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Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH 945GZ Express Motherboard Review

Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH 945GZ Express Motherboard Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Compact microATX boards don't traditionally come with a lot of peripheral expansion slots, but the Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH is pretty good on this front.
 80% Rating:   
Filed under: Motherboards Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Gigabyte Nov 13 2006   Max Page  
Home > Reviews > Motherboards > Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH

Intel 945GZ Express and ICH7 Chipsets

The Intel 945GZ Express is Intel's second most mainstream chipset that supports the Intel Core 2 Duo (the other is the 945PL Express). All other socket 775 processors on the market, from the Intel Pentium 4/D/XE to Celeron D are also supported. In this instance the 945GZ Express is paired with the venerable Intel ICH7 Southbridge. The ICH7R Southbridge would have brought RAID 0,1,5,10 into the fold, but the Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH motherboard does not use that chipset. Given the intended markets the board is suited towards, the extra measure of data redundancy a RAID 1 array brings to the table is hard to ignore, especially considering how affordable a pair of 250GB SATA hard drives is.

While full-fledged Core 2 Duo motherboards support 1066MHz FSB's and DDR2-667, the 945GZ Express chipset accomodates up to DDR2-400/533 memory, which put it at a slight disadvantage compared to other models in the 945 family. Furthermore, as the 945GZ Express chipset does not support PCI Express, the 4 PCI Express lanes devoted to that physical PCI Express x16 slot actually come from the Intel ICH7 Southbridge chipset. The board will run a PCI Express videocard in PCI Express x4 mode, and we'll see what kind of effect that has on the gaming benchmarks in a moment.

The feature breakdown is illustrated below for the Intel 945GZ chipset.

Intel 945-Series Chipset Feature Breakdown
Intel 945GT Express Intel 945G Express Intel 945GZ Express Intel 945P Express Intel 945PL Express
CPU m479-pin Core Duo, LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo LGA775 Core 2 Duo
Front Side Bus (FSB) 667/533 MHz 1066/800/533 MHz 800/533 MHz 1066/800/533 MHz 800/533 MHz
Intel Flex Memory Technology Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dual Channel Memory Support DDR2 667/533/400 DDR2 667/533/400 DDR2 533/400 DDR2 667/533/400 DDR2 533/400
Maximum Memory Capacity 4GB 4GB 2GB 4GB 2GB
Integrated Graphics Gen 3.5 GMA 950 GMA 950 - -
PCI Express x16 1 1 - 1 1
PCI Express x1 4 4 4 4 4
Intel Matrix Storage Technology Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SATA/IDE HDD 2/1 4/1 4/1 4/1 4/1
SATA Speed 1.5Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s 3Gb/s
RAID - 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH7R) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH7R) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH7R) 0, 1, 5, 10 (with ICH7R)
Hard Drive NCQ Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
USB 2.0 Ports 8 8 8 8 8
PCI Masters 6 6 6 6 6
Audio High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio (Azalia) High Definition Audio (Azalia)

Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950

The 945GZ Express chipset used with the Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH motherboard incorporates integrated graphics - Intel's Graphics Media Accelerator 950. The Intel GMA950 is compatible with both Microsoft WindowsXP and Windows Vista operating systems, and is based on a 400MHz 256-bit graphics core which has up to 10.6GB/s bandwidth. The GMA950 can process 1.6GPixels/s and 1.6GTexels/s while supporting resolutions as high as 2048x1536 at 75Hz. To be frank, gaming and 3D performance are lackluster at best, and not comparable to what you would see from a full fledged PCI Express x16 graphics card (in a true 16 PCI Express lane slot), but at least the GMA950 is DirectX9 / OpenGL1.4 compatible.

The GMA950 videocards' Dynamic Video Memory Technology 3.0 (DVMT) steals 224MB of system memory from the system, so we'd advise installing at least 1GB of system memory.

Intel has built in high definition content support up through to 1080i/p resolutions, and native 16:9 aspect ratio. HDTV playback is supported via a HD content decoder, 5x3 overlay, and hi-bitrate MPEG2 among other points. In other words, this integrated videocard is built to play high definition content without any fuss over the computers' analog or digital monitor.

A dedicated I/O bus connects the Intel 945GZ Express Northbridge and ICH7 Southbridge together.

The Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH motherboard comes installed with the ICH7 Southbridge which includes all the necessary goodies, though in slightly smaller quantities than the ICH8 supports. There are four 3GB/s Serial ATA II channels as well a 7.1-channel Intel Azalia High Definition audio codec, eight USB 2.0 ports (split between the rear I/O and headers), 4 PCI Express x1 lanes and six PCI bus masters.

Noticeably lacking from the Intel 945GZ Express and ICH7 chipsets are the standard allotment of two parallel IDE channels. The ICH7 support one alone, regrettably. In response to this standalone IDE controllers have made it onto some motherboards, though generally only the enthusiast oriented models. Next up, high definition content playback and system load - is the GMA950 up to the task?

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Contents of Article: Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH
 Pg 1.  Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH 945GZ Express Motherboard Review
 Pg 2.  — Intel 945GZ Express and ICH7 Chipsets
 Pg 3.  High Definition Content Playback: System Load Test
 Pg 4.  Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH Motherboard Highlights Gallery
 Pg 5.  Overclocking the Gigabyte GA-8I945GZME-RH Motherboard
 Pg 6.  Test System Specs and Benchmarks
 Pg 7.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Bapco Sysmark 2004
 Pg 8.  Motherboard Benchmarks: Office Productivity, SiSoft Sandra
 Pg 9.  Motherboard Benchmarks: SuperPi, PCMark05
 Pg 10.  Motherboard Benchmarks: 3DMark05, 3DMark06
 Pg 11.  Motherboard Benchmarks: FarCry, Doom 3, Quake 4
 Pg 12.  How Does 945GZ Express Handle Core 2 Duo?

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