Lots of tweaking options – Joe
SUMMARY: If you love asynchronous settings, you’ll LOVE this board.
With P4 motherboards starting to proliferate, we bought some to take a look at feature sets. One of them, the Gigabyte GA-8SRX (click on the link for full feature list), is really a very interesting board, especially if you like performance tweaking.
The board is laid out nicely and features 6 PCI slots; the useless CNR slot is at the bottom and at least out of the way. One interesting feature of some Gigabyte boards is their Dual BIOS setup: There are literally two BIOS chips on the board. If somehow you fry one or a virus trashes it, the backup takes over and you’re back in business.
Aside from the obvious fail-safe nature of it, it also allows users to tweak one BIOS with some very aggressive settings and one with more sedate options. You can then select which BIOS boots up.
This board uses the SiS 645 chipset, which supports a LOT of asynchronous options for CPU, RAM, PCI and AGP settings. This pick-and-choose capability allows users to fine-tune settings such that you can overclock the AGP port, underclock the PCI slots and run DDR at a higher speed than the system bus.
You don’t have total carte-blanche; settings are inter-linked to some degree, but within each range, there is a good set of options to select.
I can’t possibly list each one – as you select FSB, DDR, AGP and PCI speeds, the options will vary – but I’ll list some examples:
100 121 126 133 141 151 166 176 202
50 63 72 84
25 31 36
53 66 76 89
26 33 38
124 132 166 221 249 332
¹Each DDR speed links to various AGP/PCI settings.
To some degree, a number of these settings are academic – the possibility of running a 100 MHz P4 at anything approaching 166 FSB or more is nil. However, running DDR 333 at 178 MHz is not, nor is running the AGP at something approaching 100 MHz. Keeping the PCI slots at close to spec for hard drive integrity is a very nice feature.
There are three DDR slots and the manual does not identify any limits.
I earlier tested this board with three different DDR sticks (HERE) and found that there were no stability issues for the board I tested. With a mix of three different DDR sticks running at 133 MHz, I found the following:
1, 2, 3
Since this earlier run, I bought some Crucial PC2700 and used them for further tests. These are Crucial part #CT3264Z335.16T (CAS 2.5 double sided DIMM) and part #CT1664Z335.8T (CAS 2.5 single sided DIMM).
I ran further tests using 2 256 MB double sided and one 128 MB single sided of the Crucial PC2700 with an unlocked P4 1700 (an engineering sample which allows motherboard testing at high bus speeds) and found the following:
1 & 2 @ 256, 3 @ 128
1 & 2 @ 256, 3 @ 128
1 & 2 @ 256
Looks like the more you push the board, the more likely you’re going to run into stability issues. I would not be surprised to see similar issues in other boards. For the testing that follows, I used two sticks of Crucial’s 256 MB PC2700, CAS 2.5.
To see how the tweaking options pan out, I tried a number of settings, varying system bus, memory, AGP and PCI settings and found the following:
¹Top Performance DISABLED
Using 3DMark2001 scores as an overall indicator, bumping up memory speeds from 133 to 178 increases scores by over 6%; running the system at 133 MHz bumps up performance over 11% – a nice gain. There is something to be said for using the highest speed, stable memory you can find.
Lots of tweaking options; having a lot of options for DDR, AGP and PCI speeds makes up somewhat for the lack of multiplier options. With 133 MHz and DDR 400 looming on the horizon, this board should stay current for some time. Don’t plan to use it with more than two DDR sticks, however.
I should mention one thing I did not like on this board – there is no jumper for Clearing CMOS; I had to remove the battery and wait about five minutes before it cleared – a pain!