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Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P P45 Motherboard Review

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FiXT

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Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review




Price: Click Here to Compare Prices
Manufacturer Product Page: Giga-Byte Technology Co., Ltd.
Manufacturer's Part Number: GA-EP45-UD3P
Warranty: 3 year limited warranty (First 2 years parts & labor, 3rd year parts only)



When the Intel P45 Express chipset was first released back in June, many were not entirely convinced that it would be successful. The P35 Express chipset was mature and popular among the mainstream crowd, and those seeking proper CrossFire implementations had potent X38/X48 Express motherboards to choose from. To make matters worse, with the next-generation Nehalem platform appearing on the horizon, why would consumers bother to invest in a brand new chipset that had much of the same functionality as its predecessor?

Well fast forward to the present day and it is quite apparent that those concerns were completely unfounded. Not only are P45 motherboards flying off the shelves, but motherboard manufacturers have embraced this new chipset in an unprecedented manner, with over 90 different models available at last count. The reasons for this popularity are numerous; the release of the impressive Radeon HD 4800 series led to an increase in people seeking CrossFire-capable motherboards; Intel’s aggressive price cuts made the 45nm Core 2 Duo processors an irresistible upgrade choice; the P45’s unparalleled front-side bus and memory overclocking capabilities led many serious overclockers to shelve their higher-end X38/X48 motherboards in favor of over-achieving mainstream models.

With an industry-leading fifteen P45 motherboards in their roster, Gigabyte made it abundantly clear that they were strong supporters of this new chipset, and few would have begrudged the company for resting on the laurels of their impressive lineup. However, during our stay in Taipei for the Gigabyte Open Overclocking Championship 2008 event, they unveiled the new Ultra Durable 3 motherboard series, which surprisingly contained three new P45 models: the EP45-UD3, EP45-UD3R, and the EP45-UD3P.

Today we will be reviewing the most fully-featured model in the current Ultra Durable 3 lineup, the EP45-UD3P. This model can be distinguished from the other two UD3 motherboards by its two mechanical PCI-E x16 slots which operate in x8 electrical mode when Crossfire is used. Now CrossFire support is great, but it is quite ubiquitous among P45 motherboards. Therefore, Gigabyte have wisely chosen to outfit this model with a few truly unique features, namely native support for DDR2-1366+ memory speeds, a new cooling system, an integrated TPM data encryption chip, two PCI-E Gigabit LAN controllers, an abundance of connectivity options, Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced, and the innovative Ultra Durable 3 technology.

Can this mainstream model impress us as much as the higher-end EP45-DQ6 and [URL="http://www.hardwarecanucks.com/forum/hardware-canucks-reviews/9406-gigabyte-ga-ep45t-extreme-motherboard-review.html]EP45T-EXTREME[/URL] have? Let's take a look!


 
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MAC

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Specifications

Specifications




The EP45-UD3P is based on the mainstream Intel P45/ICH10R chipset combination, which was released in June. As with the P35 “Bearlake-P” chipset, the P45 is manufactured on the 65nm process, which makes it quite a bit smaller than 90nm chipsets like the high-end X38 and X48. As a result of this more modern manufacturing process, the northbridge has a very low default voltage of 1.10V, which means that it also runs cooler than its predecessors.

Officially, the P45 does not support a 1600Mhz front-side bus, as found on the high-end Core 2 Extreme QX9770 quad-core processor. However, all motherboard manufacturers (aside from ECS) are marketing their models as FSB1600 capable. Memory-wise, the chipset has been validated for operation up to DDR3-1333 and DDR2-800, but a few manufacturers have certified their own models for operation up to DDR3-2000 and DDR2-1366+.

On the PCI Express front, the P45 is limited to 16 PCI-E lanes, just like its predecessor the P35. However, the P45 chipset supports the PCI Express 2.0 specification, which doubles the standard bus bandwidth from 2.5 Gbit/s to 5 Gbit/s. This in itself is not particularly noteworthy, since the real-life performance differences between PCI-E 1.0 and PCI-E 2.0 are quite miniscule. However, the P45’s standout feature is that its PCI-E 2.0 slots can work in either 1x16 or 2x8 configuration, which is unprecedented for a mainstream chipset. In effect, a proper CrossFire configuration, no more crippled x16/x4 CrossFire nonsense. It’s not a full-blown x16/x16 setup, but no one could realistically expect Intel to allow a mainstream chipset to share the technological limelight with the higher-end X38/X48.

While the P45 chipset is the first to benefit from the new ICH10R southbridge, there is not much fundamentally new. As with the ICH9R southbridge, the ICH10R supports six SATA II ports, AHCI, and Matrix RAID technology.

Now let’s see what kind of motherboard Gigabyte has built around this new chipset:


 
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MAC

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Features

Features


In the competitive motherboard market, manufacturer-specific features are one of the strongest selling points when choosing between two motherboards that utilize the same chipset. Gigabyte is obviously well aware of this fact, and they have outfitted the mainstream-oriented EP45-UD3P with a healthy assortment of worthwhile features. In Gigabyte-speak, the Ultra Durable 3 series benefits from Ultra Cool, Ultra Performance, Ultra Durable, Ultra Power Efficient, Ultra Secure, Ultra Speed, Ultra Safe, and Ultra Smart...quite a lofty claim.


Let’s take a closer look at some of these standout features.

<table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="90%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dual Channel DDR2-1366+</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-1.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Setting an industry record, the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P officially supports memory speeds of DDR2-1366+. Overkill you say? Perhaps, but it does demonstrate that Gigabyte is confident in the memory overclocking capabilities of this motherboard. Also, there are actually a few soon-to-be-released 4GB DDR2 kits that will be able to achieve DDR2-1300 speeds with relative ease, so stay on the lookout for those!</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dolby Home Theater®</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-3.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The EP45-UD3P features an 8-channel high-definition audio codec chip that supports Dolby Home Theater, which is designed to automatically deliver the best possible surround sound listening experience no matter if you're using two to eight speakers or simply headphones.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>ATI CrossFireX</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-2.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />With its two mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, the EP45-UD3P is CrossFireX capable, just like most other P45 motherboards. The slots operate in x8/x8 configuration, but since they support the PCI-E 2.0 specification, they provide as much bandwidth as x16 PCI-E 1.0 slots.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-4.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />The new Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced provides better energy saving capabilities and most importantly it actually works while overclocking, which is something that competing energy saving solutions do not support. Finally, we can all benefit from maximum power savings and maximum system performance, the best of both worlds.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Ultra Durable 3</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-5.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The EP45-UD3P is the first model to support the new Ultra Durable 3 technology. As with Ultra Durable 2, this signifies that the motherboard was designed with high quality and energy efficient components, namely Low RDS(on) MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and long-lasting solid capacitors. However, it also features an industry-first 2 ounce copper PCB delivering lower system temperature, improved energy efficiency and enhanced overclocking stability.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>2 Power Phases for Both NB and RAM</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-6.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />In the last 18 to 24 months, motherboard manufacturers have really placed the onus on improving power delivery designs. With processors benefiting from 6-8-12-16 phase power designs, it was only natural to see similar improvements expand to other critical components. With this in mind, Gigabyte has outfitted the EP45-UD3P with two-phase power designs for the northbridge and the memory. This will not only help provide better power regulation but improved efficiency as well, which should theoretically improve overclocking. </td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Ultra TPM</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-7.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Continuing their pioneering efforts, Gigabyte is the first motherboard manufacturer to outfit their motherboards with an onboard Trusted Platform Module (TPM). This Infineon-sourced TPM provides an industry-leading 2048-bit data encryption through a hardware and software approach. We could spend a few pages explaining the intricacies of this Ultra TPM feature, but instead we recommend that interested readers check out Gigabyte’s article.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>High Velocity 2X Bandwidth Boost</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-8.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />The Dual LAN controllers support Teaming functionality allowing 2 single connections to act as 1 single connection for twice the overall bandwidth. Also, they prevent network downtime by transferring the workload from a failed port to a working port.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Hardware Overvoltage Control ICs</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-9.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Catering to the enthusiast crowd, the EP45-UD3P features hardware overvoltage control ICs which allow for linear real-time voltage control options for the CPU, memory, and northbridge. In addition, these ICs also allow for extremely accurate control, allowing overclockers to perfectly adjust voltages in precise 20mV increments. </td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>LED Indicators</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-10.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The EP45-UD3P has a whole slew of LEDs. First, there are 7 onboard diagnostic LEDs which indicate if a malfunction is occurring and allow users to quickly identify the source of the problem. Secondly, there are 4 embedded LEDs which indicate system power status, preventing potential hardware damage due to improper installation/removal of components while the systems is still in a power-on state (S0, S1, S3, S4, S5).</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EasyTune6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-11.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Let’s be honest here, the overwhelming majority of manufacturer provided overclocking/tweaking utilities just plain suck. It is due to this undeniable fact that Gigabyte completely redesigned EasyTune6 from the ground up to make it easier than ever to manage, monitor, and tweak your hardware and system settings.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>DualBIOS</b></center> <img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/EP45UD3P/features-12.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Providing bullet-proof BIOS protection, the EP45-UD3P has 2 physical BIOS ROMs which permit instant recovery from BIOS damage or failure due to viruses or improper BIOS updating.</td></tr></table>
 
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MAC

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Ultra Durable 3 Examined

Ultra Durable 3 Examined




One of the cornerstones of the EP45-UD3P motherboard is obviously the Ultra Durable 3 technology that was unveiled in Taipei on September 24th, one day ahead of the GIGABYTE Open Overclocking Championship.

Continuing the advancements brought forth by its predecessors, Ultra Durable 3 features lower ESR solid capacitors, lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, and ferrite core chokes. However, in this latest version the quality and longevity of the solid capacitors has been further improved, allowing up to 50,000 hours or approximately 6 years of continuous use. Secondly, in what is claimed to be an industry first for a consumer motherboard design, the Ultra Durable 3 introduces a 2 ounce copper PCB for both the Power and Ground layers. The benefits of this new motherboard design are claimed to be substantially lower system temperatures, superior energy efficiency, and improved overclocking.


Now despite our best attempt at macro mode, attempting to spot the 2 oz copper PCB layers is an exercise in futility. Thankfully, we actually have photographs taken during the official briefing that demonstrate what the copper PCB layers looks like.

Thanks to Dinos22 for the pics!​

While it certainly looks cool, what's more important is how it works, and we will attempt to determine whether this new feature has tangible benefits for your average user and overclocker.
 
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MAC

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


Now that we have listed the EP45-UD3P's specifications and examined a few of its standout features, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the included accessories.


As you can see, the EP45-UD3P stays true to its mainstream roots by shipping in a comparatively plain white box. Clearly no hyperactive graphic artists were given free reign when designing the front of this packaging and we applaud the simplicity.


On the other hand, the back of the box provides potential buyers with a lot of information, ranging from the benefits of the new Ultra Durable 3 technology to the peace of mind that dual BIOS chips provides. However, I am still surprised that Gigabyte doesn't dedicate any box real-estate to a proper specification list, instead packing all that info on the small barcode sticker.


The motherboard itself is packed in a standard anti-static (ESD) bag, unlike the high-end EP45-DQ6 which ships in a protective plastic enclosure.


Last, but certainly not least, is the accessories bundle, which is very respectable for a motherboard in this price point. Let’s break down the list of items:

  • 1 x Floppy Cable
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 4 x SATA Cables
  • 1 x Dual eSATA PCI Expansion Bracket (with accompanying eSATA cables)
  • Manual & Software CD + Installation Guide
  • Rear I/O Panel

Gigabyte have bundled great quality cables with the EP45-UD3P. In particular, we like the fact that two of the cables come with handy 90 degree connectors, and all the connectors have a clip that ensures that they remain securely fastened to your hardware. The eSATA bracket further enhances this motherboard's already impressive connectivity options, and comes with a very handy external molex connection, which could be used to power external radiator fans for a water cooling system.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P





At first glance the overall layout of this board is excellent. The ATX power connector, the 8-pin CPU power connector, the floppy connector, the IDE connector and four of the SATA ports are all placed at the most convenient location: the edge of the motherboard. We would have liked to have seen the other four SATA ports relocated to the motherboard's edge, possibly in a 90 degree angle configuration, but nothing is perfect. There is also a sizeable gap between the two physical PCI-E x16 slots, which should ensure that almost any aftermarket VGA cooling can be utilized. Overall, it is abudantly clear that GIGABYTE has been listening to our collective constructive criticisms and have made some great layout changes. Now let’s take a closer look at the individual sections:​



As you can see, the general CPU socket area on this motherboard is relatively unobstructed. Although surrounded by the northbridge and mosfet coolers and a few solid capacitors, there should be no clearance issues with most CPU coolers or water blocks. The EP45-UD3P comes with a six-phase power design, consisting of three Low RDS(on) MOSFETs per channel and small environmentally-sealed R50 low power loss ferrite core chokes. Now six phases might not seem like a lot in this age of twelve to sixteen-phase voltage regulation systems, but this model supports 30 amps per phase and can deliver a total of 180 amps to the CPU, which is overkill even for extremely overclocked quad-core processors.

The cooling system on the EP45-UD3P is elegantly simple. The aluminium northbridge heatsink and one of the MOSFET heatsinks are connected via a thick heat pipe, while the top MOSFETs cooler is independent. We will be testing the efficacy of this new cooling system a little later.​



In this first image, you can spot the phase LED display which illuminates based on the number of power phases in use, but only when the Dynamic Energy Saver software is running. You can also see the two-phase power design that Gigabyte have included for the memory slots, ensuring consistent power delivery to your DDR2 modules. Of course there is also the CPU fan header in its standard location.

Next we have the slightly garrish, but well-spaced red and yellow memory slots. As previously mentioned, the floppy connector and 24-pin ATX power connector are smartly positioned on the edge of the motherboard. One of two system fan headers is also visible. Before anyone asks, we are not sure whether retail units will ship with those aesthetically disruptive stickers.​



Starting at the bottom right, we see the two purple SATA ports, which are capable of RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD. These two ports are controlled by the Gigabyte-branded JMicron storage processor, which also runs the IDE connector. The six yellow ports come from the ICH10R southbridge, and support RAID 0/1/5/10. In the middle we have the southbridge, which is cooled by a small push-pin heatsink. The two ICs with green dots on them are the dual BIOS chips, and above them is the Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. On the left edge of the motherboard you can see the two yellow USB headers and grey FireWire (IEEE 1394) header.

The overall expansion slot layout and assortment is very good, the only minor issues are that the third PCI-E x1 slot and the bottom PCI slot become unusable if a dual-slot graphics card is placed in the nearest PCI-E x16 slot. However, dual-slot graphics cards inevitably block slots on every motherboard, so it is not actually a design flaw.​



Starting from the right, we have the ITE IT8718 chip I/O controller, which is responsible for hardware monitoring, fan speed controling, as well as supplying the legacy floppy support. To the left of it, we have the Realtek ALC889A high definition audio module, and then one of the two Realtek 8111C Gigabyte LAN controller chips, which runs on the PCI-Express bus. The other Realtek 8111C chip is located to the left of the northbridge cooler.​



The rear I/O panel is pretty packed for a motherboard in this price range. There are two Gigabit LAN ports, eight USB ports, two types of FireWire ports, six audio jacks, optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors, and lastly the PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports. Also, let’s not forget the two eSATA ports on the PCI expansion bracket.​


The back of the board is pretty typical; just a bunch of solder points and the push-pins holding the numerous coolers in place, no special back-mounted heatsinks on this model.
 
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MAC

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


When we reviewed the high-end EP45-DQ6 and EP45T-EXTREME motherboards, we noted that GIGABYTE had made some marked improvements in the BIOS department, both in terms of layout and functionality. Well we are pleased to report that these improvements have made their way to this new mainstream model.


The initial selection screen should be broadly familiar to anyone who has used an Award-based motherboard in the past, and it conveniently lists the GIGABYTE-specific MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section as the first option.


When you open the M.I.T. section you are greeted with the essential CPU and memory clock control options: CPU multiplier, front side bus, PCI-E bus, northbridge latch, memory multiplier, etc. As you scroll down, the motherboard voltage options are revealed, and nearly every voltage setting that a serious overclocker needs is present and accounted for. We say nearly every voltage option, because the CPU Reference2 setting is missing. The more perceptive among you should quickly notice the two newest options that have made their way into this BIOS, namely the Load-Line Calibration (LLC) and ICH Core (ie: southbridge) voltage settings. ICH Core is not particularly important, at least we have never had to tweak it on any P45 motherboard, but LLC is a terrific feature that eliminates droopage on the CPU vCORE. We are pleased to see that GIGABYTE is listening to user demands, and we will take a closer look at this feature in our Voltage Regulation section.

Now not only are there a lot of voltage options, but the individual adjustments are extremely liberal as you can see below:

<table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="735px"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"> </td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Minimum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Maximum</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="100"><b>Increment</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="335"><b>Notes</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.50000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.30000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.00625v<1.6v<br />0.02000v>1.6v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Normal sets the VID for the CPU</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU Termination</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.100v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.700v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.20v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU PLL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.050v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.810v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td> <td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.50v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">CPU Reference</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.460v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.010v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.015v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.76v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">MCH CORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.850v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.10v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">MCH Reference</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.500v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.040v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<0.506v<br />0.015v>0.506v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.760v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">MCH/DRAM Reference</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.630v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.910v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<0.950v<br />0.005v>0.950v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.900v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">ICH I/O</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.050v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.310v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.100v<1.540v<br />0.020v>1.540v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.500v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">ICH Core</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.100v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.400v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.100v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335"> Standard 1.100v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DRAM Voltage</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.450v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">3.04v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.80v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">DRAM Termination</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.810v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.505v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<1.13v<br />0.025v>1.15v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.900v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">Channel A Reference</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.630v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.910v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.900v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">Channel B Reference</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.630v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.910v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.900v</td></tr></table>​

What can we say? This is an overclocking friendly BIOS and these abundant voltage options should satisfy everyone. Just make sure that you use these voltages sensibly, as Gigabyte have provided enough leeway for you to damage any and all components.

Now you may have noticed the “Advanced Timing Control” option in the third screenshot, this is where most of the advanced memory settings are located:


This sub-menu gives you access to some of the important sub-timings, but most importantly reveals four more sub-menus. In the “Timings Settings” menus, you get access to the Static tRead Value, which is Gigabyte’s word for the all-important tRD or Performance Level. If you are particularly knowledgeable, you can also tweak the tRD phase adjustment and the DIMM Clock Skews. In the “Driving Settings” menus, we can adjust the memory driving strength, which is a very rare option to find in most BIOSes. Gigabyte has wisely chosen to provide Drive Strength Profiles (667/800/1066/OC-1200/OC-1333), which takes the guess work out of these fairly obscure options.

By adding all these extra options, Gigabyte has definitely outfitted the mainstream EP45-UD3P with some elite settings, and it should satisfy all but the most fanatical BIOS tweakers.


Here we have the Advanced BIOS Features section, which allows you to set boot device priority, enable/disable Intel’s various CPU-specific technologies, and tweak a few other boot-up related settings. The Integrated Peripherals section allows you to enable/disable all of the various onboard devices (RAID, audio, USB, FireWire, LAN, etc).


The PC Health Status section is a slight disappointment as there is a lack of voltages and temperatures being reported. Having said that, nearly all motherboards on the market right now lack thorough temperature and voltage readouts. The second screen enables/disables the Infineon Trusted Platform Module (TPM), and we can’t help but wonder why they did not simply add this option to the Integrated Peripherals section.


This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash utility which is accessed via the F8 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is now a simple and quick procedure. We have never experienced an issue with this well implemented tool, and it has certainly made our lives a little less stressful.

Overall, Gigabyte have done a great job with this BIOS. The MB Intelligent Tweaker section is simply superb and aside from the missing CPU Reference2 option, it has every feature that we would expect in a motherboard of this caliber. On a side note, as we stated in our EP45-DQ6 review, we do still find the BIOS to be a bit sluggish at times, occasionally hesitating to scroll up or down without any discernible cause.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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Included Software

Included Software


In this section, we will take a closer look at EasyTune6 and D.E.S Advanced, which are the two main software utilities that Gigabyte has packaged with the EP45-UD3P.

EasyTune6

EasyTune6 is a system management utility that displays system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation…but more importantly it allows users to overclock from within Windows. Now anyone familiar with past EasyTune iterations knows that although this utility has always contained a fair bit of functionality, its usability left a little (or a lot!) to be desired. Well thankfully Gigabyte went back to the drawing board, and created a brand new EasyTune version from scratch. Let's check it out.


The CPU and Memory tabs provide basic component information and are somewhat reminiscent of the immensely popular CPU-Z utility.


Quick Boost mode is a new feature that GIGABYTE introduced along with Ultra Durable 3. It is basically a user-friendly way for novice users to enjoy the performance boost that overclocking provides. Once you click on one of the three boost levels, the utility will automatically optimize system settings according to your specific hardware combination....as long as it is a hardware combination that was pre-tested by GIGABYTE engineers. For example, when I installed PC2-5300 modules the Quick Boost feature disappeared without a trace.


For those who desire a more manual approach to overclocking, the Tuner tab has an Easy mode which allows control over the front side bus. However, it's when users click on Advance that EasyTune 6 reveals its true inner beauty…unprecedented Windows-based overclocking options. Not only can you adjust the front side bus, the processor multiplier, the memory multiplier, and the PCI-E frequency, but they have actually provided overclockers with nearly every voltage option that is found in the BIOS.

The best part is that all of the on-the-fly voltage tweaking options actually work! This is quite an achievement for a manufacturer-provided piece of software. The experience was not quite flawless though, as the reference voltages and the DRAM Termination are misreported by ET6. You can still tweak them, but you just have to remember that those settings will be wildly different from what you can set in the bios.


The Graphics tab can be used to manipulate your graphics card’s core/memory/shader clock speeds, but we still recommend RivaTuner for VGA tweaking since it is much more capable. The Smart tab gives you access to the CPU Intelligent Accelerator (C.I.A) 2 and Smart Fan functions. The CPU Intelligent Accelerator was designed to automatically overclock the CPU according to system load and user-selected level. However, in our experiences, C.I.A.2 has never really worked properly, and it has effectively been replaced by Quick Boost, so we expect to see it disappear shortly. As its name suggests, Smart Fan gives allows users to control the CPU fan speed.​


Lastly, we have HW Monitor which is the only part of EasyTune6 that disappoints us. Despite providing us with over a dozen voltage tweaking options in the Tuner tab, the HW Monitor only displays four voltage readings. Yes, this is a mainstream motherboard, so some features have to be left out, but surely comprehensive voltage monitoring doesn't have to be one of the exclusions. At the very least, we would have liked to see the +5V rail included to complete the trio of important system voltages.

Overall though, we do sincerely enjoy using EasyTune6. It was consistently one of the first pieces of software we installed after a fresh Windows installation, and it was definitely a huge help in finding this motherboard's overclocking limits. If EasyTune keeps improving it will definitely become another worthwhile reason to recommend GIGABYTE motherboards.


DES Advanced

Now let's have a look at the DES Advanced energy saving solution, which is arguably Gigabyte’s most highly-touted feature.


After first installing the Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) software, we are greeted with a powered down control panel. This means all DES functions are turned off and disabled. Only when we click on the large DES logo to the right does the panel come to life and power saving begin.


The software is pretty straight forward; we have our power savings meter in the top portion providing us with information about how much power we have saved. We can see the meter total that we can easily reset and the total amount based on the first installation of DES. Just below is the graphic that tells us how many phases of the PWM are actually running. Because the system was in a high load state, all 6 phases were in use.


In this last photo the system is in an idle state, and DES Advanced has throttled down the CPU and only 2 power phases are being utilized. Below we see that the on-board LEDs also show how many phases are in use. These LEDs can be turned on and off through the control panel with the little green light to the right under the main DES on/off switch.


Now that we have gone through all the trouble of explaining how it works, the big question is does it work? In order to test this out we enabled all the Intel energy saving features in the BIOS, then let the system idle for 1 hour and measured the KW/h of energy used through our UPM EM100 power meter. We repeated the same procedure for 1 hour of Prime 95 Blend load. We then installed the DES software, set it to maximum energy saving, turned the Dynamic Frequency on, and repeated the tests. Here are the results:


While the power savings at idle were unmeasurable during our brief one hour test, these results prove that DES works quite well in high load scenarios. While running Prime 95 Blend the power consumption of the DES-enabled system reached a maximum of 146W, whereas the default system peaked at 151W. This might seem like an insignificant decrease, but over the span several months the energy and monetary savings would begin to add up, especially for those who constantly run intensive programs like Folding @ Home.

Last, but of particular importance to the enthusiast crowd, is the fact that Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced can be used with an overclocked system, which is something that most competing energy saving technologies do not support.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
Test Setup / Overclocking Methodology

Test Setup



Test Platform:
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P (F4 BIOS)
  • Processor: Intel C2D E8500
  • Processor Cooling: Thermalright Ultra-120 + 120MM Scythe S-FLEX SFF21F 1600RPM/63.7CFM
  • Memory: 2 x 1GB OEM Micron PC2-5300 (D9GMH) @ 800Mhz 5-5-5-15 1.8V
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX620W
  • Video Card: XFX GeForce 8800 GT Alpha Dog 512MB (ForceWare 175.16)
  • Additional Fans: 92MM Arctic Cooling AF9225PWM
  • Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 7200.11 500GB SATAII 32MB cache
  • OS: Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 32-bit (with all updates)

Testing will occur on a Highspeed PC Standard Top Deck Tech Station, and not in a traditional case. This allows easier access to the motherboard for the constant poking and prodding that is required during the reviewing process. The setup remained as pictured during the duration of the benchmarking and stability overclocking process. However, we utilized a 2x1GB Crucial Ballistix PC2-6400 .16FD5 memory kit during the maximum overclocking tests.


Overclocking Methodology


Although it is not part of Gigabyte’s enthusiast-oriented EP45 Extreme series, we still expect to see some solid overclocking from this new mainstream P45 model and we are definitely going to find out what it is truly capable of. The overclocking section is definitely the part of our reviews that we take the most pride in, and we spend an excruciating numbers of hours testing, tweaking, failing, and succeeding in order to give you the best possible insight into each motherboard’s overclocking capabilities. After all, if you are anything like us, the overclocking section is the first (and often last!) part that you read when checking out a motherboard review.

For the purposes of this review, our overclocking efforts will primarily focus on five main areas: highest stable FSB overclocking, highest stable memory overclocking, highest stable overall overclocking, maximum benchable FSB overclocking, and maximum benchable memory overclocking.

In the first three overclocking tests, we put an emphasis on stability. While the question “What is stable?” could be debated endlessly, we have devised a methodology that combines a wide range of programs that test the stability of the entire system.

Here is the suite of applications that will be run in order to validate each of the overclocks:

  • Dual 32MB runs of SuperPi Mod 1.5 (ran at the same time)
  • 2-3 hours of dual Prime 95 v25.6 using the Stress Testing Blend
  • 2 hours of OCCT Custom 2H Mix OCCT v2.0.0a - Except for Memory Overclocking
  • 3-4 hours of dual HCI MemTest in Windows using all available memory
  • Multiple loops of 3DMark 06 (30 minutes of looping the full tests each)
  • 1 hour of game play in Team Fortress 2 & Crysis @ 1680x1050

Altogether, the above suite should provide enough stress testing to ensure a completely stable overclock, however we are always up for new suggestions. As always, no two systems are ever alike, so your results may vary. Also, overclock at your own risk! If you aren’t fully confident in what you are doing, feel free to stop by our forums and our helpful members will be glad to offer some assistance.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,141
Location
Montreal
Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


As evidenced by the introduction of the Extreme Series motherboards and the fact that they hosted a massive overclocking competition, it is clear that GIGABYTE are intently focused on the needs and wants of the overclocking community. As a result, we were definitely looking forward to testing out the EP45-UD3P's capabilities. In particular, we were interested in whether the Ultra Durable 3 features would truly result in tangible overclocking benefits.

When a new motherboard is released, the immaturity of the BIOS is often the limiting factor when it comes to overclocking. Regrettably, this was also the case with the EP45-UD3P with the first release F4 BIOS. As you will see below, the stable overclocking results are by no means bad, but they are not quite as good as we achieved with the more mature EP45-DQ6. Having said, this model's potential is definitely apparent, and once the BIOS is tweaked a little further this will be an overclocking monster.

Before continuing, please note that MemSet misreports the memory type and the memory clocks, therefore rely on CPU-Z and Everest instead.

Highest Stable FSB & Memory Overclocking
Click for full size…


Our regular readers will notice that for this review we have combined our "Maximum FSB Stability Overclocking" and "Maximum Memory Stability Overclocking" into one section. The reason for this unique change is simply due to the fact that our highest stable front-side bus speed allowed us to max out the Micron PC2-5300 (D9GMH ICs) modules that we use in our Test Setup.

As you can see, we were able to achieve a very respectable 515Mhz FSB at 1.34vNB with a relatively modest 1.34 VTT and 1.61 PLL voltages. While the key to our success was careful tweaking of the CPU Reference and MCH Refence voltages, a similar result could also be achieved by leaving all the settings on AUTO. However, above 500Mhz, the VTT and PLL voltages are automatically set to a stratospheric 1.60V and 1.85V, respectively. Although we knowingly stress-tested with these voltages for approximately 100 hours with no apparent consequences, we most definitely do not recommend them for long-term use. Take the time to tweak the CPU Reference and MCH Refence and you will achieve high FSB clocks with lower voltages.

Now the reason that we were limited to a 'mere' 515Mhz is due a consistent failure to pass SuperPI 32M at higher speeds. No matter how much voltage we used and how much tweaking we did, SPi 32M would not successfully complete three times in a row above 515Mhz. We could run loops of 3DMark 2001 at up to 585Mhz FSB and even pass OCCT 2 hours at 545Mhz, but SuperPI 32M would nevertheless fail. In our discussions with Gigabyte, we were told that this was a known issue and that an improved BIOS would be released very shortly.

Highest Stable Overall Overclocking
Click for full size…


As like the higher-end EP45-DQ6, we have no qualms recommending the EP45-UD3P for 24/7 500Mhz FSB use. We were able to achieve this fairly lofty front-side bus speed at only 1.26vNB, and at this speed and voltage the northbridge and MOSFET coolers barely get warm to the touch. By any measure, a 4.0Ghz/500Mhz FSB/DDR2-1200 system is extremely fast, and nowadays it is remarkably easy to achieve too. We will be using these clock speeds as the overclocked configuration in the subsequent benchmarking section.



Since competitive benchmarking and overclocking is becoming such a popular activity, we have decided to include two new headers to our Overclocking Results section, Maximum Benchable FSB and Maximum Benchable Memory. Both of these will demonstrate the overclocking results we achieved at the razor's edge of stability. In order to qualify, an overclock must simply pass Everest Cache & Memory Benchmark and SuperPI 1M. This will reveal our motherboard's absolute maximum capabilities, without being quite as useless as mere suicide screenshots. Needless to say, unless you are fully willing to damage your components, don't try to recreate the results you see below.

Maximum Benchable FSB Overclocking
Click for full size…


As we stated in the intro to this section, the EP45-UD3P has the potential to be a monster overclocker and this certainly supports that claim. 610Mhz FSB at 1.54vNB and a Performance Level of 10 is a terrific result on air, especially since it was accomplished with the stock NB cooler and thermal paste.

With some extreme cooling and a Core 2 Duo E8600, I wouldn't be surprised to see this motherboard achieve some top SPi 1M times.


Maximum Benchable Memory Overclocking
Click for full size…


One of the benefits of the new 2 oz copper layers was said to be improved memory overclocking, and Gigabyte have increased the highest supported memory speeds from DDR2-1333 up to DDR2-1366+. While this may seem like overkill to many of you, there are in fact a few memory kits that are well-known for reliably hitting such speeds, like Team Group Xtreme PC2-10400 and Crucial Ballistix PC2-6400/PC2-8000/PC2-8500 (double-sided .16FD5 versions). Armed with a new set of these Ballistix modules, we were fully commited to testing out this DDR2-1366 claim. However, as you can see, sanity kicked in and we decided to settle on DDR2-1333, which is still extremely impressive. Clearly, anyone with good modules and an equal dose of courage and voltage can achieve some stupendous memory overclocks with the EP45-UD3P. Once again, we fully expect to see some DDR2 world records achieved with this model.


Well now that we have finished torturing this motherboard, let's see how it actually fares in benchmarks.
 
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