Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH Motherboard Review
By Daniel Barros on June 2, 2006


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

 Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH is the first motherboard released on the market targeted exclusively to Intel’s digital home concept, now called ViiV. It uses Intel 945G chipset, which is based on the new GMA 950 graphics engine by Intel. In this review we will see how is the performance of Intel GMA 950 compared to its main competitor, Radeon Xpress 200, and also how it compares to entry-level video cards. Check it out.

If you want to learn more about ViiV technology, read our article on this subject.

This motherboard supports 533-, 800- and 1,066 MHz external bus, accepting Pentium 4 CPUs from 5xx, 6xx and EE series; Pentium D CPUs from 8xx and 9x0 series; and Celeron D CPUs.

The main difference between Intel GMA 950 graphics engine used by this motherboard from Gigabyte and Intel GMA 900 graphics engine used by motherboards based on Intel 915G chipset is its clock rate, which was increased from 333 MHz to 400 MHz, and the native support for Windows Vista – which is not good on GMA 900 (Intel 915G).

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 1: Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH motherboard.

GA-8I945GMH-RH aspect is very shy and follows the visual identity from other Gigabyte motherboards. The board is blue with yellow and red memory sockets, differentiating the memory channels. Intel 945G chipset is cooled down by a big golden aluminum passive heatsink (i.e., it doesn’t use a cooler). The Intel ICH7-DH south bridge is also cooled by a passive heatsink – by the way, it heated a lot during our tests.

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 2: Passive heatsinks used on Intel 945G north bridge and ICH7-DH south bridge.

Tha manufacturing quality of this motherboard is really good and all electrolytic capacitors used are from Japanese manufacturers – Rubycon, Sanyo and Chemicon –, which ensure a better stability and greater lifespan.

GA-8I945GMH-RH has four DDR2-DIMM sockets, accepting up to 4 GB of DDR2-400, 533 or 667 under dual channel configuration. Gigabyte used yellow sockets on sockets 1 and 3 and red sockets on sockets 2 and 4. Install the memory modules on sockets with the same color and you will be using dual channel configuration.

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 3: Memory sockets detail.

More Details

On the storage side, GA-8I945GMH-RH provides one ATA-100 port and four SATA-300 ports, all controlled by Intel 82801GDH (ICH7-DH) south bridge. These ports support Intel Matrix Storage technology, NCQ (Native Command Queuing) and RAID (0, 1, 5 and 10).

Since there are no extra standard (parallel) IDE ports, you cannot install more than two parallel IDE devices on this motherboard.

This motherboard comes with an orange SATA cable (which has a latch) and a blue 80-wire IDE cable.

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 4: Four SATA-300 ports.

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 5: Cables that come with Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH.

On the networking side, it comes with a Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by Intel Vidalia 82573L chip, which is connected directly to the PCI Express bus.

This motherboard has an eight-channel on-board audio (7.1 format) produced by the south bridge with the help of Realtek ALC882 High Definition Audio codec. It has individual outputs for each channel (front, side, rear, center and subwoofer) and coaxial SPDIF input and output soldered on the motherboard.

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH
click to enlarge
Figure 6: Connectors found on the motherboard.

It also has eight USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and four available through an I/O bracket) and three FireWire (IEEE 1394a) ports controlled by Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 chip (one in regular size soldered on the motherboard rear and two available through an I/O bracket, which doesn’t come with the board).

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH comes with a CD-ROM containing drivers, motherboard utilities and Norton Internet Security 2006 OEM.

Main Specifications

 Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH main features are:

* Researched on Pricewatch.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

Overall Performance

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a software that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We selected the following motherboards to compare to Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH:

We added to our comparison two entry-level motherboard that don’t have on-board video, one supporting DDR memories and based on Intel 865PE chipset (ECS 865PE-A7) and another supporting DDR2 memories and based on Intel 915P chipset (Foxconn 915A01-P-8EKRS2). Our goal was to compare the performance of the reviewed motherboard from Gigabyte with motherboard without on-board video.

We also installed a GeForce 6200 with 128MB on the reviewed motherboard in order to check if by installing a real video card on this motherboard we would achieve the same performance of a entry-level motherboard without on-board video.

The results you see on the chart below.

Motherboard

SYSmark 2004 -
Score

%

Foxconn 915A01-P-8EKRS2 (Intel i915P) DDR2

192

+1.05

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

192

+0.05

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2

191

+0.53

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2

191

+0.53

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

191

+0.53

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR

190

 

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E Pro

190

 

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2

190

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR

188

-1.06

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce 6600GT AGP

188

-1.06

ECS 865PE-A7 (Intel i865PE) DDR

188

-1.06

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR

180

-5.56

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

179

-6.15

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH with its on-board video enabled achieved the same performance level of almost all motherboards included in our comparison. It was 5.56% faster than ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200).

When we installed a real video card on Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH we saw no performance change.

Processing Performance

We measured processing performance using PCMark04 program. PCMark04 score reflects the performance of the video card used. Thus in the case of motherboards with on-board video, the one with the best on-board video engine will achieve the higher result.

You can see the results below.

Motherboard

PCMark04
(Build 1.3.0)

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

4868

+11.57

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

4502

+3.19

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

4363

 

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 on-board

4354

-0.21

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR on-board

4352

-0.25

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2 on-board

4350

-0.30

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR on-board

4156

-4.98

With its on-board video enabled Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved a performance similar to Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 and PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2/DDR. It was 4.98% faster than Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR.

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) was 3.19% faster than the reviewed motherboard.

When we installed a GeForce 6200 with 128MB on this motherboard, its processing performance increased 11.57%, achieving the same performance level of entry-level motherboards without on-board video.

3D Performance: 3DMark2001 SE

One of the best ways to measure the performance of a PC is through 3D games, since they usually pull the maximum power from the motherboard, memory, CPU, video card and hard disk drive. We chose five programs for measuring the 3D performance of the motherboard being reviewed: 3DMark2001 SE, 3DMark03, 3DMark05, Doom 3 and Quake III Arena.

The weakest point of motherboards with on-board video is their 3D performance, usually far behind the performance obtained by add-on video cards. In our tests we compared the Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH on-board video performance with the performance of other motherboards using on-board video and also with the performance of entry-level VGAs like GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit memory interface, GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface and GeForce FX 5200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface (this one installed on an AGP motherboard, Foxconn 865G7MC-ES - Intel i865G).

3DMark2001 SE

3DMark2001 SE simulates DirectX 8.1 games. We used this program to see how the motherboard being reviewed acts running games from this generation. You can find the results below.

Motherboard

3DMark2001 SE
(Build 3.3.0)

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

12686

+88.05

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 TC

9148

+35.61

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce FX 5200 AGP

7908

+7.23

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

6746

 

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 on-board

6408

-5.27

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

6140

-9.87

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2 on-board

6031

-11.86

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR on-board

5636

-19.69

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR on-board

3174

-112.54

On 3DMark2001 SE Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved the best performance among motherboards with on-board video we have tested.

A GeForce FX 5200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface installed on a motherboard with AGP slot (Foxconn 865G7MC-ES - Intel i865G) was 17.23% faster on 3DMark2001 SE than the on-board video from the reviewed motherboard.

A GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface was 88.05% faster on 3DMark2001 SE than the on-board video from Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH. A GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface was 35.61% faster than the on-board video from the reviewed motherboard.

3D Performance: 3DMark03

We followed the same methodology described in the previous page, but this time running 3DMark03. Keep in mind that 3DMark03 simulates DirectX 9 games, which are contemporary games, and Intel GMA900 and GMA950 and ATI Xpress 200 engines are DirectX 9, so this is the best program to measure the performance of these graphics engines. You can check the results below.

 

Motherboard

3Dmark03
(Build 3.6.0

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

4009

+114.50

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 TC

2597

+38.95

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

1869

 

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 on-board

1597

-17.03

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

1584

-17.99

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce FX 5200 AGP

1547

-20.81

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2 on-board

1045

-78.85

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR on-board

967

-93.28

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR on-board

135

-1284.44

Once again Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved the best 3D performance among motherboards with on-board video we have tested, achieving a performance 20.81% greater than GeForce FX 5200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface installed on a motherboard with AGP slot (Foxconn 865G7MC-ES - Intel i865G), which is a fantastic achievement.

A GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface was 114.50% faster on 3DMark03 than the on-board video from Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH. A GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface was 38.95% faster than the on-board video from the reviewed motherboard.

3D Performance: 3DMark05

3DMark05 measures performance by simulating DirectX 9.0c games, i.e., using Shader 3.0 model. This programming model is used by games like Far Cry. This programming model is used by GeForce series 6 and 7 from NVIDIA and Radeon X1000 series from ATI.
It isn’t fair to use this program to measure the performance of on-board video, as none of them is based on this programming model. But we used it anyway to see how was the 3D performance Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH using a real video card. You can find the results below.

Motherboard

3Dmark05
(Build 1.2.0)

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

1537

+145.53

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

1535

+145.21

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 TC

1315

+110.06

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

746

+19.17

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

626

 

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce FX 5200 AGP

263

-138.02

From all motherboards with on-board video we included in our tests only Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel 945G - GMA 950) and ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) were capable of running 3DMark05, even then achieving very low results. ATI’s on-board video solution was 19.17% faster than Intel’s on this test.

A GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface was 145.53% faster on 3DMark05 than the on-board video from Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH. A GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface was 110.06% faster than the on-board video from the reviewed motherboard.

With a GeForce 6200 with 128 MB installed, Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved the same performance of Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) motherboard with the same video card installed.

3D Performance: Doom 3

Doom 3 is one of the heaviest games available today. We run this game at 1024x768x32 resolution at high quality. We run demo1 four times and wrote the obtained number of frames per second. The first result we discarded at once, since it is far inferior than the other results. This happens because at the first time we run the demo the game must load all textures to video memory, fact that doesn’t happen from the second time we run the demo on. From the three results left, we consider as our official result the middle result, i.e., we discard the highest and the lowest values. Curiously almost all times the values obtained at the second round on were the same.

A very important detail that we must mention is that Doom 3 has an internal FPS lock: it is only capable of generating 60 frames per second, even if your PC is able to produce more frames per second than that. This is done in order to make the game to have the same “playability” sensation independently from the video card installed on the PC. This lock, however, is disabled in the game benchmarking mode.

For further details on how to measure 3D performance with Doom 3, read our tutorial on this subject.

Below you will find the results.


Motherboard

Doom 3 - FPS

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

39.8

+286.41

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 TC

18

+74.76

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce FX 5200 AGP

12.1

+17.78

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

10.3

 

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

10

-3.00

Like happened on 3DMark05, from all motherboards with on-board video we included in our tests only Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel 945G - GMA 950) and ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) were capable of running Doom 3, even then achieving very low results. The on-board video from the reviewed motherboard from Gigabyte was 3% faster than the on-board video from ASUS motherboard included in our comparison.

A GeForce 6200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface was 286.41% faster on Doom 3 than the on-board video from Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH. A GeForce 6200 TurboCache with 64 MB and 64-bit interface was 74.76% faster than the on-board video from the reviewed motherboard.

3D Performance: Quake III

Even though this is an old game its importance comes from the fact its engine is used by several other games, like Jedi Knight II and Medal of Honor, and also because this game is very sensitive to any changes on the hardware configuration. So we used this game to check how the reviewed motherboard acted running old but popular games.

We used the demo four available on version 1.32 of Quake III to make our benchmarking with this game. We ran this demo three times at 1024x768x32 resolution and all image quality settings on their default configuration and we picked the middle value for our comparisons, i.e., we discarded the highest and the lowest values. Check the results below.

Motherboard

Quake III - FPS

%

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 PCI-E

262.6

+125.80

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR + GeForce FX 5200 AGP

197.6

+69.91

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 + GeForce 6200 TC

175

+50.47

Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 on-board

117

+0.60

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH (Intel i945G) DDR2 on-board

116.3

 

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2 on-board

116.1

-0.17

PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR on-board

114.4

-1.66

ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR on-board

102.4

-13.57

Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR on-board

71.2

-63.34

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved a 3D performance similar to Intel D915 GEVL (Intel i915G) DDR2 and to PCChips M985G (Intel i915GV) DDR2/DDR. It was 13.57% faster than ASUS P5RD1-V (ATI Xpress 200) DDR and 63.34% faster than Foxconn 865G7MC-ES (Intel i865G) DDR.

GeForce FX 5200 with 128 MB and 128-bit memory interface installed on a motherboard with AGP slot (Foxconn 865G7MC-ES - Intel i865G) was 69.91% faster than the on-board video of the reviewed motherboard.

Overclocking

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH doesn’t have any overclocking option, what was expected for a motherboard that is targeted to digital entertainment PCs based on Intel ViiV technology. The idea of a digital entertainment PC is to be a home appliance where the user can play musics, watch movies and pictures and access the Internet. The target audience for this concept may not even know what overclocking is. Anyway, on this motherboard you can only change the memory clock according to the installed memory type (DDR2-400, 533 or 667).

Conclusions

Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH achieved an excellent performance on our tests.

Its on-board video (Intel 945G, based on the new Intel GMA 950 engine) showed to be a good evolution over its predecessor, Intel i915G (Intel GMA 900).

The compatibility with ViiV technology, the excellent amount of features for a motherboard from this category (Gigabit Ethernet LAN, eight-channel audio with independent outputs, coaxial SPDIF input and output and FireWire port) together with its great manufacturing quality make Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH an excellent low cost option for those willing to build a home multimedia center to watch movies, to transfer and edit videos from your digital camcorder, to transfer and edit pictures from your digital camera, to access the Internet, to edit audio, etcetera.

Even though its video power isn’t enough to run the latest games like Far Cry and Half Life 2 – keeping in mind that digital home PCs aren’t targeted to such application –, the good news is that installing a real video card on GA-8I945GMH-RH it will deliver an excellent performance. Thus you can easily transform this motherboard into an excellent gaming machine.

The only drawback we saw for GA-8I945GMH-RH was its total lack of overclocking options, so you won’t be able to use it to explore all the overclocking potential of Pentium D 805, which is a low-cost CPU that has a great overclocking capability. On the other hand, we need to keep in mind that this motherboard was developed to be used on digital home PCs, a market segment where users may not even know what overclocking is.

Of course there are cheaper socket LGA775 with on-board video available at the market, but no other offers the same amount of features and the performance level brought by Gigabyte GA-8I945GMH-RH at the same time.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Gigabyte-GA-8I945GMH-RH-Motherboard-Review/335


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