Gigabyte GA8PE667-Pro Motherboard ReviewBosco -
: GF City Computers
Price: $175 USD
As we're rolling towards the end of the year, as an "intermezzo" before the new computer technologies are unleashed on to the public market, I had the opportunity to try out one of the motherboards that uses the Intel 845PE chipset. The board that I chose for my test is the Gigabyte GA8PE667-Pro. Simply speaking, I'm going to see how well this board performs compared to my current motherboard, the ASUS P4S533, which uses the SiS645DX chipset.
The package contains a whole slew of goodies. It includes a detailed manual, IO bracket, a condensed 80-pin IDE cable, a floppy IDE cable, an SPDIF digital sound bracket, USB bracket, and last but not least, the Gigabyte case badge.
The motherboard design is fairly basic, with nothing out of the ordinary. Another pet peeve of mine is that if you have 6 PCI slots, the AGP slot is placed high enough so that you can't remove the memory modules without removing the video card first, if the card is large enough. Using the included USB bracket, you can plug the cables into the yellow USB connectors, shown on the left of the photo. The front panel pins (lower-left) are also colour coded, making it easier to identify which pins belong to which particular plug.
The motherboard also supports Dual-BIOS, which means if a flash update failed or if a virus scrambles your current BIOS, the other one will activate instead, bringing your system back a useable state.
It's nice to see that they also included a chipset cooler on the Northbridge.
Here it is, after I integrated the motherboard with the rest of my system. Gonna test it out with some common programs and see how they stand out.
Test System 1:
Test System 2:
From the numbers alone, you can see that the 8PE667-Pro performs just a little better than my P4S533, but keep in mind that benchmark results gives you just that: a number. If these numbers were hidden from me I wouldn't have known that my system was actually working a little faster than usual. Do keep this in mind whenever you compare tight benchmark results.
Unfortunately, I was unable to overclock my system to any significant level from the norm. Even though I am using the stock Intel HSF, I doubt that to be the cause of my problems. The biggest obstacle I've noticed is that my DRAM timings are locked to the FSB * DRAM ratio. I'm already using Samsung DDR333 memory modules at stock speed, and it appears that as soon as I increase the FSB, my memory modules don't like even the slightest increase in timings. If I lower the DRAM multiplier, to force my modules to run at 266MHz instead, then that defeats the purpose of boosting overall performance. There's no use in increasing CPU speed if you will lower the DRAM speed in the process. In order to keep the 333MHz speed on my memory, I'm forced to put the FSB to 166MHz. Surprisingly, I might have made it there too, if I was able to increase the core voltage even higher. Gigabyte capped the voltage increase to 1.725V, and for good reason too: Alot of reckless overclockers have modified their voltage pins in order to bring the voltage to levels around 1.8V and higher, and at that potential, many fried their Northwood cores in the process.
So in the end, my one request (if possible), is to make the DRAM timing independent of the FSB as well. I'd like to keep my 333MHz modules, yet be able to overclock my CPU to some higher levels if I wanted to.
I'm having some mixed feelings about this board. On one hand, the new chipset supports the new CPUs with Hyper-Threading technology, but on the other hand, it still uses only DDR333 memory, and the biggest problem I've found with P4 systems is that DDR memory is the biggest bottleneck up to date. I can't help but view the I845PE chipset as a quick-money maker on Intel's part, before Dual-DDR chipsets are made available to the public.
In terms of performance gain over my SiS645DX chipset, the I845PE does not perform that much better. This further suggests that the we're reaching the limits of current technology, and as such I do not see the I845PE chipset as a viable replacement to my current chipset, let alone an older one, unless I upgrade my CPU to one that supports HT technology. If I do upgrade to a new CPU, then I might as well upgrade to a chipset that alleviates the memory bottlenecks that all the DDR chipsets have up to this point, rendering the I845PE chipset a non-useful one.
On its own the board stands out quite well, but in the long run, with Dual-DDR literally palpable in the enthusiast's mind, I feel it would be advisable to wait until that technology comes out, and pay just a higher premium for something that can last alot longer than regular DDR chipsets.