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Gigabyte 8IPE1000 PRO - Getting acquainted
Gigabyte, a company steeped in tradition has produced products that continue to garner support from all parts of the industry. One of the few companies that have successfully married quality, performance and price for many years, Gigabyte has got all the ingredients to conjure up many masterpieces. In recent months Gigabyte has decided it was time to incorporate an increased variety in their motherboard line-up. Introducing motherboards featuring VIA's KT600, NVIDIA's immensely popular nForce 2 and not forgetting Intel's top two, the 875P and 865. Later this year we'll see motherboards based on ATI's very promising Radeon IGP 9100 too.

With all the talk of Performance Acceleration Technology (PAT) being enabled in 865PE chipsets one company that stayed out of this quite intriguing game was Gigabyte. Whether this was because they couldn't do it, or more likely didn't want to upset Intel is a matter for another discussion, however it clearly didn't do their boards a great deal of PR in the enthusiast world, and that is a shame because as we'll find out, Gigabyte make a very decent 865PE offering. It's time to introduce Gigabyte's GA-8IPE1000 Pro.


The 8IPE1000 is based around Intel's 865PE chipset, which means it features all of the advantages we find in the more expensive 875P except for PAT. Initially when the 865PE was announced people feared that it would be a crippled 875P. Thankfully on the day of launch we found out it wasn't maimed at all, with only a 3-5% decrease in performance.

So let's see what Gigabyte have done with this very capable chipset.

  

If you remember our 8KNXP review a few weeks back you'll remember the large box, this time around the box is of a more regular size. On the front there's the quintessential futuristic picture, with various logos to denote what is supported by the 8IPE1000. The chipset is clearly identified, along with support for 800MHz FSB CPUs, dual channel DDR 400, AGP 8x and Serial ATA give the user all they need to know for the time being.

On the back we see more information on the value-added features rather than what we call the "hard" features. Although a picture and a brief explanation of Gigabyte's Dual Power Supply (DPS) is provided, the 8IPE100 does not support this. We'll spend a few minutes guiding you through the value-added features now :

Dual BIOS - Gigabyte physically place a second EEPROM chip with a old but steady BIOS in case the main BIOS gets corrupted due to a failed update or virus. It's a feature that you wouldn't use in day-to-day operation, but something you will be very grateful for having when you are forced to use it.

X-Press Install - As any seasoned enthusiast will know, installing the drivers after upgrading to a new motherboard can be a pain. Gigabyte's X-Press install does a great job of simplifying your interaction with the computer when requiring to installing drivers. It automatically selects what needs to be installed and does everything for you, while you go and make a cup of tea.

Smart Fan - With noise levels being of utmost importance Gigabyte have employed a technology whereby fan speeds can be throttled depending on thermal requirement. So when your CPU isn't running very hot (i.e. you aren't running a CPU intensive task) then the fan can be throttled to lower speeds thus reducing the noise being emitted by the fan. Temperature thresholds can be set in the BIOS.

There are other value-added features available, however most of them are really marketing babble and have limited use.


Generally the board looks adequate but we already see some layout issues, which we'll go into detail later. The colour scheme isn't the most tasteful either, with a mixture of royal blue for the PCB, orange/lilac on the DIMM slots. We'll completely ignore the vile shade of green that is the AGP slot. The gold colour heatsink is a fairly large unit but thankfully doesn't produce a great deal of noise during operation.


Gigabyte supply all the usual widgets, including the S/PDIF header. The manuals are well laid out, although the most useful documentation when initially setting up has to be the fold-out quick start sheet. Many manufacturers offer this, but a large sheet is much better than the manual style that companies like Asus use, since it means you don't have to flick through pages with one hand and try to do the task with the other. The only exclusion is Serial ATA (SATA) power adapters.

           

Starting with the layout on the 'CPU side' of the motherboard we immediately see issues. Active cooling is certainly more flash than passive, but we'd take the latter any day. Less noise and one less moving part in your computer is no bad thing. The gap between the CPU heatsink mount and the first DIMM module is adequate, although as we'll see later it still poses problems when large VGA cards are installed.

Gigabyte have made little to no effort in moving the 4-pin power connector away from its traditional seat in-between the AGP slot and the CPU. This means that your power cable will be stretched over the CPU heatsink or 865PE heatsink. The 12V ATX power connector is placed alongside the IDE and floppy drive connectors, nicely out of the way. The fan header for CPU is placed near the CPU but thankfully the right side - by the memory and not jammed in between the backplane ports and CPU.

As you can see in the forth picture the gap between the 865PE chipset cooler and the heatsink mount isn't very much, so if you intend to use an oversized heatsink you may have problems.


As we head down, we see a rather interesting AGP slot. Taking it's colour aside, it uses a rarely used AGP retention system. The stopper/spring-loaded plug holds the card in place very well and removing units that have larger heatsinks is relatively easy. It certainly beats the old latch system by a long way. The AGP slot is a fair distance away from the DIMM sockets, however if you are fitting a large video card then you'll have to insert the RAM before the video card.

        

We usually see the most action near the bottom of a motherboard and the 8IPE1000 is no exception. With the ICH5 Southbridge being present, along with the Texas Instruments Firewire processor, dual BIOS chips and battery it's a busy place. We can see the unused solder pads where the Silicon Image SATA controller would have been present. Two fan headers are placed near the edge of the board too. The SATA channels that are controlled by the ICH5 have been given red connectors.


Colour coding the front panel pin array is a great idea, if only they labelled them on the PCB. It's a step on the right direction for those that can't be bothered to read the manual.

By the 'PCI slot' side things remain busy with various headers skirting the edge of the PCB. We also find the Realtek sound chip along with Intel's Gigabit Ethernet controller, the only one that currently supports Communication Streaming Architecture (CSA). With CSA the Ethernet interface is connected directly to the Northbrige rather than the more traditional Southbridge or PCI bus. The ITE 8712F controller provides the hardware monitoring.


A pretty standard backplane consisting of both serial ports, 4 USB 2.0 ports but no Firewire port. That comes in the shape of a PCI header plate.

Overall the layout of the 8IPE1000 PRO is adequate but things like the 4-pin power connector could be placed in a better position. Nice touches include the AGP card retention device, colour coded front panel pin array and fan header placement.

So things look okay on the surface, it's time to see how it's performance measures up.
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