If you're brand new to the DIY PC building scene, you may think Intel chipset-based motherboard owners have always been able to run multiple Nvidia videocards in SLI. You'd also be wrong. It was less than six months ago that Nvidia officially announced it was licensing its SLI technology to several top-tier motherboard makers for Intel's X58 chipset, in exchange for a fee. So we can't imagine anyone over at Nvidia doing cartwheels when end-users find a way to enable SLI on non-SLI certified boards with a relatively simple BIOS hack.
Citing an article in Taiwanese magazine PC Home Advance, TweakTown reports that not only is it possible, but it's been demonstrated on Gigabyte's EX58-UD4 motherboard. The magazine downloaded the latest F6 BIOS for a slightly different model, the EX58-UD4P, which comes with official SLI support, and slapped it on the less expensive non-SLI board.
Because the model numbers are different, the magazine noted the unsupported BIOS can't be installed using the built-in QFlash utility, and instead requires using the DOS-based SPIFLASH utility. Still a relatively easy hack considering no physical modifications to the board itself needs to be done.
It's unclear whether there were any undesirable side effects from using another board model's BIOS in place of the correct one. It's also unclear whether Nvidia will take measures to prevent this and future BIOS hacks from working with future driver releases.
Asus has been showing off its cool and quirky Marine Cool concept motherboard at CeBIT, and it's like nothing you've ever seen before. We say 'cool' in a literal sense, as the board's underbelly comes equipped with a backplate the company says utilizes "micro-porous ceramic" technology. According to Asus, the backplate provides "aerospace-grade thermal dissipating," while also adding to the board's structural integrity. Combined with the metal heat-pipe module covering the chipset and PWM, Asus says "these revolutionary designs improve heat dissipation by up to 2 fold."
The prototype board also boasts an onboard UPS consisting of a built-in polymer battery in the gray portion of the backplate, providing backup power and preventing damage in the case of a blackout. But the quirkiness comes in the form of SO-DIMM memory slots typically found on notebooks. We suppose the space-saving slots might have made sense on paper, but that's probably where it should have stayed. However, we do dig the built-in Failover Memory, which Asus says guarantees the system will boot when using incompatible or faulty memory.
Thoughts on the Marine Cool motherboard? Hit the jump and sound off.
If you're not yet ready to make the the jump to DDR3 memory but are itching to upgrade nonetheless, MSI has you covered, and it doesn't matter if you're an AMD or Intel fan. The motherboard maker has released a pair of hybrid motherboards, one for each camp, supporting both DDR2 and DDR3 RAM.
On the AMD side, MSI's AM3-based 790GX-8D supports both DDR2-1066 and DDR3-1333 memory when paired with an AM3 processor, and also works with AM2+ CPUs with DDR2 memory. Four slots of each are crammed onto the PCB, however you can't use both memory technologies at the same time. Moving away from the memory, the board also comes with two PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and a single standard PCI slot. Using the onboard graphics, gamers can also set up a CrossFireX hybrid configuration.
Switching gears to Intel, MSI's P45-8D sports four each DDR2 and DDR3 slots as well, though it remains a generation behind as an LGA775 board with support for Intel's Core 2 processors. On the expansion front, the P45-8D comes outfitted with a one PCI-E x16 slot, one PCI-E x1 slots, and three standard PCI slots.
The P45-8D is available now for around $170 street. No word yet on price or availability for the 790GX-8D.
After a lengthy standoff that ultimately punished the consumer rather than each other, Intel and Nvidia recently came to an agreement over using Nvidia's SLI technology on Intel chipset-based motherboards, specifically the Core i7 friendly X58. And now for the first time, Intel has licensed SLI for use on its own DX58SO "Smackover" motherboard.
"The addition of Nvidia SLI technology to the Intel DX58SO motherboard has been a welcome addition," said Clem Russo, VP and GM of Channel Desktop Platform Group at Intel. "The pairing of our new Core i7 processors on our Extreme Series motherboard and Nvidia GeForce graphics has resulted in some of the world's fastest consumer gaming PC platforms. For playing any of today's hottest PC titles, this is one awesome combination that our customers have been asking for."
Nvidia says the DX58SO supports any combination of GeForce GPUs, including support for quad-SLI, which will come as a boon to Smackover owners who have been lusing over Nvidia's new dual-GPU GeForce GTX 295 videocard.
Asus’s P6T Deluxe isn’t the most over-the-top Core i7 board we’ve tested, but it certainly has a leg up on Intel’s bare-bones DX58SO. For one thing, it finally brings us graphics reunification by supporting both two-card SLI and CrossFire X configurations.
And instead of the gimpy four-slot DIMM setup of Intel’s DX58SO, the P6T Deluxe features six DDR3 DIMM slots. The board, of course, supports all Core i7 CPUs. Since Intel is the sole chipset provider for X58 and the memory controller is in the CPU itself, most performance differences will be the result of BIOS tweaks each manufacturer implements. We found Asus’s BIOS to be far friendlier than the Intel board’s, which at first glance seems designed for engineers. Truth be told, though, the Asus BIOS can be just as daunting if you tread into the Advanced section.
Following Intel's P55 chipset, which is expected to launch sometime late this summer, Intel will release four more mainstream chipsets in the first quarter of 2010. These include the H57, P57, Q57, and H55.
DigiTimes says the higher end H57, P57, and Q57 chipsets will boast support for a revamped version of Intel's Turbo Memory technology currently codenamed Braidwood. This will help with boot times by moving frequently accessed data away from the hard drive and over to Flash memory. The memory chips will also sport a dedicated NVRAM controller for SSD-like read and write speeds, Fudzilla says.
All chipsets will support up to 14 USB 2.0 ports (save for the H55, which checks in with 12), up to 6 SATA ports, and up to 8 PCI-E x1 ports (H55 again being the exception with 6 PCI-E x1 ports).
As the memory market can attest, it's become a tough proposition to try and sell computer components for a profit. But it's not just memory; motherboards and videocards have been on the decline since Q3 2008, and according to Henry Lu, VP of products at MSI, the market won't see any further expansion.
It gets even worse. Lu contends that a top four motherboard maker -- Asus, Gigabyte, ECS, or MSI -- will drop out of the market within the next few years due to the inability of the market to support the growth of all four. It may seem inconceivable that one of the industry's stalwarts should ultimately exit stage left, but one only need look back at Abit's recent fall from grace as a grim reminder of how quickly the game can change.
And speaking of Abit, it's because of them and other second-tier mobo makers exiting the market that the big four can scrape by for the next three years, Lu says, but then something has to give. If Lu's prediction comes true, the question is, who will be the one to leave? Ironically, it's MSI who seems poised to fall if looking strictly at motherboard shipments. In 2008, Asus shipped around 21 million mobos, the same amount as ECS. Gigabyte trailed slightly behind at 19 million, and MSI was the least active shipping around 16 million.
Pardon us, but crowing that your integrated graphics chip is better than your competitor’s integrated graphics chip is a bit like bragging that your D is better than your friend’s D-.
As sad as that is, it’s the tack AMD is taking with its 790GX chipset, which Gigabyte’s MA790GP-DS4H mobo is based on. While the chipset features DirectX 10 support and indeed might be faster than other integrated graphics solutions, it’s still slower than the ancient GeForce 7600 GS we compared it to.
AMD looks poised to kick off 2009 with a bang. Earlier this week, rumors surfaced of an updated CPU roadmap for the chip maker, which showed the suits in Santa Clara gearing up to release six new Phenom II X4 processors, along with various Athlon-branded chips. According to DigiTimes, AMD also has a few new chipsets on tap for the new year.
On the lower end, AMD will release its 760G chipset, an entry-level IGP part based on the RS780 architecture. DirectX10 and Shader Model 4.0 will both be represented in the760G, but noticeably absent will be the company's Unified Video Decoder (UVD), Hybrid CrossFireX technology, and HDMI and DisplayPort connectors.
A bit higher on the performance scale will be AMD's 790FX and 790GX IGP chipsets, both of which will support AM3 and the SB750 southbridge. Later in the year, AMD will introduce its RS880 IGP chipset, followed by the RD890 in September.
Troubleshooting a dead motherboard can be enough of a pain in the backside all on its own, but once you've reached the conclusion that your board has given up the ghost, the prospect of a lengthy wait for a replacement only adds insult to injury. Asus seeks to alleviate this frustration with its new Asus Premium Service (APS) program, which offers eligible motherboard owners the option of having a replacement board cross-shipped free of charge.
"ASUS offers today’s discerning motherboard customer the widest range of choice for enthusiast platforms,” said Sales Director Timothy Lin of ASUS North America. “By combining the most stable motherboards and unique features with comprehensive customer support, we expect ASUS motherboards to remain the enthusiast’s first choice."
Initially, a pair of X58-based boards qualify for the program along with several other high end models, including the latest Republic of Gamers (ROG) mobos.The no-cost advance-RMA service is good for one year after the original purchase date and a valid credit card is required. More details can be found on Asus' APS Service Terms page.