We used AMD, Cyrix and Intel processors to test this motherboard. We also used AMC, Micron (Crucial Technology) and Mactrotron SDRAM. The 512k cache makes this board just a bit slower than the M Tech R581A (perhaps 5%), however the board ran through all of our tests without any problems with processors up to 233MHz. Though Gigabyte claims support for the K6-300MHz, obviously we were unable to verify this (and we doubt if Gigabyte has either.
With this offering, Gigabyte appears to have released another reliable, well built motherboard. It does lack some of the features of the M Tech R581A, and the board layout is not quite as nice but for overall reliability it is hard to beat a Gigabyte motherboard. We think that for those who are not quite sold on M Tech, this is an extremely good alternative that will not disappoint
Gigabyte elected to include only the ‘officially’ supported bus speeds from 60MHz to 83MHz. Linear Burst mode for Cyrix processors was also included in the BIOS. Gigabyte does have a warning on their web site that the motherboard does not support Cyrix processors above 66MHz, so we will need to perform some more exhaustive tests to determine if the PR233 can be recommended at all on the motherboard. Without this support, we believe that the desireability is lessened, since the end-user’s options are reduced
The asynchronous PCI bus feature was also included. At any bus speed above 66MHz, the PCI/AGP bus will automatically use the asynchronous option. Some users may find this somewhat of a limitation as they will be unable to ‘push’ their PCI/AGP devices. Of course, from the manufacturer’s standpoint, this reduces the possibility of damage due to overclocking.
While there are 4 SIMM slots on the board, there are only 2 DIMM slots. One other potential issue is that there are only 2 ISA slots on board, but on the other hand there are no shared slots. Of course, there is one AGP slot as well. Gigabyte also included both AT and ATX power connectors so those who wish to use the advanced power management and hardware monitoring can do so. The board also sports a switching voltage regulator with voltage settings from 2.0v through 3.5v, in 1v increments. This should provide compatibility with any processors in the foreseeable future.
Cool and/or Unique Features
The DIMM and SIMM slots are controlled separately, and therefore can accept a mix of 3.3v and 5v modules which means that SDRAM and EDO memory can be used simultaneously. We have not yet performed any tests on this, but our Gigabyte rep has indicated that the SDRAM will be accessed at X-1-1-1 timings while the EDO will be accessed at X-2-2-2. We are not sure at this time how this works, actually, and how it will affect performance.
The motherboard is laid out nicely, but not quite as well as the R581A. The CPU socket is behind the PCI slots, so that full length ISA cards may be used, however a set of capacitors immediately behind the 2nd ISA slot may create some interference.
The SIMM/DIMM slots are placed in the ‘normal’ spot on the motherboard, with the SIMMs on the edge next to the power supply. While this is how most boards are designed, there are some issues with installing removing memory modules with the board installed.
We are very impressed with where the IDE connectors were placed – right under the drive bays. This will help eliminate cable clutter, and allow for shorter IDE cables. The serial/parallel connectors were left in their usual spot near the keyboard
One item to note is that Gigabyte replaced the profusion of jumpers with DIP switches. There are still a set of 3 jumpers to set, but the DIP switches allowed Gigabyte to eliminate the long row of jumpers that other manufacturers use for their voltage settings, which allows for a smaller PCB to be used. The other benefit is that changing settings with the board installed is much easier than jumpers, yet avoids the issues other manufacturers run into with the ‘jumperless’ designs.
Compatibility & Stability
We ran the Intel and K6 233MHz processors without running any any problems at all. We also ran our 6x86MX PR200 at both 66MHz and 75MHz, though we have not yet tried the PR233. Even at 75MHz, the board ran through all tests without ever experiencing a crash.
We also tested with EDO memory (64MB total) and SDRAM from AMC, Crucial Technology and Macrotron (32MB modules). All modules worked without problems, even when we mixed the SDRAM modules in both banks. We have not yet run any tests with the mixed voltage modules, but we should have an update on that very soon.
We used two hard drives (neither one was UDMA, unfortunately) – one a Seagate 1.7GB (PIO 4), the other a W.D. 850MB (PIO 3). Even at 75MHz, we had no problems with loading any data or programs. Video cards used were a Diamond 3D 3000 (S3 chipset) and a Jaton Video 57P (Trident chipset). We also located a Viper 330 AGP card, which also worked without any problems.
The manual is written well and has most of the necessary information, but it seems that half of it is filled with diagrams showing the various DIP/Jumper settings for every possible CPU that might be used. While this is probably fine for the first timer, we feel that this is rather irritating for the experienced installer. There is a table that shows the various DIP/Jumper settings more concisely, but you have to search for it a bit. All of the BIOS settings are documented, and all of the cable/wire connections are indicated. Overall, it is a decent manual – better than many.
The board layout, documentation and feature set are good, though not excellent. The performance will lag a bit behind similar products from other manufacturers due to the 512k cache (with no option for upgrading). While this amounts to only 5% or so, many gamers will probably go for the R581A instead.
On the other hand, Gigabyte is well known for their solid reliability. This board will more than suffice in replacing the GA586S and GA586S2 for business machines and low-end consumer machines. In addition, the ECC support makes it a good candidate for a low-end business or home server at a reasonable price.
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