Look out Asus, Gigabyte isn't just nipping at your heels anymore, the top-tier motherboard maker is pretty much standing side by side, market watchers say.
According to news and rumor site DigiTimes, Gigabyte looks to have shipped anywhere from 3.1 million to 3.3 million motherboards in the first two months of 2010, putting the company on par with Asus, who is estimated to have shipped 3.2 million to 3.3 million units.
Don't expect to Asus to concede its lead so easily, however. Channel vendors say Asus, in an attempt to stay out in front, might start slashing prices. If Asus were to do so, it could lead to a price war in the mobo market that could potentially spill over to include other vendors.
Gigabyte is apparently taking this whole USB 3.0 thing pretty seriously and is stoked that two of its P55-based motherboards -- GA-P55A-UD7 and GA-P55A-UD5 -- have passed official certification by the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF).
But the SuperSpeed buck doesn't stop there. Gigabyte says it is "aggressively adopting USB 3.0" on all of nearly its platforms, including the Intel X58, P55, H57, P45, and P43 chipsets, as well as AMD 790FX, 790X, 770, and 785G chipsets.
"We are investing heavily in developing the USB 3.0 ecosystem and are overjoyed to see that the majority of motherboards listed on the SuperSpeed USB Compliance Web page are from GIGABYTE," said Henry Kao, Senior Vice President, Motherboard Business Unit, GIGABYTE Technology Co. Ltd. "As the Windows® 7 upgrade cycle progresses, we are finding that onboard USB 3.0 is a powerful deal clincher as consumers look to future-proof their new purchases with the very latest technologies and specifications. As such, the timing for the introduction of USB 3.0 could not be better, and we are excited about working with the USB-IF to ramp up SuperSpeed adoption and explore the new possibilities that it has to offer."
Gigabyte is getting a bit of help from NEC, which is providing the uPD720200 host controller for all of the company's USB 3.0 compliant boards. In addition, a handful of models also feature 3x USB power boost, which you can read more about here.
Wasting very little time, Gigabyte today announced what it claims is the first AMD 6-core CPU-ready motherboard, the socket AM3 GA-890GPA-UD3H.
This is the first board to feature AMD's 890GX chipset paried with the new SB850 southbridge, resulting in native support for SATA 6Gbps, up to six devices in all. The southbridge also allows for SATA 6Gbps RAID support, another industry first according to Gigabyte.
"Giving users power over their high definition content is really at the heart of what the GIGABYTE GA-890GPA-UD3H is all about," commented Tim Handley, Deputy Director of Motherboard Marketing at GIGABYTE Technology Co. Ltd. "Not only does the GA-890GPA-UD3H deliver the industry’s highest performing integrated graphics solution with flawless HD video playback, but enabling SATA 6 Gbps with RAID functionality, USB 3.0 support and GIGABYTE 3x Power Boost means that users are able to spend less time waiting for their content to transfer, and more time to actually enjoy it."
Other features include USB 3.0 support, integrated ATI Radeon HD 4290 graphics with 128MB DDR3 sideport memory, two PCI-E 2.0 x16 graphics slots, dual-channel DDR3-1866+ support, 3X USB power delivery, HDMI, and a few other odds and ends.
Dell should be on the lookout for a 'thank you' card from Gigabyte, which saw strong on-month and on-year revenue growthrates to the tune of 55.1 percent and 41.1 percent, respectively, in January 2010 mostly because of server and storage system orders placed by Dell.
The mostly short-term orders won't do much to bolster Gigabyte's long term outlook, but according to some analysts, it will help Gigabyte see better revenues performance than nearly all of its motherboard competitors.
The server and storage orders came at a good time. Gigabyte has struggled a bit in the notebook sector, shipping only about 300,000 units in 2009 and failing to meet the company's expectations. Meanwhile, Gigabyte's handset subsidiary is seeing losses, though the vendor expects both of these segments to see significant improvement in 2010.
The new motherboards will support Intel’s latest Core i3 and Core i5 processors, in addition to the Core i7. Most all have four DDR3 DIMM sockets, supporting dual-channel memory up to 2133+ Mhz. All will have onboard VGA, DVI, and HDMI ports, and four will offer Gigabyte’s high performance digital DisplayPort, which delivers up to 10.8 Gbps of bandwidth over standard cables, allowing for fast refresh rates and greater color depths. And all will offer a pair of rear panel USB 3.0 ports.
These motherboards are now available through a number of online retailers. Sorry, but no pricing information was offered.
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.