While Intel's X48 Express Chipset is not due out until the middle of March -- after having faced a few delays reaching production -- the kind folks at Gigabyte have today provided us with the Gigabyte X48T-DQ6 motherboard. This motherboard is similar to the Gigabyte X38-DQ6 that we reviewed last October, but it employs the new X48 Express MCH and the revised feature-set that this chipset brings to the hands of enthusiasts. This is our first Intel X48 motherboard review and the world's first look at this new flagship chipset under Linux. In this review of the Gigabyte X48T-DQ6 we will be comparing it to Intel's current P35 and X38 motherboards.
Intel's X48 Express Chipset is an incremental update to the X38, which itself was only released last quarter. The major changes between the X38 and X48 is the support for CPUs with a 1600MHz FSB and DDR3-1600 memory support in contrast to the 1333MHz support found on the X38 Bearlake. No Intel processors currently have a 1600MHz FSB, but launching next month as well will be the Intel Core 2 Extreme QX9700 and QX9770, which will be their first 1.6GHz FSB chip. Of course, this chipset will continue to support CPUs with a lower FSB. The memory controller embedded into Intel's X48 is optimized for XMP memory. XMP is short for Intel's Extreme Memory Profiles, which is similar to NVIDIA's EPP (Enhanced Performance Profiles). Like the X38, this new Intel Express Chipset also supports dual PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots with compatibility for ATI's CrossFireX technology.
The initial motherboards at least utilizing Intel's X48 chipset will continue to use the ICH9 or ICH9R southbridges. As you probably know by now, the Intel ICH9R supports 12 USB 2.0 ports, PCI Express x4 (or four PCI Express x1), two PCI Express x1 slots, Gigabit ethernet, Intel HD audio, and six Serial ATA 2.0 ports with Intel Matrix Storage Technology. However, the Intel ICH10 refresh with 10GB ethernet support, hardware-based firewall, integrated WiFi controller, and the removal of PS/2 and LPT support will be arriving this year. On the topic of Intel's ICH10 Southbridge, patches for its Linux support have already surfaced. Appearing in the Linux 2.6.24 kernel and some already in the Linux 2.6.25 kernel are for SMBus, IDE / SATA, RAID, and ALSA HD Audio.
Gigabyte's X48T-DQ6 motherboard supports all of Intel's current LGA-775 processors with support for the forthcoming 1600MHz FSB 45nm parts. In addition to the official DDR3-1600MHz FSB support found with the Intel X48, Gigabyte's motherboard can in fact support up to DDR3-1900MHz memory but that is when using an overclocking mode and supported memory. The X48T-DQ6 also supports IEEE-1394 Firewire, 8-channel audio via an ALC889A ASIC, two PCI Express 2.0 x16, three PCI Express x1 slots, two PCI slots, eight USB 2.0 ports via the rear I/O panel, and eight Serial ATA 2.0 ports. In addition, the X48T-DQ6 is an Ultra Durable 2 motherboard, which means Gigabyte had selected higher-quality electrical components for this product with lower RDS MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and lower ESR solid capacitors. Ultra Durable 2 motherboards should operate cooler, consume less power, and have a longer life span than those with lower-quality electrical components.
To conserve the power consumption for systems using this motherboard, Gigabyte has developed their Dynamic Energy Saver technology. Dynamic Energy Saver is slated to save up to 70% power and 20% improved power efficiency, according to the Gigabyte-provided statistics. For indicating the power savings, there is an array of LEDs on this motherboard for showing the power shifting in real-time. We will be looking at the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 in the coming days that also utilizes this power savings technology. This motherboard also utilizes a new Silent-Pipe cooler, which is all-copper and spans from the ICH9R Southbridge to the X48 Northbridge and continues on to the MOSFETs. Ending off the features for the X48T-DQ6 are four eSATA 2.0 ports.
Included with the Gigabyte X48T-DQ6 motherboard was the driver software CD, user's manual, Intel processor installation guide, rear I/O panel, one ribbon IDE cable, one ribbon FDD cable, two eSATA expansion brackets, four eSATA cables, and four Serial ATA data cables. The motherboard itself was encased inside of a plastic shell and had arrived in pristine condition. The packaging is similar to that of the Gigabyte X38-DQ6.