Gigabyte GA-8I955X Royal

Simple to set up and rock solid during testing, this board is definitely one to go for if you're going to be using the Pentium Extreme Edition CPU. It supports a 1066MHz frontside bus for that CPU and can accommodate 667MHz DDR2 memory modules.

Connectivity features are abundant throughout the Intel 955X-based motherboard: the Royal has legacy ports (serial and parallel) in its rear port cluster as well as two Ethernet ports--both of which are capable of Gigabit networking and are controlled by individual Broadcom chips. It doesn't have a FireWire port in this cluster, so if you wanted to access the FireWire ports you would have to install the supplied expansion bracket, which features both regular FireWire and FireWire800.

For storage, you can take your pick from either the four-port integrated Intel RAID controller or the two-port Silicon Image RAID controller. An ITE IDE RAID controller for up to four devices is thrown in for good measure. We installed Windows XP on a RAID 0 array using the integrated Intel controller. Gigabyte does not supply a floppy disk for installing the RAID drivers during the Windows installation procedure, so we had to make a disk using the drivers provided on the CD-ROM. This worked perfectly and we experienced no issues during installation or during the hard drive transfer tests.

This board features Gigabyte's dual-BIOS technology, which transparently kicks in if you ever experience problems during a BIOS flash. It also features Gigabyte's U-Plus Dual Power System module, which aims to maintain system stability during varied voltage settings, such as when overclocking.

As for the board's design, the PCIe release lever is well designed and relatively easy to access, and all the drive ports and internal peripheral ports (USB and FireWire) are wonderfully aligned along the bottom and side edges of the board. For extra convenience, Gigabyte supplies a Bluetooth USB adapter in the box.

Our impressions of this board are very positive, and the only fault we could pick during testing was the noticeable interference that was exhibited through our analog speaker system when the mouse was moved.

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Elias Plastiras
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