Coming in from Taipei's comforting warmth, Gigabyte's booth greeted me as if some shining beacon of entry into the vast and generally impressive world of Computex. With scant minutes to my meeting, I didn't even have time to take a look around the booth first to work out a plan of attack, and much less one of coverage. In but a few moments of help from an attendant, though, I was able to find just the man I was looking for - one Mr. Thomas Lee. Thomas began the tour by essentially reading my mind, and pointing me right to the Intel Wall.
Starting at the far right of the Great Wall of Intel, it becomes readily apparent that Gigabyte is heavily focusing on the upcoming 965 Chipset (who's official release is tomorrow), as well as the 946 chipset, a slightly modified version of the 945 motherboards, with the promise of Conroe (Now called Core 2 Duo) support in the works. The crowning gem of this new 965 chipset family comes in the GA-965P-DQ6. The last three digits of the moniker - DQ6 denotate everything which makes this motherboard stand out. Featuring Quad Bios, Quad Cooling, Quad Triple Phase (turning an astounding 12 phase power circuit), Quad E-SATA2, Quad Core Support and Quad DDR2 Slots, this motherboard feels like it's ready to rock. Also featured on this motherboard are a stunning eight SATA2-300 ports, catered to by the ICH8R chipset packing up the Southbridge's needs. For what it's worth, a nod from NVIDIA would have been nice, in order to facilitate quad SLI on this motherboard's two slots. Unfortunately, for the time being, Crossfire support (along with SLI support) is yet to be decided for the 965X platform, a decision which is largely at the mercy of ATI and NVIDIA, both of which are pushing competing chipsets into a heavily Intel dominated marketplace. Also found on this motherboard is the "Crazy Cool" feature - which is essentially a ridged aluminum plate (pictured next to the motherboard), intended to release the processor's heat into the rearward environment.
As I slide down the 965X product line, to the next step of motherboard, the GA-965P-DS4, It's easy to see which features have been shirked - essentially, all of the quad features have been reduced to their normal levels - for example 8 phase power, and support for but two cores on this dual bios motherboard. Still included, however, are the pair of PCI-E X16 slots, hopefully to eventually harbor dual Videocards in Crossfire/SLI As well as this, the motherboard features all aluminum capacitors, ones which ensure reliability, albeit at a minor cost. Continuing downward along this motherboard lineup, it doesn't take long to come across the GA-965P-DS3. Thanks to the removal of a heat pipe cooling solution (replaced with ordinary heat sinks), the loss of a second PCI-E x16 slot, and the dropping of a fourth pair of SATA 2-300 ports, Gigabyte has managed to shrink this board down, allowing system integrators to easily pack it into tight case environments. Also in the field of gains, an extra PCI slot can be found along the bottom of the board, giving the end user enough space to install all necessary perpetuals. Somewhat below this board on the motherboard food chain is the GA-965G-DS3 motherboard. Fitted to be installed in a Micro ATX space, this motherboard manages to retain all of the functionality of the latter, with high memory speeds and plenty of SATA ports being inclusive traits.
On the topic of Micro ATX, there were three more Intel based solutions around the 94X chipset on display; two of the 945 variety, and one of the 946 variety. Beginning with the 946 motherboard, Gigabyte's GA-946ZMS-2 is based around Intel's standard 946 chipset, which, as previously mentioned, is essentially just a 945 chipset with modifications. Unfortunately, there are two fewer SATA ports here than on the 965 model, making for slightly more limiting options for the consumer, but coming at the gain of value. On display with these special use and high value motherboards was a trio of slim but rich boards - the GA-946PL-S3, GA946G2-S3 and GA8I945PLGE-RH. In essence, there is nothing to report about this trio, except for their delightfully diminutive size, and abundance of expansion slots. On a sad note, though, due to the third board's use of the 945 chipset, it is unable to support Core 2 Duo chips. The GAK4XSV is really something interesting, though. For starters, it's only the second LGA775 board that I have ever seen to have 64 Bit PCI slots, which have been placed with a sole intent - the utilization of high bandwidth cards.
Alright, with that extensive bit of Intel coverage put down, it's about time to take a look over at the AMD cabinet.
Beginning from the upper left of the cabinet, Gigabyte's really come out swinging in terms of the AM2 platform with the GA-M59SLI-S5. Featuring the five "S" features - Silent Pipe, SLI, Speed, Safe, Secure. In essence, these five features just make reference to the slowly growing standard of passive cooling, the enthusiast appreciated ability to use SLI, the sheer speed of the chipset, the ability of the motherboard to recover from bunk overclocks, and the inbuilt NVIDIA firewall. Unfortunately, there was no information available about things such as voltage adjustments for the time being, which left the only difference between this motherboard and it's little brother, the GA-M57SLI-S4 is the removal of the Silent Pipe cooling solutions as well as the Crazy Cool unit, as well as the removal of the third full length PCI-Express x16 slot, which would have allowed users to run 3 video cards in tandem to support up to 6 displays.
The other three motherboards in the cabinet were as follows: GA-M55Plus-S36, GA-M51GM-S2G, GA-MV89M. The first of the three boards, the GA-M55Plus-S36 is essentially the work horse model of the GA-M55SLI-S4, but in order to keep costs down, it forgoes the SLI functionality, at the benefit of gaining PCI slots and IDE channels. In terms of the average user, this motherboard would likely be attractive to those just getting in on AM2's ground floor, likely with a Single Core (Athlon 64/Sempron) chip, especially considering the fact that it brings with it an onboard GPU.
With the motherboards tucked out of the way for now, I'd say its good and about time to see just what else Gigabyte's got to offer to the enthusiast. Let's start off with their videocard offerings.
Overall, the cards on display this year are the standard fare, essentially the labeled reference boards with additional features put on them. What really caught my eye was the 7900GT. It has a Zalman manufactured, Gigabyte branded cooler atop it, and it's perfect for users with those aging systems looking for an upgrade - provided the unit can provide enough current to the onboard Molex connector. The use of a regular 4 pin Molex will save users from having to purchase PCI-E adapters. Another point of interest is that the entirety of the low power ATI lineup is now passively cooled, making for silent work environments. The X19XX cards remain active cooled, as you'd probably need a seven slot passive cooler to keep that chilly.
Next up after the VPUs is Gigabyte's rapidly expanding cooling and casing division. While the 3D Galaxy may have been special, the 3D Galaxy 2 will be even better, with the ability to integrate new water blocks into the loop without draining the coolant, as well as support for German low flow equipment. If installing the water cooling kit just isn't your cup of tea, then you can also find it pre-installed in the 3D Aurora 570, which is that case you're seeing with what looks to be a gas cap on it's roof.
Finally, I left gigabyte after taking a look around at some of the cool stuff - upcoming phones, wireless/Bluetooth receivers with inbuilt backup bioses, industrial mini-ITX motherboards, input devices, a wide range of networking hardware and of course, the I-Ram too. When I saw it, I was utterly surprised - it fits in a 5 1/4" bay, subsists of a regular 4 pin Molex, and takes DDR2. In the words of Thomas "At Gigabyte, we listened to what the enthusiast wanted". Never mind listening, it's more like they read our minds.
Oh, and for you readers looking for a reason to come back later in the week, I'll be posing up coverage of the Gigabyte Technology fashion show - Gigabyte/Intel's booth babes showing off hot new products. Stay tuned!