As has become the usual for my reviews here at PC Perspective, I have broken down the conclusion into several sections to address all the areas we looked at in detail in the board review.
The Gigabyte 8I955X Royal performed nearly identically to the Intel 955X reference platform we reviewed several weeks ago. This is by no means a negative against Gigabyte, as Intel always puts out a high standard on their boards; I was hoping to see something more out of the chipset. But maybe we are seeing the reflection of a fully mature chipset already? After all, there are basically no performance differences between the Intel 925X, 925XE and now the 955X chipset and board vendors may have already applied all the tweaks they can to the memory controller and graphics bus since their initial 925X and 925XE boards. In that case, we won’t see any performance gains over past Intel platforms really and instead depend on the performance gains of the new Pentium D and Pentium XE processors to showcase any benefit to moving to the 955X.
The Gigabyte board offers 7.1 channel audio, as well as support for two Gigabit Ethernet connections from identical Broadcom chips. Coupling that with the inclusion of two additional IDE channels via a Gigabyte IDE RAID controller, Gigabyte has addressed the majority of my concerns with the Intel platform already.
The Intel ICH7R south bridge already offers four channels of SATA support with RAID as well so only users with very extreme storage needs are going to find themselves without the necessary storage options to migrate to this motherboard.
The BIOS on the 8I955X motherboard is fairly good and offers a decent amount of overclocking options as well. The only real gripe I had with it was Gigabyte’s insistence on having to hit Alt-F1 to find the ‘hidden’ features that allow you to modify memory settings and opening up more overclocking options.
Our overclocking results were pretty good as well, but we’ll have to wait until we see more 955X offerings from other vendors to know for sure if this overclocking standard is going to hold up.
Since the release of the 925X chipset and the LGA755 platform, it can be argued that no Intel motherboard has really been a budget option and also that their enthusiast platform boards are just too damn expensive. I never thought we’d see a motherboard easily staying over $200 for the majority of their life span but that is what we have seen with Intel’s boards (and to be fair, NVIDIA SLI boards too).
The Gigabyte 8I955X Royal is really no exception to that rule, with current pricing putting it at just under $220 off the e-shelf. Similarly speced motherboards are also coming up at nearly the same price, so I would expect the Gigabyte and competing Asus and MSI boards to stay at about the same median level. While $220 for a board is definitely expensive, it may be a sign of the changing times for the ultra-high-end enthusiast. Slightly less feature inclusive models will probably be out in the coming weeks, so if you want a cheaper product, you may want to wait just a bit longer.
The Gigabyte 8I955X Royal motherboard had a lot to live up to being the first of the new dual core capable motherboards to reach us for the Intel platform. Intel’s 955X chipset doesn’t really offer anything new and exciting over the 925X/E chipsets, with the exception of dual core processor support, so vendors are going to struggle to find a way to make this new board generation stand out from their last.
Gigabyte has done an excellent job compiling overclocking, performance and features into the 8I955X motherboard. If you are eager to get your hands on the latest Intel Pentium D or XE processors, the Gigabyte board looks to be one of the best options for enthusiasts for dual core.
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