Gigabyte - G41MT-ES2L review

The Gigabyte G41MT-ES2L is one of the cheapest motherboards on the market and sells for less than £40 including VAT. At that price you don't get much in the way of the latest technology, and all of the functions are supplied by the Intel G41 chipset, without extra hardware to add new features such as USB 3.0.

This means that we have to take a step back from the current crop of Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs to LGA775. That'll cost you about £60 for a Pentium dual core or £100 for a Core 2 Duo. It seems unlikely that anyone will want to ally a £200 or £300 Core 2 Quad with this budget motherboard.

The two memory slots support up to 4GB of 1,333MHz DDR3, which is fine for the mainstream majority who use a 32-bit Operating System and just about adequate if you plan on a 64-bit upgrade, where 4GB of RAM is considered a minimum.

Integrated in the G41 Northbridge is the Intel GMA X4500 graphics core which is a feeble piece of graphics silicon. You can forget about gaming as the GMA X4500 simply isn't up to the task, but more worryingly the chip doesn't support digital outputs. This gives the I/O panel of the G41MT-ES2L something of an historic look as it sports two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, Realtek Gigabit Ethernet, three audio mini jacks for the Realtek ALC888B audio, as well as legacy Serial and Parallel ports.

TFT displays that only have a VGA input are thin on the ground and if you have a choice of VGA and DVI we would always recommend you take the digital route. To our mind integrated graphics with a VGA output have extremely limited value and the same is true of Serial and Parallel ports.

That leaves the analogue audio, Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 2.0 ports as the only features worthy of note on the I/O panel. There are headers for four more USB 2.0 ports mid-board, so provided you have case mounted ports you can increase the available number of ports quite significantly.

The two chipset coolers are passive units and the Northbridge cooler in particular looks stylish and attractive.

This is a small motherboard, even by the standards of Micro-ATX, and measures 244mm x 194mm which often leads to problems with the board being cramped with barely enough space for all of the components. Gigabyte has done a decent job with the layout of the G41MT-ES2L, although it has been aided in the task as there are very few components to accommodate.

For instance, there are only three power phases around the CPU socket and down at the foot of the board the ICH7 Southbridge only supports four SATA connectors, arranged in an L shape. If you install a graphics card you are certain to block at least one and possibly two of the SATA ports. The lack of space is evident when you look at the front panel headers, which are jammed up the side of the board in a tiny space that has been created between two capacitors, the IDE connector and the main power plug.

The middle of the board is taken up by four expansion slots. We reckon you'll find the PCI Express x16 graphics slot essential and may also use the PCI Express x1 slot and one or both of the PCI slots. Gigabyte has added a couple of extras in the shape of IDE and floppy connectors that take up space and which aren't strictly necessary in a modern PC, however they add some backwards compatibility that might prove useful to some people.

Gigabyte - G41MT-ES2L features - Verdict

Provided you use a graphics card alongside a Core 2 Duo CPU you can be confident that the Gigabyte G41MT-ES2L will deliver decent performance. There's no denying that the Intel G41 chipset looks like an antique and offers the bare minimum of features. The integrated graphics, in particular, are truly awful. Despite the low price of this motherboard we find it offers questionable value for money.

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