Gigabyte GA-8IEXP - Page 2

..:: Package ::..

As soon as you open up the box, you know you’re in business. I don’t think I have ever come across a board in recent times that has been this packed with extras. It’s tough to decide where to start, so let’s just get a “quick” rundown of the included items and other goodies. The GA-8IEXP comes along with a color fold-out type set of instructions that covers what each of the slots, jumpers, etc. on the board are, along with every step you’ll need to know to get your new or upgraded system up and running smooth. This is the nicest presentation of this information I have seen in the testing lab yet. Another nice feature that Gigabyte includes is a fairly large sticker that you can affix to a case door, base, etc. that shows the various motherboard settings, whether it be jumpers, or the various headers. This is yet another small feature that I haven’t seen done by any other manufacturer. This package manages to best our previous favorite, the VIA VPSD P4PB 400.

The user manual that is included with the GA-8IEXP is rather poor as it fails to cover any of the real BIOS settings. If you want to view a more detailed version, you’ll have to go online to view it. I’d much rather see this included within the manual, along with being posted online. Granted, not including it within the manual can indeed save a little cash that could go towards including other items in the package, but it’d still be a nice inclusion for those who want to have paper documentation on information such as the system BIOS. The documentation that is included for the Promise RAID Controller is very thorough and descriptive. It covers how to set up each of the different types of RAID arrays available, among several other options, and instructions n how to navigate the windows when setting up an array.

As far as external expansions brackets go, this is one of the areas where the GA-8IEXP really shines. It comes along with three separate expansion brackets, each serving its own set purpose. We’ve got one bracket with four USB 2.0 slots, another bracket with three IEEE 1394 ports, and lastly a rear expansion bracket to allow for digital audio connections. The remaining items constitute that of the Promise RAID controller manual, two yellow ATA/133 IDE ribbons, one grey ATA/100 ribbon, one floppy ribbon cable, and of course the driver / software discs.

The driver / software CD houses the drivers and software for the i845E and i845G based Gigabyte motherboards, so if you’re looking to find a driver, this would be the place to do it. When you first insert the disc into your CD-ROM, the main window will pop up right to the driver install window. Here, you simply click which drivers to install and you’re good to go. The next window that’ll be important is the Utilities window. Here you’ll be able to install all of the third party software, and Gigabyte’s own software onto your system. The included software suite is rather nice, although I was unable to get Gigabyte’s overclocking software, Easy Tune III & IV, to work. Each time I attempted to run either of these programs I would receive an error claiming that the software was not made to be used with the motherboard. One of the nicer inclusions within the software package is that of Norton Internet Security. This software package includes the likes of Norton Anti-Virus, Personal Firewall, Parental Controls, etc. Gigabyte has also chosen to include their Windows-based BIOS writer, along with a basic system monitoring utility. Overall the Gigabyte GA-8IEXP comes along with an exceptional package, although I’d rather see some further paper documentation on the BIOS to be included within the manual, and I wish the Easy Tune software would’ve worked right.

..:: Feature Set ::..

You might remember a while back when I raved about the plethora of features that came along with VPSD’s P4PB 400. Well, I’m here to say that the Gigabyte GA-8IEXP has stolen the crown from the P4PB 400 for the best feature set we have come across. The GA-8IEXP comes along with an Intel® PRO/100 VE LAN chip, Promise PDC20276 RAID controller. Creative CT5880 E PCI sound controller, VIA 6306 IEEE 1394 controller, Secure Card, Secure Digital, and Memory Stick interfaces, along with built in USB 2.0 support, and more! Before we take our customary trip around the motherboard PC, let’s take a look at the chips responsible for these GA-8IEXP features.