Physical Features and Layout
This content was originally featured on Amdmb.com and has been converted to PC Perspective’s website. Some color changes and flaws may appear.Anyone who read the 7ZXR motherboard review knows that my main concern and disappointment in the board didn’t lie in it’s performance, but rather is layout and features. Gigabyte seems to have addressed most of these issues in their DDR platform motherboard.
The processor socket is placed fairly well and the two capacitors the south of the socket shouldn’t pose a problem for most heatsinks. I used the TaiSol Copper Bottom HSF on the board without a hassle on installation. The ATX power connector is placed off the left of the socket. This might cause some slight problem if your power cable is short as it would force you to move the cable over the CPU fan. A problem that is becoming increasingly annoying on some boards is the placement of the CPU fan headers. Some HSFs have power cords that are only a few inches long as motherboard manufacturers that place the connectors far away have forced me to use extenders. The 7DXR, however, had no such problems.
Moving to the right, we see that Gigabyte has included 3 DDR SDRAM slots! While the AMD 760 chipset has had this option, no motherboard manufacturers yet have included the third slot, due to some unknowns about the combination use of the third slot and double-sided memory. I tested this and found no problems with using the third slot with any type of DDR SDRAM I had available including Crucial and Corsair. Having this third DDR slot will allow you to upgrade your motherboard a bit farther and cheaper than with other motherboards.
The fan on the AMD 761 Northbridge is very adequate and exceptionally quiet when compared to others I have worked with (Abit’s come to mind). As the board offers the ability to push up the front-side bus of the system (which we will cover in overclocking) the heatsink and fan could become very useful for system stability.
The onboard sound that is included on the 7DXR is the same as on the 7ZXR, the Creative CT5880 chipset. This should be more than enough sound power for all but the most hardcore games and soundphiles. Right below the sound connectors in the AMR slot. As I have mentioned numerous times before, the usefulness of these are very limited. Personally, I have never used nor even seen anyone use the AMR slot for anything. OEMs and perhaps business could find a use for them in lower costs of system builds, but for most PC enthusiasts and PC builders, I think we would rather have seen the AMR slot replaced by an extra PCI slot.
Speaking of which, the slot configuration for the motherboard is in 5/0/1/1 (PCI/ISA/AGP/AMR). It would seem that ISA slots are getting fewer and farther in between which is both a blessing and a curse. Getting rid of the legacy devices is necessary for quicker technology advances, but those who still depend on one ISA slot will be forced to look elsewhere for their motherboard upgrade. The AGP port is actually an AGP Pro slot with the extra power socket available next to the AGP card for the needed power that AGP Pro cards require to run stable.
As noticeable by the ‘R’ at the end of the model, the 7DXR motherboard includes on-board IDE RAID along with the standard dual-channel IDE ATA100 provided by the 686B southbridge. While the IDE1 and IDE2 ports are located on the upper-right hand side of the PCB, the RAID IDE3 and IDE4 ports are well placed on the bottom-right side of the board. This makes installation of addition IDE devices easy to setup once the motherboard is installed in a case.
The placement of the dipswitches on the 7DXR is also much better than on Gigabytes 7ZXR. Where as before on the KT133A board they were located in the upper part of the PCB making adjustments difficult after case installation, on the 7DXR they are all below the AGP slot making overclocking and tweaking all that much easier.