Gigabyte 7VAXP-A Ultra
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The layout of the Gigabyte 7VAXP-A Ultra motherboard screams of features. Around the processor socket, the four mounting holes necessary for larger and heavier heatsinks are missing. Most modern air-cooling setups have the necessary 6-prong clips for stable installs, however. The area around the socket is rather tight on space, so the larger heatsinks that would require the four mounting holes may not fit. There are plastic guards below the prongs on either side of the CPU socket to prevent the metal clips on the heatsinks from coming in contact with motherboard and causing damage.
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In order to have a quality connection between the north bridge and the memory DIMMs, the DIMM slots are very close to the north bridge and CPU socket. This allows the Gigabyte board to have stable support for DDR400 memory. The Gigabyte board is also one of the few that you’ll find in this roundup that you can install and uninstall memory modules while an AGP card is installed. The heatsink on the north bridge is very sturdy and the fan attached to is quiet and efficient.
The IDE connectors are very high up on the board, at the same level as the DIMM slots. This is necessary on the Gigabyte board because the bottom half of the motherboard is extremely crowded with the added features (which we will get to later). The slot configuration is a standard AGP + 5 PCI slots. The AGP slot has a good retention clip with an easy release mechanism.
As for features, the Gigabyte 7VAXP-A Ultra doesn’t disappoint. They have included three Firewire IEEE1394 connectors courtesy of VIA’s external chipset and two USB 2.0 connectors on board as well. There is a Silicon Image chipset for SATA/RAID support. There is also a Promise chip for IDE RAID as well! Gigabyte’s standard Dual Bios is on this board too, making it nearly impossible to completely fudge up your bios. For audio, they included Realtek 6-channel audio and a 10/100 network interface. In short, this board comes with a LOT of features and extras.
Gigabyte’s list doesn’t stop on the PCB, it extends into the box as well. Gigabyte gives the user a lot of the headers and cables that many other motherboard manufacturers skimp on. There is a SPDIF/RCA out header as well as support for the 5th an 6th channels of audio. The header for two Firewire connections is included as are headers for 4 additional USB connections. Three IDE cables are included as are three SATA cables and SATA power extender to be used with perhaps the most interesting device, the external SATA adaptor.
This little toy lets you easily connect external SATA hard drives to your machine with a simple plug-in setup on the rear of the machine.
The bios on the Gigabyte board, at first glance, doesn’t appear too interesting. Gigabyte has an odd way of enabling the extended, advanced features of the bios: you have to hit Ctrl+F1 to open up the memory settings option in the menus. Once you do that, Gigabyte has a bios to rival most other motherboards on the market.
There are no jumpers for all the features on this board, they can all be enabled or disabled via the bios. The CPU frequency can be set as high as 250 MHz in single MHz increments. DRAM settings allow for 266 MHz, 333 MHz or 400 MHz. Voltages can be set on the CPU (in terms of +5%, +7.5% and +10% interestingly), AGP (+0.1v, +0.2v, +0.3v) and DIMM (+0.1v, +0.2v, +0.3v).