Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 1
IntroductionUltra Durable
 
We have reviewed a few Gigabyte motherboards recently with varying results, so we were unsure what to expect of the latest P45-based model to come from the Taiwanese manufacturer. Being a premier motherboard manufacturer we should, however, expect nothing but the best from Gigabyte who pride themselves on reliability and performance. So then, we start this review with vague trepidation but an open mind.
 
The board itself hails from the new UD series; in this case it's the EP45-UD3 we will be reviewing today. UD, meaning Ultra Durable, might not exactly set the world alight, as the Ultra Durable designation is nothing new to Gigabyte boards, as previously it simply meant solid capacitors were used throughout the motherboard design. This time however, UD actually signifies a leap forward in technology for Gigabyte.
 
Gigabyte have utilised two ounces of copper for both the Power and Ground layers of the motherboard, delivering a dramatically lower system temperature, improved energy efficiency and enhanced stability for overclocking. Of course, this is coupled with the solid capacitors used as standard on most Gigabyte boards today as well as the Ferrite core chokes, but it's the double weight layers of copper that sets the new standard among motherboard manufacturers. Previously, just one ounce was used per sq foot of PCB (30cm x 30cm), but with the new standard introduced by Gigabyte, this should dramatically reduce temperatures from critical areas such as the CPU, Mosfets and chipset area by spreading the heat throughout the entire PCB. This, Gigabyte claims, can result in up to a 50°C reduction in temperatures over traditional motherboards.
 
Heat dissipation
 
The EP45-UD3 also makes a very bold statement on the DDR2 front, claiming official support of blisteringly quick DDR2 1366+ MHz speeds. Most motherboard manufacturers are hesitant to break the 1200 barrier, but it appears Gigabyte are keen to push the boundaries of ram speed up a notch. This is due in part again to the increase of copper, which improves power efficiency by reducing circuit impedance by 50% and allowing more bandwidth for electron passage. This in turn results in less power being wasted. Less power equals less heat equals more overclocking headroom.
 
Couple the above with Solid capacitors, Ferrite Core chokes as well as the heatpipe cooling assembly and the EP45-UD3 promises Ultra durability, Ultra cooling capacity, which, for all intents and purposes, should equal Ultra performance.
 
Let's have a look at the specification in greater detail...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 2
Specification
 
The specifications below were unashamedly taken directly from the Gigabyte website.
 
CPU
  • Support for an Intel Core™ 2 Extreme processor/ Intel® Core™ 2 Quad processor/Intel Core™ 2 Duo processor/ Intel® Pentium® processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® D processor/ Intel® Pentium® 4 processor Extreme Edition/Intel® Pentium® 4 processor/ Intel® Celeron® processor in the LGA 775 package (Refer to CPU support list for more information)
  • L2 cache varies with CPU
Front Side Bus
  • 1600/1333/1066/800 MHz FSB
Chipset
  • North Bridge: Intel® P45 Express Chipset
  • South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R
Memory
  •  4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
  •  Dual channel memory architecture
  • Support for DDR2 1366+/1066/800/667 MHz memory modules (Refer to Memory support list for more information)
Audio
  •  Realtek ALC889A codec
  •  High Definition Audio
  • 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  • Support for Dolby Home Theater
  •  Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  • Support for CD In
LAN
  • 2 x Realtek 8111C chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
  • Support for Teaming
Expansion Slots
  • 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
  • 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.)
  • 1 x PCI Express x1 slot
  • 2 x PCI slots
Storage Interface South Bridge:
  • 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
Gigabyte SATA 2 Chip:
  • 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  • 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0, GSATA2_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
IEEE 1394a
  •  T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  •  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
  • Integrated in the South Bridge
  • 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 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  • 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  • 1 x IDE connector
  • 8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  • 1 x CPU fan header
  • 2 x system fan headers
  • 1 x power fan header
  • 1 x front panel header
  • 1 x front panel audio header
  • 1 x CD In connector
  • 1 x S/PDIF In header
  • 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  • 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  • 3 x IEEE 1394a headers
  • 1 x serial port header
  • 1 x parallel port header
  • 1 x chassis intrusion header
  • 1 x power LED header
Back Panel Connectors
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  • 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  • 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  • 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  • 2 x RJ-45 ports
  • 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
BIOS
 
1. 2 x 8 Mbit flash
2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
3. Support for DualBIOS™
4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
 
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
 
Well the specification is certainly very thorough. Sadly, no onboard switches this time around, which will definitely be missed by overclockers, especially the CMOS reset switch. Hopefully the EP45-UD3 can recover from a bad overclock well! 
 
Let's head over to the next page where we will take a look at the motherboard itself....


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 3
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.
 
Box Front Box Rear
 
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.
 
Copper layer Accessories
 
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.
 
Board Back
 
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.
 
CPU Socket Memory Slots
 
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.
 
PCI ports Connectivity
 
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.
 
Naked Heatsink
 
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!
 
CPU Socket 
 
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.
 
Northbridge Southbridge
 
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.

So then, a board that has the qualities to become something special while carrying the trademark features of other EP45 boards. Let's take a look at the BIOS...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 4
BIOS
 
The AWARD BIOS of the EP45-UD3P is very similar to most other Gigabyte BIOS, so anyone familiar with Gigabyte motherboards or indeed the AWARD BIOS format will feel right at home here. Skipping the usual sections, we will head right to the business end of the BIOS - the M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) which is actually the first section in the BIOS.
 
UD3P Main Screen M.I.T
 
Again, this BIOS is almost identical to previous Gigabyte P45 motherboards, having the same settings throughout the first page. The majority of settings can be entered either manually or by the use of a sub menu where you scroll through the various settings. This makes for quick and easy application of settings instead of wasting time scrolling through the many settings available.
 
FSB Clock Drive
 
The FSB is one of those settings where you really need to input the setting manually, as scrolling through 1100 options could be a little tiresome, not that there any CPU's around capable of such a ludicrous front side bus. CPU and PCIe clock drives can be adjusted in a sub menu, as can the CPU and Northbridge clock skew.
 
FSB Strap Memory Multi
 
Automatic FSB strap changes are a thing of the past with the UD3P, as it allows you to set the MCH frequency latch from 200mhz to 400mhz. If you wish to let the board sort the strap out for you then you can choose the strap by the memory divider you settle on.
 
Subtimings Voltages
 
The Memory sub timings are basic in comparison to the higher end models, but the 6 main sub timings are there along with the individual channel timing and drive settings. What the UD3P lacks in sub timings it makes up for in voltages. Some very dangerous settings are available here that should satisfy even the most extreme overclocker, hopefully with LN2 to hand. A massive 2.3v on the CPU along with 3v+ for the memory should be enough to eek every last MHz from a CPU, presuming you have the methods with which to cool your silicon at those extreme voltages!
 
Security chip Health
 
One oddball setting is the security chip Enabled/Disabled setting. This settings is normally in found bundles along with the settings in the advanced section, allowing a password protected BIOS, so why Gigabyte have chosen to give this somewhat insignificant setting a page by itself is quite beyond me. As with the M.I.T section, the PC health status page has all of the temperature and voltage readouts you could need.
 
Like the other Gigabyte P45 BIOS before it, the UD3P's BIOS is well laid out, but that irritating jerkiness when scrolling the page is still there, which is a shame.
 
Let's move on to our test setup and see how  much of an effect these BIOS options have in our overclocking tests...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 5
Test Setup
 
Matching our previous reviews of P45 based motherboards, we used the same setup to guarantee a fair review.
  
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.
 
Processor: Intel Core2Quad Q6600 2.4Ghz @ 3.6 Ghz
Motherboard: Gigabyte EP45-UD3P
Memory: Cellshock DDR2 PC-2 6400 5-5-5-18 @ 800mhz
Graphics Card: ATI X1950 pro
CPU Cooling: Scythe Ninja
Power Supply: OCZ 780w ModXstream
Hard Disk: Hitachi 7K160 7200rpm 80Gb
Display: Dell 3007 WFP-HC 30" LCD
BIOS: F2
Chipset Drivers: Latest Intel P45 series.
Graphics Drivers: Cat 8.10
Operating System: Windows Vista 64bit SP1
 
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
• Bioshock
• F.E.A.R
• Quake 4
 
 
Overclocking
 
 
 
Again we see that the Gigabyte boards are not the best boards for high FSB overclocks. However, what the UD3P lacks in front side bus, it more than makes up for in maximum CPU overclock, finishing second and more importantly beating its bigger brother, the EP45 EXTREME.
 
Let's see if these results translate to better system performance when we put it through its paces in our standard suite of benchmarks...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 6
 
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 three.
 
 
 
 

 
 
Results Conclusions
 
The EP45-UD3P pretty much gave identical results to the EP45-Extreme, which would have been a great showing were it not for the Extreme's poor results when compared to the other motherboards on test. We will however, not be so quick to judge the motherboard yet as the Extreme clawed back a lot of ground last time around. Let's see if the UD3P can do the same...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 7
 
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.
  
 
 
 
Results Observations
 
Pretty much a mixed bag of results was to be had in the media encoding benchmarks, with the UD3P scoring high in some and low in others. The UD3P did, however, once again match the EXTREME in the majority of tests, which I predict will be the same for our hard drive benchmarks...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 8
 
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 Conclusions
 
I was surprised to see such a leap in performance in read speed given that both the EP45 Extreme and UD3P use the same ICH10R controller, but the results are correct and verified by Sisoft Sandra.


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 9
 
 
Cinebench 10 is a benchmarking tool based on the powerful 3D software Cinema 4D. The suite uses complex renders to gauge 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.
 
 
 
Results Observations
 
The Gigabyte EP45 UD3P certainly packs a punch in the 3D arena, coming out on top in the CPU rendering benchmark as well as scoring high in the 3DMark tests. Let's move on to the real world gaming benchmarks to see if the UD3P can hold its lead.


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 10
 
Quake 4 is a game built on the Doom 3 engine. Benchmarking was performed using Quake4Bench and a custom timedemo recording along with 0xAA, 0xAF settings at a resolution of 1024x768. The benchmark was set to run a total of 5 times, with Quake4Bench automatically calculating an average result at the end of the run.
 
 
 
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.
 
 
 
 
Bioshock is a recent FPS shooter by 2K games. Based on the UT3 engine it has a large amount of advanced DirectX techniques including excellent water rendering and superb lighting and smoke techniques. All results were recorded using F.R.A.P.S with a total of 5 identical runs through the same area of the game. The highest and lowest results were then removed, with an average being calculated from the remaining 3 results.
 
 
 
 
Results Observations
 
The UD3P scores well again, beating out the competition in two of the three results. Impressive results from the Gigabyte  despite its lacklustre memory performance. The 3D department is where the board scores high, taking some big scalps in both the rendering and gaming departments.
 
Let's head over to the conclusion where I will try and put these results into perspective...


Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (P45) Motherboard Page: 11
ConclusionUD3P
 
It was with some trepidation that I began reviewing the UD3P, as initially, with the state the box arrived in, I was surprised that the board would even boot! Luckily, it did and the first set of benchmarks set the stage for what I assumed to be an identical run of scores to that of its much more expensive stablemate, the EP45 Extreme. However, once we were past the memory benchmarks, I was constantly impressed by the way this budget board performed. Getting the upper hand of motherboards costing twice as much is no easy feat, but the little Gigabyte board managed it without so much as breaking a sweat.
 
Although the overclocking results were good, I was a little disappointed as I really wanted this board to perform above the other boards based on the same chipset. While it didn't disgrace itself, I am beginning to feel that the new range of boards are being held back by the older 65nm chips we use for our tests and believe the new range would be much more suited to the high FSB Wolfdale clockers. 500FSB is about the max anyone could expect of a Quadcore CPU based on the 65nm architecture, but there are dual core CPU's reaching 600MHz these days with just a few minor voltage adjustments. So while the UD3P scored well in the overclocking department, I would have no doubts in believing it can be pushed quite a bit further given a decent dual core CPU.
 
The 3D benchmarks are where the GA-EP45 UD3P really stood out from the crowd. Consistently scoring high, at times outstripping boards costing double (including Gigabytes own EXTREME P45 board), the UD3P demands some serious consideration from any gamer wanting a last throw of the dice before i7 hits the shelves.
 
The Good
- Cooling
- 3D Performance
- The price
 
The Mediocre
- BIOS still 'clunky' to use
- Packaging could be improved
 
The Bad
- Nothing to report
 
Recommended Award
 
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the GA-EP45 UD3P for todays review. Discuss in our forums.