In a world of “me-too” motherboards, Gigabyte is known for its “not-me” risky moves. The company was the first to integrate two GeForce 6800 GPUs onto a single card, and it was the first to make dual BIOSes standard.
While the GA-M59SLI-S5 isn’t as outside-the-box as previous boards, Gigabyte does include three x16 PCI Express slots (two perform at x16 speed, one runs at x8 speed), a much-improved videocard retention-clip system, and a SATA-to-eSATA adapter.
The board uses nVidia’s nForce 590 SLI chipset and includes a big chunky heat pipe to cool it. We usually dig fanless heat pipes, but this one prevents you from installing long PCI-E cards in one of the x1 slots. SATA-port placement is more logical, though: All eight ports are easily accessible, even in an SLI rig.
Given the same test components and memory configs, we didn’t expect the Gigabyte board to outpace the MSI. But the Gigabyte did manage to pull ahead in our low-resolution Quake III test, which stresses CPU, chipset, and memory performance. Oddly, the Gigabyte board lagged in the synthetic SiSoft Sandra memory test. The oddity didn’t appear to affect any other benchmarks, however.
Where this board really shines is in features. When compared with the two 590 boards we looked at in September, we think the Gigabyte pulls ahead of the pack by offering eSATA and a third x16 PCI-E slot.
Month Reviewed: November 2006
+ TWIX: PCI-E options and a smart SATA-port layout make this the top board here.
- BUTTERFINGER: Heatsink blocks the first PCI-E x1 slot; no Wi-Fi.