Gigabyte G41M-ES2L Motherboard
By Rafael Coelho on November 18, 2009


Introduction

Gigabyte G41M-ES2L is a value motheboard for Intel socket LGA775 processors based on Intel G41 chipset, which replaces G31 as the simpliest chipset from Intel, supporting 45 nm CPUs, 1,333 MHz front side bus and 800 MHz memory modules in dual channel configuration.

The main difference from the Intel G41 to the earlier G31 and G33 is the graphics engine, called Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500, which is DirectX 10 (shader 4.0), while G33 engine is called GMA 3100 and is DirectX 9 (Shader 2.0). This, however, may not make a big difference in gaming, because besides the graphic engine being most updated, it is not powerful enought to run newer games with high image quality.

Another difference from G41 and G31 is the fact the first one supported DDR3 memories (which depends if the motherboard manufacturer put DDR3 sockets on the board, being that most manufacturers do not include them). Actually, G33 already had this support.

A problem with G41 is the southbridge chip used. G41 (as well as G31) makes a combo with a southbridge chip from ICH7 series, while in G33 it is combined with a southbridge chip from ICH9 series. The differences between ICH7 and ICH9 are the number of USB ports (12 on ICH9 and eight on ICH7), the presence of a parallel ATA port (present on ICH7 and not on ICH9, which is an advantage of this motherboard) and six SATA-300 ports on ICH9R (but four on other versions). Being that G41 is a newer chipset, Intel could had combined it with ICH9.

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.

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Figure 1: Box.

In general terms G41M-ES2L is an inexpensive and simple motherboard yet with some amazing detais, like the power saving feature we pointed out 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.

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Figure 2: Gigabyte G41M-ES2L.

Let's take a closer look on Gigabyte G41M-ES2L features.

Slots

G41M-ES2L 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.

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Figure 3: Expansions slots.

Memory

As every value motherboard, G41M-ES2L has only two memory sockets, supporting up to 8 GB. It can access memory in a dual channel condiguration, which is a G41 (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. Remember that, in theory, G41 chipset supports DDR3 memories, but you can not install those memories on this motherboard because it has only DDR2 slots.

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Figure 4: Memory slots.

On-Board Peripherals

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 at stores).

Unfortunatly 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.

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Figure 5: SATA ports.

The audio section of G41M-ES2L is produced by the chipset, with the aid of a Realtek ALC888B codec, with 10 (7.1+2) channels and 97 dB signal-noise ratio (SNR) on analog outputs. SNR on analog inputs is of 90 dB, a good grade for a value motheboard, but not for 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 Gigabit Ethernet, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111 chip.

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.

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Figure 6: Rear panel.

Other Features

One of the highlights of G41M-ES2L (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.

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Figure 7: CPU voltage regulator circuit.

The accessory set that comes with the board is the usual for low-cost motherboards: user manual, driver DVD, case back plate and ATA and SATA cables.

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Figure 8: Accessories.

Overclocking options

Gigabyte G41M-ES2L offers some overcloking options. You can adjust the CPU base clock up to an unbeliveable value of 1200 MHz (obviously, reach this value with the computer operational is virtually impossible), besides manually adjusting the PCI Express bus clock. You can also change the memory timing configurations. Finally, you can also adjust the CPU and memory voltages, which always maximizes the possibility of a higher overclock.

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Figure 9: Overclocking options.

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Figure 10: Advanced memory timing menu.

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Figure 11: Voltage adjust options.

Main Specifications

Gigabyte G41M-ES2L main features are:

Conclusions

G41M-ES2L is a typical Gigabyte value motherboard. It incorporates very useful technologies like dual BIOS, high quality components on the CPU voltage regulator, power saving feature, high overall quality and a competitive price. Actually, it is the replacement of G31M-ES2C we talked about a few months ago.

It has some drawbacks, however: mainly the absence of indvidual audio outputs and a digital audio output, which is inexpensive but would open new usage options for this motherboard. 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, G41M-ES2L is a good choice, and you also bring home a motheboard that promises reducing your computer power usage and offers a good overclock potential.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Gigabyte-G41M-ES2L-Motherboard/862


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