Motherboard Guide

Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 review

Gigabyte GA-X48-DQ6 (Intel X48)

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Dynamic Energy Saver

** Updated on 12th February 2008**

Dynamic Energy Saver

As the Intel X48 is pin-identical with the X38, it is no surprise that Gigabyte chose to directly plug it into their existing X38 DQ6 motherboard series. As a result, the GA-X48-DQ6 is a carbon copy of the GA-X38-DQ6 in all sense of the way, from its layout to its entire feature list. Hence, we shall not dwell upon what's already been said and done a long time ago. To read up on the virtues of the motherboard design and features, you can check our past reviews of the original Gigabyte GA-X38-DQ6 as well as its DDR3 variant, the GA-X38T-DQ6.

However, there is one significant addition to make its debut on the GA-X48-DQ6 (besides the chipset), and that is Gigabyte's new Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) technology. DES adds another level to Gigabyte's already burgeoning list of features on its Ultra Durable 2 and 6-Quad motherboard series. Claiming to deliver up to 70% more power savings and 20% better power efficiency than boards without this technology, DES actually works somewhat similar to ASUS' EPU , both of which rely upon clever software working hand-in-hand with a particular PWM chip. According to Gigabyte, activating DES allows the board to switch off unused power phases and thus increase the operating efficiency of the reaming active power phases. As you might have guessed, how many power phases active/deactivate is completely dependant on the system's loading level.

In order to activate DES, users will have to first install its Windows application drivers. Again, non-Windows users are left out of the equation. Installed, Gigabyte's DES GUI is simple enough, featuring a big 'Click Me' button to enable/disable the energy saver feature. There are your usual bars to show the status of performance/voltage throttling and even an energy meter that shows current CPU draw and power saved over time. Sadly, this meter resets itself every time the application is restarted. From our tests however, it would seem that there are actually some restrictions to its use. Firstly, DES can only be enabled on stock settings. This means that it is really quite useless for overclockers. Secondly, DES seems to work properly only when Intel's own CPU energy saving features are enabled, such as C1E.

When C1E was disabled in the BIOS, DES wasn't able to perform throttling. And there wasn't any noticeable drop in power draw over time. This was verified through CPU-Z monitoring, as neither FSB, Memory or CPU speeds were changed during idle or full load. It could be that DES enforces even more strict power saving modes on the system, but with our limited time testing the board, we can't be conclusive of its relationship between DES and the native power features of the board and CPU. In any case, the issues we've encountered could also be a case of the early state of the DES software, which Gigabyte engineers have informed us that they've an updated version of the application that should resolve them.

We also noticed that Gigabyte is working with Intersil to develop DES. Intersil is one of the semiconductor companies that supplies the CPU vcore regulator ICs for Gigabyte boards. The GA-X48-DQ6 uses the ISL6327 controller, which we can probably surmise that any other boards with the same vcore controller might be able to use the DES functionality. But, again, this is speculation as Gigabyte would have definitely clamped down the software to only approved motherboards. Official word from Gigabyte is that some hardware modification is required as well to enable the DES software to control the PWM chip intelligently.

** Updated on 12th February 2008**

We've initially reported that DES was purely a software-only technology, but further discussions with the Gigabyte engineers have confirmed that like the competition, it's a combination of the right PWM controller modified to work in conjunction with their software interface. As such, the article has been updated above appropriately.