Gigabyte motherboards have been around for a long time, and they have made some very impressive motherboards over the years. They’re no stranger to the enthusiast market, making both AMD and Intel boards geared towards hard-core overclocking. However, as with the graphic card industry, the largest market (and the most money) is in the mainstream category. For the mainstream consumer, stability, on-board features, and value are paramount – myriad enthusiast settings, tweaking options, and exotic glitz take a back seat.
Gigabyte’s GA-M61PM-S2 is geared towards the user who just wants everything to work right away and get the job done without breaking the bank…but at the same time, getting the job done comfortably, because as you will see there are some things that make this board special. It is the Honda Accord of motherboards if you will – not pretentious or glamorous, but just a cut above the Honda Civic.
The board is based around Nvidia’s GeForce 6100/nForce 430 chipset, and has on-board everything: Nvidia graphics, 8 channel High Definition Azalia audio with a header for optional S/PDIF output, gigabit ethernet, 4 USB ports with 3 internal headers for a maximum of 10 USB ports, 1 firewire port (IEEE 1394) with 2 internal firewire headers, 1 IDE/ATA 133 connector (kind of a bummer since a lot of people still use many parallel ata devices), 4 SATA II ports, and RAID (0,1,0+1,5).
Contents are a little on the sparse side, probably to help keep costs down. There’s a CD with drivers and utilities, manual, rear I/O shield, 80-pin IDE ribbon cable, floppy ribbon cable, and two SATA cables. The SATA cables and corresponding connectors on the board are very nice as they are the much more secure snap-in type.
The manual is also a fine piece of work. It’s 80 pages, all in English – good English! – and quite thorough. It describes, in detail, hardware installation, BIOS settings, connector pin-out, audio setup, and very extensive RAID configuration, including how to make an SATA RAID driver floppy for installing Windows XP.
Installing Windows with a RAID configuration has been a very troublesome endeavor for many people, but by carefully following the Gigabyte manual you should have no trouble. There are no additional USB or firewire brackets, but since the headers are present on the board, if you need the extra ports, it is not too difficult to buy some from a third party.
Gigabyte GA-M61PM-S2 Features & Specifications