Intel DG33BU - mATX For Your PC

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Product: Intel DG33BU Desktop Board
Provided By: MemoryExpress
Price: ~$115 CAD Online

Introduction:

Many enthusiasts build incredible computers that have large, expensive motherboard, fast processors, tons of RAM and one or more graphics cards.  The truth is, the enthusiast makes up for only a small fraction of computer hardware sales around the world.  Standard components sell to OEM PC manufactures in the 100,000's of units, where other specialty motherboards sell 10,000's of units.  The same is true of high-end graphics cards.  I know many people who have 7x00 series graphics cards from nVidia but I know of no one personally who has dropped their wad of cash on an 8800Ultra.

We are looking at a motherboard today from Intel that is designed and targeted toward the masses of regular consumers.  The board we are looking at is the Intel DG33BU, and this is based on Intel's new  G33 Express chipset.  Although the board comes in a mATX form factor doesn't mean it's short on features.  Overall, the feature list is pretty long for a mATX Intel motherboard.  We'll see that although this board is geared toward OEM's and people wanting to build a basic PC, it still offers good value and stock performance.

 

First Look:

The Intel DG33BU is a standard mATX board measuring 9.6" x 9.6".  Although the board measures quite small, the layout is pretty decent and there is plenty of room for vital components.  As you can see by clicking the picture below, the board comes with four DDR2 slots and can support up to 8GB of memory.  The large chipset cooler provides quiet cooling for the G33 Express chipset.  This chipset is responsible for 12 USB2.0 ports, four SATA ports, two Firewire ports and more.  The large aluminum cooler keeps things under control and should be excellent in most situations.

DG33BU Board
DG33BU Board

Specs & Features:

This next bit is clipped from Intel's product page.

 

Form Factor microATX (9.60 inches by 9.60 inches [243.84 millimeters by 243.84 millimeters])
Processor
Memory
  • Two 240-pin DDR2 SDRAM Dual Inline Memory Module (DIMM) sockets
  • Support for DDR2 800 MHz, or DDR2 667 MHz DIMMs
  • Support for up to 8 GB of system memory
Chipset Intel® G33 Express Chipset
Audio Intel® High Definition Audio subsystem in the following configuration:
6-channel (5.1) audio subsystem using the Realtek* ALC888 audio codec
Video Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator 3100 onboard graphics subsystem with Intel® Clear Video Technology
I/O Control Legacy I/O controller for diskette drive, serial header, and PS/2* ports
LAN Support Gigabit (10/100/1000 Mbits/sec) LAN subsystem using the Intel® 82566DC Gigabit Ethernet Controller
Peripheral Interfaces
  • Twelve USB 2.0 ports
  • Four Serial ATA IDE interfaces
  • Two IEEE 1394a ports (1 external port, 1 internal header)
  • One Parallel ATA IDE interface with UDMA 33, ATA-66/100/133 support
  • One serial port header
  • One diskette drive interface
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports
Expansion Capabilities
  • Two PCI Conventional* bus add-in card connectors
  • One PCI Express * x1 bus add-in card connectors
  • One PCI Express * x16 bus add-in card connector
Microsoft Vista* Premium Ready With a PC built with Intel® Core™ 2 Duo or Intel® Core™2 Quad processors, and the Intel® Desktop Board, you can experience a more responsive and manageable environment of Microsoft Windows Vista* including a new visual sophistication of the Windows Aero* interface.


About The Chipset:

Chipset

The new Intel® G33 Express Chipset supports Intel’s upcoming 45nm processors. It combines performance with greater energy efficiency. The Intel G33 Express Chipset enables enhanced 3D and high-definition video technologies for a better end-user experience.

The Intel G33 Express Chipset
Desktop PC platforms combined with either the Intel® Core™2 Duo or Intel® Core™2 Quad processor, deliver new technologies and innovating capabilities for digital home consumers. A faster 1333 MHz system bus, DDR3 memory technology and Intel® Fast Memory Access (Intel® FMA) deliver increased system performance for today’s user needs. Lower power consumption and Intel® Quiet System Technology (Intel® QST) enable quieter systems and innovative form factors. The combination of complementary technologies provides platform scalability. Innovative I/O technologies speed up application load times, provide data protection, and improve overall system responsiveness.  The Intel G33 Express Chipset enables a balanced digital home platform within your home computing environment.

Read up on the entire product brief PDF here.

On the next page we'll take a closer look at the board.


Closer Look:

The Intel DG33BU packs quite a few features into such a small package.  The heart of this board is the new "Bearlake" G33 chipset.  This chipset provides the board with integrated graphics in the flavor of GMA3100.  Unfortunately, the Video Out is limited to 15 pin D-Sub, but most people that purchase this board - aren't going to be plugging in a 30" LCD.

 DG33BU Rear IO
DG33BU Rear IO
 DG33BU RAM Slots
DG33BU RAM Slots
 DG33BU CPU Socket
DG33BU CPU Socket

 

The Rear IO has a total of 6 USB2.0 ports, a 6-pin Firewire port, as well as 1000b Ethernet.  There are also your basic audio connections, and PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse connectors.  The four memory slots run vertical to the right of the CPU and are color-coded to make it easier to install Dual Channel DDR2.  The 24-pin PSU connector is right near the edge of the board - right next to the Floppy Drive connector.  This could make it a bit inconvenient to install a floppy cable if you so choose, but I haven't used a floppy drive in a machine for several years.  The CPU socket is fairly clear of obstacles and should allow you to install most large heatsinks on this board with no trouble.  Although this isn't an enthusiast board and there are no overclocking options available, you may want to drop a large silent HSF on your processor for HTPC applications.

As we carry on around the motherboard we notice a few other items of interest.

 DG33BU IDE Marvell GB
DG33BU IDE Marvell GB
 DG33BU Realtek FP Audio
DG33BU Realtek FP Audio
   
 DG33BU SATA USB
DG33BU SATA USB
 DG33BU Northbridge
G33 Express Chipset

 

The 1000b Ethernet is being handled by Marvell, and is located just above the sole IDE connector which resides along the very bottom of the motherboard.  On a full ATX board, this would be a horrible place as the connector would be jammed on the bottom of many cases, but for a mATX board, it's actually not a bad location - unless you are installing this is a very small mATX case.  Realtek handles Intel's High Definition Audio as we'll get to later.  Just because it has a "High Definition" identity, doesn't mean it's high quality.  The bottom right of the board is home to four SATA connectors as well as the CMOS reset jumper.  Finally, we give you a peek at the G33 Express chipset laid bare.  This little chipset also houses the graphics processor - which won't win any Framerate awards, but it offers an all-in-one solution for basic machine to surf the web, email, do word processing and basic photo and video editing.


DG33BU "Beta" BIOS:

We've had this board for a while and due to this, it has come with a "Beta" tag when you boot.  It's stated as being "Beta - Evaluation Use Only", but it has been rock solid through our tests with a Core 2 Duo E6600 processor.  Although the specs show that this motherboard can support Core 2 Quad processors, we have been unable to boot with our Q6600 and have been unsuccessful at flashing the BIOS (very common on Intel BETA boards).  The Intel rep I talked to states that the retail product will have full Quad Core support and be able to run the new 1333FSB processors with no issues.

DG33BU BootScreen
DG33BU BootScreen

 

The BIOS on many Intel motherboards is nothing to get really excited about, and the Intel DG33BU follows the trend.

 BIOS Main
BIOS Main
 BIOS Hardware Monitoring
BIOS Hardware Monitoring
 BIOS Security
BIOS Security
     
 BIOS Fan Control
BIOS Fan Control
 BIOS Video Config
BIOS Video Config
 BIOS Boot Options
BIOS Boot Options

 

The BIOS is pretty bare, but you have the option to turn on or off Multi-Core CPU support - although I'm unsure as to why you'd want to disable it.  The BIOS also lets you monitor system voltages, temperatures and fan speeds.  Moving on to the security features, we see the standard BIOS password options as well as Chassis Intrusion, XD and VT Technology and "Intel VT for Directed I/O".  These should help keep out unwanted people and some programs.

In the advanced System Setup area, you have the ability to control fan speeds in relationship to temperature zones.  You can adjust Intel's new DVMT options for the G33 Express chipset as well.  Lastly, there are a bunch of boot options to play around with if you are so inclined.  You'll notice that we never mentioned any overclocking options at all.  The fact is there are none.  You can't push this board 1Mhz above stock in the BIOS - nor can you increase memory voltages at all.  This is something to keep in mind if you have memory that requires anything higher than 1.8v to run.

We'll cover installation, setup and some preliminary testing on the next page.


Windows & Software Installation:

Intel claims that the DG33BU has full support for Windows Vista so we thought we'd use the latest OS from Microsoft for this review to see how well it works and if this board supports Vista as much as Intel says.  To do a Vista Install, you will need a boot disk if you are installing a RAID array or if you have the SATA connections set to anything other than IDE mode.  We choice native IDE mode as we only have a single 320GB drive to use for testing.  The Vista Ultimate installation went smoothly and in a matter of 15-20 minutes we were at the desktop ready to install some drivers from the included driver CD.

Right off the bat when we installed the new G33/P35 chipset drivers we were struck with a warning message and I thought, "Oh yay.  One of the 'Full Vista supported' motherboards!"  Fortunately, this was the first and last time we saw a warning message or error during installation and testing.

DG33BU Driver Warning
DG33BU Driver Warning

 

Most of the hardware installed fine with the Windows Vista installation and we only had to worry about chipset, video and sound.  Everything else worked fine out of the box.

 DG33BU Intel GMA Installation
DG33BU Intel GMA Installation
DG33BU Intel Bearlake Graphics
DG33BU Intel Bearlake Graphics


Although the Bearlake graphics chipset features DX9.0c support, don't expect it to tear up any framerates.  Later, we'll show a 3DMark score, but it's nothing to get too excited about.  Thankfully, the board offers a 16x PCIe slot for those that want to do some real gaming. 

The sound features of this board are quite impressive.  It has the ability to play different audio streams for the front and rear speakers at the same time.  This would be handy in a multi-tasking HTPC setup where you want to listen to some music on your headphones, while the rest of the family wants to play a movie from the hard drive.

 DG33BU Audio Features
DG33BU Audio Features
 DG33BU Realtek HD Audio
DG33BU Realtek HD Audio

 

The High Definition Audio supports playback of 24 bit 192kHz audio and offers many other features as well.  This all sounds good on paper, but how does it actually playback?  We've posted some information from RightMark's Audio Analyzer below:

DG33BU RMAA
DG33BU RMAA

Network Performance:

Before we jump into our full Test System Setup on the next page I wanted to mention the performance of the integrated Marvel Network.  In our testing here at BCCHardware we've seen some motherboards with 1000b network show pretty dismal throughput numbers as well as high CPU loads.  Running iPerf has become standard issue for our motherboard tests.  The Intel DG33BU did very well in our tests and provided 493Mbit / sec performance with a relatively low CPU load of 16%.  We've seen boards run around 300Mbit / sec with as much as 30% CPU load.  Intel and Marvel have teamed up for a fast, efficient Gigabit network solution.

Head on over to the next page as we cover our test setup and information and jump into testing.


Test Setup:

This is the first hardware review that we have extensively used Windows Vista for our software platform.  We've published a few other articles regarding Vista in relationship to system resources, but haven't used Vista for the foundation software package.  Hardware manufacturers still haven't grasped the whole Vista concept just yet and still offer poor support as a rule.  Intel has claimed full support so we thought we find out how full their support really is.  Other than a warning message during installation, the Intel motherboard worked flawlessly under Vista.  That isn't to say we were without issues.  Some of the software we tried to install and run gave nothing but trouble and had weird issues, but we can't blame that on the motherboard.  Below is the test setup as it stands for this review.

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU
  • Crucial Ballistix Tracer PC2-8000 at PC2-6400 (DDR2-800 @ 4-4-4-12)
  • Intel DG33BU Motherboard
  • MSI 975X Platinum PowerUp Ed. Motherboard
  • Seagate 7200.10 320GB SATA HDD.
  • Samsung 18x SATA DVDRW
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit w/ all updates


Our goal was to see how this board performed under Vista in regards to CPU and memory performance primarily.  Due to time restraints with this board we did not run a bunch of game performance with the integrated video or add-in video.

Enough of that.  On to the benchmarks!

Memory Performance:

To gauge memory between the Intel 975X chipset and the new G33 Express chipset we ran SiSoft Sandra XI.SP2 and Everest Ultimate 4.0.  The results can be viewed below.

 Everest Memory
Everest Memory
 SiSoft Memory
SiSoft Memory

 

Everest Ultimate shows that the Intel 975X chipset has better memory performance in read and write tests, but for some reason the winner of the "Copy" test is the G33 Chipset.  SiSoft Sandra shows the memory performance of the 975X to be better than the G33 based Intel DG33BU motherboard as well.  Although there is a difference of ~300 MB/sec, in the real-would you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.


SiSoft CPU Tests:

Next up we measure CPU performance on the Intel DG33BU and compare it once again to the CPU performance of the proved MSI 975X Platinum board.  Below are the SiSoft Sandra XI numbers.

 SiSoft Arithmetic
SiSoft Arithmetic
 SiSoft Multimedia
SiSoft Multimedia

 

The results of the SiSoft CPU Arithmetic test show a split between the two motherboards.  The results sit within the margin of error and show the MSI board take the lead in Dhrystone performance and show the Intel board edge out the competition slightly in the Whetstone performance.

 

Other Synthetic CPU Tests: 

Below are other CPU intensive tests that were ran to see if there is a measurable performance difference between chipsets and motherboards.  You have to keep in mind that these boards are geared toward different markets, and the Intel DG33BU test sample is a BETA product.

 Cinebench
Cinebench
 POV-Ray
POV-Ray
   
 PM Core
PM Core
 SuperPi
SuperPi

 

The results are so close across platforms, but it seems that the MSI 975X has a slight lead in most of these synthetic benchmarks.  On the next page we'll take a look at some real-world performance and see if the G33 Express still trails behind.


Real-World Applications:

It really doesn't matter how good things look on paper.  What matters is how it performs when put to the real test.  Below are the results from media conversion, Photoshop and File Compression.  As you can see below, the new DG33BU board from Intel holds its own against the much more mature MSI 975X Platinum motherboard.  In a few test the mATX DG33BU takes the lead, but many tests show the MSI Full ATX board as the winner.


(Click to Enlarge)
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 dbPowerAMP
(Click to Enlarge)
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 DVDShrink
(Click to Enlarge)
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 PhotoShop CS2
(Click to Enlarge)

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 QuickTime
(Click to Enlarge)
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WinRAR
(Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion:

The DG33BU really holds its own against the previous generation of motherboards and chipsets from Intel.   The DG33BU is based on a brand-new chipset, and like many Intel chipsets - it performs admirably.  Intel claims full Vista support and even with the beta version of this board, we had no issues with Vista Ultimate 32-bit.  Our test system ran smoothly and had 100% stability for the weeks that we had it on the bench.  Although Intel may not always have the fastest or fanciest chipsets, there products are rock solid.  The DG33BU is definitely not for everyone, but if you're building a computer for your kitchen or den, the G33 Express chipset has some pretty attractive features.  It has integrated video that supports DX9.0c and while the GMA3100 is not mind-blowing in terms of performance, it will work well for pretty much everything except gaming.

The only real beef I have with this board is the lack of DVI or HDMI output as this would greatly improve its appeal to the HTPC crowd.  Because this is a mATX board, it would easily fit in a nice case beside your entertainment center.

Pros:

  • Tidy little board with clean layout
  • HD Audio supports two different streams (one to front and one to back)
  • Lots of USB ports and headers
  • Additional PCIe 16x slot for upgraded graphics
  • Silent cooling on chipsets works well.

Cons:

  • No DVI or HDMI output
  • Zero overclocking options.

You have to remember that this board is not built for enthusiasts.  It is built for an OEM-type of PC.  For this purpose it does quite well.


BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
8/10
Software Pack:
8/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
8/10
Value:
9/10
Total Score 8.8

 

I'd like to thank MemoryExpress for rounding up this nice little mATX board for us to review. 

If you have any questions or comments to make about this board and our review, please feel free to post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.