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Features and Layout

The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 is the most features packed 845PE motherboard from Gigabyte.† The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 sports more features and a different layout than the original GA-8PE667 Ultra.† As you can see the PCB is Blue and should look great in a windowed case.† All of Gigabytes new high-end motherboards sport blue PCBs.† You would think with so many on-board components the layout would be cramped, but somehow Gigabyte was able to keep the layout clean and still provide six PCI slots.† A lot of highly integrated boards have fewer PCI slots.† Overall Gigabyte did a great job with the layout.

The first thing you will notice is the rather large heatsink and fan on the Northbridge.† Active cooling on the Northbridge is always a good idea, especially when overclocking.† The heatsink and fan feel high quality; the gold color really adds a nice touch.†

The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 sports two RAID chips, the Promise 20276 and the Silicon Image Sil3112A.† The Silicon Image Sil3112A supports two Serial ATA devices at speeds up to 150MB/Sec and supports RAID 0 and 1.† We will be seeing Serial ATA hard drives very soon; with the GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 youíll be ready for them.† The Promise 20276 chip has been around for some time now and supports current IDE drives at speeds up to 133MB/s. It has support for RAID 0 and 1.† Support for both Serial and IDE RAID is not only very impressive, itís useful.

Gigabyte placed the Serial ATA and IDE RAID connectors at the bottom right area of the board.† As you can see the Serial ATA connectors are very small compared to IDE connectors.† The RAID IDE connectors are mounted horizontally.† You can only connect one device per channel with Serial ATA.† You can connect up to four IDE hard drives to the Promise RAID.

Itís nice to see that the 20pin main power connector is located in the upper right area of the board.† Some manufacturers place the 20pin power connecter next to the CPU socket area.† When the power connector is placed badly like this the power cable can affect airflow and sometimes even hit the fan.† The floppy drive connector is mounted vertically next to the power connector.† Below that we find the two ATA100 connectors powered by the Southbridge, also mounted vertically.

The area around the CPU socket is clean; you should have no problems installing a larger heatsink like the Alpha 8942 and Swiftech MCX4000.† The heatsink mounting bracket included is a cool orange color.† When installing larger heatsinks we found that the motherboard did bend slightly.† This is a common problem when using larger heatsinks.† It would be nice to see some kind of reinforcement mechanism used to prevent this from happening.† As you can see the 12V connector is placed to the left of the socket.†

When a BIOS flash fails you can permanently destroy your motherboard.† Gigabytes DualBios technology is definitely a great feature of the GA-8PE667 Ultra 2.† The secondary Bios acts as a hot-spare and will take over almost immediately when the main system Bios fails.† As you can see there are physically two Bios chips on the board.

Onboard Ethernet is very common nowadays and we are starting to see Gigabit Ethernet Controllers integrated onto higher end boards.† The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 uses Intelís 82540EM Gigabit Ethernet chip.† The 82540EM chips supports 1000 Mb/s, 100, Mb/s and 10Mb/s speeds.† Both the MAC and PHY layer are integrated into this compact chip.† It connects directly to the PCI bus and is designed to deliver high performance and use low power.

Here you can see the PS/2 Mouse and Keyboard Connectors, Parallel Port, Serial Ports, Game Port, Audio Connectors, USB 2.0 and LAN connector.† The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 uses a standard back plate design.† This is nice because most ATX I/O panels will work.

The ALC 650 codec chip from RealTek is used on the GA-8PE667 Ultra 2.† Although this is not the best solution available, it does provide more than decent sound quality.† I could barely tell the difference in quality between the ALC 650 and my Sound Blaster Live.† The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 supports 6 channel audio in two different modes; basic mode and advanced mode.† In basic mode you use the back audio panel to connect the audio output.† In advanced mode you use the included Audio Combo Kit.† The Combo Kit also has jacks for RCA and SPDIF.† You can also configure the audio in a 2 channel or 4 channel configuration with the audio software provided.

The USB Kit included provides 4 additional USB 2.0 ports.† The kit connects to the two yellow connectors shown above.† Having a total of six USB 2.0 ports is definitely useful if you use a lot of external devices.† We would have also liked to see a Fire Wire chip integrated onto the board.

Gigabyte includes their new GC-SATA Card with this motherboard.† This card allows you to connect external SATA devices.† It comes with one Serial ATA cable and a power cable for Serial ATA hard drives.† I think this is a very interesting device and will be useful in the near future.† It comes with documentation and step by step instructions for installation.

Itís the small things that count! Gigabyte has color coded the Power switch, Reset switch, HDD LED, Power LED and PC speaker pins.† This really makes things much easier when making connections.† I sure hope that more motherboard vendors color code their pins.† They have also rounded the edges of the PCB.† This will help prevent motherboard edges from cracking when bumped or dropped.

As you can see the video card comes very close to the RAM slots.† However, we were still able to install and remove RAM with the video card in place.

The Bios

The GA-8PE667 Ultra 2 uses an Award Bios.† I am going to skip over the standard/basic Bios features and move onto the good stuff!

The PC Health feature displays the Voltages, Temps, Fan Speeds, and also allows you to set warning fan speeds and temps.† There is also a case open status.† As you can see from the voltage readings, our motherboard was slightly under-volting the system.† We did not notice any system stability issues while running the system under full load. The system was stable as a rock.† We still do hope this issue is addressed in future Bios updates from Gigabyte.

You must press (Ctrl+F1) to access the more advanced Bios settings.† I can understand why they hide the advanced features; they donít want novice users messing with settings that could cause harm to the system if not used correctly.

Within the Advanced Chipset Features section of the Bios we find the memory settings and AGP aperture size.† I usually set the AGP aperture size to 1/4 my system memory.† The memory options are: CAS Latency Time, Active to Precharge Delay, DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay, DRAM RAS# Precharge,† †Refresh Mode Select and Delayed Transaction.† Before changing memory timings itís important to make sure your memory can handle those timings.† Setting the wrong timings can result in system instability and maybe even hardware damage.† Although Gigabyte could have added more memory settings, the settings they offer should be adequate for most tweakers.

In the Frequency/Voltage Control section we find all the settings necessary to overclocking the system.† The FSB can be adjusted all the way up to 355MHZ.† However a FSB of 355 (355x4=1420!!) would never be possible on a Pentium 4 system.† You are able to fix the PCI and AGP frequency; this can be very helpful when overclocking.† Being able to fix the PCI and AGP means when you overclock the front side bus the PCI will still be running at 33MHZ and the AGP will still be running at 66MHZ.†

The Host/DRAM clock ratio can be set to either 2.66 or 2.0.† If you are running a Pentium 4 with a FSB of 100MHZ (100x4=400MHZ) then the 2.0 setting would give you a memory speed of 200MHZ (2.0x100).† The 2.66 setting would give you a memory speed of 266MHZ (100x2.66).† So, if you are running an older Pentium 4, you are limited to the 266MHZ memory.† If you are running a newer 133MHZ (133x4=533) FSB Pentium 4 the 2.0 setting would give you a memory speed of 266MHZ (2.0x133) and the 2.66 setting would give you a memory speed of 333MHZ (2.66x133).† Of course you can always push the FSB higher to get a greater memory clock.† *Remember, as the FSB (Front Side Bus) speed increases, so does the memory speed.

The AGP voltage can be set up to 1.8V.† The DIMM voltage can be set up to 2.8V.† I always keep the DIMM voltage under 2.8V to prevent any possible damage.

The motherboard manual says the CPU voltage can go up to 1.850V.† Unfortunately we found that the Bios would only allow a maximum V-Core of 1.725V.† This issue should be fixed in future Bios updates.

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