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Reviewed by: Stephen Waits [07.23.01]
Manufactured by: GigaByte



Despite the fact that the Gigabyte GA-7VTX's blue PCB doesn't match HCW's color scheme at all, one landed on my doorstep and I figured you all might like to see it reviewed. This is a fairly new board, sporting Via's DDR chipset, and represents a pretty new platform for your Socket A needs. Since just about everyone is moving over to AMD now, and DDR seems to be the next big thing in memory, this board is certainly worth a look.

I'll be getting into the whole DDR vs SDR debate in another article, this is really just about the Gigabyte board, and I'll keep it brief. Motherboard reviews are rather odd to do, because there's not much one can measure in terms of performance. Because motherboards tend to be limited by the chipsets they use, they differentiate themselves more with features and stability than they do with performance. To that end, the 7VTX certainly does advertise a diverse set of features. Also, Gigabyte has a pretty good reputation for making stable boards, though ones that aren't quite so tweaker-friendly.

The testing started off on a bit of a sour note, though. I opened up the box, slapped in my CPU, and noticed a couple of offensive dip switches on the board. Yes, dip switches; there would be no BIOS multiplier or FSB loving for me. This wasn't a good way to get things kicked off, but the 7VTX did do well to make amends, let's take a look at how.

What the BIOS is good for

Despite the less than plentiful tweaking options available, Gigabyte does have a few aces up its sleeve with the 7VTX's BIOS. Gigabyte's first nifty feature is its Dual BIOS technology, which is essentially two BIOS chips right on the board. The BIOS is probably the most important piece of software running on your system, in fact, your system doesn't run at all without it. Considering its importance, it only makes sense that a BIOS be backed up. After all, I back up my personal files, my ICQ database, even my email. Why shouldn't I be able to back up my BIOS?

The Dual BIOS technology works off a main and backup BIOS. Under normal circumstances, you'll just boot up to your main BIOS. However, should that BIOS get deleted, or corrupted, the system falls back on the backup BIOS, and you're home free. You can back up your BIOS at your leisure, which is nice, since this allows you to keep things up to date with any BIOS updates you may apply in the future.

BIOS updates brings us to Gigabyte's second ace with the 7VTX, the @BIOS update utility. While the hardcore among us are more than familiar with the old ways of BIOS flashing, @BIOS is the way of the future. With most motherboards, you have to download the BIOS binaries, a flashing utility, and hunt around for a floppy disk, but not with the 7VTX. Now, instead of having to mess with all that nonsense, you can do things the easy way, with Live Update.

Even grandma can update her BIOS with the @BIOS update utility, which is kinda cool. Fire it up, connect to the internet, and click a few buttons and your current BIOS has been backed up, and a fresh one installed in its place. Would grandma stand a chance with awdflash.exe? Probably not. Would Joe user, who could probably follow instructions and update things the old way, rather do it with an easy to use utility like this? Hell yeah. And, if he screws it up, he's got a backup BIOS to save the day.

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