Physical Features and Layout

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While a new chipset may be exciting, we cannot overlook the features and layout of the motherboard that are vital, no matter what we may be putting on it. Let’s start at the slot configuration, which kind of disappointed me. Gigabyte left the 7DXC motherboard in a 5/0/1/1 configuration (PCI/ISA/AMR/AGP). I would have liked to see them add in a sixth PCI slot and get rid of the AMR slot if necessary. While some user’s may complain about the lack of a Legacy ISA slot, I feel that with everything improving as it, including memory speeds, its over due for ISA to be pushed off the high-end market of PCs.

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As is becoming standard now, the GA-7DXC has support for ATA-100 devices, but only on two IDE channels. For those of you who are used to getting 4 IDE channels such as on the Abit KT7-RAID or the latest MSI KT133 motherboard, you may have to hold off on the 7DXC (or consider some SCSI devices). Also note that Gigabyte has conformed to the new standard for coloring and made the primary IDE channel red. Not a big deal, but should make installations slightly easier.

The Northbridge to the motherboard is the AMD 761 chipset. Covered by an active cooling heatsink and fan combination, you should have no problems with this new DDR chipset that has been rumored to create much more heat than the AMD 750 and VIA KT133 chipsets. I did come across a minor problem with the fan: the noise. Installation in the test bench and setup had no problems and the fan was silent. However, when installing the motherboard inside a case, sitting right up, there was a resonant sound that hummed from the fan bouncing on the chipset heatsink. While after some minor modifications to it (read: hitting the fan with a screwdriver), the sound was fixed and never showed up again.

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As for the Southbridge, Gigabyte decided to veer away from the AMD 760 chipset and chose to use the VIA 686B chipset. The 686B has been proven to be fast and effective and has all the features that are need in Southbridge chip. I tried to get information from Gigabyte about their reasoning behind leaving the AMD 766 Southbridge out, but didn’t get any responses.

For those who are overclocker’s or just like to have the best quality cooling on their processor, you will be pleased to know that there is sufficient room for larger than standard heatsinks. I had no problems attaching a Thermaltake Super Orb to the motherboard and it did cause any contact problems as it did on the Abit motherboard.

Finally, you surely have noticed the number of RAM slots. Being only two, this is something that we are used to seeing on Intel RAMBUS boards, but not from AMD. Though unproven, they are rumored reports that the AMD 760 chipset has some problems using more than two RAM slots. If you were to look closely at the location where a third slot would go, you’ll the all the connections and solder points where one was planned to be installed, but was left out. While this is disappointing, since each slot can handle 1024MB of RAM, a limit of 2GB of DDR SDRAM shouldn’t be a problem for home users.

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