As a motherboard, the GA-8I955X Royal boasted excellent features that took advantage of the latest technologies offered by Intel's new 955X Express Northbridge and ICH7R Southbridge. Intel's Alderwood and Grantsdale started the ball rolling by introducing DDR2 and PCI Express to for the Pentium 4 and the Anchor Creek platform now pushes it into high gear. Larger memory bandwidth and capacities help reduce bottlenecks with upcoming processors and the support of more PCI Express lanes and SATA II readies the board for new devices. Gigabyte further buffed up the board with dual PCI Express Gigabit LAN, IEEE 1394b and Bluetooth for a strong connectivity package. The GA-8I955X Royal is also currently the only 955X Express board with bragging rights to a Dolby Master Studio certification for its onboard HD Audio solution.
Performance-wise, the GA-8I955X Royal was able to perform as well and in some cases outperform the Intel 925XE Express reference board, meeting our expectations for the new chipset. It also showed some exceptional performance in the hard drive subsystem testing. However, our results indicated that it could not keep up with the nForce4 SLI Intel Edition based GA-8N-SLI Royal in a majority of benchmarks, falling behind primarily where the memory subsystem was taxed the most. On the outset, it may seem that Gigabyte still faces teething problems with implementation of the 955X Express chipset, leading to a belief that higher performance could have been possible. Whether this turns out to be true should be evident from future BIOS updates, if any. However, another likely hypothesis was that the 955X Express chipset was simply not much different than its predecessors in terms of memory controller design. Thus we noted lackluster memory performance in comparison to the NVIDIA nForce4 SLI Intel Edition, but comparable to the Intel 925XE Express as shown in the article. However, we will reserve final comments on this issue till we are able to test more boards based on Intel's new chipsets. If the latter is the case, NVIDIA will be giving Intel a run for its money in the high-end enthusiast segment a scenario that hasn't occurred in a very long time.
Board design was impressive and the GA-8I955X Royal had everything going for it except for two inconveniently placed SATA II connectors. A compromise for sure, but it shouldn't affect users much unless one has already used the four SATA II connectors courtesy of the ICH7R Southbridge and the area is already congested with cables. One of the problems identified on the GA-8N-SLI Royal also made a return on the GA-8I955X Royal. With the same layout in the upper board area, users might run into problems trying to install Gigabyte's U-PLUS D.P.S card depending on their choice of CPU cooler.
Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal. Impressive performance with room for improvement. Take a good look at the U-PLUS D.P.S. though as you might not be able to install it.
Overall, the Gigabyte's GA-8I955X Royal provided a strong debut for their Intel 955X Express lineup with a very desirable feature set. Overclockers would definitely be happy with the potential displayed too, but bear in mind that the higher memory timings may have helped it maintain stability in this area. The Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal has already begun trickling out into retail channels and users can expect to fork out between a range of US$230-240 for a spanking new board.