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Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme Motherboard Review

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3oh6

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Memory Benchmarks

Memory Benchmarks



Everest Ultimate v4.50<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Everest Ultimate is the most useful tool for any and all bench markers or overclockers. With the ability to read most voltage, temperature, and fan sensors on almost every motherboard available, Everest provides the ability to customize the outputs in a number of forms for display on your desktop. In addition to this, the memory benchmarking provides a useful tool of measuring the changes to your memory sub-system when tweaking to measure the differences.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-1.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The bandwidth numbers scale nicely with the XMP profile thanks to a nice tRD (Performance Level) of 7. This can actually be tightened to 6 manually and the board shouldn't have a problem with it so these bandwidth numbers could be even higher for the XMP results. This is our first indication of how much performance improves with a performance kit of memory, and remember, there is no fiddling required with XMP memory. Just install it and select the XMP profile in the BIOS, the system does the rest.

</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-2.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The latency results are exactly what we were expecting and quite frankly, don't make much sense. With higher front side bus, higher memory frequency, tighter timings, and more CPU frequency; this should be a lot bigger gap. The tRD is the only thing that is loosened up from the stock to the XMP profile but not as much as this would suggest.</p>

ScienceMark v2<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>ScienceMark is an almost ancient benchmark utility at this point in time and hasn't seen an update in a long time. It is, however, still a favorite for accurately calculating bandwidth on even the newest chipsets.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-3.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">ScienceMark confirms what Everest has already told us, the bandwidth scales nicely with the XMP modules running at 900MHz or DDR3-1800.</p>
 
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3oh6

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System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks



SuperPi Mod v1.5<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>When running the 32M benchmark of SPi, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. SPi 32M has been a favorite amongst benchmarks for these very reasons and is admittedly the favorite benchmark of this reviewer.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-4.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">We see the increased bandwidth really start to show its teeth when matched up with the higher FSB despite only a 150MHz CPU overclock. The SuperPi 32M time dropped over a minute with these minor changes and goes to show just how memory dependant this benchmark can be.</p>

PCMark Vantage<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>The latest iteration of the popular system benchmark is PCMark Vantage from the Futuremark crew. The PCMark series has always been a great way to either test specific areas of a system or to get a general over view of how your system is performing. For our results, we simply run the basic benchmark suite which involves a wide range of tests on all of the sub-systems of the computer.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-5.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">The difference in PCMark Vantage score was a bit more than we were expecting but when you look at it, the system is substantially overclocked despite the CPU frequency remaining relatively the same. PCMark tends to lean more towards real world performance and seeing gains like this helps emphasize what a good kit of memory can do for a system.</p>

Cinebench R10<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Another benchmarking community favorite, Cinebench renders an intense 2D scene relying on all the processing power it can. Cinebench R10 is another 64-bit capable application and is likely the most efficient program tested today at utilizing all cores of a processor. We will be running both the single threaded and multi-threaded benches here today.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-9.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Cinebench R10 is solely a representation of CPU power and with a minor increase from 3GHz to 3.15GHz, we see only a minor increase in Cinebench numbers.</p>

DivX Converter v6<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Moving from some of the more 'synthetic' benchmarks, we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of a VOB to DivX encoding task. We will take a VOB rip of the movie Before The Devil Knows Your Dead, and convert it into DivX using the default 720P setting of DivX converter v6. This is a real life test of a task that may be routinely seen these days.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-6.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">DivX heavily relies on CPU Frequency for encoding but it is also clear from these results that memory and system clock frequency definitely help it out as well. Again, a 5% increase in CPU speed equates to an almost 9% increase in converting performance. More evidence that memory and system speed does account for a lot of the performance gains we are seeing here today. Without XMP memory, however, you really would have to know what you are doing in overclocking to get results like this.</p>

Lame Front End<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Un-like the DivX conversion we just looked at, Lame Front End is not multi-threaded and only utilizes a single core of a processor. This will obviously limit performance but we should still recognize significant time savings going from the stock settings to the overclocked results. We will be encoding a WAV rip of the Blackalicious album, Blazing Arrow and converting it to MP3 using the VBR 0 quality preset.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-7.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Un-like the other real world applications thus far, Lame Front End seems oblivious to the system speed increase and barely registers a difference clocking in at just under a 5% decrease in converting time.</p>

Photoshop CS3<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>Adobe Photoshop CS3 is full x64 compliant and ready and able to use every single CPU cycle our processor has available. Since digital photography is as popular as roller skates were in the 70's, we are going to be timing how long it takes to convert 100 RAW images from a Canon 20D into half size JPG files of maximum quality.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-8.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Photoshop CS3 picks up the slack of LFE when converting large RAW images from a digital SLR camera to web useable JPG images and nearly slices 23% on the time needed to do so. This is a combination of increased system and memory performance with the additional CPU frequency helping out as well.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks



Futuremark 3DMark Vantage<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>We have forced ourselves to step up to 3DMark Vantage results for all reviews because the public demands it. We have had our troubles in the past with this benchmark and the HD3870X2 but recent driver and Vista updates have alleviated all issues and it is smooth sailing now. 3DMark Vantage is the newest in a long line of 3D benchmarking software from Futuremark and is the most elaborate to date. Featuring multiple presets for various system configurations, Vantage is the culmination of all 3DMarks past relying on system and GPU power for its results. We will stick to the Performance preset as it seems to be the most popular at this point in time.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-10.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">3Dmark Vantage starts off the 3D and gaming benchmarks with slight increase in score going from bone stock to the XMP profile of the Corsair Dominator memory we are using here today. Normally the 3D and gaming benchmarks are the least influenced by system speed increases and a lot of the time don't show any improvement. Vantage has shown a small amount of gains, but Crysis and UT3 might be different.</p>

Crysis - Sphere benchmark<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>We all know what Crysis is and how much it beats up systems but we wanted to add it to the gaming benchmarks to see how system changes can improve performance on a mid-level system. Detail levels are all set to Medium with the resolution at 1680x1050. We ran the benchmarks with a demo of the Sphere level in DX9 and 64-bit. The game looks great with this setup and plays just well enough to keep us happy.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-11.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">Well, the gains aren't massive but they are certainly there. With over a 5% increase in average FPS and a 10% increase in the minimum FPS, Crysis definitely became a lot closer to playable at these settings with the system speed increase. We would imagine most of this can be chalked up to CPU frequency gains but some will come down to memory and the memory sub-system.</p>

UT3<p style="text-align: justify;"><i>The detail levels are all maxed and the resolution set to 1680x1050 or what would be considered the playable settings for this configuration. We use a benchmarking utility to derive results from UT3 using a simulated 12 bot match on the Shangri-La level for 3 minutes. This is run 10 times with the results averaged out. There is some variance in the results of UT3, that is why the additional runs.</i></p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/bench-12.png" alt=""></center><p style="text-align: justify;">In a small twist of sorts, UT3 shows barely any increase in average or minimum FPS when comparing to the two setups. Usually UT3 is the only game showing performance gains with system performance increase but Crysis definitely showed to have more benefit from the XMP profile.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Voltage Regulation / Heat & Acoustical Testing

Voltage Regulation


<p style="text-align: justify;">The Voltage Regulation section is where we have a look at the voltages the motherboard sets. How close they are to what is selected in the BIOS, changes from idle to load, vDROOP, and measuring read points. These are all the things we will look at. For all results in this section, we will be using the same setup as we have throughout the review and the system will be set to the XMP profile of the Corsair Dominator memory. Voltages will be set manually, however, so we have values to compare to. Here are a couple photos of the read points used for the various measurements with a calibrated UEI DM393 True RMS digital multimeter.</p><center>
voltage-1.jpg
voltage-2.jpg

voltage-3.jpg
<p style="text-align: justify;">The leads sticking through to the underside of the motherboard provide the read points for vCORE and vMCH which can be seen in the first photo. Any of the circled leads should give the same reading for the appropriate component. The vTT and vPLL voltage read points are a bit smaller and impossible to get at without removing the stock cooling and can be seen in the second photo above. The third photo outlines the read points for vDIMM and is a bit tricky to get to while running. The inside of the capacitor pointed toward the DIMM slot is the end you can read from. All voltage readings using the DMM were grounded on the ground of an open fan header in the lower left portion of the motherboard. Let's now take a look at the voltage chart for the GA-EP45T-Extreme.</p><center><table border="0" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="697"><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"><b>BIOS Set</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"><b>BIOS Report</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"><b>EasyTune6</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"><b>DMM<br />Idle</b></td><td align="center" bgcolor="#cc9999" width="105px"><b>DMM<br />Load</b></td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">vCORE</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.325v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.300v</td>
<td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.280v*</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.289v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.266v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">VTT</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.50000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.50000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.495v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.495v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">vPLL</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.76000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.76000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.767v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.767v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">vMCH</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.2000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">x</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.20000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.201v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.199v</td></tr><tr><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">vDIMM</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.96000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">2.000v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">2.000v*</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.991v</td><td align="center" bgcolor="#ececec" width="105px">1.991v</td></tr></table></center><p style="text-align: justify;">What you select in the BIOS is pretty close to what you get with this board for the most part. We have already mentioned the slight vDIMM over voltage which happens throughout the voltage spectrum but everything else we could measure seemed to be pretty close. vCORE obviously has some vDROOP on this board when going from idle to load and there is a pinch of drop from what is selected in the BIOS to what is being supplied at idle. Un-like some other motherboards, there is no option in the BIOS to eliminate vDROOP but it isn't that bad with our setup. Obviously a quad core is going to uncover a little more vDROOP but we don't have a quad core on hand to test for that. Here is the vCORE chart from a quick 30 minute OCCT run at our XMP settings.</p><table cellpadding="10px" cellspacing="0"><tr><td><b><center>vCORE Chart from OCCT</b>
voltage-4.png
</center></td></tr></table><p style="text-align: justify;">Again, the vDROOP is there, but it is solid as a rock. There is very little variation of the vCORE indicating a nice clean supply of power going to the CPU.</p>

Heat & Acoustical Testing

<p style="text-align: justify;">We are not going to continue to harp on Gigabyte for the heat sink design here. We think we got our point across in the layout section. Despite the fact that the design is rather clumsy and poorly thought out, it still has the ability to cool the chip set of the motherboard well, even under pretty intense conditions as we saw in the FSB testing section. Running the system stable at 1.50 vMCH at 550FSB with a Performance Level of 10 does me the chip set heat sink does its job well. It still doesn't mean we have to like it though.</p><center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/3oh6/gigabyte/ep45t-extreme/setup-3.jpg" alt="" border="0"></center><p style="text-align: justify;">There clearly is a lack of design, and thought that went into the chip set heat sink design and if there was an on-die temperature sensor, it would be easily proven. We just don't think that there is any need to water cool this chip set, and especially not in the manner the stock heat sink does it. It really does add cost to the board and sure while it may appear that the board is a premium board with the Hybrid-Silent Pipe, it definitely helps make the GA-EP45T-Extreme carry a premium price tag.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Installation

Installation


<p style="text-align: justify;">As odd as it may seem, we will be wrapping up this review with a quick look at how some components fit into or onto this GA-EP45T-Extreme motherboard. We have received a couple of emails as of late asking if we could add this to the motherboard reviews since it was lacking in the past. Apparently our readers want to know if they are going to be fighting to get video cards and CPU coolers mounted, so we couldn't be happier to accommodate. You will just have to mind the dust covering pretty much all of the components in use in the photos below. What can I say, my office is dusty.</p><center>
install-1.jpg
install-2.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The first order of business is going to be those two prongs sticking up in the first photo. They are close to the CPU socket and we have our beliefs that some CPU heat sinks will come into contact with them whether you have water tubing connected or not. Clearly the Thermalright Ultra-120 fits without a problem in the front to back orientation, but it might be a tight fit to try and connect tubing to those barbs.</p><center>
install-3.jpg
install-4.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Swinging around to the other side we can see that the heat sink with a fan mounted has no problem clearing the rest of the heat pipe maze up here. Twisting the heat sink 45 degrees to an up and down configuration shows that while you can have memory in the front slots with this large heatsink, it is a tight fit. Anything fatter either from the modules or the heat sink would eliminate DIMM slot A1 from being useable in this orientation.</p><center>
install-5.jpg
install-6.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">Speaking of DIMM slots, we noticed that the lower DIMM tabs that secure the memory in place was a bit of a tight fit up against the back of the long HD3870X2 video card. There is, however, just enough room to open the tabs and remove or install the memory without the card getting in the way. The length of the HD3870X2 again comes into play near the SATA connectors but as we can see, clears the 90 degree connectors with enough room for a piece of paper to slide in-between. Unfortunately two of the vertical SATA connectors are all but useless with a dual slot card like this in place. I am sure Gigabyte has a reason for only going with two 90 degree connectors, we just aren't sure what it could be.</p><center>
install-7.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The last of the installation photos involves the Hybrid-Silent Pipe attachment. With it installed, the top PCI-E 1X slot is gone and the top PCI slot becomes a whole lot cozier. In fact, with the Swiftech MC14 heat sinks placed on the backside memory of the video card, that slot is all but useless anyway. With the stock back plate of the HD3870X2 in place that slot would be ready for action, hotter than a garbage bag suit in the desert, but ready to work none the less.</p>
 
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3oh6

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Conclusion

Conclusion


That is a wrap folks, another high-end motherboard, another pile of pages of us picking it apart. Sure, there were some harsh words in this review when it came to the memory clocking and heat sink setup of the GA-EP45T-Extreme, but that is what we are here for. We don't review hardware as a paid advertisement with a cheque in our pocket from the manufacturer, we review hardware from the user’s perspective and the issues we pointed out all warrant the flogging they got. On the other hand, this motherboard has a ton of great qualities that are there within your grasp but before we get to that, let's get something off our backs...

The heatsink / heat pipe design is terrible, you can't argue it and if you do, then you are looking at the wrong photos. Are there positive things about the heat sink setup on the GA-EP45T-Extreme? Absolutely. Unfortunately they all get cancelled out by the major design flaw of having cooling fins sitting directly on top of the heat source preventing any kind of thermal transfer to the rest of the exceptionally well made heat pipe setup. This massive oversight has added cost to a motherboard that is already near the upper end of the market, ASUS "super boards" and NVIDIA failures aside. So many power users in the forums have openly exchanged the heatpipe setup for small, efficient little heat sinks that do a fabulous job cooling the chipset under the most extreme conditions. Hopefully these cries for the heatpipe madness to stop don't fall on deaf ears.</p><center>
conclusion-1.jpg
</center><p style="text-align: justify;">The memory overclocking is the last major gripe we had and in the course of a few weeks we had spent with the motherboard, BIOS updates had vastly improved upon that so we can only hope Gigabyte continues with progress in that area. We really have to give Gigabyte credit for not leaving users with a motherboard with limited potential since they continue to aggressively release new BIOS revisions.

Negatives aside, did the motherboard do anything we were impressed with? Again, absolutely. The GA-EP45T-Extreme is a very rich package that is loaded with great features which are actually a joy to use since they work very well. It also seems that unlike so many other manufacturers' products, the software package that comes with this motherboard is actually useful and very well designed. Far too often this isn't the case with motherboard software but not here. We also commend Gigabyte for designing an overclocking and over volting tool that works well in Windows, another first for us.

Believe it or not, the GA-EP45T-Extreme also has one of the best BIOSs we have ever worked with. It is clearly layed out in a fashion that we wish every other manufacturer would follow. Couple this with some solid overclocking and a layout that should keep most people happy, and it seems that Gigabyte has got most things right with this board.

As you can see we didn't hate everything about this motherboard but there did seem to be a lot of drawbacks to a number of the positives. Of course, every user is going to have a vastly different needs list so it will be up to you to decide whether the faults we found will hinder you as much as they did us. If not, then the GA-EP45T-Extreme is a great looking board with plenty to offer. If you found yourself agreeing with all the things we didn't like about the board, then perhaps there is a better option out there for you. At this price range there are other options and X38/X48 motherboards aren't a whole lot more expensive to jump up to.

All in all, this is a very good board with a bevy of amazing features which unfortunately can't quite live up to the Extreme moniker Gigabyte's marketing department has saddled it with.


<b>Pros:</b>
  • Feature set that goes on and on
  • Well laid out board, particularly PCI-E slots
  • Great BIOS, best I have used to date
  • Software from a manufacturer that works, and works well
  • Good FSB clocking

<b>Cons:</b>
  • Heat pipe/heat sink assembly is poorly designed
  • The design of the heat sink also unnecessarily costs end users money
  • Memory clocking is very poor right now, BIOS revisions have helped but still plenty of room to go
  • BIOS updates take too long to reach the Gigabyte website

<center><b><i>Thank-you Gigabyte for making this review possible!</i></b>

Please join us in the discussion thread for this review in our forums</center>
 
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