a little spoiled, as most of the X38 based pre-release boards we received have been remarkably ready for good overclocking right from the get-go. In spite of this, we decided to keep the length of time between the first look and our review as short as possible. This is especially important in light of the fact that we are endeavoring to provide users with meaningful BIOS insights before Gigabyte releases the board. Naturally, this process takes time, but we think it's well worth the wait considering the options available in the BIOS. Indeed, we are intrigued to see what Gigabyte has managed in bringing performance and reliability together in one package using the X48 chipset.

Board Layout and Features
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  • Frumious1 - Thursday, January 03, 2008 - link

    What are you, the jilted lover of Raja or something? Seriously, I can't say I blame the AT crew for taking a break. Me and my family certainly did our fair share of slacking off over the holidays.

    Merry Christmas, Foxy Scrooge....
    Reply
  • 8steve8 - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    i just got 8gb od ddr2 800 1.8v for $180 shipped from newegg.



    8GB of DDR3 costs $1,150 shipped from newegg...

    thats not at typo.


    DDR3 is irrelevant for now.

    10x cost for 3% perf boost...
    I'm not even going to read this review.
    Reply
  • Kougar - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    This makes no sense. Gigabyte offers GTL controls on the P31-DS3L, values are: 0.636, 0.603, 0.566, 0.54. Why offer them on a $80 budget board but not a ~$300 X48T end-of-the-world board?? I was expecting them to be there when I heard about the redesign.

    This was a great review, and I am still reading/rereading it to absorb the info. I had a few questions though... You said FSB Overvoltage control requires 1.4v for both processors, and stock is 1.15v?? I never touched this setting by more than +1 with my Q6600, but it might explain a few things. How or where did you find out what the stock VTT value was, as I wish to be able to look up this info myself for future reference and check the P35 version.
    Reply
  • Rajinder Gill - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    I used a DMM and probed both the supply mosfet and GTL transistors.

    Regards
    Raja
    Reply
  • Kougar - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    Thanks for your reply! Are there any guides or what do you recommend for novice multimeter users trying to discern which mainboard components power what. I don't mind doing the research, I just need a pointer at where to get started. I have tried before but was not sure if I was measuring the correct components.

    Just for proof, here is a screenie of the P31 DS3L $75 board's GTLREF menu: http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n129/Chanur64/I...">http://i111.photobucket.com/albums/n129/Chanur64/I...

    I can't fathom why the X48-DQ6 lacks this, could they be waiting to add it in later when the BIOS is more mature?

    Reply
  • PLaYaHaTeD - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    Since nobody cares to ask, I will go ahead:

    When can we buy an X48 Motherboard, along with a Q9450 cpu? How can you give such a comprehensive preview, and talk about recommendations without addressing a release date?

    If some of the rumors are true about X48/Wolfdale/Yorkfield being delayed to possibly march, then wouldn't it be irrelevant to speak about recommending this product 2-3 months before it will even be available?

    Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    ETA of the X48 boards is unknown. They are ready, from a BIOS viewpoint the Gigabyte boards need some more work but the ASUS boards that will be reviewed next week are about 97% there. Boards have been manufactured by all of the majors, it is up to Intel to pull the trigger. It was going to be in December, moved to 1/7/08, moved to 1/21/08, and is now in a holding pattern waiting on X38 stocks to clear out to some degree, which is surprising as most of the suppliers will move X38 downward to replace the mid-market P35 boards.

    The Q9450 and others will be announced shortly and official launch dates will be available at that time. Once again, up to Intel, but after the Phenom launch, they have no real reason to hurry up. The reason for the previews is provide just that, a preview, but we were expecting (along with Gigabyte/ASUS/MSI) that boards would be launched by the 21st of this month.
    Reply
  • minimeat - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    Good review on the BIOS features, i've been looking for this kind of detail for each timing number to be explained for a while, as none of this information is in the Gigabyte manual for any of their motherboards (HINT HINT).

    Anyways, you forgot to explain one really important number that i have been wondering about for a while, the Refresh to ACT Delay. Can someone please explain this number, either update the review or post it here, it would be much appreciated. I noticed that they had it set to 60 in the review, and there is no Auto option inherent in the motherboard's bios for this number, and i have no clue what it does. Thanks!
    Reply
  • Glenn - Wednesday, January 02, 2008 - link

    Looks like Anands crew spent plenty of time with this board! Amazing that no comparison benchmarks are shown against more mainstream boards like 965s, P35s or some AMD flavors? All that work with very little usefullness outside of early adoptee's! Reply
  • Gary Key - Friday, January 04, 2008 - link

    Hi,

    We will have a Intel chipset comparison roundup the week of the 28th, maybe earlier if Intel decides to launch this product according to the last timeline. We will have the ASUS X48 boards up next week with a very detailed MCH overview and the MSI X48 board the week after with some Quad CrossFire loving if the drivers make it. These previews are concentrating on getting the most out of the board, the roundup will concentrate on comparisons to other available products.
    Reply

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