The problem with most passively cooled videocards is they typically bring weaksauce gaming performance into your home theater, as if all you'll ever want to do on your swank 52-inch LCD is watch movies and play the occasional round of Peggle. That's why we're stoked to see Gigabyte release a totally silent Radeon HD 5770, so far the only 5770 on the planet to ship without a fan.
Keep in mind we don't have one of these in for testing, but we have spent time with AMD's 5770 model and liked what we saw. Gigabyte's latest version -- GV-R577SL-1GD -- trades in the stock cooler for a passively cooled heatsink with four heat pipes running through a whole bunch of aluminum fins. Underneath it all sits an "ultra-huge" copper base plate.
Gigabyte seems to think it's all pretty effective, claiming a decrease in temps of 5-10 percent over traditional designs. We're skeptical those figures will hold up in the real-world compared to actively-cooled cards, but hey, as long as the card doesn't fry itself or burst into flames and take our home theater down, we could care less where it ranks.
No word on when this one's shipping or for how much.
Sharp-eyed Maximum PC readers who care about performance will no doubt notice that Gigabyte’s GV-N470UD-13I GTX 470 runs at stock reference speeds but achieves almost identical benchmark scores to last month’s kick-ass overclocked EVGA GTX 470. Blame it on new drivers versus old.
To be fair, the N470UD-13I isn’t exactly a stock card. While the card ships at reference clock speeds for core, shader, and memory, Gigabyte builds the board using its Ultra Durable manufacturing methods, which includes two-ounces-of-copper PCB technology, Japanese solid capacitors, high-end Samsung or Hynix GDDR5 memory, and low RDS(on) MOSFETs, which are designed to minimize switching resistance for faster capacitor charging and discharging. The PCB itself is blue, unlike many reference GTX 470 cards.
After a rough start to the summer, motherboard manufacturers are seeing sales pick up this this month and have turned optimistic about the third-quarter. Shipments are on pace to grow 20 percent on month in July, and if things continue this way, shipments will grow 15-20 percent sequentially for the quarter.
This is a far different picture than the gloom and doom scenario top-tier motherboard makers were painting just a short time ago. But as demand has started to pick up in Europe and China, so has their confidence that they'll be able to move more boards than previously thought.
So far this year, Asus has shipped roughly 10.3 million of its own-branded boards, followed by Gigabyte with 8.4 million units. ECS shipped the third most boards with 4.4 million units, followed by MSI and ASRock (a subsidiary of Asus) at 3.8 million and 3.9 million units, respectively.
The bean counters at Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, and every other first-tier motherboard maker are working overtime crunching numbers and trying to get a pulse on the mobo market.
June hasn't been kind to any of the motherboard makers except MSI, which saw revenues jump 13.05 percent over the previous month. ECS took the biggest hit, recording a drop of 17.73 percent, followed by Asus at 5.53 percent. Gigabyte, Pegatron, and ASRock also skidded backwards to the tune of 5.48 percent, 3.1 percent, and 0.94 percent, respectively.
But while June wasn't particularly kind to most of the major motherboard players, they've all seen positive gains for the year, except for ASRock, which is down 11.94 percent. Asus is the biggest winner, having increased its revenues to 68.62 percent on year, while Pegatron and MSI recorded gains of 20.4 percent and 19.03 percent, respectively. Everyone else saw double digit gains as well.
Most first-tier motherboard makers started off the year with lofty shipments goals, but it looks as though all of them will have to play catch-up after a disappointing month of sales. Asus, Pegatron, MSI, and Gigabyte each saw over 10 percent on-month revenue drops in the month of May, the mobo makers said.
Waning demand in Europe and China are largely to blame for the slumping sales, which the companies hope is only temporary. Asus was hit particularly hard, noting revenues of $674.12 million for May, a decrease of 22 percent on the month. However, Asus is still up by a whopping 79.71 percent on the year, and up over 80 percent in combined revenues for the first five months of 2010.
The same trend holds true for Gigabyte, though to a lesser extent. Gigabyte's revenues for May were down almost 11 percent, but up nearly 6 percent on the year, while accumulated revenues from January through May were up 17.63 percent on the year.
MSI's numbers are down, both for May (17.88 percent) and on the year (0.07 percent), though combined revenues were up for the first five months (21.74 percent).
Maximum PC readers love their desktops, and that's why it warms our hearts to hear someone else agree for a change, even if his reasons for doing so are remarkably self -serving. Gigabyte's Henry Kao (vice president of motherboards) is making the somewhat bold prediction that laptops, not desktops will die off as a result of the rising popularity of smart phones and tablet PCs. Because of their "internet capabilities" Kao said "users will eventually stop buying notebooks for their mobile computing needs. Instead, everything done away from the desk or even on the road will be through a smart phone or tablet".
To this end Gigabyte is predicting a boon in the future for more powerful desktop PCs that users can return to for more complex tasks. "Once those people have those mobile devices, people need performance desktop at home or the office," said Kao. In another somewhat unusual twist for a PC executive, Kao labeled the iPhone and iPad as game changers in the mobile computing space.
Kao predicts the full death of the notebook will take three to five years "100 percent replacement won't happen overnight". His argument in favor of desktops carries at least some merit, but I think many in our community would be willing to pick a fight over anyone who claims the iPad is capable of replacing a full-featured notebook for day-to-day tasks. I suspect tablets will need to go through a few more iterations before we reach that point, making the three to five year timeline somewhat ambitious.
According to reports, Gigabyte will continue supplying Dell with servers throughout the second half of 2010, helping Gigabyte become the third-largest server maker on the planet.
It's been someone of an uphill climb for Gigabyte, which used to serve as a server manufacturing partner for Google before later losing orders to Quanta. By the end of the year, Gigabyte hopes to increase its server revenue from 10-15 percent to somewhere in the vicinity of 20-30 percent.
Despite the increased focus on servers, motherboards remain Gigabyte's bread and butter business. As it currently stands, mobos account for some 65 percent of Gigabyte's revenues, having shipped around 18 million boards in 2009.
Been out of the motherboard loop for awhile? Even if you haven't, be prepared to learn some new terminology. In a bid to increase market share and separate themselves from the competition, motherboard makers have upped the marketing ante with new or revised terms.
Asus, for example, is touting support for IEEE 802.3az Energy Efficient Ethernet on a bunch of its new boards. According to Asus, the standard can bump up energy savings to the tune of 81.3 percent just by reducing power delivery when there's no or low network activity.
Gigabyte, meanwhile, has begun advertising its USB Power feature, which the company claims delivers more power to its USB ports, enough to charge Apple's iPad.
And then there's MSI, who recently released a pretty big Hydra driver update for its Big Bang Fuzion motherboard and has been advertising Quantum Wave audio technology and other marketing bullets.
Dropped Wi-Fi signals isn't the only thing early iPad adopters have had to contend with. Trying to charge the tablet has a caused a few headaches as well, at least for those entrenched in the PC camp. The problem, says Apple, is that some USB 2.0 ports and accessories don't provide enough juice for charge the iPad. And in some cases, the iPad will charge, but only when it's in turned off or in Sleep mode.
If you happen to own a recent Gigabyte motherboard, however, you're in luck. The mobo maker announced this week that it has come up with a driver update that solves the problem.
"Gigabyte’s unique USB power design is able to deliver extra power for devices that require more than the 500mA delivered from a traditional USB port. With a simple On/Off Charge driver update which can be found on the Gigabyte website, Gigabyte motherboard users are able to take full advantage of USB charging of their iPad, giving them more options and convenience when recharging their new device," Gigabyte said.
The driver works with a whole bunch of Gigabyte boards, including those for the Intel X58, P55, H57, H55, and AMD 800 chipsets.
Gigabyte’s original GA-P55-UD6 (reviewed December 2009) held the distinction of not only being the first board we tested with Intel’s LGA1156 socket, but also our preferred go-to board for months on end. It was only after Asus’s beautiful Maximus III Formula showed up in our March issue that the GA-P55-UD6 was dethroned.
It didn’t take Gigabyte long to fire a shot back, though, with its GA-P55A-UD6 board. At first glance, you’d think there was no difference between it and its predecessor. But up close, you can see slight changes to the board that make room for USB 3.0 and SATA 6 chips, as well as a slight repositioning of the PCB-mounted reset button. The most obvious physical change is the reduction in the number of inboard SATA ports. The GA-P55-UD6 had 10 ports whereas the GA-P55A-UD6 has eight. Both boards have two eSATA ports, compliments of a JMicron JMB362 part.