1. Ian

    Motherboards that include lots of onboard peripherals have more than often proved very unpopular with anyone except the computing novice or budget user, the Gigabyte 8IEXP however, has an extensive range of onboard items on a high-end board.

    Gigabyte 8EIXP

    This board is targeted for overclockers and power-users, featuring onboard RAID, onboard 5.1 digital sound, Firewire, USB 2.0, LAN adapter and some excellent overclocking features - all of the onboard items are high quality devices that would usually cost a lot more to buy separately. The motherboard is based on the Intel 845E chipset, pretty much standard for Pentium 4 CPU's, giving excellent stability and performance.

    • Socket 478 CPUs
    • 100 - 355Mhz Bus
    • 400/533Mhz FSB
    • Form Factor : 306mm x 204mm
    • 2GB PC1600/2100/2700 DDR SDRAM (3 Slots)
    • 1.725V CPU Voltage Max
    • 1 x AGP, 6 x PCI, 1 x CNR
    • 4 x Fan Connectors
    • Dual Channel ATA 66/100
    • Promise ATA133 RAID
    • Intel 10/100 Onboard LAN
    • VIA VT6306 IEEE 1394 Controller (3 Firewire Ports)
    • 6 x USB 2.0 Ports
    • Creative CT5880 Audio Chipset (5.1 Digital)
    Most notable about the specifications are the aforementioned onboard peripherals. The quality of the components is high, and the onboard items will be just as sufficient as the separate add-on cards - saving a large amount of money for any high end system. Compatibility between the components and chipsets is excellent, even with chips from a multitude of different companies.

    Included Items

    I have never before seen such a comprehensive bundle included with a motherboard, Gigabyte certainly have taken time to include everything needed in the box. All the cables and panels required are also included, rather than being an "optional" extra as happens in most cases.
    • GA-8IEXP Motherboard
    • 3 Port Firewire Bracket
    • 4 Port USB 2.0 Bracket
    • 2 x ATA133 Cable, 1 x ATA100 Cable, 1 x Floppy Cable
    • I/O Shield
    • Users Manual
    • Easy Installation Guide
    • Board Layout Sticker
    • Driver CD
    • CD Audio Cable
    • Gigabyte Sticker
    The "Easy installation guide" provided enough information for a computer novice to hopefully fit the motherboard - complete with lots of pictures (always a good thing!). It is worth a quick read to follow the steps required to install the motherboard if you aren't completely sure about this type of motherboard, i.e Socket 478 CPU installation or header connections.

    One of the best items in the bundle was undoubtedly the board layout sticker! Countless times do I have to find the motherboard manual just to find out where a certain jumper is, or where component "x" attaches to. Thankfully, the provided sticker easily attaches to the inside of your case proving the location of components and jumper settings as required.


    Gigabyte have taken care to ensure that even the little features are not overlooked, and provide a very aesthetically appealing board to the user while they are at it. The corners of the motherboard are rounded off, and the PCB is a deep blue colour that looks great in an open case. They even opt for an gold coloured active cooling solution for the Northbridge, that looks fantastic. All of the ports on the motherboard are colour coded, so the provided cables are used in the correct places and located with ease.

    Northbridge Cooler

    Rounded Corner

    Integrated Components:

    The six USB 2.0 ports are powered from the integrated support in the Southbridge, with 2 sockets in the backplane and 4 from the bracket provided. The Southbridge doesn't have integral Firewire support, so the VIA VT6306 chip is used to provide support for an increasingly popular standard (although not as widely used as USB for the majority of expansion options).

    The Promise ATA133 RAID chip is used to power the ATA133 & RAID support on the board, allowing a maximum of 2 (+4 standard) devices to be connected to this motherboard, supporting RAID 0 and RAID 1 modes.

    The onboard LAN adapter is a fairly simple Intel 10/100Mbps solution, providing more than adequate speeds and excellent windows compatibility. Nearly all users should find this card good enough for their needs, whether it is home networking, business network connections, or for broadband support.

    The onboard sound is a better choice than most other onboard options available, providing a full hardware solution (so as not to use up CPU power). The Creative CT5880 chip used will give similar performance and features of a standard Creative Blaster 128 card - offering very good compatibility, and will have no problems with any game or task given. The bracket provided for the soundcard gives an optical out port (useful for minidisc recorders) and a S/P DIF socket, giving true digital outputs for the best quality.

    As most Gigabyte motherboards do, the 8IEXP includes the "Dual BIOS" feature - this means that if your primary BIOS ever fails, a backup BIOS chip will copy over the original and allow you to recover and bootup. This is extremely useful when you encounter an error during BIOS flashing, or a nasty virus. This Dual-BIOS feature is extremely important to performance enthusiasts who will be tinkering with the BIOS often.


    The GA-8IEXP seems to be designed for overclocking, and includes some great features that help get the best out of your processor:
    • AGP/PCI frequency can be "locked" at 66/33 to keep stability (or be changed at 1Mhz increments)
    • AGP Overvoltage at +0.3V
    • DIMM Overvoltage at +0.3V
    • CPU Host frequency can be changed from 100-355Mhz in 1Mhz increments
    • CPU Voltages upto 1.725V
    These settings can all be controlled from the BIOS, or from inside Windows itself! The "EasyTune 4" software is included, which can monitor and change all of these settings in real time. Temperature warning levels can be set from within the BIOS and Easytune, warning you that your CPU is overheating.


    Overclocking Results:

    All of these tests are conducted with the above CPU, an Intel P4 1.8A with Intel stock HSF:​

    Maximum Stable Overclock :

    2.61Ghz (145 x 18)​
    290Mhz (145 x 2.0) Memory
    1.700 Volts

    Maximum Stable Overclock on default voltage:

    2.3Ghz (128 x 18)​
    256Mhz (128 x 2.0) Memory

    Best Combination:

    2.4Ghz (134 x 18)​
    266Mhz (134 x 2.0) Memory
    1.600 Volts

    The maximum overclock for this CPU is pretty high indeed with the stock HSF, although temperatures were rather high and the memory is high quality (as it is also being overclocked). The best combination that I found from the CPU was having the bus speed set to 134, effectively creating a 2.4B CPU with a 533Mhz FSB - it even shows up as this in the BIOS!​

    The GA-8IEXP has some excellent overclocking potential, giving one of the best solutions available for P4 overclocking. The CPU core voltage only goes up to 1.725V, which although enough for most air cooling solutions, it may not be enough with watercooling - future BIOS updates may increase this value. The CPU socket may cause some problems with larger cooling solutions, as it can be a rather tight fit - the stock cooling solution was fitted without any problems at all though.​


    The main chipset and components used in this board are very similar to that of any other 845E motherboard, so the performance should be inline with other competing products if everything is working as it should.

    Synthetic Benchmarks:

    The GA-8EIXP is benchmarked with a Pentium 4 1.8Ghz CPU overclocked to 2.4Ghz and 512MB PC2100 using Windows XP. These benchmarks compare raw performance characteristics between other combinations of hardware available:



    The CPU performs inline with the SiSoft reference system, showing that the motherboard has no design flaws or serious performance faults. The slight variations in results are down to background applications and hardware differences.​


    When in DDR 266 mode, the motherboard is slightly slower than the opposition based on different chipsets (and sometimes faster memory). The memory can in fact be pushed a lot higher, and when benchmarked at 333Mhz it shows a great improvement:​


    Now, the memory performs at a reasonable speed in comparison - but is just beaten by the VIA board. Memory performance is only slightly off that of the PC800 system, an impressive feat.​

    Performance Continued

    Gaming Benchmarks:Gaming benchmarks were run using a GeForce 4 Ti4200 (tweaked for performance) on the same 2.4Ghz PC.


    The GA-8IEXP performs slightly faster than the MSI 845 Max2, already a proven good performer. Both boards perform well and are only a very small margin apart, showing no design flaws in the GA-8IEXP.​


    Using fastest mode in the Quake 3 "four" demo, the GA-8IEXP pulls slightly ahead of the MSI 845 Max 2 - both boards perform extremely well (no surprise there!).​

    Office Benchmarks:

    The main chipset and components used in this board are very similar to that of any other 845E motherboard, so the performance should be inline with other competing products if everything is working as it should.


    Both motherboards end up with a very close SYSMark 2002 rating - only a few points out from each other. All other 845E motherboards that have been tested have also gained similar results to these, the consistent results is a combination of high quality design and a proven chipset.​


    The GA-8IEXP offers some exceptional value, costing only slightly more than a similar motherboard without all these extra features. Power users will find the expansion options and bundled features a great cost saving, and offering very good performance. The overclocking features are another item that set this board apart from the rest, as it is made so easy (with some powerful overclocking tools at the users disposal).

    The overall performance of the board is only on a par with other similar products, and is only certified for DDR266 support (although much higher can be achieved). If you intend to overclock your CPU, you will achieve some excellent memory performance at stable levels - but if not, you will have to put up with DDR 266 speeds (which is starting to become overtaken by DDR333).

    Competitive performance, combined with an excellent feature set make this an excellent buy at the price. Pushing the memory speeds whilst overclocking are a must though, if you wish to achieve top of the line performance.