Intel’s X38 is here and we have Gigabyte’s top offering in-house. Key features include PCI-E 2.0, dual PCI-E 16x slots, 1333/1600FSB support along with a slew of unique features Gigabyte has become well-known for.
When a new high-end chipset launches, it usually results in much fanfare around the enthusiast communities. The last big chipset launch for Intel has been P35 and G33, which happened back in May. Although it brought a fair amount to the table over P965, there was one common thing that I kept overhearing, “Wait for X38.” or, “P35 is nice, but X38 is what I really want to see.”
Personally, I’ve been quite pleased with all of the P35 motherboards we’ve taken a look at, so what makes X38 so desirable? It could be a few things, primarily the fact that X38 is designed with Intel’s upcoming 45nm processors in mind. P35 launched in a similar manner. It had support for 1333FSB out of the box, but we didn’t actually see a 1333FSB processor launch until July.
Although X38 boards have already been available in some e-tailers, especially overseas, today marks the official launch, so boards should begin popping up on your favorite e-tailer soon. Though the new chipset is built with 45nm in mind, all current processors will work as well. You can upgrade your board now, then pick up a 45nm CPU when they are released next month.
That said, X38 brings a lot more to the table than P35 did. First and foremost, these boards make the introduction of PCI Express 2.0. Though not ground-breaking, PCI-E 2.0 offers twice the bandwidth capabilities over PCI-E 1.0, which might prove of benefit to graphic card manufacturers later on, but not right now. To make it clear, current-gen products will not operate faster just because they are used in a PCI-E 2.0 slot. The next big PCI-E move will be with 3.0, as we found out a few weeks ago.
We can’t forget the fact that if you are using dual graphic cards, both PCI-E 16x slots operate at full speeds. Not 8x 8x, not 8x 4x, but 16x 16x. Dual GPU with the purpose of better gaming is still only possible with AMD’s ATI cards. Fans of nVIDIA will have to wait until Skulltrail before having the ability to pair the two together.
Other notable X38 features include Turbo Memory and Extreme Memory Profiles, although the latter will be seen only on DDR3 motherboards, so we will not be experimenting with that here today. Plans are already in the works to have “potential solutions” that officially support DDR3-2133 speeds, so if there were doubts that this was an enthusiast chipset, are they gone now?
That’s all we need to touch on X38 in this article, as most everything else relevant to the new chipset is not relevant with this motherboard, eg: DDR3. If you are interested in learning more about the memory and specifically the Extreme Memory Profiles, you should read our interview with Intel’s Chris Cox, which we posted on Monday. When it comes to X38, there’s only one thing you should know. It was developed with enthusiasts in mind, so it should be the killer chipset on the market.
Gigabyte prides themselves on quality, and with all of their products we’ve taken a look at so far, we have no reason to believe that their R&D department doesn’t kick ass. Well, except those who decide that the motherboards should use 90% of the entire spectrum of colors. But that gripe aside, their products have proven to be well-built, feature-packed and most importantly, stable.
If there is one area you can always count on Gigabyte for, it’s creative packaging. I’ve yet to take a look at a Gigabyte product and not just stare at the colorful and clean designs. Of course, you should never judge a book by its cover, but if that were the case here, then this motherboard should blow our socks off.
Besides the motherboard, included is a manual, driver CD, installation guide, I/O panel, S-ATA cables, IDE/Floppy cables and two sets of eSATA cables. These can be installed in a free slot and enable you to hook up to four different eSATA devices.
Being a high-end enthusiast board, the bundle seems to be lacking. Everything that should be included is, but throwing in a free game or something would be nice. It could be that Gigabyte simply finds their feature-set so incredible, that bundling extra items might take away from the boards greatness. We’ll see shortly if that’s a valid argument.
A look at the board itself, and it’s features, is up next.