Packaging and Appearance
Gigabyte are not widely known for their quality packing, and there is nothing really to shout about with the packaging of the EP45-UD3P either. Being the usual white glossy box, it could quite easily be mistaken for one of its lesser stable mates were it not for its name being emblazoned across the front of the box. This is in stark contrast to our previous review of the Gigabyte EP45-Extreme, which was among one of the best motherboard packages we have seen to date.
The actual package we received was damaged, with the box being torn across the front, so I was quite concerned that the motherboard could have also been damaged. Luckily, the accessories are hidden behind the box front, which appeared to have cushioned/deflected the blow somewhat. Presuming you have a delivery person who has an ounce of pride for the work he does, then the box itself should be enough to protect things from any unforeseen damage. Still, I would like to see an improvement in the way Gigabyte package their products nonetheless.
The rear of the box goes on to describe how the extra copper in the PCB increases the motherboards potential performance along with the numerous other Ultra Durable features of the motherboard. The accessory list is a standard affair, customary with other Gigabyte boards from the EP45 range.
The motherboard itself is very bright and, as per usual of Gigabyte, the colour scheme is somewhat reminiscent of Joseph's dream coat. This time, however, Gigabyte have added some funky heat sinks to the board. The Southbridge and Top Mosfet cooler are anodised blue aluminium while the Northbridge and side Mosfet coolers are gunmetal grey with blue aluminium tops added for aesthetics. The appearance of the board would be quite appealing were it not for the clashing red/yellow memory slots and other randoms colours splattered about the board. The layout of the board is excellent with all the connectivity ports around the edges save for the SATA ports, but these will not be obstructed by a dual slot cooler as we found with the EP45 Extreme.
The CPU socket is not overly cramped and most if not all coolers should fit with relative ease. Gigabyte still use a 6 phase power design for the CPU which, coupled with the low resistance PCB, should be enough to provide the CPU with a clean, stable power supply. The memory sockets may look the same as most other Gigabyte DIMM's, but these officially support scorching 1366mhz DDR2 speeds which, at the time of writing is the highest officially supported speed of any DDR2 motherboard. While there are no DDR2 modules capable of running this speed at stock, the excess speed available could be attained with overclocking, so it's nice to know Gigabyte do support such speeds should you have the memory capabilities.
The PCI layout is logical and well laid out, with two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots, three PCI Express x1 slots and two PCI slots for backwards compatibility on this board. Crossfire can be enabled on this board, but the two cards will be restricted to eight lanes each as the P45 chipset does not have enough PCI Express lanes to do x16 + x16. There is plenty of scope for storage with the UD3P, as there are a total of 8 SATA ports on board with 6 on the Intel controller and the remaining two utilising the Silicon Image controller. With an IDE port as well as a floppy port still available, the connectivity of the UD3 caters for both new and old hardware alike.
The I/O area of the board contains 8 USB 2.0 ports, an IEEE1394a and an IEEE1394b port, two Gigabit RJ45 jacks that allow the board to support LAN Teaming, and a PS/2 port for both Keyboard and mouse. It is nice to see Gigabyte still holding a candle for the technology of yesteryear, but I can't imagine anyone still persisting with PS/2 technology now that USB is so abundant. Rounding off the I/O area is the audio. For this, Gigabyte have chosen to use the Realtek ALC889a chip which feeds the 7.1 3.5mm jacks as well as S/PDIF Coaxial and Digital Out ports.
Removing the heatsink assembly was very easy. Only the Northbridge sink had screw fixings, which was disappointing, while the Mosfet and Southbridge used the plastic push-pin method of attachment. Even so, the mounts were fine with good contact throughout and no sign of excessive TIM being used, which is always a bonus. Sadly, there was no copper in sight this time around, with the whole heatsink assembly being aluminium. I guess the PCB took all the copper reserves!
The CPU socket area is much cleaner without a heatsink in place and has the same size hole spacing around the mosfets as other Gigabyte P45 boards should you wish to add your own cooling instead of the bright blue Gigabyte affair.
Good mounts were found on the Northbridge, testament to the screw/spring fixings ensuring an even mount, while the Southbridge, which doesn't get too hot anyway, has a thermal pad instead of paste to form contact with the heatsink.