Having been finalized for awhile now, the USB 3.0 spec has lost some of the glitz and glamor that accompany new technology announcements, but it's not all old news just yet. On the contrary, Gigabyte has taken to thumping its chest over its GA-P55A-UD3 becoming "the world's first motherboard to pass USB-IF (Universal Serial Bus-Implementers Forum) certification," paving the way for the company to plaster the SuperSpeed USB logo on its product.
Gigabyte claims its GA-P55A-UD3 "underwent strict compliance and product quality testing from the USB-IF" before receiving its certification. The mobo maker also said several other models with onboard USB 3.0 are currently being tested and are expected to pass certification within the next couple of weeks.
In addition to onboard USB 3.0, the GA-P55A-UD3 also boasts SATA 6Gb/s support, a 2-ounce copper PCB leading to lower temps and better power efficiency, DDR3-2000+ support, CrossFireX support, and several other features.
If you thought Intel’s new budget Nehalem meant rock-bottom, feature-stripped motherboards to match, think again.
Gigabyte’s GA-P55-UD6 jams just about every feature you could think of into the new LGA1156 platform. There are the de rigueur updated power-saving utilities and the dual BIOS, which can save your bacon should your BIOS get corrupted.
And then there’s a whole kitchen sink of new features, such as the ability to secure the system using the onboard TPM module and then have it unlock when the computer detects your Bluetooth phone nearby. The same Bluetooth phone can also be used to put the system in standby or hibernate if you walk away, to save power.
Two other features are probably a bit more useful: As part of the board’s Smart Six apps, the BIOS QuickBoot feature allows you to set the BIOS to initialize much faster if no hardware has been changed. With the feature turned on, we saw the system go from a 30-second POST-to-OS load to 15 seconds. That’s pretty spectacular. The OS QuickBoot promises faster boots, too, but as far as we can tell, it’s simply a different way to invoke Vista’s Hybrid Sleep mode.
Gigabyte will soon start shipping its Booktop M1305 ultraportable that was first shown back in June, and peering over the spec sheet, there doesn't appear to be much to get excited about. Not until you look closer, anyway.
The M1305 will come equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo, Pentium, or Celeron ULV processor. Pushing pixels on the 1366x768 display is Intel's 4500MHD integrated graphics. It will also come with 4GB of DDR3 memory, 320GB or 500GB hard drive, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, a 1.3MP webcam, slim-type DVD burner, fingerprint reader, two USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA/USB combo port, HDMI, a 4-in-1 card reader, and Windows Home 7 Premium.
But where this ultraportable stands out from the crowd is with the included docking station. The docking station brings NVidia's GeForce GT220 graphics to the table, giving the M1305 a major boost over its integrated chipset, and includes a bunch of I/O ports. Sure, lugging around the docking station might defeat the purpose of an ultraportable, but leave the thing at home and unwind with a bit of gaming goodness after a busy day on the road.
With some of the first USB 3.0 and SATA 6 devices already released, the first capable motherboards are now available for purchase. Asus and Gigabyte were both known to be working on new boards earlier this summer and both companies are now shipping their latest models.
Asus is shipping two boards, one with a P55 chipset, and the other with an X58. Due to the single lane bandwidth bottleneck of the P55 chipset, Asus uses a bridge chip (PLX8613) and four PCIe lanes so the board can run in SLI and Crossfire modes. Gigabyte is shipping seven different boards in the P55A series. Gigabyte opted to avoid the bridge chip so dual-card modes will not be enabled in the board.
These motherboards are shipping despite delayed chipset releases from Intel supporting the latest interfaces. Manufacturers do not expect to have new Intel chipsets with USB 3.0 support until 2011.
MSI chairman Joseph Hsu wasn’t entirely positive in his future outlook, however. Windows 7, according to Hsu, will help pick up lagging notebook sales. But a shortage on optical drives and DRAM, which is expected to continue into 2010, will put a crimp on MSI’s ability to meet expected demand.
Gigabyte, on the other hand, is a behind on its projections to ship 200,000 notebooks in 2009 because of a lousy first half. But, the trend in the third quarter is upward, and Gigabyte expects it will get at least 120,000 notebooks out the door by year’s end. For 2010 Gigabyte vice president Richard Ma expects to ship 300,000 notebooks, with half made in-house, and the other half made by Quanta Computer.
On the netbook side of things, MSI reports that the proportion of netbooks shipped dropped from 50% of all notebooks to 30%. Market demand, according the HSU, for ultra-thin notebooks was also weak. Ultra-thin shipments should pick-up in 2010, however, once Intel starts shipping a dual-core CPU for this market segment.
Some sources are saying that, at least internally, Intel is talking about shipping one million Lynnfield processors for desktops by the end of 2009. Should Intel meet its goal, it would put the pressure on motherboard makers to keep up.
Asus and Gigabyte are each on pace to ship 400,000 P55-based mobos by the end of the year, leaving 200,000 units for other manufacturers to pick up the slack. MSI, ECS, and ASRock are expected to ship around that many mobos, but all it takes is for one manufacturer to miss its goal for there to be more CPUs than there are mobos.
Asus looks to be the most active for the rest of the year. According to company VP Joe Hsieh, Asus' expects to ship between 5.5 to 6 million motherboards in the third quarter, 6 million in the fourth, and 22 million total. Going forward, Asus says P55-based boards will account for 10 percent of all shipments.
If you've ever shopped for a videocard, you may have run across a company called GeCube. The company has been somewhat of a player in the graphics market, producing ATI videocards from the Radeon 7000 PCI series to the much more recent PCI-E Radeon HD 4890. That's as far as the company will go, says news and rumor site DigiTimes.
Citing a Chinese-language Apply Daily report, DigiTimes says Gigabyte has recently released its 61.5 percent stake in GeCube and relinquished its spot on the board of directors. As a result, GeCube decided to sell off its graphics card business, but the company isn't going away completely. Instead, GeCube has already attracted a new partner, and although GeCube isn't saying who the new partner is, going forward the two will apparently work together on a non-graphics card related business.
As of right now, GeCube's website still reflects its graphics business.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Gigabyte should be blushing. Why? Because Asus, highly regarded among power users for the company's high-end motherboards, has taken a page from Gigabyte and quietly outfitted some of its motherboards with 2-ounce copper PCBs (printed circuit boards).
Well over half of Gigabyte-brand motherboards shipped during the week before Computex were 2-ounce copper, and by the end of the year, Gigabyte predicts the copper design will account for 80 percent of its boards. But what's interesting about Asus following suit is that Asrock, an Asus subsidiary, at one time decried Gigabyte's copper design as completely unnecessary.
Asrock went on a rampage sending out PowerPoint presentations to the press that not only said a 2-ounce copper design didn't benefit cooling, but was actually harming the environment as well. Funny how watching another company gain marketshare can change one's perspective, isn't it?
Good news for Gigabyte fans who like to tweak their systems but fear one bad move (or BIOS flash) could ruin the whole experience. The motherboard maker has begun offering its DualBIOS technology on its entire lineup of motherboards and not just the high-end boards.
Gigabyte refers to its DualBIOS as a "hot spare" for your system, and that's essentially what is. DualBIOS boards contain two BIOS chips. Should the primary chip fail for any reason -- say a power outage during a BIOS update, or a particularly nasty virus infection -- the secondary BIOS automatically kicks in the next time you boot your system.
Gigabyte initially only offered its DualBIOS technology on premium boards, but look to see it on both entry- and mid-level mobos going forward as the company tries to increase its market share.
Power users routinely punch into the BIOS in order to fine tune their system, but it can be an intimidating place to go exploring if you've never before burrowed beneath the surface. And just like in real life, poking around in unknown places can be a dangerous affair if you don't know what you're doing or where you're going. On the other hand, once you understand the inner workings of your PC's control center, a whole world of overclocking and troubleshooting suddenly opens up. But what exactly is the BIOS?
Every modern motherboard comes with an embedded Flash EEPROM module, otherwise known as the BIOS chip. Short for Basic Input Out System, this is the first bit of code executed when you boot your PC. The BIOS stores all kinds of essential information about your system, such as your CPU's clockspeed, the size and type of RAM you're running, the boot order of your media, what onboard devices are present, and much, much more. An improperly configured BIOS can prevent Windows (or Linux) from loading, while a finely tuned BIOS has the potential to significantly improve performance over that of a similarly spec'd machine.
Whatever your goal is, this is your go-to guide for everything you've ever wanted to know about the BIOS. We cover every setting -- even the obscure ones -- so you'll never feel lost or out of your element, no matter what motherboard you're rocking under the hood.