P35 Series from Gigabyte
By Gabriel Torres on May 1, 2007
P35 (codename “Bearlake”) is the next Intel chipset family that will be launched on June 4th. The main new features include support for DDR3 memories, a new south bridge chip, ICH9, and support for 1,333 MHz external bus. All major motherboard manufacturers will be launching P35-based motherboards on that date, and today we could take a look at the main P35-based products that Gigabyte will be releasing then. Check it out!
The P35 version with integrated graphics is called G33, having the same features as P35 except, of course, the addition of a new graphics engine, now based on DirectX 10 (Shader 4.0).
P35 and G33 chipsets support both DDR2 (officially up to DDR2-800) and DDR3 (officially up to DDR3-1066) memories. Since DDR3 memories will probably take at least one year to become a mainstream product, all board manufacturers will be launching products based solely on DDR2 or with both DDR2 and DDR3 sockets.
Another important “feature” of P35 and G33 chipsets is that they do not support floppy disk drives or standard (parallel) IDE devices. To solve this problem, all models from Gigabyte have one floppy disk drive port and one parallel IDE port, controlled by an external chip.
All motherboards that Gigabyte showed us have the same basic specs. They all support up to 8 GB of DDR2 memory or 4 GB of DDR3 memory (on the models that have DDR3 sockets), they are all based on ICH9R south bridge, which has six SATA-300 ports supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 (RAID10 is a new thing for Intel chipsets), have all Japanese solid aluminum capacitors (some motherboards we’ve seen in the past with solid capacitors were using regular electrolytic caps on some parts of the board – especially on the sound section), have a high-end audio codec (Realtek ALC889A, with a 106 dB signal-to-noise ratio), have an improved voltage regulator using high-end components (Gigabyte calls this feature “Ultra Durable 2”) and three FireWire ports. It is interesting to note that these features will be available even on the low-end model based on G33 chipset.
In Figure 1, you can see the high-end components on the voltage regulator section of one of the motherboards, besides the Japanese aluminum solid capacitors you can see that the coils (chokes) and MOSFET transistors are different. The coils have a ferrite core instead of using an iron core. According to Gigabyte ferrite coils have 25% lower power loss compared to iron coils. The MOSFET transistors are smaller using a different technology (see how they don’t have the traditional heatsink on their back) that according to Gigabyte have a working temperature 16% lower than traditional MOSFET transistors.
In Figure 2, you can see the Realtek ALC889A audio codec used by all motherboards on Gigabyte P35 series. It features a 106 dB signal-to-noise ratio, 7.1+2 channels (translation: besides the 8-channel surround sound, it features an extra stereo channel, usually used for audio streaming) and DTS Connect compatibility (i.e., Blu-Ray and HD-DVD audio compatibility). What is very important to note on this picture is the use of Japanese solid aluminum capacitors on this section even for the small capacitors. Usually motherboards that have solid aluminum capacitors continue to use regular electrolytic capacitors for the smaller caps, which doesn’t happen with this motherboard series.
Let’s now talk about the specific models that Gigabyte showed us.
The model with on-board video based on G33 chipset is called GA-G33M-DS2R and you can see it in Figure 3. It still has one x16 PCI Express slot, so you will be able to disable its on-board video and add a “real” video card on it in the future, if you like to. It also has an x4 PCI Express slot, two PCI slots and four DDR2 sockets, supporting up to 8 GB and dual channel mode, of course.
As we mentioned, G33 and P35 chipsets do not have parallel IDE and floppy disk drive ports. So Gigabyte added on this motherboard a small JMicron JMB368 chip to add these features to this board.
For the mainstream market the model Gigabyte is releasing is called GA-P35-DS3R. As you can see in Figure 5, it has one x16 PCI Express slot, three x1 PCI Express slots, three PCI slots and four DDR2 sockets, supporting up to 8 GB and dual channel mode, of course. It also has a “Gigabyte SATA2” chip (a relabeled JMicron chip) bringing two extra SATA-300 ports to the board (for a total of eight SATA-300 ports) and also support to parallel IDE and floppy disk drives.
Let’s now talk about the models supporting DDR3.
Also for the mainstream market but supporting DDR3 memories, Gigabyte will launch GA-P35C-DS3R. This model is identical to GA-P35-DS3R, except for the addition of two DDR3 sockets, making the board to accept up to 4 GB of DDR3 memory. Note that on this motherboard you can use only one type of memory, i.e., you cannot use DDR2 and DDR3 at the same time.
Gigabyte will also release a high-end model based on GA-P35C-DS3R with all-copper passive cooling, featuring two x16 PCI Express slots and “Quad BIOS” feature, which is the traditional Dual BIOS feature by Gigabyte with the capability of performing a BIOS backup on the hard drive. This model will be called GA-P35-DQ6. The rest of the specs is the same as GA-P35C-DS3R.