Gigabyte X48-DQ6 Review

ccokeman - 2008-02-09 19:52:11 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: February 19, 2008
Price: $TBA

Introduction:

If you have read any of the number of computer hardware enthusiast websites and visited the forums, the same question is repeated over and over. What motherboard should I get? If the person is asking for an Intel based system, at least someone will start the ball rolling and invariably you will get the "just wait for the X48 boards." Well wait no more, that time has come. Gigabyte has just released its motherboard with the X48 chipset, the GA-X48-DQ6. The DQ6 series of boards from Gigabyte are at the top of the the food chain in its lineup. This one includes features such as "Ultra Durable 2" construction, which uses lower ESR solid SMD capacitors for a longer useful life span, Lower RDS (on) MOSFETs for reduced temperature through lower switching resistance, and Ferrite core chokes for reduced power loss and EMI interference. "Ultra Cool" and "Crazy Cool" coupled with Silent-Pipe cooling technology offer up to a 50% performance increase with this noiseless cooling solution. Will the "Green" features of the X48-DQ6's DES Technology offer an energy savings over the Intel solutions, or will it work in conjunction with them to really drop power consumption? I don't know, but I aim find out.

Is the X48 chipset something new and exciting or just a well binned X38 with support for 1600MHz frontside bus processors and DDR3 support? Will the performance be on par with the X38 and P35 chipsets or will the latest chipset have that extra something special? Does the GA-X48-DQ6 have that something special? Follow along as I find out!

 

Closer Look:

Gigabyte has radically changed the look of the product packaging for this series of motherboards. Gone is the traditional white background with a single color highlighted around the product name. The front panel highlights many of the desirable features of the GA-X48-DQ6. These include the Dynamic Energy Saving features which promote a 70% power savings and 20% greater efficiency when enabled. Ultra Durable 2 technology with Lower RDS (on) MOSFETs, Ferrite core chokes and Lower ESR solid capacitors. Supporting the latest 45nm processors from Intel should allow the new Wolfdales and Yorkfield chips to be run right off the bat. The rear panel again highlights the energy saving features using a chart to map out the savings as well as a specifications table.

 

 

The front panel has a flip open cover that features additional documentation on the features of the GA-X48-DQ6. Some of those not mentioned earlier: Crazy Cool, Ultra Cool, Dual gigabit LAN and full Blu-Ray - HD-DVD audio support. A quick glimpse of the cooling system is shown through the window in the packaging.

 

 

The inner box that contains the GA-X48-DQ6 has a large window to get a better view of the product. The X48-DQ6 is housed in a clamshell that seems to be the latest rage in packaging of the latest high end boards. Under the clamshell is the box that contains the bundled accessories as well as the product documentation.

 

 

 

Closer Look:

 

The list of accessories is short but it includes enough connectivity for most users. Included with the GA-X48-DQ6 are the documentation, IDE and floppy cables, four SATA cables, two SATA expansion brackets with power connections and a Gigabyte case badge. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The documentation includes the manual, a quick installation guide, Intel specific documentation as well as the driver disk. The I/O shield is color coded to make the connection of peripherals such as the mouse, keyboard and speakers a simple plug and play affair.

 

 

Drive connectivity options that are included are the usual floppy ,IDE and SATA device cables. Additionally, there are two expansion slota, add in eSATA connections that include a 4-pin Molex power connection to power the external enclosure.

 

 

The external drive capabilities are attached to the expansion slots and connect to the onboard SATA and power connections.

 

 

Last, but certainly not least, is the set of screws you will need to use to hold the northbridge heatsink into place if you decide to use a large heatsink that requires a backplate.

 

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 is an ATX form factor motherboard built upon the Intel X48 northbridge and ICH9R southbridge. The X48 DQ-6 offers up support for 1600MHz bus processors (think QX9770), DDR2 1200 memory support with a maximum capacity of eight gigabytes. This motherboard uses Dynamic Energy Saver technology to reduce the power consumption of the processor in low demand situations. Ultra Durable 2 construction using components designed to run cooler, offer increased reliability and accuracy as well as a longer life span. Prominently on the front side of the motherboard is the Ultra Cool heatpipe assembly to help cool the chipsets and power regulation circuits. The backside uses two heatsinks to increase the cooling capacity of the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The heatsinks on the back side of the board are called affectionately "Crazy Cool." The design is meant to more effectively deal with the heat generated from the CPU and northbridge socket of the motherboard. Gigabyte claims that this design enhances cooling performance by 50%. The one negative I saw with this design was installing aftermarket heatsinks or water blocks that use a backplate to strengthen the mount. But those fears were allayed when I took a closer look and realized what the small screws in the accessory pack were for. The southbridge uses the same additional cooling as the CPU socket and northbridge.

 

 

The I/O panel offers pretty much standard fare but a little more of it. PS/2 for the mouse and keyboard, Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF output, two IEEE 1394a ports, two RJ45 gigabit LAN ports that support teaming, eight, yes eight, USB 2.0 ports on the back panel and the eight channel audio connections.

 

 

The GA-X48-DQ6 comes with three PCI-E 1x slots, two 16x PCI-E 2.0 slots supporting Crossfire and Crossfire X at a full 16x X 16x and two PCI slots to fill your expansion needs. The CMOS battery and CMOS clear jumper are located right between the PCI-E 16x slots. This could make for some interesting problems clearing the CMOS with today's dual slot GPU cooling solutions. But where there's a will, there's a way.

 

 

Across the bottom of the board is where most of the peripherals will be connected. Starting from the left, there is the LPT port, S/PDIF input, TPM, COM port, 3-pin fan header, IEEE 1394, two USB 2.0 ports and the front panel swtch and LED connections. Last, but not least, across the bottom and lower right side are the eight SATA 3.0 GB/s and IDE connections.

 

 

Moving up the right hand side of the X48-DQ6 are the DDR2 memory slots that support eight gigabytes of DDR2 1200/1066/800/667MHz memory. Under the 24-pin ATX power connector is the floppy drive connection. Yes, some people still use them, they come in handy for flashing the BIOS. The X48-DQ6 uses only two power connections to supply power to the onboard components both a 24-pin ATX power connection and the auxiliary 8-pin 12 volts power connection.

 

 

The processor socket area is relatively clean. The X48-DQ6 uses a 12 phase power design that uses Low RDS (on) MOSFETs, Ferrite core chokes and solid SMD capacitors to provide a stable and efficient power supply to the CPU. So what does all that mean? Lower component temperatures, Increased lifetime and reduced power loss. All of these components are part of the Ultra Durable 2 design.

 

The cooling components of the Silentpipe cooling system are made from solid copper. The heat removal process starts at the southbridge and ends at the heatsink over the CPU power regulation circuits. By using this design Gigabyte claims a 50% improvement in cooling performance.

 

 

 

The one thing I found missing was something I have grown accustomed to using is a clear CMOS switch or button on the I/O panel. Not a big thing, but something that has become quite useful.

Configuration:

The first thing to do once the O/S has been installed would be to install all of the drivers and software needed by the board to operate as intended. If this isn't done then all bets are off when it comes time to operate the new pride and joy you just spent your hard earned dollars on. Fortunately, Gigabyte makes this a painless process by having all of the latest drivers on one disk. Pop in the disk and let the auto-run feature bring up the installation GUI to make your selections.

The first tab is install chipset drivers. By choosing the Xpress install, the software will install all of the needed drivers in one session saving a little of your valuable time. The second tab is for installing additional software and some proprietary applications such as Easy Tune 5 Pro and @Bios an updating utility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next tab shows what applications and drivers are on the driver disk all in one place. The Hardware Information tab gives detailed information about the hardware installed or built onto the X48-DQ6. Last, but not least, is the contact page that gives contact information across the globe.

 

 

One of the proprietary applications that is included is the Easy Tune 5 software. This application can be both a monitoring tool as well an overclocking tool. Many of the adjustments that can be made in the BIOS are available in this tool. One thing that surprised me was the video card overclocking tab. Something that was not there the last time I used Easy Tune. Cool!

 

Closer Look:

Having a good mature BIOS is something that gets taken for granted nowadays. There are so many boards released that have a marginal BIOS that leaves the end user (enthusiast) as part of the product development team fighting for a solution that may or may not come down the Pike. This can make or break a nice high performance motherboard.

The Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 uses an Award BIOS and includes the M.I.T. (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) section that contains the adjustments of most interest to the enthusiast. I will take a quick overview of the main sections of the BIOS and dig a bit deeper into this section.

 

 

 

 

Standard Cmos Features:

This tab is where the basic hardware setup is shown. Hard drive detection and manual setup can be done here, as well as setting the system time and date.

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

Boot priority for all system disks is accomplished under this section. The boot screen can be set to display the Gigabyte logo or the standard POST screen by enabling this option.

 

 

Integrated peripherals:

This section allows the user to turn off or on the integrated features of the DQ6. These features include the onboard audio and LAN.

 

 

Power Management Setup:

In this tab you can setup some of the energy saving features of the X48-DQ6.

 

 

PNP/PCI Configuration:

This section allows for the ability to configure the interrupt requests for the two PCI slots.

 

 

PC Health Status:

This tab is where the monitoring of voltages and temperatures can be done. In this section the fan speed setup for any fans attached to the motherboard can be managed.

 

 

Load Fail Safe Defaults and Load Optimized Defaults:

These two functions are for getting the motherboard setup with the basics needed to get up and going. Load Optimized should be done before a BIOS flash to prevents any issues during this process.

 

 

Q-Flash:

This utility is accessed by pressing F8 from the BIOS main menu. It is used to flash the BIOS from a non-Windows environment and eliminates the apprehension about flashing the BIOS.

 

 

The last section is the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker. This we will cover in greater detail.

Closer Look:

The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker section is where enthusiasts will spend the majority of their time on the X48-DQ6. Follow along as I look at this section in more detail.

 

Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker:

The main page of this section has many of the settings on Auto or normal as the baseline adjustments. We all know that this just won't do to get the most from our hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robust Graphics booster can be set to Auto, Fast or Turbo depending on the performance characteristics of your GPU. The CPU clock ratio settings are dictated by the processor you install. With an unlocked chip, the sky is the limit. With the Q6600 used for this review, the limits are a little mundane at between 6 and 9.

 

 

CPU Host Clock Control allows the CPU clock speed to be adjusted up to 700MHz. There are few, if any, CPUs out that can even come close to this speed, but it would be fun to try and reach it.

 

 

The PCI-E frequency can be adjusted up to 150MHz. Not as high as some performance motherboards, but a level that is more realistic. CIA2 is a built in Dynamic overclocking tool to allow preset levels of performance to be selected and implemented.

 

 

The System Memory Multiplier sets the memory frequency based on four different northbridge strap levels. The "A" setting corresponds to the 266MHz strap, "B" the 333MHz, "C"is the 200MHz strap and of course that leaves "D" at the 400MHz strap. Each has a different effect on performance and will be up to you to find out what works best for your combination of parts. Of course, Auto will choose the setting based on the SPD values for your memory.

 

 

The DRAM Timing Selectable tab can be left on Auto to set the parameters of your memory or you can choose the manual option to tweak the timings to gain the most performance from the memory that is installed.

 

 

The Gigabyte BIOS voltage settings are managed in a way that is a little different from most other manufacturer's BIOSes. To set a voltage, the options are shown as an increase above the spec voltages for the device. For instance, JEDEC spec for DDR2 memory is 1.8 volts, to reach 2.2 volts I would have to overvolt, or increase, the memory voltage by .40 volts. Knowing the starting point is the key to not damaging the installed hardware. With that said, the maximum increase on the DDR2 is 1.55 volts to give a maximum possible voltage of 3.35 volts. More than enough for the LN2 crowd to play with. PCI-E voltage goes up by .75 volts, FSB volts by .35, MCH or Northbridge volts can go up by .775 volts for a little bit over 2.0 volts. Loadline calibration helps minimize or eliminate the VCore droop noticed on many Intel chipset motherboards.

 

 

 

 

Specifications: 

 

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme processor/ Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor/Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor/ Intel® Pentium® processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® D processor/ Intel® Pentium® 4 processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® 4 processor/ Intel® Celeron® processor in the LGA 775 package
    (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
  2. L2 cache varies with CPU
  3. 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz FSB
 
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: Intel® X48 Chipset
  2. South Bridge: Intel® ICH9R
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 8 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR2 1200/1066/800/667MHz, ECC, non ECC memory modules.

Please refer "Memory Support List" for memory support information.

Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for DTS (dts NEO:PC)
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN

Realtek 8111C chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

Expansion Slots
  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots (The PCIE_16_1 slot supports x16; the PCIE_16_2 supports x4.)
  2. 3 x PCI Express x1 slots (share with the PCIE_16_2 slot)
  3. 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interface
South Bridge:
  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATAIIA, GSATAIIB) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
 
IEEE 1394
  1. T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  2. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394 bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394 header)
USB
  1. Integrated in the South Bridge
  2. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x 4-pin PCIe 12V power connector
  4. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  5. 1 x IDE connector
  6. 8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  7. 1 x CPU fan header
  8. 2 x system fan headers
  9. 1 x power fan header
  10. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  11. 1 x front panel header
  12. 1 x front panel audio header
  13. 1 x CD In connector
  14. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  15. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  16. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  17. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  18. 1 x parallel port header
  19. 1 x serial port header
  20. 1 x power LED header
  21. 1 x chassis intrusion header
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  2. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  3. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  7. 2 x RJ-45 port
  8. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller

iTE IT8718 chip

H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU fan speed control
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
BIOS
  1. Supports QuadBIOS
  2. 2 x 8 Mbit flash ROM
  3. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 1.0b.
Unique Features
  1. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver
  2. Support for @BIOS
  3. Support for Download Center
  4. Support for Q-Flash
  5. Support for EasyTune
  6. Support for Xpress Install
  7. Support for Xpress Recovery2
Overclocking

Voltage adjustments in BIOS Setup (CPU/DDR2/PCIe/FSB/(G)MCH) Allow you to:

  1. Increase CPU voltage
  2. Increase DDR2 voltage by 0.05V to 1.55V with 0.05V increment
  3. Increase PCIe voltage by 0.05V to 0.35V with 0.05V increment
  4. Increase FSB voltage by 0.05V to 0.35V with 0.05V increment
  5. Increase (G)MCH voltage by 0.025V to 0.375V with 0.025V increment

Frequency adjustments in BIOS Setup (CPU/DDR2/PCIe) allow you to:

  1. Adjust CPU host frequency from 100 MHz to 700 MHz with 1 MHz increment
  2. Adjust DDR2 frequency
  3. Adjust PCI Express x16 frequency from 90 MHz to 150 MHz with 1 MHz increment
 
Remark
  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Due to most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME. If some vendors still has Win9X/ME drivers available, we will publish on website.
  3. Duo to chipset limitation, Intel ICH9R RAID driver does not support Windows 2000 operating system.
 

 

Features:

Testing:

The Gigabyte X48-DQ6 will be put through our benchmarking suite to see what kind of performance the motherboard delivers. The OverclockersClub series of benchmarks include both system tests and gaming benchmarks to verify the performance of this product. I will be comparing the performance of the X48-DQ6 against both the Abit IX38 Quad GT, the Asus Maximus Formula and the Foxconn MARS. The tests will compare performance against one P35 and two X38 chipsets to see whether the X48 is just a better binned X38 after all. Testing will be a direct comparison of our stock speed benchmarking; all clock speeds and memory timings will be as close as possible to offer a fair comparison on each of the boards. All motherboard and video card settings were left at setup defaults, again to eliminate any variables.

 

Testing Setup:

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

After getting used to the intricacies of the Gigabyte BIOS again, I was able to start clocking up the test CPU. 400 frontside bus came easily. 450 needed some work on the memory subtimings and additional voltage to the northbridge. Above 460 the X48 got a little picky on which timings were adjusted. The final numbers I was able to achieve with the Q6600 were 485 x 7 as the highest frontside bus speed with 475 x 8 as the top clock speed at 3.8 GHz

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SpecviewPerf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. Cinebench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.54
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. Bioshock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Jaurez
  7. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

Testing:

The first part of our testing regimen will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

At stock CPU speeds, the results are similar in this series of benchmarks..

 

 

Testing:

Specview 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

Higher is Better

 

PcMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

THe X48-DQ6 wins 50% of the testing with Specview and Vantage.

Testing:

Sisoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

File System

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

While the margins are not that great, the X48 does finish first or second in each category measured.

Testing:

Sciencemark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

Cinebench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

Higher is Better

 

 

Lower is Better

 

The X48-DQ6 had a decent showing in the scientific benchmarks. In 17 out of 27 benchmarks it was the top performer and was a strong second in many more, losing only by a small margin.

 

 

Testing:

Crysis is a new addition to the gaming benchmark suite used at OverclockersClub.com. This game is one of the most anticipated and system intensive games to be released to the market right now. The Crysis single player demo includes a GPU benchmark to test the performance of the video card installed in the system. 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The benchmark scores in Crysis are within +/- 1 frame per second on each benchmark with the exception of the 1920 testing. The demands that Crysis puts on a system makes small increases a measurable difference.

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of real time strategy and simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

The settings we will use are below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

At stock speed the X48-DQ6 is on top in all the categories but the 1024x768, there falling only by one frame per second.

Testing:

Benchmark: BioShock

BioShock is one of the newest games on the market. It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This first-person shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played.

 

Settings:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The X48-DQ6 has a decisive lead in all four resolutions.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a U.S. Marine or British S.A.S. trooper. SInce this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

The settings used are listed below:

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the lower resolutions where system speed and efficiency are more important than GPU power, the X48 just blows away the competition by almost 20 FPS.

Testing:

World In Conflict is a newly released DX10 real time strategy game that simulated the all out war that the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical generate wealth and build type of game. You advance by conquering your foe.

 

The settings we will use are listed below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Performance is dead even across the board at the higher resolutions, while at the lowest resolution the X48 outpaces the MARS. The trend continues up to the highest resolution.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DirectX10 First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800s. The game is inspired in part by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

The settings we will use are listed below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing between the boards showed that the X48 outperformed the competition at the lower end of the spectrum. In the end, at the 1920x1200 resolution, the performance difference was only 2 FPS in favor of the Maximus.

Testing

Benchmark: Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts)

Company of Heroes (Opposing Fronts) is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The Mission is Operation Market Garden, the first allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This real time strategy game is brought to us by Relic entertainment.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

As evidenced by the measured frames per second, this iteration of the game is more graphically demanding than its predecessor. The X48 edged out the competition in all of the resolutions. The difference being 4 FPS at 1024x768, down to 1 FPS at 1920x1200.

 

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow! the X48-DQ6 came out on top in all four resolutions. This was a surprise considering the only hardware change across the board is the motherboard. The difference in scores is amazing, with thie DQ6 never falling below the 10,000 mark threshold at 1920x1200. In the gaming benchmarks, the Gigabyte finished number one in 27 out of 32 gaming benchmarks, a dominating performance.

Testing:

Dynamic Energy Saving: To validate or disprove the energy saving features of the GA-X48-DQ6, I installed the Dynamic Energy Saving software to get started. After the install I was prompted to return the memory speeds and voltages to stock so that the DES software could do its job. The software works in conjunction with the energy saving features of the X38/38/P35 chipsets. Namely the C1E and EIST features, which dynamically lower the core speed and voltage to the processor at off load times. The DES expands on this functionality to further reduce energy consumption. To test the software I will make a comparison of the wattage measured with a KillaWatt meter to test actual wattage consumed at idle and load with the software on and off. I will also show the savings generated by the software at both idle and under load.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the views of the software in action below, the the effectiveness of the software is painfully obvious to the energy conscious of the world. At Idle, with the software disabled, the CPU alone was pulling 19+ watts from the PSU, and under load this balloons to almost 52 watts. CPU-Z is used to show the power saving and processor throttling.

 

 

Now I will run through the same scenario with the DES software enabled. At idle, the processor pulled a whopping 7.9 watts. Under load, the power consumption blossoms up considerably, but at this point the savings is 16 watts! These are pretty substantial numbers from just enabling the software.

 

 

Measured Wattage:

 

The DES software allowed the X48-DQ6 to reduce power consumption at both idle and while under load. The savings at idle amounted to 25 watts measured and 24 watts under load with the meter. This over the long term amounts to considerable savings. The savings measured by the software are pretty incredible. At idle, the difference between with the software on and off was 12 watts, or well over a 100% savings. Under load, the savings were only about 30%. So if the two are averaged, one comes pretty close to the 70% efficiency savings stated in the Gigabyte literature.

Conclusion:

Oh my god, I've gone "Green." What can I say about the GA-X48-DQ6? Well, performance-wise, it stacks up quite well against many of the motherboards out on the market now. In the gaming benchmarks the X48-DQ6 was just dominating. In the scientific benchmarking phase of the testing, it came out on top in well over half the tests and was a close second in most of the others. If the X48 chipset is just a better binned X38, than I am sold on the binning process. The performance gained during most of the testing was a nice plus to a chipset that I was not expecting much more than the capability to overclock a bit better than the last gen chipset. Support is there for the latest 1600 FSB processors, so picking up that QX9770 and putting it into the DQ6 should prove fruitful during the next benchmarking session.

If you need USB connectivity, the GA-X48-DQ6 has it. This board has more USB ports than any other board I have ever used. While overclocking the DQ6, as with all "new" chipsets, there are things that work and things that don't. When they don't, a good board will get you out of the mess without the "pull the case apart and do the jumper shuffle to clear the CMOS" just to be able to boot back up. With the Quad BIOS backup, this is a thing of the past. Not once did I have to do the jumper shuffle to get back to the basics and get the board back up. One time it was close, but the BIOS recovery took over and after a reboot things were hunky dory. Speaking of the CMOS jumper shuffle, I would have liked to see an onboard jumper button on the I/O panel to make this a non-traumatic experience. Most, if not all, of the boards I have reviewed in the past ten months have this feature. Another item of concern was the need to remove the "Crazy Cool" heatsink on the rear of the board in order to use a large air cooled heatsink that uses a backplate for support. It is easy enough to remove, though just time consuming, more than anything else.

The "Green" features of the X48-DQ6 actually worked. The Dynamic Energy Saver software increased the efficiency and dropped the power consumption even while under load. The 70% energy savings is actually realized when the load and idle savings are averaged out. I think Gigabyte has a winner with this chipset "revision" as an update to the DQ6 series of boards. It has performance, it has great cooling, enough connectivity that the average user should not have to use a USB hub, as well as the ability to go "Green." I think it needs that little bit of polite golf applause!

 

Pros:

 

Cons: