We've seen X58 boards from Asus and MSI already, but now Gigabyte has sent us its X58 to scrutinise. The 0.2 revision we received in the post was minus final heatpipes though, and for the Extreme model we have here we expect them to be... well, Extreme, in typical Gigabyte fashion.
Instead of pursuing the idea of fancy looks and very niche overclocking features, Gigabyte is maintaining the status quo once again, even if this is the "Extreme" model. We've got to be honest though - since the Extreme has become the new DQ6, what significance does the DQ6 have? Or then the 5 for that matter? It's difficult to ascertain what market each is designed for because the differences are so slight.
We did discuss the style of the Extreme model with Gigabyte and its position is basically to keep a uniform colour scheme. This not only keeps its whole range immediately identifiable, but also helps the end user easily differentiate between the sockets. Gigabyte also claimed that it doesn't concentrate on style so much as features and quality of product are what it considers more important as it pushes its Ultra Durable branding into its third generation recently. While we can sympathise and relate to Gigabyte's reasoning, yet again we'll argue that the Extreme lacks a level of special that justifies the price.
Cue the inevitable car analogy: Should you go out and buy a reassuringly expensive high performance beast, with all the latest electronic gizmos and built in, you'd at least expect it to feature a kick ass body-kit and styling to shows off the purchase. It's the synergy between style and technical excellence that creates desirability. While Gigabyte has the latter in spades, it could do with a serious Botox injection and some nip-tuck surgery to attain the former.
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But what about the newbies that don't know where a graphics card goes? Well, if they don't know that much, then how are these people expected to navigate an advanced overclockers' BIOS or use the rest of the Extreme's features? Gigabyte strongly risks the association of appearing dubbed down and alienating budding overclocking gurus at just a first look. If you couldn't tell a Ferrari from a Fiesta without having to research it, then quite frankly you're doing it wrong.
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Our concerns about style aside, feature-wise we've got a very good board here - there are three PCI-Express 2.0 x16 lanes that follow either the x16-x16 or x16-x8-x8 way of things. Both ATI CrossFireX and Nvidia SLI are supported but there's no (unnecessary) extra Nvidia NF200 chip in sight.
Organised in this way with PCI-Express lanes solely from the X58 northbridge for maximum efficiency, cards used in pairs should be preferred to attain a maximum bandwidth. This makes ATI's X2 hardware technically better off, however 3-way SLI is still supported even if the bottom slot is a little low set for dual height cards. The open ended PCI-Express 2.0 x4 slot at the top means if you really, really wanted to run four ATI cards, you could, but the bandwidth would be pretty limited. Its greatest benefit is for PCI-Express x4/x8 RAID cards or other performance peripherals, however it'll likely be used for long x1 cards since the x1 slot above it runs directly into the northbridge.