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Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme Motherboard Review

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3oh6

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Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme DDR3 Motherboard Review

<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/gigabyte_logo-1.png" alt="Gigabyte Logo">


<b>Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME DDR3 Motherboard Review</b></center>



<b>Price:</b> Click Here to Compare Prices
<b>Manufacturer Product Page:</b> <a href="http://www.giga-byte.ca/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=2893&ProductName=GA-EP45T-EXTREME">Giga-Byte Technology Co., Ltd.</a>
<b>Manufacturer's Part Number:</b> GA-EP45T-EXTREME
<b>Warranty:</b> 3 year limited warranty (First 2 years parts & labor, 3rd year parts only)




<p style="text-align: justify;">It has been a while but the big G is back at Hardware Canucks and the timing couldn't be more perfect. We have an Intel E8400 here that has been Front Side Bus (FSB) limited by every motherboard it has been tested in and based on other P45 based motherboard results, we may have just bought the right ticket to board the sky high FSB train. The Intel P45 chipset isn't just about overclocking though and Gigabyte has put together an enthusiast level motherboard in the GA-EP45T-Extreme that is sure to impress in everything it does.

Gigabyte has a long standing history in the computer hardware market and have always been known for their motherboard and graphics accelerator cards. Like everything else, however, Gigabyte hasn't hesitated to evolve and expand their lineup to include various other electronic devices. You can now find the Gigabyte name on all kinds of consumer electronics from laptops to complete desktop systems as well as portable hand held devices and even network servers. Despite these additions to the Gigabyte portfolio, they have always stayed true to their roots and continue to produce some of the best consumer level motherboards the computer industry has access to year after year.

On the Gigabyte website, the statistic that 1/10 of personal computers world wide use a Gigabyte motherboard is proudly displayed. It is unsure exactly where the figure comes from but at a home PC level, we wouldn't doubt this to be true for a second. It seems that every technology cycle, when new chipsets are unleashed on the market, the Gigabyte mid-range models clog the signatures of computer enthusiasts the internet wide. These motherboards always offer great performance and features at a price that others just can't match. This is great for a business's bottom line, but what about the ultra high-end DDR3 market? Where does Gigabyte stand when it comes to wowing the crowds and pushing the envelope?

This is the very question we look to answer today with our in-depth review of the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme. We will scower this motherboard with a fine tooth comb looking for faults and weaknesses as well as highlighting its great features and convienences. When speaking of the Intel P45 chipset, there is no end to the possibilities of features and it appears Gigabyte has tried to pack them all together in one impressive package. We will also make sure to satisfy the needs of the overclockers joing us today so be sure to strap in tight as this train is about to leave the station on a high-speed trip across the performance country side.</p><center>
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3oh6

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Specifications

Specifications


<p style="text-align: justify;">Yes this section is a little boring and a pinch on the bland side but hey, how else do you present a plethora of specifications? For those that aren't exactly up on what the basic specifications are going to be for a high-end P45 board, this section is worth a read over. For our readers here that are up on their basic specs and want to see what special features Gigabyte has pushed into the GA-EP45T-Extreme, the next section is going to be the one for you. Let's start with a quick look at the Intel P45 chipset diagram.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/specs-1.png" alt="Intel P45 Specifications"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">There really are very few differences to the Intel P45 Express chipset when compared to its predecessor the P35 Express chipset. The major additions are the support of the new PCI-E 2.0 standard and the change from the ICH9 to ICH10 families of south bridges. The upgrade to the ICH10 south bridge again, provides very little in the way of new features or technology. The update to PCI-E 2.0 provides future proofing going forward but it is highly unlikely that video cards are going to mandate PCI-E 2.0 ports any time soon. With that said, the P45 chipset still lacks the ability to provide dual 16X PCI-E lanes as that is reserved for the flagship X38/X48/(X58) chipsets. So really, P45 is nothing that we aren't familiar with already. Going through the spec sheets we did find one interesting note, the ability to run different size memory modules and remain in dual channel is now officially listed. Again, that is about all there is for differences.

The following list was pulled directly from the Gigabyte web site with a little bit of fat trimmed off the sides. It basically goes over all of the specifications that Gigabyte has implemented in the GA-EP45T-Extreme.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/specs-2.png" alt="Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme Specifications"></center>
 
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3oh6

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Features

Features


<p style="text-align: justify;">We will now go over a few of the highlights of the GA-EP45T-Extreme that Gigabyte has decided to focus on. Some of the features on this board are more exciting than others but one thing is for certain, Gigabyte has brought their A-game to the table because there is a whole lot that this board is offering, and being the top of the Gigabyte line up at this time...it should.</p><table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="89%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dual Channel DDR3 1900 (O.C.)</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-1.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Gigabyte is obviously confident in the memory overclocking of this motherboard because they have gone as far to say that DDR3-1900 is officially supported by the GA-EP45T-Extreme (for specific qualified modules). The whispers from P45 users so far has been that the P45 chipset is having some serious issues with memory clocking so this type of claim was not expected. It should be interesting when we get to that point in the review to see how well the Gigabyte holds up when pushing memory clocks.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>PCI-E 2.0 Graphic Interface</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-2.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />We touched on the PCI-E 2.0 specifications that the P45 chipset possesses but what does that mean? Well, it means there is a whole lot more traffic lanes available on the PCI-E highway, a full 5Gbit/s, up from 2.5Gbit/s from PCI-E specifications. Again, this is all well and good but the Intel P45 chipset limits the total amount of lanes available so dual 16X PCI-E lanes are not possible. 8X/8X is all that users will be able to run on any P45 based motherboard. With the increase in traffic on those lanes, however, PCI-E 2.0 is a significant upgrade and in theory the equivalent to dual 16X PCI-E lanes.</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/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-3.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Having dual physical 16X PCI-E 2.0 lanes also means that CrossFireX is a capability and the GA-EP45T-Extreme is 100% ready to handle that task. Despite the lower bandwidth on the two PCI-E 16X slots compared to the X38/X48/(X58) chipsets, CrossFireX will still be able to provide some very impressive performance for multi-GPU setups.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dolby Home Theater®</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-4.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />The onboard sound of the GA-EP45T-Extreme is fully Dolby Home Theater licensed and while the onboard sound may not be able to match that of a high-end add in sound card, the GA-EP45T-Extreme will still be able to provide a home theater experience. Right out of the box, the onboard sound is ready and willing to power any 2 to 8 speaker setup for a solid listening experience without further investments required.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Ultra Durable 2</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-5.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Gigabyte has dubbed the Ultra Durable 2 components being used on the GA-EP45T-Extreme for their high efficiency and top build quality. The switch to low RDS(on) MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and solid capacitors is Gigabytes attempt to not only provide a more efficient power delivery to components; but also better performance and longer life. The components we will see on this board are going to be what will eventually filter down into lower end boards in the future. This is the beauty of looking at high-end motherboards, they are the proving ground for what works, and what doesn't. Much like Formula 1 is to so many automotive manufacturers, a place to showcase the latest and greatest technologies.</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/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-6.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />In the high-end enthusiast market we have also seen the advancing of the power delivery design to critical components to accompany the use of higher quality hardware. Gigabyte is not about to fall behind in this area and has upgraded the North Bridge and vDIMM circuits to dual phase power solutions. Having two phases involved in the power delivery will not only help provide a smoother power supply but also increase the efficiency of the power circuits. The idea behind dual phase power supply for the NB and memory is that it will allow a smoother power delivery allowing for higher and more stable overclocks. Gigabyte is definitely committed to the enthusiast/overclocker and this is really starting to show in this GA-EP45T-Extreme with design features like this.</td></tr></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Hybrid-Silent Pipe</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-7.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />The latest craze with high-end motherboards is to include water blocks built into the heat pipe circus that accompanies so many motherboards these days. Gigabyte is again, not going to be left out from this latest motherboard fad. We have seen a lot of problems with these types of solutions in the past from manufacturers like ASUS and will be taking a close look at what Gigabyte has offered here on the GA-EP45T-Extreme. If it works good, then great, but if it is a poor design prone to issues, then it isn't so much a feature as a drawback.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Hardware Overvoltage Control ICs</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-8.png" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />So now that we have the excellent components, stable power delivery, and ample cooling abilities, how do we put all that power to use? Gigabyte has taken the necessary steps to allow that to happen with high-end ICs that will be able to regulate power delivery in smaller increments than ever before. They will also have the ability to provide higher voltages than we would normally find on mid-range motherboards. All of these power delivery features are really shaping this board up to be a great overclocker and we can't wait to get our heads buried in just what this board can do.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EasyTune6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-9.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The last couple features we are looking at are of course related to overclocking. What high-end motherboard doesn't come with a software interface for overclocking and reporting? The only difference between the Gigabyte Easy-Tune 6 software and others is that it actually works well. According to some forum reports we have been reading, the Easy Tune 6 software Gigabyte bundles with the GA-EP45T-Extreme is a very well designed and capable overclocking software. Out interest is certainly peeked with that news and will be investigating these claims further in the software section.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>LED Indicators</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/features-10.png" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Last, and certainly not least, is the inclusion of a few informative LEDs that are sprinkled amongst the other surface mount components on this motherboard. With the GA-EP45T-Extreme, we get onboard POST diagnosis LEDs, over voltage LEDs indicating the voltage level of the CPU/RAM/NB/SB, overclocking LEDs indicating how high our overclock is, and a pair of LEDs to inform us of the CPU and NB temperatures. It is funny, a recently reviewed ASUS board wouldn't even give us software readings of this information and here Gigabyte is putting LED indicators on the board for us. It should be interesting to see how bright we can get this board glowing during the overclocking.</td></tr></table><p style="text-align: justify;">As we can see, the features that Gigabyte have packed into one ATX sized motherboard are quite impressive on paper, but how these features roll out in reality is a different story entirely. But that is what we are here to do today, test these features and see just how useful they are to us end-users. So now that we know what Gigabyte says this board offers, let’s take a look for ourselves. We start off with a look at the package and accessory bundle Gigabyte includes with the GA-EP45T-Extreme and then onto a fly over of the board itself to see if we can spot some of these impressive features we just discussed.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories


<p style="text-align: justify;">Being a premium motherboard, Gigabyte has pulled out all the stops and made sure they offered a premium package...right down to the premium size of the package.</p><center>
package-1.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Front to back, Gigabyte has gone with a camouflage theme with this board and followed it up with bullets and bullet holes. This theme is obviously targeted toward the first person shooter crowd and these days, that seems to be everyone buying or building a computer. Aside from the fancy 'paint job', Gigabyte has gone over the top in presenting the features and specifications of this board. We've said it before and will say it again, despite the amount of internet sales, there are still a lot of people that simply go to their local shop and buy a motherboard based on the box...or at the very least, use the information on the box to help make their decision.</p><center>
package-3.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">For these customers, Gigabyte has done a great job ensuring they know exactly what the GA-EP45T-Extreme has to offer. They have even included a handle on top to help you carry it home, and with a box this big and heavy loaded with goodies; it is actually helpful. Opening the front flap we are greeted with yet more information about the motherboard and we also get a pretty good look at the hardware inside.</p><center>
package-5.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We just had to give you a close up of the rear panel of this package, I mean, how Gigabyte was able to jam this much information on the package is beyond me. That poor design intern that got the archive file of logos, and images and was told to make it all fit, we feel for you here at HWC...we really do. The other thing this large package offers is protection. There is the outer sleeve, or box that contains all the graphics, and then there is the actual box that we see in the second photo above. The black cardboard box is quite sturdy and provides a very secure environment for the motherboard inside, which is then encased in a plastic shell.</p><center>
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As we just mentioned, the motherboard comes not in an ESD safe bag, but in a plastic clam-shell like package. In the second photo, we can see that this may not have been a bad decision. The one edge of the plastic shell has been all but destroyed and ripped right off. With no signs of any damage to the black box in the area of the damage, we were a bit puzzled as to how this happened. The plastic shell doesn't really have room to move but at some point the package must have taken a pretty good drop that forced the plastic shell to flex and break. Either way, the board is in perfect shape so the package has done its job, and it appears UPS made the package really work to get the board here in one piece.</p><center>
package-9.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The accessories that come with the GA-EP45T-Extreme is a pretty standard package but there are a couple things worth pointing out. The SATA cables Gigabyte uses are the best you will find with any motherboard. They actually clip in place and are very securely attached to the hardware. The other thing worth mentioning is the PCI expansion bracket in the top right hand corner. This actually provides not only eSATA ports at the rear of the machine, but also a 4-pin molex power connection. Included are a 4-pin molex to 5-pin SATA power cable and an eSATA to SATA cable allowing us to connect a hard drive externally without the use of additional hardware. It may not be useful to some but for those that image drives for other systems, it is a nice addition. Here is a complete list of the accessory package:
  • 1 x Floppy Cable
  • 1 x IDE Cable
  • 4 x SATA Cables
  • Dual Firewire PCI Expansion Bracket
  • Dual eSATA PCI Expansion Bracket
  • Manual & Software CD + Installation Guide
  • 1 x Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module Kit
  • Rear I/O Panel
</p><center>
package-11.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Near the bottom of the list we saw the Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module listed. The above two images show exactly what that is from a couple of angles. Essentially it is yet more heat pipes that we can attach to the existing heat pipe mess and it is suppose to help with chipset cooling. In theory the idea is great and if you have room in the case, then why not. But as we will see in the next section, there may not be too much benefit from adding this to the chipset heat sink. Regardless of whether it helps cool the system or not, it is definitely a well made piece of hardware and looks very nice.</p>
 
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3oh6

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A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME

A Closer Look at the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME



<center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/layout-1.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The image above highlights all the major players on this motherboard and the overall appearance of the board screams typical Gigabyte. This is definitely holding true so far with clashes of color all over the board that really make it possible for only a mother to love. Let's take a closer look now at the various areas of the motherboard and see if we can't make these colors look decent with selective framing of the images.</p><center>
layout-2.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Like clockwork, we not only start in the same spot as always, but we will go around the board in a circular motion from the top of the board. Up here is the ever so important CPU socket, the heart of the beast if you will. Lining the rear and top edges of the 775pin LGA socket we find our "virtual" 12 Phase power station. The term virtual is quoted from the Gigabyte site but we couldn't find further explanation anywhere. There certainly aren't 12 physical phases so we will leave it at that. The low RDS(on) MOSFETs are cooled in part by a typical heat pipe setup that originates from the south bridge. This heat pipe configuration isn't exactly typical though, more on that later. As always we will be testing CPU cooler fitment with the Thermalright Ultra-120 for interference with said heat pipe roller coaster as well as the DIMM slots. At first glance though, it doesn't appear as if it will be an issue.</p><center>
layout-4.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Moving over to the DIMM area we get another dose of the wonderful color scheme but more importantly, DIMM slots that look like they should play nice with big CPU coolers. The fact that memory slots are so far down the board these days means that CPU coolers can almost have free reign of the upper portion of the board. We also get all connections to the outside edge and a quick shot of the multi phase vDIMM circuit Gigabyte has designed. Like the CPU and what we will see with the NB, the vDIMM circuit is powered by the ferrite core chokes and low RDS MOSFETs.</p><center>
layout-6.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Continuing our journey around the GA-EP45T-Extreme we find the major input/output area of the board down near the south bridge. Gigabyte has gone with a pair of SATA ports at a 90 degree angle with the last 4 being of a traditional orientation. Our dual BIOS, onboard LED diagnostic readouts, and onboard power/reset buttons are also found down here. We also have our IDE connector and controller, the ITE IT8213F. Front panel connectors as well as two USB onboard headers follow along the bottom of the motherboard and reach across to the rear of the board. Further along the bottom we have three headers for firewire connectors and one of four fan headers along with an onboard serial header and another ITE IC. The ITE IT8720F is a super I/O controller chip but interestingly enough, we can't find any information on it.</p><center>
layout-8.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The expansion slot layout is very nice with a two slot gap between the two main PCI-E 16X slots and a PCI & PCI-E 1X slot above the top PCI-E 16X slot. This means, regardless of what GPUs you use, you add in soundcard guys can use a PCI slot no problem...except for length, but there should be enough room to the DIMM slots. The very top PCI-E 1X slot will have to be reserved for the smallest of small cards as there is no room for anything else. The very bottom PCI-E 16X slot is nice that it is full size, so any card will fit, but will only run at 4X. In the second photo the clock generator IC (ICS 9LPRS914EKLF) and battery are located underneath the heat pipe mess coming from the NB. We also have the Realtek ALC889A codec which isn't the highest quality on-board audio solution but should be good enough to get the job done. The Realtek RTL8111C gigabit network controller IC is also located right here.</p><center>
layout-10.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">We now turn our attention to the heat pipe cooling setup of this motherboard. There is no point in sugar coating this so here it is, this setup is an absolute waste of copper and board space. It looks fancy and the marketing department probably loves what they came up with, the only problem is that marketing shouldn't design a motherboard cooling solution.

First we are going to pull it off to have a look at it. Under where the heatsink was just sitting, we can see full coverage of thermal paste on the north bridge. The thermal paste used is that hard cruddy stuff which works fine, but we have found when a board flexes, it breaks its bond with the chipset and from there on out, the thermal transfer is hindered. This was the case with our board we believe as initial testing with the stock heat sink was fairly disappointing. We would like to see a soft thermal paste that doesn't dry right up and harden. The south bridge and PWM heat sinks use thermal pads to interface with the components and they seem to work just fine. Now, let's get into the finer details of why this heat sink/heat pipe setup is great, but had a major flaw.

We can see there is a single heat pipe going from the south bridge to the north bridge, so far, this is fine and the south bridge is adequately cooled. The north bridge, however is a different story all together.</p><center>
layout-13.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Looking directly from the side, we can see a thin base plate that makes contact with the P45 NB, but sitting directly above that, is a series of cooling fins. These fins then attach to the nice and thick upper plate that has the water block, provides the base for the Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module, and finally the heat pipes that then carry on to the PWM areas.

Our question to Gigabyte is, how exactly do you think the water block, Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module, or those heat pipes are going to remove heat from the chipset? The cooling fins in between the two layers of the whole assembly are for dissipating heat, not transferring it. There is very little mass in contact with the chipset which is required to absorb large heat loads when the system is really being pushed. The argument here then is that the P45 chipset runs cool. Well, if it runs so cool, what is all this elaborate cooling for then? Is a water block even necessary? What about the heat pipes that are supposed to be transferring heat to the PWM area where the cooling fins then dissipate the heat? To put it bluntly, this design is probably the most inefficient we have seen to date. You can see the photos, come to your own conclusions.

I think it is high time motherboard manufacturers took a step back and started designing cooling solutions based on performance, not how it looks esthetically on a board because what we are looking at here with the GA-EP45T-Extreme is a great design ruined by what looks like a solution a marketing intern came up with.</p><center>
layout-14.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Flipping the board over, we can see small back plates for the north bridge and south bridge heat sinks and these are a very welcome sight. They are sturdy and when combined with the screws/springs that hold the heat sinks in place, provide an excellent environment for good contact between the heat sink and the component. It is just too bad the quality design ends there. One other item we want to point out is the fact that we have additional MOSFETs on the back side of the motherboard around the CPU socket. Notice that these are not heat sinked in any way? Why is it that the topside MOSFETs need heat sinks with all those heat pipes? The answer: they don't. Those heat sinks are for dissipating the heat from the north bridge but as we just pointed out, there is no way for that to efficiently happen. In the end, this entire heat pipe assembly, water block, and Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module are nothing more than a marketing gimmick that provide very little, if any additional cooling in our opinion based on the design.

We apologize for the chastising of Gigabyte because they are not the only ones putting out these terrible cooling solutions, but this design is the creme of the crop and pushed us over the edge. Something needs to be said and users need to know that we are paying for elaborate cooling solutions that are a waste. A basic south bridge heatsink, and small all copper north bridge heat sink with a low RPM fan is all that is required with the P45 chipset. We know people hate the idea of a small fan in their system but if a little bit of effort was put into designing a good one that didn't die inside a month and scream the whole time, the roller coaster heat pipe alternative could be avoided and value of the motherboard could be increased.</p><center>
layout-16.jpg
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</center><p style="text-align: justify;">For those that are interested, here are a couple photos of the multi phase north bridge and the "virtual 12-phase" CPU PWM circuit. Both are very well designed and in conjunction with the high quality MOSFETs, neither area gets even remotely warm under load. The finger test doesn't even register a temperature for either as it just isn't enough above ambient for our skin to tell the difference. Of course, this is with just a dual core. A quad core processor may warrant some sort of heat sink but a handful of Swiftech MC-14s would even be over kill, let alone a Thermalright solution. The stock heat sinks are again, more than enough to keep the CPU PWM cool as a cucumber as well.</p>
 
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown


<p style="text-align: justify;">Our swim through the blue ocean is going to show us just how a BIOS should be setup. Aside from the fact that the PG Down button doesn't scroll down a page, Gigabyte has done an excellent job with this BIOS layout.</p><center>
bios.jpg
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Click for full size...</center><p style="text-align: justify;">First off, the splash screen carries over for the package with the camouflage theme, but this is the last time we saw it as that gets turned off instantly with our systems. Any real geek needs to see how POST is coming along. The main BIOS selection screen starts the party in a great direction. The M.I.T. section is the first option and default for the selection cursor. This is the home for all of the overclocking and finally someone realized it should be the default selection so there is no time wasted getting to adjusting settings. Everything else lays out nicely as well. Along the bottom, we can see that Q-Flash, and BIOS saving/loading are only a keystroke away as well.</p><center>
bios-2.png
bios-3.png

Click for full size...</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As Axle Rose has said many a time, "welcome to the jungle...". This is where all the action happens and man it is nice to see it all in one section and easily found. Again, with such a long list, I would kill for the Page Down key to actually page down and not just cycle through selection options. Every section is clearly labeled and we have clock control up top. The sub menu Advanced Clock Control provides us with access to CPU Clock Drive, PCI Express Clock Drive, CPU CLock Skew, and MCH Clock Skew. We left this screen shot out so that is why we have listed the options. The DRAM Performance Control section houses our strap selection as well as memory ratio options which are highlighted to the right. The way Gigabyte labels the ratios is a bit confusing, but once understood makes for easy identification of which ratios we have available to which chipset strap. The "key" is listed on the right side of the screen identifying that each ratio has a letter at the end signifying which strap it is associated with it.

The second screenshot is of the Advanced Timing Control screen for memory. The memory timing options are minimal but we have full control over the all important tRFC. Improperly low tRFC has lead to some memory compatibilities so it is important to have access to it from the BIOS. We also have full tRD control (AKA Performance Level) which is a nice touch. The screenshot shown is of the F3C BIOS that isn't available on the Gigabyte web site yet and the DIMM Clock Skew Control isn't in previous versions.

Going back to the first screenshot, we find ourselves looking at all of the voltage options in a nice neat little section at the bottom. The most important feature is the ability to key directly in what voltage you want, no need to cycle through the entire list. We have access to all the important voltages and as the chart below outlines, plenty of voltage at our finger tips.</p><center><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">0.800v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.800v</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">1.00v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.800v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.100v<1.56v<br />0.020v>1.56v</td> <td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.50v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">MCH CORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.800v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.10v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.100v<1.14v<br />0.020v>1.14v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 1.50v</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">1.045v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<0.760v<br />0.015v>0.760v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.760v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">ICH I/O</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.300v</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">DRAM Voltage</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.500v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">2.500v</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">DRAM Termination</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.800v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.505v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<1.105v<br />0.015v>1.105v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.900v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">Data vREF</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.310v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.630v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<0.930v<br />0.050v>0.930v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.750v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">Address vREF</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.310v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">1.980v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="100">0.020v<0.930v<br />0.050v>0.930v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="335">Standard 0.750v</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Like we said, there is definitely enough voltage available for most anyone's needs. Of course, being available for selection and actually providing it are two different things. That will be investigated in the Voltage Regulation section a little later on. Let's move on with a quick look at the rest of this excellently planned out BIOS.</p><center>
bios-4.png
bios-5.png

Click for full size...</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The Standard CMOS and Advanced BIOS Features are pretty straight forward and cover all the basics that one would expect from these sections. We like how Gigabyte has managed to keep the BIOS selections clean looking yet fully featured. There aren't a bunch of sub-menus which is the main reason for the clean looking sections and a big plus in our opinion.</p><center>
bios-6.png
bios-7.png

Click for full size...</center><p style="text-align: justify;">These next two sections, again, are very straight forward in their layout and well labeled for ease of configuration. As one would expect, all integrated hardware can be turned off from the BIOS and there is even a unique feature we have yet to see anywhere else. The SMART LAN options near the bottom of the first screenshot above is a unique feature that, when enabled, gives the motherboard the ability to decide on whether or not to shut down the port for power savings if it detects no cable attached. Of course, we could just manually turn off the port but for those that are setting up a system for someone else or constantly changing network ports, this is a nice touch. Anything these days to save a watt here or there seems to be all the rage.</p><center>
bios-8.png
bios-9.png

Click for full size...</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first real disappointment of the BIOS is found here in the PC Health Status section where there is a distinct lack of voltage and temperatures being reported. This means that we also won't have voltage or temperatures to poll when in Windows, except for the very slim few shown here. For a premium board, we want to see vDIMM, vMCH, and vSB at the very least being reported in the BIOS. As for temperatures, it is nice to see the MCH temperature being listed but we are unsure whether this is an on-die temperature sensor or simply a surface mounted one near the MCH. Based on the temperature at stock, we will guess surface mount but without being able to supply an MCH load, we can't be sure. The second screenshot above is of the Load/Save CMOS Setting feature that is accessible via the F11 and F12 keys. We have the ability to save BIOS settings and label them which is a very nice feature. We quickly tested the feature and it saves every setting, much like the DFI BIOS saving feature that overclockers have come to love. Good job on implementing this Gigabyte, it can save a good bit of time when dancing back and forth through settings.</p><center>
bios-10.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash utility that is accessed via the F8 key. It is very straight forward and quite simple to get a BIOS quickly flashed. We did some flashing to and from BIOS files through Q-Flash using a USB thumb drive and not once had a problem. Being built right into the BIOS eliminates the step of creating a boot disk and makes it as simple as dropping the BIOS file on a thumb drive and rebooting to the BIOS. Yet another very nice feature well implemented into the GA-EP45T-Extreme BIOS.

Overall we are very pleased with what Gigabyte has done here on the GA-EP45T-Extreme and aside from the lack of a Page Down key or an abundance of temperatures and voltage readings, this is a very nice BIOS. Even with this being the first Gigabyte board I have personally dealt with, becoming familiar and comfortable with the BIOS took no more than a couple minutes. Great job Gigabyte.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Messages
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Location
Edmonton, AB
Test Setup & Software

Test Setup & Software


<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/setup-1.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 5px 20px" alt=""><b>Test Platform:</b>
  • <b>Motherboard:</b> Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme (obviously)
  • <b>Processor:</b> Intel C2D E8400
  • <b>Processor Cooling:</b> Thermalright Ultra-120
  • <b>Memory:</b> Corsair Dominator 2x1GB PC3-14400 // Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800
  • <b>Power Supply:</b> Ultra XPro 750W
  • <b>Video Card:</b> HIS HD3870X2 1GB
  • <b>Additional Fans:</b> 120mm AD1212MS-A73GL 2050RPM/80.5CFM
  • <b>Hard Drive:</b> 1 x Seagate 7200.9 80GB SATAII 8MB cache
  • <b>OS:</b> Windows Vista SP1 (with all updates)
<p style="text-align: justify;">You will notice a pair of kits of memory listed above. Basically we will be doing testing of memory XMP profiles on both a 2x1GB kit and 2x2GB kit in our library. This has been a hot topic as of late in the forums so XMP profile testing will become a standard for motherboards that support XMP profiles. However, for all the benchmarks, the same kit will be used which will depend on the overall overclock of the system.

The other item that obviously has to be discussed is the fact that we are doing the testing with the stock cooling and the additional Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module. We decided there was no real point to even going with water cooling on the chipset apparatus because of the in-efficient design of the heat sink. The additional attachment likely won't be helping much either because of the same heat sink design flaws, but we figured since it was included, we should at least put it to use. Let's now get started on the excellent software package that Gigabyte includes with the GA-EP45T-Extreme.</p>

EasyTune6


<center>
software-1.png
software-2.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The software section will have two parts, EasyTune6 & DES Advanced. First up is EasyTune6 and quite simply put, this is one of the better manufacturer supplied motherboard tuning software’s we have come across. From the images above and below, we can see it is very simple and easy to understand. There are tabs along the top for the various functions the software performs. There is no elaborate graphic interface that does nothing but confuse us, and the software actually works. Not once during the entire time of testing did the software cause a blue screen or system freeze when adjusting settings...and that is rare for manufacturer supplied software in our experience. The first tab simply provides us with the information about our system, in the image above we are running the XMP profile of our testing Dominator memory. The Memory tab is just like the CPU except it provides SPD information about the memory installed in the system, very much like CPU-Z does. The Tuner tab is where all the adjustments occur. In Easy mode, we can simply adjust FSB, but in Advanced mode we have a few more options available, some of which require a reboot like CPU multiplier. We also get the voltage adjustments to open up when in Advanced mode.</p><center>
software-3.png
software-4.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The on the fly voltage adjustment is a nice feature and Gigabyte has given us access to all of the voltages that are available in the BIOS. Again, usually software that provides us with this much control is so buggy that it is un-usable, but the EasyTune6 software is rock solid and we found ourselves using it quite a bit for quick adjustments while already in Windows. We also used EasyTune6 exclusively for adjusting FSB while in Windows because it worked so well.

The one major disappointment is the HW Monitor tab. We are only provided with voltage readings for the CPU, vDIMM, and for whatever reason, the +5v line. In addition to this, we also only get CPU and System temperature readings. In the BIOS we did have NB and MB temp readings and don't understand why they weren't available to us in Windows. We ran into this with the ASUS P5E3-Premium, a lack of voltage and temperature readings on a premium motherboard. If Gigabyte wants this board to be considered top of the line for enthusiasts, you have to provide us with more system feedback than this.</p><center>
software-5.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last of the tabs is labeled SMART and we have to argue with the name. We don't fully understand what C.I.A.2 really is because anytime we tried to use it, the system became unusable, usually locking up or failing any stability testing. Even when selecting the various "levels" from the BIOS after loading the system defaults, none of the options would do anything but prevent Windows from loading and if Windows did load, any kind of system stress would freeze the system. We assume this is some sort of automatic overclocking software but we couldn't really get any use out of it.

We will now take a look at the second portion of the software section and focus on the DES Advanced software...if it ever finishes downloading.</p>

DES Advanced


<p style="text-align: justify;">As hinted to just a second ago, downloading software from the Gigabyte web site was immediately reminiscent of trying the same from ASUS...horrible. Companies that provide hardware to so many people like ASUS and Gigabyte have absolutely no excuse for such terrible bandwidth. We have to admit, the Gigabyte site is more than quick when browsing un-like ASUS, but when we tried to download the software from the American server, the 10KB/s we were receiving at is unacceptable. Cycling through the servers, we found the Europe (Russia) server to be acceptable increasing the download speed to 130KB/s, but that is still pretty sad when compared to ATI, NVIDIA, or others. Now, let's have a look and see what this DES Advanced is all about.</p><center>
software-6.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">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.</p><center>
software-7.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">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. In the image above, all 12 phases are running strong. Below that are the Dynamic Voltage and Dynamic Frequency gauges. With CE1 and the other power saving features of today’s Intel processors, these features aren't really needed as the board already drops CPU frequency and vCORE at idle states.</p><center>
software-8.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">In this last photo, we can see the CPU throttling and the power phases drop down to only 4 in use. We also have the LEDs on the board that show us 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.</p><center>
software-9.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Being a bit skeptical about how this whole DES worked, we figured an little test was in order. We reset the BIOS defaults, loaded the Dominator XMP profile, and went into Windows. This means all of the Intel energy saving features were already enabled which any and all motherboards should be able to offer. We 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 and set it for maximum CPU voltage saving and turned the Dynamic Frequency on and repeated the tests, here are the results:</p><center>
software-10.png
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">As skeptical as we were, the DES software had a marked improvement in power consumption versus no DES software running. Keep in mind, this is only over a 1 hour period of time so multiplied over a longer period, the power savings would start to add up. Obviously the power savings at idle are extremely small and after a half hour wasn't even noticeable, but under load, the power consumption of the system was quite obvious with the DES enabled system using between 150w~160w. Before DES was installed, the system never used less than 166W under load climbing to 173w at a maximum. This power savings is all in the CPU power consumption which would utilize the multi-phase technology Gigabyte has implemented in this motherboard. Sure it isn't going to save you a thousand dollars a year off your power bill, but for an invisible software that runs at a hardware level once being set up...it sure doesn't hurt.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Overclocking Methodology

Overclocking Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Rule number one, no CPU-Z screenshots and calling it an overclock, not here, not now, not ever. A couple e-mails have come through asking why we do such extensive testing of the overclocks. Sorry but that just doesn't make sense to us. Go find the sites that toss up a CPU-Z and ask them why they provide such a lack of testing of overclocks. We believe in full disclosure here and an overclock is only as good as it is tested. For the benchmarkers out there, myself included, sure some less than stable pushing numbers is good to know...but we are few and far in-between. The rest of the crowd wants to know what a reasonable clock is so we provide for the masses.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/setup-2.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">What you can do though, if you're looking for some benchmark numbers from the hardware we review here, is to join us in the forums and get on our tails to post some of the benches we pull. Trust me when we say that this hardware sees a lot more than we show here in the review. With that said, it is time to run down our stability testing methodology for motherboards. The recipe below provides a heck of a stability testing platform but of course, there is no way to fully test an overclock using every program we want for the length of time we would prefer. Review time lines just don't allow it, so we do the best we can with the amount of time we have. Here is what we test, and you can see in the screenshots provided, of all the overclocks we list:</p><p style="text-align: justify;">As we said, this is about as good as we can offer for stability testing and to be honest, it is quite thorough. Remember that this is basically the lineup some hardware manufacturers, okay so only one, think is too tough. If you want to know who not to spend your money on because of that, fire me an e-mail and I'll tell you the story if I am in a bad mood and feel like complaining. Now that you know what we call stable...let's see some clocks already!</p>
 
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3oh6

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Overclocking Results

Overclocking Results


<p style="text-align: justify;">We are always evolving here at Hardware Canucks and the plethora of motherboards and memory kits had led us to turn the overclocking section into a memory compatibility & overclocking section. Today we will be testing XMP compatibility of not only a 2x1GB kit of DDR3 performance memory, but also a 2x2GB kit of performance memory as well. Of course there will still be FSB and CPU overclocking but let’s start with the memory.</p>

2x1GB XMP Memory Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/ocing-1.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/small/ocing-1.png" alt="2x1GB DDR3-1800 7-7-7 Stability Testing" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Our XMP capable Corsair Dominator 2x1GB PC3-14400 (TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN) had no problem running the XMP profile with full stability. There is, however, a major influence for this we believe. The XMP profile sets an unruly 2.06v for vDIMM which equates to an actual 2.10v going to the memory. This is not only completely un-necessary as manually lowering the voltage to 2.0v actual provided the screenshot above, it is also potentially harmful to the memory and needs to be rectified promptly. XMP profiles are suppose to adjust settings to what the memory manufacturer designates, and a 0.10v over-volt is not likely something Corsair wants to see.</p>

2x2GB XMP Memory Stability Testing

Click for full size...
<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/ocing-2.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/small/ocing-2.png" alt="2x2GB DDR3-1600 7-7-6 Stability Testing" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The powerful Mushkin Ascent 2x2GB PC3-12800 is up next and after having some issues with this kit running XMP profiles in the Rampage Extreme, this was more of a test of the memory than the motherboard. Thankfully the Mushkin Ascent we have on hand appears to be working just fine and had no issues with the GA-EP45T-Extreme. Again, we ran into the situation of a perfect 0.10v over-volt from what is designated by Mushkin and manually lowering the voltage to the specified 1.90v led to no instability issues. What is troublesome is not only the fact that the motherboard over-volts 0.04v from what is chosen in the BIOS, but the GA-EP45T-Extreme was not picking up the XMP specified voltages correctly. We will discuss this further in the voltage regulation section.</p>

Maximum Memory Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/ocing-3.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/small/ocing-3.png" alt="Maximum FSB Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The honeymoon with memory overclocking ended quickly after running the XMP stability tests. Essentially, we couldn't get the Corsair Dominator 2x1GB PC3-14400 to overclock much past their XMP profiles at CL7. We then tried at 8-8-8, and we got pretty much nowhere. At 940MHz 8-8-8 with 2.1v, we could get Prime95 Blend and the rest of the stability testing to run no problem but when HCI Memtest fired up, we would receive blue screens within the first 20 minutes of running. All of the memory results were with the F3B BIOS as the previously publically available F2 BIOS (now the F3A BIOS is available) wouldn't run any memory at even 800MHz. Clearly the P45 chipset and the GA-EP45T-Extreme are not quite ready for the realm of high-speed memory, so before you go out and buy a performance kit to match up with this board, you will want to check the forums to see what kits are not having problems running spec. Hopefully this is something that future updates will alleviate. The other issue was that we found our memory to require higher voltage for the clocks it could run than other boards. This turned out to be something of a trend for this motherboard.</p>

FSB Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/ocing-4.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/small/ocing-4.png" alt="Maximum FSB Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The FSB stability overclocking was quite impressive with our sample easily reaching 550MHz Front Side Bus, but as mentioned, at a cost to ridiculously high voltages. For those unaware, leaving voltages on AUTO and increasing the FSB will set absurdly high vPLL, and vFSB (VTT). For our 550FSB stable screenshot above, they are at 1.86v and 1.60v respectively. Both of those voltage levels have been presumed to kill CPUs within a matter of weeks. With the P45 chipset, this doesn't appear to be the case, but the long term effects over months of 24/7 exposure to these voltages is yet to be determined. Some users have claimed high FSB clocking with much lower vPLL, and VTT voltages mentioning the right combination was the key. After spending several days, endless hours, and countless blue screens, our results reflect the best we could manage. In the end, the AUTO setting allowed the highest FSB clocking, but at the expense of very high voltages.</p>

Overall Stability Overclocking

Click for full size...<center><a href="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/ocing-5.png" target="_blank"><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/small/ocing-5.png" alt="Maximum Overall Stability Overclocking" border="0"></a></center><p style="text-align: justify;">To be truthfully honest, despite some of the relatively high results we have shown, we were quite disappointed with the overclocking of this motherboard...sort of. From memory clocks that are pitiful with the Micron based memory we used, to CPU clocks that require up to 0.10v more for certain frequencies than all other boards the CPUs have been tested in, to FSB clocks that require downright rude levels of some voltages, the EP45T-Extreme has a drawback for almost everything it does positively in the overclocking section. We have to keep in mind that our overclocking needs are in the upper end of the market, as in, we demand more for overclocking out of a motherboard than 99% of the market. With that said, however, this is a board advertised as Extreme and comes with a hefty price tag. Capable BIOSs at launch should be at least expected. As of last week, the F2 BIOS is the only one available from the Gigabyte web site, and with F2; XMP memory profiles for any kit we tested would not run. How is average joe suppose to run his memory at spec when the only BIOS available doesn't have the ability to run even 800MHz XMP memory? Luckily though, the F3A BIOS was posted live not too long ago.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Benchmark Methodology

Benchmark Methodology


<p style="text-align: justify;">Today's benchmarking sections are going to be a bit different than those done in the past. Normally we run the benchmarks of our overall overclock against the XMP defaults but since our overall overclock isn't much different from that of the XMP<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/method-1.png" alt="Just a sample graph outlining where the results will be coming from in the up-coming benchmarks" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0px 4px 7px"> profile, we are going to change things up a bit. Using the same Corsair Dominator TWIN3X2048-1800C7DFIN memory that we used for overclocking, we will be comparing the XMP profile against the system as it powers up as if there were no XMP profile. This will provide a very unique look at just how much performance an XMP enabled kit of memory can bring to the table, without the end user touching all but one setting in the BIOS. On X38/X48 based motherboards, it is even easier as the XMP profile tends to load all by itself.

The <b>blue</b> results will depict the system as it would be with system defaults loaded. We will make absolutely no adjustments to the BIOS meaning memory will be running at the default DDR3-1333 with whatever timings the Dominator memory has programmed for SPD (9-9-9). The FSB will be set to 333x9 equating to a 3.00GHz CPU frequency. The <b>red</b> results will be the default XMP profile for the Dominator memory and thus upping the FSB to 450 with a CPU multiplier of 7 for a 3.15GHz CPU frequency and of course, the memory at DDR3-1800 with 7-7-7 timings. The following will outline the rest of the testing methodology:
  1. Windows is installed using a full format.
  2. Intel Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed followed by a defragment and a reboot.
  3. At time of benchmarks the latest drivers were downloaded from their official web sites as the latest drivers, most notable, Intel Chipset 9.0.0.1008 and ATI Catalyst 8.7.
  4. Programs and games are then installed followed by another defragment.
  5. Windows updates are then completed installing all available updates followed by a defragment.
  6. Benchmarks are each ran three times after a clean reboot for every iteration of the benchmark unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.
</p>
 
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