Gigabyte G31M-ES2C Motherboard
By Rafael Coelho on June 29, 2009
Gigabyte G31M-ES2C is a value motheboard for Intel socket LGA775 processors based on Intel G31 chipset, which is today the simpliest chipset from Intel, supporting 45 nm CPUs, 1,333 MHz front side bus and 800 MHz memory modules in dual channel configuration. This motherboard, however, supports front side bus up to 1,600 MHz through overclocking.
Intel G31 chipset uses exactly the same graphics engine of Intel G33 chipset, called Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 3100. This graphics engine runs at 400 MHz and is DirectX 9.0 (Shader 2.0), has only two pixel shader units and no vertex shader units (this task is performed by the CPU). As you can see, the graphics engine from both G31 and G33 is outdated, using a technology from two generations ago.
The difference between G31 and G33 chipsets is on the additional features arena. G31 supports up to 4 GB of DDR2 memory and thus most of the motherboards based on this chipset have only two memory sockets. G33, on the other hand, supports up to 8 GB of memory of DDR2 or DDR3, but motherboards based on this chipset can have or not DDR3 support, depending on manufacturer's choice. Another important difference between them is the south bridge chip. G31 chipset uses ICH7 southbridge, while G33 uses either ICH9 or ICH9R south bridge. ICH7 has eight USB 2.0 ports, 10/100 Mbps network interface and four SATA-300 ports, while ICH9 has 12 USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet interface and six SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID on ICH9R model.
A feature from this motherboard that is being promoted by Gigabyte is called "Easy Energy Saver", which, according do Gigabyte, adjusts CPU voltage according with its demands, reducing power waste when processor is idle.
In general terms G31M-ES2C is an inexpensive and simple motherboard yet with some amazing detais, like the power saving feature we wrote above and others like Dual BIOS, which brings two independent BIOS chips. The second BIOS chip is a backup chip and comes to scene if the first one fails. So you can update the BIOS with no fear of losing your motherboard if something (as a power failure) occurs during the process.
Let's take a closer look on Gigabyte G31M-ES2C features.
G31M-ES2C has two standard PCI slots, one PCI Express x1 slot and one PCI Express x16 slots, which allows you to install a "real" video card. So, you can use this board to build or to upgrade in the future your computer into a simple gaming PC.
Near the expansion slots you can see a connector for the obsolete floppy disk drive cable, as well as internal USB connectors and internal audio connector, used for case front panel jacks.
As every value motherboard, G31M-ES2C has only two memory sockets, supporting up to 4 GB. It can access memory in a dual channel condiguration, which is a G31 (as well as all socket LGA775 Intel chipsets) characteristic. Altough this chipset supports up to 800 MHz DDR2 modules, Gigabyte claims this board can accept DDR2 1,066 MHz memories in overclocking.
Near the Intel ICH7 southbridge we can see four SATA-300 ports, which is important even in basic motherboards, because nowadays almost any computer uses one SATA port for the hard disk drive and another for the optical drive, and if the motherboard has only two ports, you cannot install any other drive (PATA drives are virtually extinct, at least on stores).
Unhappily ICHR7 southbridge has no RAID support, but to be honest, this feature is only used on more advanced (and expensive) systems. SATA ports, as you can see in Figure 5, are well positioned, so a long video card will not block them.
The audio section from G31M-ES2C is produced by the chipset, with the aid of a Realtek ALC883 codec, with 10 (7.1+2) channels and 95 dB signal-noise ratio (SNR) on analog outputs. SNR on analog inputs is of 85 dB, compatible with value motheboards, but not with professional audio capture applications, which demands at least 95 dB SNR here. The rear panel audio connectors are shared, which means you cannot use six-channel outputs and microphone/line-in inputs at the same time, which is a shame. There is no SPDIF outputs, also.
The board has eight USB 2.0 ports, four soldered on rear panel and four available as internal headers. On-board LAN is a 10/100 Ethernet, controlled by a Realtek RTL8102E chip. A pity Gigabyte did not include a Gigabit Ethernet on this motherboard.
The rear panel is simple and traditional: mouse and keyboard PS/2 connectors, one parallel and one serial ports, on-board VGA video output, four USB 2.0 ports, one Ethernet RJ-45 connector and shared audio jacks.
One of the highlights of G31M-ES2C (as well as other Gigabyte motherboards, even value ones) is its high-quality CPU voltage regulator. It has a three-phase design, ferrite chokes and solid aluminum capacitors. For a better understanding of the importance of such design, read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator Circuit tutorial.
The accessory set that comes with the board is the usual for low-cost motherboards: user manual, driver DVD, case back plate and floppy, ATA and SATA cables.
Gigabyte G31M-ES2C main features are:
G31M-ES2C is a typical Gigabyte value motherboard. It incorporates very useful technologies as dual BIOS, high quality components on the CPU voltage regulator, power saving feature, high overall quality and a competitive price.
Besides this, it has some drawbacks, mainly the absence of indvidual audio outputs as well as a digital audio output, which is inexpensive but would open new options for this motherboard usage. Some older value motherboards from Gigabyte have full independent outputs, so it is a shame that this manufacturer has taken a step back on this feature, as well on the Ethernet port, since other value motherboards have a Gigabit Ethernet port and G31M-ES2C has just a 10/100 Ethernet port. An HDMI output is also currently desirable, with HDTVs being more common every day, but unfortunately this feature is not common in the value segment yet.
Anyway, if you are looking fora a basic value motherboard in order to build an Intel-based computer, G31M-ES2C is a good choice, and you also bring home a motheboard that promises reducing your computer power usage, which is a good thing on these "environmental conscience" days.