Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 1
Introduction
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3PHailing from the Premiership of PC manufacturers, Gigabyte are synonymous with PC builders worldwide. Renowned for the use of quality components and excellent reliability it comes as no surprise that Gigabyte are usually one of the first manufacturers mentioned when anyone recommends a new motherboard. So when they asked us to review their latest P45 release we jumped at the opportunity.
 
Based on the P45 Chipset, the EP45-DS3P is an entry level motherboard missing some of the deluxe features that are available on its bigger brothers but be under no illusion that, despite the price and lack of those added extras, that this is a budget motherboard because it's plainly not. All the most commonly used features are still there - Dual LAN ports, Raid 0, 1, 5, 10, on-board 7.1 channel audio, Firewire as well as CrossfireX support, albeit in 8x8 configuration. So as you can see this board has more than enough for even the more demanding consumer. Being a P45 chipset based board, it should be no slouch either as all the other P45 boards we have tested thus far have been very fast and not one has been a disappointment.
 
I must say at this point that I have never been a big fan of Gigabyte motherboards due to some bad experiences with AMD based chipsets and therefore, perhaps without any valid foundation, have normally given them a wide berth despite the fantastic reputation they have. It has also become fashionable among the elitist geeks to cast a shadow over Gigabyte, again with little foundation - I have been guilty of this myself in the past. As a reviewer though, I have to stay objective and cannot give any prior judgement to a motherboard and I am, as always, happy to be converted should the product warrant it. Fingers crossed, Gigabyte can take pleasure in proving my previous judgemental attitude to be both incorrect and unfounded.
 
 
Specification
 
We have extensively covered the features of Intels P45 chipset in previous reviews so can Gigabyte bring anything new to the table? Lets take a look :

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ 2 Extreme processor/ Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor/Intel® Core™ 2 Duo processor/ Intel® Pentium® Dual-Core processor/Intel® Celeron® processor in the LGA 775 package
  2. L2 cache varies with CPU
Front Side Bus
  1. 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz FSB
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: Intel® P45 Express Chipset
  2. South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR2 1200/1066/800/667 MHz memory modules
    (Refer to Memory support list for more information)
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. 2 x Realtek 8111C chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  2. Support for Teaming
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8
    (The PCIEx16 and PCIEx8 slots support ATI CrossFireX technology and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  3. 1 x PCI Express x4 slot
  4. 3 x PCI Express x1 slot
  5. 1 x PCI slots
Storage InterfaceSouth Bridge:
  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
iTE IT8213 chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
iTE IT8720 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
IEEE 1394a
  1. T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  2. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports
    (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
USB
  1. Integrated in the South Bridge
  2. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports
    (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  4. 1 x IDE connector
  5. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 3 x system fan headers
  8. 1 x power fan header
  9. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  10. 1 x front panel header
  11. 1 x front panel audio header
  12. 1 x CD In connector
  13. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  14. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  15. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  16. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  17. 1 x serial port header
  18. 1 x power LED header
  19. 1 x chassis intrusion header
  20. 1 x power switch
  21. 1 x reset switch
  22. 1 x clearing CMOS switch
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  2. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  3. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  7. 2 x RJ-45 ports
  8. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. iTE IT8720 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
BIOS
  1. 2 x 8 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for Dual BIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Dual BIOS
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced
  9. Support for Time Repair
  10. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft/ Windows/ Vista/XP
Form Factor
  1. ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
 
• Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced is touted as the worlds only energy saving technology with hardware based 6-Gear switching. It does this by the use of VRD 11.1 allowing the DES to switch to Gear 1 phase when idle then immediately switch to Gear 6  when the need for ultra performance is required in turn allowing dramatic energy savings. So it can save energy, so what? Well thats not all because this is the advanced edition which works two-fold allowing overclockers to feel the benefit of phase power switching, providing stable power delivery to the CPU.
 
• Low RDS MOSFETs, Ferrite Core chokes and Solid capacitors ensure that this motherboard is not only highly efficient but also built to last. So much for this being a budget board!
 
• Dual BIOS chips have been around for quite sometime now but it is an essential part of the board and a feature every manufacturer should employ. Gigabyte have had this feature for some time now and it is proof of its popularity that it is still being used today. The time lost due to a corrupt BIOS, be it from overzealous overclocking or a bad BIOS flash can be a deciding factor when deciding on a new motherboard.
 
• On-board diagnostic LED's. The EP45-DS3R has seven of these leds which indicate a malfunction is occurring whether it be CPU, memory, PCIe16/8/4/1, PCI, SATA or IDE. The DS3P also has another set of four LED's that signify the state of the ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) which act as a gentle reminder of how much power your CPU is using. Think of it like a graphic equalizer - red=heavy load, yellow=medium and green=low. Yet another nice addition!
 
• On-board Power/Reset/CMOS clear switches. Those who have used high end Asus boards will be familiar with these switches and how useful they are.  I was pleasantly surprised to see these employed on a Gigabyte board but thankful nonetheless. Big thumbs up Gigabyte!
 
Below we see the Dynamic Energy Saver. The DES is very similar to the Asus EPU engine we reviewed previously but the Gigabyte is more advanced in that does not rely on an IC circuit, rather utilizing the Intersil PWM controllers which switch on and off power phases 'on-the-fly' as and when required. For example the EP45 is a six phase engine and while that six phase power will be needed for 100% CPU load or, for example, playing a game, the Dynamic Energy Saver will throttle back the power to say two phases when you drop out of the game to check-up on how you eBay bid is doing as browsing the net requires so little power.
 
 Dynamic Energy Saver
 
While this may seem a little like a marketing gimmick, it does actually work and while monetary savings will depend on your electricity supplier, savings are to be had nonetheless. While the money saved, in all honesty, won't be a great deal, the tree-huggers out there can rest easy that at least Gigabyte are doing their bit to save the environment.


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 2
Packaging & Contents
 
First impressions count so they say and if those impressions that the outer-box of the EP45-DS3P are anything to go by then I am impressed! The box is both sturdy and well presented with no gimmicky mothership from planet Zog plastered across the front as with old Gigabyte boxes of years gone by. Instead we have a classy yet fresh and appealing green and white affair.
 
The font itself is embossed along with the main 'Dynamic Energy Saver - advanced' feature spread across the front of the box. To the rear of the box there is an in-depth account of the features complete with graphs with the emphasis is on energy saving once more. Overall a nicely presented product in a compact but robust box.
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Box Front Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Box Back
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Box Side Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Box Slant
 
Upon opening the box we are immediately greeted with a plethora of accessories, most of which are also housed in packaging of their own. A common criticism of mine is that a lot of manufacturers still haven't caught on to the fact that ribbon cables are now very old hat and for a little extra cost, rounded cables would be much more welcome. Sadly, Gigabyte are sticking with the former for the time being which while perfectly adequate is an opportunity missed.
 
Apart from that, the rest of the package is of premium quality, the four SATA cables are latch type and much better quality then some other premium motherboard manufacturers. The motherboard manual is brief but straightforward enough for anyone to use for either reference or full blown instructions. The I/O shield is a colour screen printed type and much easier to read than the pressed metal ones of old. Also included is an e-SATA PCI bracket for two drives.
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Box Open Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Contents
  
The board itself is contained in a very thick anti-static bag, ensuring there is zero possibility of static killing your motherboard before you handle it. The bottom of the box is padded out with a thin piece of foam that while adequate, could perhaps be more substantial. Nonetheless, our sample reached is in perfect condition despite the box being a little crushed, testament to the robust packaging from Gigabyte. Onto what you really want to know about - the board itself.
 
In typical Gigabyte style the board is adorned with almost every colour imaginable and while definitely not to my liking, must appeal to some.  Gigabytes stalwart stance on the choice of the colour scheme appears to be past down from generation to generation. If only a more themed approach was taken instead of something resembling an explosion in a Crayola factory! I can't help feel that more people would be attracted by the aesthetics of the board if the colours were cut down to two or three instead of the rainbow we have here. The PCB only adds to the garishness of the board being a Caribbean blue affair. Colour choice aside for one moment, the board is actually very well designed with all the right bits seemingly in all the right places.
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Motherboard Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Motherboard
 
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Board Back Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 I/O
 
The rear of the board is clear from SMD's allowing the use of backplates should you wish to use your own cooling solution. The I/O backplate area has a multitude of options available with 8x USB ports, 7.1 Audio, 2x Firewire, 2x Gigabit Lan ports, S/PDIF and Coaxial outputs as well as  PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports.
  
Below, we see the CPU socket area is relatively clean. The two heatsinks covering the Mosfet area are neither too high or too wide so fitting even the largest of CPU coolers should not be an issue. The chokes around the CPU socket may create a slight obstruction should you wish to add your own cooling blocks to the Mosfets but it is unlikely you will go that far on what is in effect an entry level board to begin with and the cooling already in place should be more than adequate for the modest overclocker. Speaking of overclocking I am a little concerned at the lack of phase power on show as with only six chokes, the power delivery may be a little unstable when high voltages are used. Whether this is actually the case, remains to be seen. The DDR2 slots are also placed far enough away from the CPU socket, again allowing the use of a large after market CPU cooler should you wish. 
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 CPU Socket  Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Memory Slots
 
Below left are the PCI slots of the board, black being PCIe x1, Blue PCIe x16, white being standard PCI and the orange slots are PCIe x8/x4 slots. The layout is such that a single dual slot graphics card can be used while still allowing the use of the lower PCIe slots. Gigabyte have used two methods for releasing the GPU cards from the slot, the top PCIe x16 slot being different from the bottom 2 latch design slots. Moving on to the connectivity of the board we see that there are 6 SATA slots along with a single IDE port. There is also a floppy port located further along the same edge of the motherboard. Next to the SATA ports are two USB internal headers and further along we see the front panel connector which is colour coded for ease of connectivity.
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Ports Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 SATA Ports
 
Gigabyte have also included 'quick switches' which enable the end-user to power/reset the motherboard without having to use the front panel headers. There is also a clear CMOS switch should you need to reset the BIOS settings after a failed overclock results in a non-boot scenario. These all light up blue when powered on and are found on most high end boards from other manufacturers so it is a very nice addition from Gigabyte to include this feature on an entry level board. I would however have preferred the CMOS reset switch to be located on the I/O backplate area for ease of use when the board is actually installed but this is a minor issue. It is also worthwhile at this point to note that the board also features a number of diagnostic LED's which I will cover in more detail in the features section.
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Heatpipe Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Heatsink
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Heatsink Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Mosfet
  
The left Mosfet and Northbridge heatsinks are cooled via Gigabytes SilentPipe solution encompassing a heatpipe linking the two. The uppermost Mosfet area and the Southbridge are both separate. Gigabyte should be applauded for this as all too often motherboard manufacturers link all the heatsinks together with a copper pipe meaning that if you wish to add your own aftermarket cooling all four sections require replacement - not so with the Gigabyte.
 
I would however had liked to have seen copper heatsinks used as the ones on display here are simply Copper coloured Aluminium. While still cheaper, efficient and light, Aluminum doesn't have the cooling capacity of Copper. The use of push pins is also an area which could be improved as some manufacturers are now moving towards the use of screw down type which should give a better mount. Let's take a look under those fake copper sinks shall we?
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 NB Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 SB
 
Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Chokes Gigabyte EP-45-DS3 Heatpipes
  
Top left, we see the Northbridge chip. This was the only chip that had TIM applied, the other sections having a thermal pad in preference. The Thermal Interface Material used on the Northbridge can only be described as cement! It was both difficult to remove the heatsink and difficult to remove the TIM from the chip itself. That could perhaps be forgiven, however the TIM did not cover the whole of the chip which is simply not acceptable. This is why a lot of manufacturers have made the switch to screw-down heatsinks and non semi-permanent TIM as the mounting can sometimes lead to this uneven scenario. The other areas of the motherboard were cooled via the thermal tape which, while adequate, again is not the best solution of which to  transfer heat to the heatsink.
 
So while the colour co-ordination of the board leaves a lot to be desired, the cooling methods could be improved and the use of Aluminium is frowned upon, that actual board and its layout is actually very good. With most of the connectivity around the edges of the board and the use of on board switches a very welcome addition to the Gigabyte range of boards, the whole package is one that I would expect to be positioned at a higher price point. Let's see what else the board has to offer... 


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 3
BIOS Options
 
Starting with the splash screen (which can be disabled via BIOS if you wish to see the POST screen instead) once again has the DES as the dominating feature of the EP45-DS3P. The from turning on to POST is not exactly a lengthy affair but it isn't rapid either as a number of devices must be detected before it will allow entry into the BIOS. Speaking of the BIOS, being an AWARD BIOS, most overclockers will be familiar with the layout. Before we go into the depths of the BIOS though I wanted to ensure we were playing with the latest BIOS available, so after downloading the required files from the Gigabyte website I went about flashing the board.
 
I decided to flash the board with a USB stick as its the chosen method for most folk these days and much less risky than using the Windows flashing utility. The FLASH went perfect however, I did have a brown pants moment when the board would not boot up after flashing. A quick CMOS clear sorted things and there we have it - one updated BIOS.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS Splash Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS Flash
 
Anyone who has purchased a Gigabyte previously will know of its M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Feature) which is the primary area in which you will delve should you want to tweak a few settings to get the most out of your setup. All of the usual settings are there but being a P45 board we can expect a few little extras that allow some very intricate fine tuning.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 1 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 2
  
Above we see the very first screen from the M.I.T section. This covers all the basics of setting up your overclock with the CPU and DRAM preferences. While appearing basic, each setting brings up a new window allowing the tuning of each section to be completed in its entirety. Using the arrow keys for navigation, we moved the screen down to view the multitude of voltage options.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 3 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 4
 
The CPU Host Frequency (FSB to You and I), is entered directly rather than scrolling through the options which is a much quicker method to use. A maximum of 1200FSB is available although it is highly unlikely such an FSB would be attainable. There are also options for altering the clock Skew should you wish.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 5 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 6
 
For those wanting to take the quick and easy path (as Vader did!), then the EP34-DS3P BIOS allows you to configure the C.I.A.2 setting to automatically adjust the settings to boost your speed on demand once you have set the required speed level, ranging from 'Cruise' through to 'Full Thrust'. Personally I have never been a fan of Auto overclocking as each processor is different and not only that but the power options are usually over compensated to ensure a bootable state. Not the ideal solution but a welcome one for those not akin to the complex settings in a BIOS.
 
The Memory dividers are linked to the Northbridge strap options and are rated 2.00 to 4.00 with a strap of A-D (200mhz-400mhz) allowing almost total control of which divider and NB strap you wish to use, These options are perhaps one of the most likely to result in a non-boot situation should you be too ambitious with your settings.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 7 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 8
  
The Memory Timings section is both thorough and complete. Every timing you could wish to configure. The main settings can be set with the sub-timings left on Auto or you can set everything to its own level should you wish. Again the settings are inputted by keying in the desired number rather than scrolling through. Sadly, as we move on to the voltage sections, the same method is not used for inputting the voltage values. As the voltages are so finely tuned there are many settings you have to scroll through before you get even close to a default setting and it therefore might be an idea to make a cuppa if you are wanting to use the maximum, but insane Vcore of 2.3v.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 9 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 10
  
Both CPU Termination voltages and CPU PLL voltages can be tweaked with a massive 1.8v for the term and a ridiculous, CPU killing 2.8v PLL available. Even though Gigabyte say that the components may be damaged and reduce life in red lettering besides the settings, I should tell you now that using those high voltage will CERTAINLY damage your hardware immediately - user beware!
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 11 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 12
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 13 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 14
  
There are two CPU reference voltage options available each with a setting allowing maximum of 1v to be used. The NB and SB are not left out in the cold either with a scorching 1.8v and 2.3v available for use. Again, caution should be used when reaching this ridiculous high voltages and if you intend on using these sort of voltages with stock cooling then you should consider booking yourself into the nearest mental institution.
 
Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 15 Gigabyte EP45-DS3P BIOS 16 
 
Last of all we arrive at the memory voltage options. Once again the voltages available range from the tree hugging 0.5v to a Sellafield worrying 3.06v! The Voltage termination maximum is also set at a silly level of 1.375. These values are only for the brave (or those who don't care about killing hardware!).
 
All things considered it's a very well presented BIOS from Gigabyte that provides a multitude of tweaking. The voltage options should keep even the most hair brained overclocker happy with the insane amount of power available to push through your components. Hopefully the method of scrolling through the voltages instead of inputting them can be eradicated in future BIOS releases. I can see the method behind the madness as it is alot more difficult to scroll to a setting incorrectly than input it but I'm sure there could be a way of safeguarding an incorrect entry rather than forcing the user to sit and wait to get to the right value. In short this BIOS is something that I would expect to see on a much more expensive enthusiast gaming motherboard. The EP45-DS3P is certainly shaping up to be a wolf in sheep's clothing!


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 4
Test Setup
 
Matching our previous reviews of P45 based motherboards, we used the same setup to guarantee a fair review.
 
 Specs List
  
During the testing of the setup above, special care was taken to ensure that the BIOS settings used matched whenever possible. A fresh install of Windows Vista was also used before the benchmarking began, with a full defrag of the hard drive once all the drivers and software were installed, preventing any possible performance issues due to leftover drivers from the previous motherboard installations.
 
To guarantee a broad range of results, the following benchmark utilities were used:
 
Synthetic CPU & Memory Subsystem
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c
• Lavalys Everest 4.0

File Compression & Encoding
• 7-Zip File Compression
• River Past ViMark

Disk I/O Performance
• HDTach 3.0.4.0
• Sisoft Sandra XII 2008c

3D / Rendering Benchmarks
• Cinebench 10
• 3DMark 05
• 3DMark 06

3D Games
• Oblivion
• F.E.A.R
• Call of Duty 4
 
 
Overclocking
 
Overclocking was on a par with the other P45 chipset based boards we have tested recently. Despite not managing quite as high FSB as the other motherboards reviewed, an overall CPU overclock with our test Q6600 of 3.9 Ghz was impressive. While not the best, it is certainly not the worst and as this is the cheapest board on test it was a very strong showing indeed.
 
 
 
One worrying point though is the amount of Vdrop between the setting in the BIOS (1.55v) and the actual figure in windows (1.504). The Vdroop was also cause for concern drooping 0.078v to 1.472 when testing under 100% load (Prime95). In order to keep the overclocking enthusiasts happy it would have been nice to have included a loadline calibration type setting to prevent this from happening. Still, not a bad showing at all, Let's see how it gets in with our run of benchmarks.


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 5
Sisoft Sandra
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Everest is in many ways similar to Sisoft Sandra. Focusing mainly on software and hardware information reporting, Everest also comes with a benchmark utility suitable for testing the read, write and latency performance of the memory subsystem. Each of these benchmarks were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average calculated from the remaining 3.
 
 
 
 
 
Results Conclusions
 
A mixed bag of results with the EP45-DS3P, scoring lower than the the other boards in the CPU benchmarks but hitting the middle ground in the memory tests. As all the boards are based on the P45 chipset it is unsurprising that the results are very similar yet all of the boards on test are considerably more expensive than the Gigabyte which should be taken into account.


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 6
 
ViMark is the latest addition to the OC3D motherboard testing process and a relatively new benchmarking application in general. Designed to take the inaccuracies and guesswork out of measuring the time taken to encode video files, ViMark produces easily comparable and consistent results for encoding raw video into Windows Media, Quicktime, AVI and Gif formats. As always, a total of 5 benchmark runs were performed with the highest and lowest scores removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 scores.
 
 
 
 
 
 
7-Zip is an open source Winzip-style file compression utility that has the ability to compress and decompress many file formats including its own .7z compression scheme. 7-Zip also comes complete with its own benchmarking utility for gauging the compression and decompression speed of the system that it is installed on.
 
 
 
 
Result Observations
Again we see the Gigabyte holding its own against the higher spec'd boards. Although this time the Gigabyte fails to keep pace with the Maximus II and the MSI board, it does snap at the heals of the P5Q Deluxe and actually equalled the Maximus II in the Quicktime test - not a bad result for a board costing half as much!


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 7
 
HDTach is a free hard disk benchmarking program from SimpliSoftware. This benchmark is not only capable of producing results on hard disk access times but also CPU usage required during disk access. The "Long bench" was run a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility capable of benchmarking the performance of individual components inside a PC. Each of the benchmarks below were run a total of five times with the highest and lowest scores being discarded and an average being calculated from the remaining three.
 
 
 

Results Observations
 
Once more the Gigabyte splits the pack, scoring higher in the burst speed than all the boards on test but scoring lowest in the read access area. All of the boards on test use the ICH10R Southbridge chipset with a 50GB partition on the Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 HD.
 


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 8
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to guage the performance of the entire PC system in both single-core and multi-core modes. Testing was performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being omitted and an average created from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
  
 
 
3DMark is a popular synthetic gaming benchmark used by many gamers and overclockers to gauge the performance of their PC's. All 3DMark runs were performed a total of 5 times with the highest and lowest results being removed and an average calculated from the remaining 3 results. Also included are the CrossfireX results to give an indication of how 8x PCIe lanes perform.
 
 
 
 
Result Observations
 
Mirroring the CPU benchmarks, Cinebench showed a chink in the Gigabyte's armour. Despite all the boards being run at the same clock speed, the EP45-DS3P fell short of the pack. The Gigabyte was also the lowest out of the bunch, albeit to a lesser extent, in the 3D Mark tests - most likely a result of its ability to utilise the clockspeed of the Q6600.


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 9
 
The 'must have' online multiplayer FPS of 2007/8. This is the fourth incarnation of Infinity Wards best-selling series and is set to become a stalwart of the FPS genre. The training sequence was run 5 times with the fps being recorded via Fraps and the average fps then deduced. All settings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).
 
 
 
 
F.E.A.R. is a game based on the Lithtech Jupiter EX engine. It has volumetric lighting, soft shadows, parallax mapping and particle effects. Included in the game is a benchmark facility that taxes the entire PC system. This benchmark was run a total of 5 times, with the highest and lowest results being excluded and an average being calculated on the remaining 3 results. All settiings were set to the maximum possible for this test and were then run again with CrossfireX enabled (below).
 
  
 
 
Oblivion from Bethseda is now an 'old' game by today's standards, but is still one of the most visually taxing games out there. The benchmark was run in the wilderness with all settings set to the maximum possible. Bloom was used in preference to HDR. The test was run five times with the average FPS then being deduced.
 
 
 
Result Observations
 
In contrast to the previous results, the Gigabyte showed that in real world situations it can tangle with the best out there and on occasions (Oblivion) better them by quite some margin proving that as a base for a games machine the Gigabyte should be given some serious consideration.


Gigabyte EP45-DS3P (P45) DDR2 Motherboard Page: 10
Conclusion

Gigabyte EP45-DS3PWell I hate to say it but I was wrong. There I said it! Apart from my distaste for the colour scheme, the Gigabyte board impressed me throughout. From the packaging to the board layout, and from the overclocking options to its ability in the benchmarks. Almost every aspect of the motherboard deserves praise as it is without doubt a very good motherboard. All of the above however has to be taken relative to its price. A top of the range, flagship motherboard this is not. For that you would be looking at the Gigabyte DQ6 range. So for the price, it is a very hard product to fault. As always, I have managed to do just that.

The colour scheme... I know it's a personal preference thing but seriously, how anyone can find the motherboard attractive or pleasing to the eye is simply beyond me. Bright,? Sure. Eye catching? Certainly! Stylish...er....NO! The design may appeal to a fan of the Tweenies but to an enthusiast, I think not! If it were not for the colour scheme then I would happily consider buying this board if I were wanting a fast, modern, feature packed budget board as it is certainly the latter. If I had a solid case without a window then sure - it could well be on my list of potential buys. Sadly I don't fall into either of these catagories so I won't be queuing up for one.

However, if you can live with colour and let's face it, it is only a minor point for most, then I can't think of another board at the same price point that would be better. It clocks well, it runs cool, it even matches and occasionally beats motherboards almost double its price so there is no doubting the boards abilities. For those reasons then, I find myself bowing my head in shame as I pride myself on my recommendations and up until now, I have never recommended a Gigabyte board. The Gigabyte EP45-DS3 has now changed that.

The Good
- Price
- Connectivity
- On board Switches and LED's
- Solid caps
- BIOS

The Mediocre
- 6 Phase power
- Due to the above Vdrop/droop could be troublesome
- Aluminium Heatsinks
- Cement on the Northbridge

The Bad
- The colour scheme
 
 
Overclock3D Recommended Award Overclock3D Value for Money Award
 
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the EP45-DS3P for review. Discuss this review in our forums.