GA-8I955X Royal Examined
Just like the GA-8N-SLI Royal, the GA-8I955X Royal featured a similar plethora of components. Besides sporting the latest ICH7R Southbridge, the board came with two additional RAID controllers, an ITE 8212F and a Silicon Image SiI3132, each expanding the board's Ultra ATA and SATA II connections respectively. Connectivity was taken care by dual Broadcom PCI Express Gigabit LAN controllers and we even 'spied' a Texas Instruments IEEE 1394b chipset onboard. Do not forget that an Intel platform meant that the motherboard's onboard audio would boast Intel's HD Audio component, not your basic AC'97 CODEC like those featured on nForce4 SLI Intel Edition boards. Realtek's latest HD CODEC, the ALC882 is a 24-bit audio solution with an 8+2 channel output. That's 7.1 surround sound plus an extra independent stereo channel for multi-streaming. Indeed, the GA-8I955X Royal is the world's first 955X Express motherboard to be awarded with a Designed for Dolby Master Studio
logo, certifying its audio capabilities and prowess.
Primary IDE, Floppy and ATX power connectors in their ideal locations. DIMM slots are also grouped by channel with just enough spacing for a good fit.
Components, components, components. The GA-8I955X comes fully loaded.
With each evolution of premium motherboard labels, Gigabyte has become more generous with packaging and our GA-8I955X Royal included a chest load of goodies. Full sets of SATA data and power cables were available plus three connectivity brackets, giving you all the USB 2.0 and FireWire port combinations you will ever need. Just like the GA-8N-SLI Royal, a USB Bluetooth dongle was also bundled together this time round, and an extra USB extender cable was also thrown into the mix. The cable is a generic USB extender, so users should be able to use it with any devices they want.
Full SATA cables and more then enough brackets, but only one 80-pin IDE cable given. On the plus side, you get a USB Bluetooth dongle.
Overclocking parameters on the GA-8I955X Royal are as follows:-
FSB Settings (QDR Mode): 400MHz - 2400MHz
RAM Frequency: 1.5x, 2.0x, 2.5x, 2.66x, 3.0x, 3.33x, 4.0x, Auto
PCIe Frequency: 90MHz to 150MHz
CPU Voltage Settings: 0.8375 - 1.6000V (in 0.0125V steps)
Memory Voltage Settings: + 0.1V to + 0.6V (in 0.1V steps)
PCIe Voltage Settings: + 0.05V to + 0.35V (in 0.05V steps)
FSB Voltage Settings: + 0.05V to + 0.35V (in 0.05V steps)
Multiplier Selection: Yes (unlocked CPUs only)
The GA-8I955X Royal was an excellent overclocker, comparable even to MSI's NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition based P4N Diamond. In fact, as the scores below illustrate, the board reaches the same 1250MHz FSB level before processor limitations prevented higher overclocks. However, it must be noted that the GA-8I955X Royal was found to be running conservative and loose timings above the default FSB. The board was reported to be running at a default FSB of 267.5MHz (1070MHz in QDR mode). This was slightly higher than average till we started to crank up the frequency. We then noticed the base frequency was consistently being underclocked by 2-3MHz lower than what was selected in the BIOS. In QDR mode, this equates to a loss of 8-12MHz.
We also discovered another anomaly with the memory timing parameters. After some experimenting, the BIOS seem to under report TRAS timings by 4T. Hence, selecting the value of 12 in the BIOS will actually equate to a higher timing of 16, resulting in a slightly reduced performance. Hence if you are tweaking memory settings manually, take note to factor in this quirk. Luckily, this only affected manual timing control and the auto SPD detection still provided correct default parameters.
The standard board arrangement of the GA-8I955X was pretty decent on the first impression through there were several identifiable problems. Firstly, the U-PLUS D.P.S. card encountered the exact same problem on the GA-8I955X Royal as the GA-8N-SLI Royal before. Even after installing a standard sized cooler from Cooler Master, we found that the U-PLUS D.P.S. module could no longer be inserted into the DPS slot, thus defeating its purpose. Considering that this isn't a new technology to Gigabyte, it is a wonder that they did not encounter this potential problem during board design. You can take a closer look at the problem described in our GA-8N-SLI Royal article here
Another example was the positioning of secondary SATA connectors at the far end of the board. Though we had no doubts that the cable can reach to the front, the many other connectors in the way will just cause a mess.
The two SATA ports supplied by the Silicon Image chip are very unfavorably positioned.