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Now with more Extremeness!

In addition to the models it had available for testing, Gigabyte showed us a new Extreme board whose BIOS had not yet been completed. Designed for, er, extreme overclocking, the Extreme features a massive wall of radiator fins hooked into its chipset and voltage circuitry coolers. The heatsink peeks into the outside world through both the port cluster and a PCI bracket, allowing natural convection to drain heat from the system.

For this board, Gigabyte uses five individual overvoltage ICs to provide more granularity for processor, memory and chipset voltage options. The board also gets a two-digit POST code display, not unlike what we've seen on boards from Abit and Epox in the past, and a port-cluster-based CMOS reset switch. The front-side bus speed options go all the way up to 1200MHz in the BIOS, too, and that's before quad-pumping.

Although the Extreme board wasn't ready to test, Gigabyte still broke out the dry ice for its comparably more pedestrian boards. Here you can see one of the Gigabyte staffers taking a sip.

Overclockers who use dry ice, liquid nitrogen, and other exotic cooling methods are precisely the market Gigabyte is targeting with the Extreme, and the board most definitely won't be cheap. This one's for setting records, folks, not powering your moderately overclocked Q9300 with the stock Intel cooler.

Enthusiasts will probably scoff at the Extreme's expected $300+ price tag, and rightly so, but we wish Gigabyte hadn't restricted the POST code display and port cluster CMOS reset switch to this board alone. Those features are good for everyone, not just the liquid nitrogen crowd. Fortunately, Gigabyte has plenty of other new features that it's spreading liberally across its entire P45 lineup.

Perhaps most interesting among these is an "advanced" version of its Dynamic Energy Saver tech, which intelligently scales power phases to reduce power consumption. DES was previously limited to stock-clocked configs, but it can now be used with overclocked processors. A new stealth mode allows users to set a DES configuration once and have the app run as a background service rather than in the taskbar. Gigabyte says there are no technical issues preventing DES from being controlled completely by a BIOS switch, but admitted the marketing folks wanted to have a flashy Windows application capable of wowing users with power saving data. We'll take a simple and OS-agnostic BIOS option, thanks.

Having DES work with overclocked configurations is a nice bonus, but what's more interesting is that it also supports a new VRD 11.1 spec that will allow for a deeper sleep state with upcoming Intel processors. VRD 11.1 is implemented across Gigabyte's P45 line, and with DES, it will allow boards to scale down to powering the CPU with a single power phase in some situations.

Another feature Gigabyte is working into its entire P45 lineup is support for trusted computing. Don your tinfoil hat now, please. The boards feature a 2048-bit Infineon TPM 1.2 chip hanging off the south bridge's LPC bus, enabling all sorts of offensive digital rights management¬óbut also significantly more secure encryption. The user will be able to store his encryption key on a USB flash drive and put an encrypted, password-protected backup in the BIOS for easy recovery.

Intel is expected to unveil the P45 Express officially at Computex in early June, and you can expect plenty of chipset and motherboard coverage from us. Based on what we've seen, the P45 looks like another solid mid-range chipset, and it's sure to find favor among PC enthusiasts. We're also quite encouraged by what we've seen of Gigabyte's P45 lineup and by the company's willingness to engage directly with hardware reviewers about motherboard features the community would like to see implemented.

There's only so much a single company like Gigabyte can do about larger issues like the lack of standardization of front-panel connector pin outs. However, the company was receptive to adding more extensive fan speed control options to its BIOSes, which have recently had all the overclocking options we could really ask for. Gigabyte also has interest in implementing the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) replacement for the common BIOS, but is waiting until it can deploy such a feature across a full range of boards rather than with one specific model targeted at the hackintosh crowd.TR

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