The Gigabyte GA-8I915ME-GL motherboard is a pretty basic Micro-ATX motherboard based on the Intel 915GL chipset. I won’t list all of the specifications here as they can also be found on Gigabyte’s website. In addition, there are no benchmarks in with the review. All that this review contains is information on the motherboard & included software, followed by my experiences installing it.
The GA-8I915ME-GL uses the Intel 915GL Northbridge and ICH6 Southbridge. A little info about the 915GL from Intel’s site:
- For Intel Pentium 4 Processor
- Built-in Intel GMA 900 graphics
- 800/533 Mhz FSB
- Dual channel DDR
- PCI Express* x1
- Serial ATA 1.5Gbps
- Intel Matrix Storage Technology (RAID 0, 1)
The motherboard supports Intel Pentium 4 and Celeron processors with the LGA 775 socket. Both HT (Hyper-Threading) and the XD (eXecute Disable) bit are also supported.
- Onboard – The Intel GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 900 is built right in as part of the 915GL chipset. This means that a video card is not required, as you can simply plug your monitor into the video port on the motherboard.The positive side of this is that: 1) you don’t have to buy an external video card; and 2) the Intel GMA 900 should use less power than an external video card would, meaning less strain on your PSU and a tiny savings on your power bill.The negatives are: 1) While great for desktop/business use, like most other onboard solutions, the GMA 900 doesn’t perform well in games. Expect choppy framerates if you play the greatest and latest. 2) Like other onboard solutions, the GMA 900 uses part of your system RAM as video memory, reducing the available RAM. 3) Performance will vary based upon your processor speed. A slower processor will mean slower video performance. Again, this applies mainly to games. It’s very unlikely you would notice a difference in desktop applications.
- PCI-Express (PCIe) – If you plan on playing a lot of games, you should probably buy a PCI Express video card and use this slot. It’s a PCI-Express x16 slot, although it runs “at PCIe x 4 bandwidth”. There is a graphics card compatibility list on Gigabyte’s website.
- AGP via the “G.E.A.R” slot (Gigabyte Enhanced AGP Riser) – This supports AGP 4x and 8x cards, although they basically suggest that it’s a “temporary solution” while you make the transition to PCI-Express. From what I understand, it uses the PCI interface, and for whatever technical reasons, the AGP card will probably be running out of spec. Gigabyte suggests that using this AGP G.E.A.R. slot could damage or reduce the life-span of the card connected to it. I wouldn’t recommend buying a brand new $300+ card and connecting it to this slot. It sounds like it might be better to use an AGP card you have just lying around, or a card you’re planning to upgrade out of anyway.
5.1 channel sound is supported through the Realtek ALC655 audio codec. There are 3 audio ports that can be set up for:
- 5.1 sound
- 4-channel (front/rear) + mic
- 2-channel + line in + mic
- or 5.1 + line in + mic with the purchase of the SURROUND-KIT
There is also software Jack-Sensing support included.
A Realtek 8100C 10/100 Ethernet controller is included supporting 10/100Mbps operation. Nothing special.
There are only 2 slots for DDR400/333 DIMMS. If both slots are occupied by similar capacity DIMMS, they should run in dual-channel. Note that these slots are for regular DDR, not the newer DDR2.
There is a 24-pin connector as well at the 4-pin 12V connector. Attaching a 20-pin PSU to the 24-pin connector (leaving 4 pins blank) seemed to work fine. There are 2 power headers on the motherboard – a 4-pin connector for the CPU, and a 3-pin for a case fan.
- PS/2 Keyboard
- PS/2 Mouse
- Serial Port
- Parallel Port
- 8 USB ports (4 rear USB ports + 2 front USB connectors (x2 ports each)
- Floppy Connector x 1
- PATA IDE Hard Drive connector x 1
- SATA connector x 2
It would have been nice if there was either an extra PATA connector or 2 more SATA connectors.
Installation was fairly easy. Nothing was in a really odd place where it might make access hard. Being a Micro-ATX board in a mid-sized case helps as well, as there is plenty of room above and below for long CD-ROM drives and hard drives. The Windows XP SP2 installation detected the SATA drive (the first time I’ve had it do so without needing a driver disk). The network card was also detected, which is great for those who want to go to the web right after installation to get updated drivers.
Overclockers Beware! There are no overclocking options on this board. The most you can do is adjust the memory timings and multiplier using CTRL-F1 in the BIOS to open up the extra options.
If overclocking/tweaking isn’t on your immediate to-do list when you get a motherboard, the BIOS is well laid out, and options are quite decent. Click on any of the thumbnails for a full version (these were taken after pressing CTRL-F1 to open the extra options).
Windows Tools and Utilities
The Install CD includes drivers, and Norton software (although auto-update only works for 3-months so it’s not worth installing the Norton clutter if you can help it or are planning to upgrade Norton later anyway). There are also some included utilities, although you can grab the latest versions from Gigabyte’s website. The most useful is probably the BIOS updater:
Click on the image for a large version. It connects to one of five Gigabyte websites, grabs the latest BIOS version, and installs. While DOS installs are always said to be the best, some people don’t have disk drives, and creating a bootable CD can be a pain. Until motherboard manufacturers begin to offer bootable .iso images that will automatically install a BIOS update, Windows-based programs such as these are absolutely fantastic.
The next tool included is Easy Tune 5:
Click on the thumbnail to open a large picture. Unfortunately, with the GA-8I915ME-GL, the Overclocking and CIR/MIB options are disabled. The PC Health and Smart Fan sections are the only ones that might be useful.
Finally, a tool to change the Boot Screen / Logo – FACE WIZARD!
Again, click the thumbnail for a large view. Basically, this program allows you to create an image and use it as the initial boot screen. Pretty cool concept. Except it doesn’t work. The program doesn’t give a heck of a lot of information, but after a few seconds you’ll figure out that the image must be 640×480 or less, 16 or 256 colors, and in 1 of 2 formats (one of which is a .bmp, I don’t recall the other).
The problem is, no matter what you do, you will be riddled with insufficient space messages. The image itself is added to the BIOS, but there just isn’t enough space. That said, simple images do work. For example, I was able to get a low resolution black & white image to work, but you’ll have to experiment.
Gigabyte is a good “name brand” company when it comes to motherboards. They’ve aimed this board in particular at the low-cost sector. “Only” 2 DIMM slots, 2 SATA ports, and 1 IDE port are the things that stood out to me, but for most people, that will be plenty. The G.E.A.R. slot will be great for those with AGP cards looking to upgrade to PCIe soon, and in the meantime, they could always use the onboard video if they’re not game-crazy. The Gigabyte software is nice, and all-in-all, for the money you get a pretty decent package. Unfortuantely, tweakers and overclockers are left out in the cold this time, and someone looking to build a cheap server will definitely want to look elsewhere for something with a little more future expandability. For the average user though, the GA-8I915ME-GL offers great value.