In the rush to slap in the latest and greatest motherboards and chipsets into a custom system, system builders can sometimes trade performance for stability. To get the best of both worlds, look no further than Intel and Gigabyte. When combined, Gigabyte's motherboards do an amazing job at maintaining a high degree of stability when overclocking Intel's CPUs and other chipsets.
Media center systems have a need for speed and more so for stability. Video jittering is unacceptable when playing Blu-ray disks or other high-definition media files. Similarly, hiss noise from poorly filtered circuitry is enough to drive even novice audiophiles insane.
Recently, the Test Center examined Gigabyte's GA-X38-DS4 motherboard with an Intel Yorkfield 3-GHz Core 2 Extreme CPU. The motherboard arrives with the Intel X38 chipset, which supports two 16 PCIE slots. A luxurious Moncaso case provided ample room for the motherboard. The Test Center installed Windows XP with SP2 and the open-source MediaPortal's MediaCenter, which has most of the functionality that is available in the Microsoft product.
The motherboard arrives with high-definition audio and supports up to 7.1 channels. In addition, the DS4 motherboard has a Realtek ACL889A chipset codec, which provides eight channels of lossless audio and supports Blu-ray, including HD DVD. The Test Center installed an ATI video card with component video output and connected to a high-def monitor. The motherboard's RCA SPDIF audio jack was connected to a Sony A/V home theater receiver.
Both performed admirably, even when we stressed the system with multiple media players running at the same time. The audio was clearer than what one would get from expensive sound cards. No hiss or any audio residue was noticed using the RCA connection.