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Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6 Motherboard Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Memory Benchmarks

Memory Benchmarks



Everest Ultimate v4.50

Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all benchmarkers or overclockers. With the ability to pick up most voltage, temperature, and fan sensors on almost every motherboard available, Everest provides the ability to customize the outputs in a number of forms on your desktop. In addition to this, the memory benchmarking utility provides a useful tool of measuring the changes to your memory sub-system.




As you can see, going from the stock configuration to our overclocked settings had a sizeable impact on both memory bandwidth and latency. Along with the 400Mhz memory speed increase, the high front side bus speed and CPU core clock definitely contributed to the sizeable performance improvements.


ScienceMark v2.0

Although last updated almost 3 years ago, ScienceMark v2.0 remains a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.


Reinforcing the performance gains seen in Everest, the overclocked configuration exhibits an almost 50% bandwidth improvement over the stock settings.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks



SuperPi Mod v1.5

When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system.


Once again, the increased CPU and memory frequencies have shown their effect by slicing 32% from SuperPi’s calculation times. On a side note, we used HyperPI to run SPi Mod v1.5, since it has a better interface to deal with some Vista-related issues.


PCMark Vantage

The latest iteration of the popular system benchmark is PCMark Vantage from the Futuremark crew. The PCMark series has always been a great way to either test specific areas of a system or to get a general over view of how your system is performing. For our results, we simply run the basic benchmark suite which involves a wide range of tests on all of the sub-systems of the computer.


Since PCMark Vantage tests all major sub-systems the performance gains are diluted when compared to previous programs, however a 20% improvement in overall synthetic system performance is very respectable.


Cinebench R10

Another benchmarking community favorite, Cinebench renders an intense 2D scene relying on all the processing power it can. Cinebench R10 is another 64-bit capable application and is likely the most efficient program tested today at utilizing all cores of a processor. We will be running both the single threaded and multi-threaded benches.


Once again, we remain amazed at how efficient Cinebench is, as the results have scaled perfectly with the increase in core speed.


DivX Converter v6

Now that we have ran some of the more 'synthetic' benchmarks, it is time for a real-life VOB to DivX encoding task. We will take a 1.08GB VOB rip of the cult-classic movie Full Metal Jacket and convert it into DivX using the default multi-media setting of DivX converter v6. DivX fully utilizes both cores of the processor and will rely heavily on all aspects of the system for performance.


Video conversion is still one of the longest tasks that your average user undertakes, so it’s great to see that we were able to say approximately 8 minutes on a 40 minute task


Lame Front End

Unlike the DivX conversion we just looked at, Lame Front End is not multi-threaded and only utilizes a single core of a processor. This will obviously limit performance but we should still recognize significant time savings going from the stock settings to the overclocked results. We will be encoding a WAV rip of Santana’s Supernatural album and converting it to MP3 using the VBR 0 quality preset.


And once again the overclocked configuration impresses by shaving 37 seconds off a roughly 3 minute task. It really amazing how fast we can rip and convert an entire CD album to high-quality MP3’s nowadays.


Photoshop CS3

For the image editing portion of this review, we will use Photoshop CS3 in coordination with Driver Heaven’s Photoshop Benchmark V2, which is an excellent test of CPU power and memory bandwidth. This is a scripted benchmark that individually applies 12 different filters to a 60MB JPEG, and uses Photoshop’s built-in timing feature to provide a result at each test stage. Then it’s simply a matter of adding up the 12 results to reach a final figure.


With the overclocked settings, we were able to complete the benchmark a full 20 seconds faster than with the stock configuration, which is a respectable 28% improvement.


WinRar

The last of our real-life tests will be with the highly popular WinRAR v3.71, which has a built-in benchmark that can measure both single-threaded and multi-threaded archive extraction performance.


If you are anything like us, WinRAR is an application that you use countless times per day, so any performance improvement can provide some very tangible time savings. With the overclocked settings, archive extraction was an impressive 38% faster than with the stock configuration, which is much greater than our 26% CPU overclock. This is because WinRAR extraction is heavily dependent on the memory sub-system, so our 50% memory overclock really comes into play.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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1,088
Location
Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks



Futuremark 3DMark 06

We used the venerable 3DMark 06 because it is less GPU-bound than Vantage, and thus a better indicator of overall system performance.


Here we have relatively minor 5% performance improvement, and based on the static SM2.0 and SM3.0 scores, it is clear that our reference-clocked GeForce 8800 GT 512MB is becoming a bottleneck at such high CPU speeds.


Futuremark 3DMark Vantage

You asked for it, so we have finally included 3DMark Vantage, Futuremark’s latest release in their renowned line of 3D benchmarking software. This latest DX10-only 3DMark comes with a variety of presets, but for our tests will be use the standard Performance preset which is suitable for a much greater range of system specifications than the other more demanding presets.


Since 3DMark Vantage is such a GPU-intensive application, it’s really not surprising that our increased system specs only yielded a 5% performance improvement.


Crysis - Sphere Benchmark

Although Crysis is intensely GPU dependent, we added it to our gaming benchmarks to see how system changes can improve the performance on a mid-level system. We utilized the Sphere level demo for our benchmarks, and ran it in DX10 mode with a resolution of 1680x1050 with all detail levels set to medium.


At first glance the results are fairly unimpressive, plus or minus 1FPS in both average and maximum frame rates. However, the all-important minimum frame rate has inched closer towards the baseline 30FPS level that is required to maintain a smooth(-ish) gaming experience.


Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts

This test consists of actual gameplay using a single mission (Authie: Boudica's Boys from the British Campaign) since it holds a bit of everything the game has to offer: vehicle battles, artillery barrages and house-to-house fighting. We recorded framerates using FRAPS up until the 15 minute mark of the mission and excluding any in-game briefings / cutscenes. The game was run in DirectX 9 mode at 1680x1050 with all detail levels set to high.


Although COH: OP is quite graphically intensive, the extra system clocks do provide a noteworthy 8% performance boost over the stock configuration.


Team Fortress 2

As our last gaming benchmark, we will use the addictive and CPU-intensive Team Fortress 2. For this test, we made an action-packed 30-minute timedemo on the “2_Fort” map with a constant 20-24 player load. This test represents a worst-case scenario because it is a small map with a high number of players on the screen at all times, placing a significant load on the CPU. The resolution was set to 1680x1050 with all settings on high.


The Source engine is well-known for having excellent CPU scalability, and this fact is quite evident in our results. Our overclocked system posted a 36% performance gain, which suggests that the game not only benefits from the additional processing power, but also from the increase in memory bandwidth. The performance benefits are definitely tangible, as you can clearly tell that the fast-paced FPS experience is much more fluid due to the significant reduction in frame rate dips.
 
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MAC

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Voltage Regulation / Heat & Acoustical Testing

Voltage Regulation



Our voltage regulation testing will focus on the various voltages and the differences encountered between what is selected in the BIOS, what is reported by EasyTune6 (when available), and what is reported by a digital multi-meter (DMM). We have found five voltage read points on the motherboard so the vCORE, PLL, CPU Termination/VTT, vNB, and vDIMM will be recorded with our DMM. Both vCORE and vNB will be read from the underside of the motherboard at the output side of the corresponding inductor for each voltage supply. PLL and VTT voltages will be read from points on the top of the motherboard. vDIMM will be read directly from an open DIMM slot using the VDD pin closest to the key. The ground point used for all readings will be a screw hole. Here are a few photos showing the various read points used.


Now that we have established where the read points are, let’s have a look at the results. These measurements were taken at 9x400Mhz, the highest officially supported FSB, and the setting that will most likely be used by those seeking mild overclocks. Everything else in the BIOS is set to auto. So with further ado, here are our extensive findings:



Overall, we are quite pleased with these figures. What you select in the BIOS is nearly always what the board actually outputs, which is great to see. The vDIMM overvolts a tiny bit, but it is almost not worth mentioning. The NB, PLL, and VTT voltages are flawlessly stable, showing no variances between idle and load. There is some line droop (vDroop) on the vCORE when going from idle to load, but it is not substantial enough to negatively affect stability nor overclocking. Nevertheless, let's take a closer look at the vCORE line's characteristics with a one hour OCCT stress test.



The slight vDroop is noticeable once the stress test actually kicks-in, but otherwise the vCORE is rock solid and there are zero worrisome spikes. Evidently, the "virtual" twelve-phase power design works quite well, even when only eight-phases are in-use.


Heat & Acoustical Testing



As has become the norm, the EP45-DQ6 does not have a fan and thus has no acoustical footprint.

Although this high-end motherboard is bursting at the seams with features, it surprisingly does not come with temperature sensors for the northbridge and southbridge. Therefore, we had to rely on our trusty digital thermometer for all temperature measurements. We set the system to its overclocked configuration, and then OCCT was run for two hours. The temperatures were recorded at twenty minute intervals throughout the two hour test and the results averaged out.



The northbridge cooler reached 45°C/113.0°F and the southbridge cooler measured 43°C/109.4°F. Both of these temperatures are a little hot, but considering the 500Mhz FSB, they are very good results. The MOSFET coolers hovered around the 37°C/98.6°F mark, which is surprisingly cool. None of the above components benefited from any direct cooling, so all these figures essentially represent a worst-case scenario. In a regular case with one or two 120MM fans, temperatures should be a bit lower. Overall though, the EP45-DQ6’s cooling system proved to be very effective during our battery of tests.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,088
Location
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Installation

Installation



For those of you who are interested in seeing how exactly the components fit on the motherboard, we have included a new Installation Section which should give you a general idea of the clearance levels on the EP45-DQ6.


As you can see, our Thermalright Ulra-120 heatsink has absolutely no problems clearing the northbridge and MOSFET coolers. It also does not come in contact with or hang over the DIMM slots.


Regarding the DIMM slots, we found that the memory clips came into contact with the components on the back of our XFX GeForce 8800GT, which made it effectively impossible to remove the memory sticks without first removing the graphics card. This is a hassle that we would obviously have liked to avoid.


There are no clearance issues when a graphics card is installed in the first PCI-E x16 slot thanks to the inclusion of 90-degree SATA connector. However, when a 9-inch graphics card is installed in the second PCI-E x16 slot you do lose the ability to use one SATA port. If you use a card longer than 9 inches, two SATA ports become inaccessible.


Lastly, those who use a CPU cooler that requires a back plate will want to ensure that it does not come into contact with the small electrical components on the back of the motherboard. As you can see, the back plate on our Thermalright Ultra-120 had the necessary clearance to avoid this issue.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,088
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion



At the start of this review we asked whether Gigabyte had created the complete package with the EP45-DQ6…a fast, fully-featured, overclockable, stable motherboard with no show-stopping faults. Now, after our exhaustive review, we can state that they have mostly succeeded. There are still some faults like the blocking a SATA port when the second PCI-E x16 slots is in use, or the minimal temperature & voltage readouts, but no product as complex as a motherboard will ever be perfect.

For your $280, you are getting one of the most fully-featured P45 motherboard on the market, sporting two physical PCI-E x16 (8x electrical) 2.0 slots, two PCI-E x4 slots, one PCI-E x1 slot, two PCI slots, ten SATA-II ports, four Gigabit LAN ports, twelve USB 2.0 ports, eSATA and FireWire connectivity, unparalleled RAID capabilities, 8-channel High Definition Audio with Dolby Home Theatre technology, TPM hardware-encryption chip, Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) Advanced, diagnostic LEDs, onboard power/reset buttons, a highly capable cooling system, and more. While the specifications list was impressive enough, what really stood out and won us over was the EP45-DQ6’s stability, solid performance, excellent overclocking capabilities, and awesome BIOS.

It is worth restating that the BIOS really has everything that we would want and expect from a high-end motherboard, which is to say enough features and options to satisfy all but the most fanatical DFI users. At the same time, it is also simple and versatile enough to allow novice users to achieve respectable overclocks without needless BIOS fiddling.

Although not a fault per se, we would have gladly traded 1-2 Gigabit LAN ports for some onboard WiFi capability. Yes, any self-respecting power user still uses a wired connection to ensure the highest bandwidth and lowest latency, and Gigabyte quite possibly ran out of PCB space, but when you are building a product that is the Jack of All Trades it’s better not to leave anything out.

Overall though, Gigabyte has created a product that is perfectly suited for a home media server, a budget workstation, or simply in a highly-clocked gaming rig. Yes, it is expensive but the best always is, and Gigabyte offers a wide variety of more budget-friendly P45 motherboards for those who don’t require all that the EP45-DQ6 has to offer.


Pros:
  • Longest features list in the history of features lists
  • Excellent overclocking capabilities
  • Great cooling system
  • Quad VGA Support
  • Fantastic BIOS
  • EasyTune6
  • Good layout

Cons:
  • Expensive (but worth it if you need all of the features)
  • Wish there was an option to disable the onboard LEDs in the BIOS
  • Not enough temperature and voltages readouts/sensors
  • Some SATA ports blocked when a graphics cards is installed in the second PCI-E x16 slot


Our thanks to Gigabyte for making this review possible!​

 
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