Introduction and Specifications
Gigabyte brings the first X48 motherboard to our testing lab and shows what the updated Intel chipset can do. They are also introducing a new energy saving technology on this and other Gigabyte motherboards so come see if it lives up to the claims.Our first taste of Intel X48
The chipset world has been surprisingly active in the last 6 months or so with releases from Intel, AMD and NVIDIA all converging in way I haven’t seen in quite some time. AMD is finally using the ATI acquisition to release quality core logic designs and NVIDIA is finally updating the aging nForce 600-series of chipsets for the Intel platform. Intel’s own X38 chipset arrived to the scene in early October even though news of the pending X48 chipset launch was already circulating in the press.
And that brings us to today, where we are reviewing our first X48 chipset motherboard. Many speculate that Intel held off on the X48 launch in order to appease motherboard manufacturers that had bought a LOT of X38 chipset stock they had not yet sold through. More than likely that is true – the features and overlap of the two products are apparent. The X48 is really an upgrade that includes official support for the 1600 MHz FSB processors (that don’t really exist still) as well as…well that’s pretty much it.
Gigabyte has been improving their name in the enthusiast world for the last couple of years by release high quality, high-end products aimed squarely at readers like ours. In a field that was once dominated by the likes of ASUS, Abit and DFI, Gigabyte is adding their own say into the dialogue.
Specifications (from Gigabyte.com)
Intel’s X48 Chipset – X38 weeps
Everyone knows the feeling – one day you’re the favorite son and then your brother comes home with all “A+’s” on his report card, besting your somewhat degraded “A’s”. That’s pretty much what happened to the X38 chipset from Intel: it was and still is a great chipset but with Intel’s release of the X48 product it now seems lesser in some respects. “Seems” being the key word though because the only technical difference between these two products is the official support for 1600 MHz front-side bus processors and memory speeds.
The rest of the chipset design should be very familiar: PCI Express 2.0 support in the form of 32 lanes, integrated DDR3 and DDR2 memory controllers and a pairing up with the Intel ICH9 south bridge. The south bridge offers up the rest of the main feature set including support for six SATA ports with RAID options, a dozen USB channels, integrated 8-channel audio and a handful of PCIe 1.0 lanes for accessory support.
Again, while support for a 1600 MHz FSB and 1600 MHz DDR3 memory is good, in reality many of the X38 chipset motherboards have unofficially had support for those speeds. In fact, our initial tests of the only 1600 MHz FSB processor I have seen, the Intel QX9770, was tested on an ASUS X38 motherboard. Whether Intel is just using marketing to create another product in the line or there really are some kind of differentiations between the X48 and X38 really doesn’t matter I guess – X48 is here and it’s going to remain the high-end solution for Intel’s lineup.