Gigabyte EP35-DS4 Review
Reviewed by: Makaveli
Reviewed on: March 24, 2008
Price: $169.99 USD
In all reality, you want a motherboard with a chipset that gives you what you need. For example, some chipsets are better for overclocking, while others are not. My older Abit 680i board was absolutely amazing for overclocking, but my new Gigabyte X38 did not reach quite as high a frontside bus speed. There are so many chipsets out there today, where do we start looking? What about the P35 chipset? How will that chipset do in terms of performance and overclocking? Let's find out.
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is a new revision of the P35-DS4 from Gigabyte. One major difference between these two motherboards is that this motherboard features the all new Dynamic Energy Saving technology from Gigabyte. What this means is that this motherboard uses top quality and highly efficient components that can give you up to 70% CPU power savings and up to 20% improved CPU power efficiency. I had a good experience with this Dynamic Energy Saver the last time I used it. Hopefully, this board doesn't alter my opinion of the Dynamic Energy Saving technology. Join me as I thoroughly examine this Gigabyte EP35-DS4 motherboard.
The box that the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 comes packaged in is almost identical to the box that the EX38-DS4 motherboard came in. You'll find the major features on the front of the box, while on the back of the box, Gigabyte goes more in depth, explaining the motherboard's features. Once you open the box, you'll find the accessories resting on top of the motherboard. Everything is securely held in place by a piece of cardboard. The motherboard is wrapped in anti-static material to insure the board doesn't get exposed to static during shipping and handling.
Let's completely unwrap the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 to get a closer look at it.
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is an ATX motherboard that uses the P35 chipset from Intel. As you can see, this motherboard features the "SilentPipe" technology from Gigabyte that insures the pipes are silent at all times. The PWM, northbridge, and southbridge are all connected by the same set of pipes. Gigabyte also placed a few stickers on the motherboard to remind you of some of its key features.
On the rear I/O panel, you'll find a PS/2 port for both the mouse and keyboard, a coaxial S/PDIF Out connector, one optical S/PDIF Out connector, two IEEE 1394a ports, one RJ-45 LAN port, and six audio jacks for 7.1 audio. This motherboard also has eight USB connectors; two are USB 1.1 and the other six are USB 2.0. I always like to see two LAN ports on a motherboard's rear I/O panel, but other than that, this motherboard has a decent amount of connectors.
This EP35-DS4 features two PCI-E x16 slots that support ATI's CrossfireX technology. The board also houses three PCI-E x1 slots and two PCI expansion slots. The battery and clear CMOS jumper are located in between the PCI-E x16 slots. This could be an issue for users who will be using ATI's Crossfire technology because in order to get to the battery and clear CMOS jumper, you'll need to remove one of the two cards you have installed. This is certainly not an issue for single GPU users.
This EP35 has eight SATA II 3GB/s connectors on board. This is the most SATA connectors that I've seen on one of my motherboards. This motherboard has one IDE port for the users who have not yet converted every drive to SATA.
The motherboard can support up to 8GB of DDR2 memory. DDR2-1200 is supported by this motherboard, but you'll have to overclock to get that. The motherboard is powered by a 24-pin power cable and you'll find a 4-pin Molex connector for you to use to draw power from your motherboard to power another device. Right next to the rear I/O panel, you'll find an 8-pin power connector for the motherboard. Four of the eight holes are covered by a cap so if you don't have an 8-pin power cable, you don't have to worry.
Now let's take a closer look at the included accessories.
The EP35-DS4 has a healthy amount of accessories. You'll find an instruction manual, driver CD, hardware installation guide, an Intel processor installation guide, and a Gigabyte sticker. You'll also find the rear I/O panel shield, one IDE cable, one Floppy drive cable, four SATA cables, and an expansion slot that has two eSATA slots.
Now we're going to look into the BIOS that's included with the Gigabyte EP35-DS4.
Standard CMOS Features, Advanced BIOS Features & Integrated Peripherals:
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 uses an Award BIOS. This motherboard actually has “Dual BIOS” technology, which means if one BIOS gets trashed, there is a second available for you. I am very impressed with this feature because as an enthusiast I've wrecked so many BIOSs with bad overclocks or other tweaks that didn't go so well. The main categories that open other menus are Standard CMOS Features, Advanced BIOS Features, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management Setup, PnP/PCI Configurations, PC Health Status, and MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.). Below are screenshots of some of the standard features from within “Advanced BIOS Features” and “Integrated Peripherals”.
PC Health & Power Management Setup:
Here you can monitor the temperatures of your CPU, system, your voltages, and fan RPMs. Under the tab labled “Power Management Setup” you’ll find multiple options for you to configure your power settings to your needs.
Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker:
The M.I.T menu is where you can find options to overclock your CPU, memory, and system. These options are rather standard for most BIOSs today.
Let's get a better look at the M.I.T.
Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker:
This EP35-DS4 allows you to change the multiplier for your CPU to anything between 6-9. You can alter the FSB to anything between 100-700; this is more than enough for 99% of users. The stepping that this motherboard gives you for your CPU's voltage is good and the board allows you to take the volts up to 2.35, which I think is way more than anyone really needs.
The DDR2 overvoltage can be changed quite easily in this BIOS. Gigabyte placed some of the voltages in pink and then some in red to warn the user. This motherboard allows you to change almost all your memory settings.
The memory divider option wasn't what I expected. I was expecting divider options such as "1:2" or "1:1", but instead this BIOS allows you change the system memory multiplier. Once you set the multiplier, the BIOS will show you what the new memory clock will be.
In addition to the DDR2 overvoltage, you can also modify the chipset and FSB overvoltages. These are great options to have because this can help you stabilize your overclock.
Time to move on and check out the driver CD and included programs.
After the motherboard is successfully installed, the next step is to pop in the included driver disc. Either you run the “Xpress Install” to install everything or you can pick individual items to install. I went ahead and clicked the “Xpress Install” to get everything I needed installed since I had no drivers installed yet.
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 driver disc allows you to install Norton Internet Security, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Gigabyte C.O.M. (Corporate Online Manager), Easy Tune 5 Pro, DMI Viewer, Face-Wizard, @BIOS, and System Information Utility. I don’t need most of it, but went ahead and installed the overclocking utility called Easy Tune 5 Pro just to see what the program has to offer.
The Easy Tune 5 Pro is a self-explanatory and simple utility. This overclocking program makes it easy to change your options and overclock your system. Be sure that you know what you’re doing before you alter any settings. The hardware monitor included in this program is great because it allows me to view my temperatures without having to get into the BIOS to look.
The rest of the disc has the driver CD information, as well as hardware information and a contact link.
This CD definitely had more than I need at the moment, which is really nice to see because you never know what you'll need down the road.
|LAN||Realtek 8111B chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)|
ATX form factor, 305 x 244mm
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel Connectors||
|Overclocking||Voltage adjustments in BIOS Setup (CPU/DDR2/PCIe/FSB/(G)MCH) Allow you to:
- Supports Intel® Core™ 2 multi-core and Intel 45nm processors
- Supports DDR2 1200(OC)* memory for outstanding system performance.
- Revolution energy saving design with GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver(DES) technology.
- Ultra Durable 2 motherboard features High Quality CPU Power design with Ferrite core chokes, Low RDS (on) MOSFET and Solid Capacitors.
- Ultimate graphics performance with dual PCI-E x16 interface
- Integrated SATA 3Gb/s with RAID function
- Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet and IEEE1394
- Unique Silent-Pipe with outstanding cooling performance
- Audio controller from ALC 889A codec and DTS Connect, featuring 106 dB Signal to Noise ratio and supporting for both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats.
- All information gathered from Gigabyte's site: http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Spec.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=2635&ProductName=GA-P35-DS4
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is going to be put up against some very tough competition. The competitors are the Abit IX38 GT, ASUS Maximus Formula, Foxconn Mars, and the Gigabyte X48-DQ6. All the motherboards were tested with the same equipment to eliminate the possibility of unfair advantages for any motherboard. All the boards had the latest drivers installed and were tested at stock, to begin with.
- Processor: Intel Q6600 Core 2 Quad 266x9
- Motherboard: Gigabyte EP35-DS4
- Memory: Mushkin XP2 6400 2x2GB 4-4-4-12
- Video Card: Gigabyte 8800GT Turbo Force Edition
- Power Supply: Ultra X3 800watt Power Supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Seagate 500GB SATA
- Opticals: Sony Dual Layer Burner
- O/S: Windows Vista Ultimate Edition
- Comparison Motherboard 1: Abit IX38 Quad GT
- Comparison Motherboard 2: ASUS Maximus Formula
- Comparison Motherboard 3: Foxconn Mars
- Comparison Motherboard 4: Gigabyte X48-DQ6
- Processor: Intel Q6600 455 x 7
- Sytem Memory: Mushkin XP2 6400 5-5-5-18
To overclock this motherboard, I'm going to be using the highest possible Front Side Bus to really push this motherboard. After a few days of trying different settings, the highest FSB that I could reach was 455 with a multiplier of 7. This is a 3.18GHz CPU clock, which isn't significantly higher than the stock 2.4GHz clock of the Q6600 processor. 455 isn't bad, I was able to get 466 x 7 out of the Gigabyte EX38-DS4, so if you compare the chipsets, it seems as if the X38 has a tad higher overclock. Don't get me wrong though, 455 x 7 is a good overclock, but I would have liked to see it go slightly higher.
- Scientific & Data:
- SpecviewPerf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02 Final
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.54
- Knights of the Sea
- Call of Duty 4
- World in Conflict
- Call of Jaurez
- 3DMark06 Professional
To kick off the testing, we're going to start with system benchmarks.
Apophysis is the first test that I'll be running. I'm going to use this program to generate and render our custom fractal flame image. Below you can find the settings that I used:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory use: 512MB
I recorded the time, in minutes, that it took to render the image.
Lower is Better
WinRAR is up next. I will use 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and recording the time it takes to collapse them into more manageable sizes. The results are in seconds, so lower is better.
Looks like we're going to have ourselves a close match!
Specview 10 is the next benchmark in line. This program mainly tests the OpenGL performance of your system. Higher is better in all of these tests.
PcMark Vantage is the newest release of the PCMark series. This installment is only for Windows Vista. I ran the system suite in this program and higher is better.
The Foxconn Mars performed better than the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 in almost all of the tests.
SiSoft Sandra is a great synthetic benchmarking program that also features a diagnostic tool. I'll be running a majority of the tests to really get a good all-around look at this motherboard's performance.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
Again, everything seems neck-and-neck. The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 fared better than some of the earlier benchmarks in Sandra.
ScienceMark tests real world performance of your system. I'll be running all the tests and recording the overall score.
Higher is Better
Cinebench uses the software program "Cinema 4D" to test your system, CPU, and OpenGL performance.
Higher is Better
HD Tune is a simple program that can tell you everything about your hard drives.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
The EP35-DS4 performed at almost the same level as the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 motherboard.
Crysis is a new DirectX 10 title that has everyone talking. This game features some of the most intense graphics that can really punish a system.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
- Advanced settings to medium
Up until the last resolution, every board was extremely close to one another.
PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new game that features its own graphics engine. This war-at-sea game is hard to pull away from!
The settings we will use are below:
- AA: x0
- Image Quality: High
- Direct X Version: 10
- All resolutions 60Hz
Very close scores in this game!
Bioshock is a recent Sci-Fi game that can take a toll on most systems if they aren't well equipped.
- All settings to Maximum
- V-Sync off
The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 finally pulled off a victory in the highest resolution.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the newest chapter in the Call of Duty series. This game takes place in modern times and is by far one of my favorite games so far.
The settings used are listed below:
- Anti-aliasing: x4
- Anistropic Filtering : Max
- Texture Quality: Extra
- All settings Max
The Gigabyte X48 took out almost every board in the lower resolutions.
World In Conflict is a DirectX 10 title that allows the user to play in a World War III type setting.
The settings we will use are listed below:
- 0 X AA
- 16X AF
- Graphic Detail: Very High
The EP35-DS4 slumped in this game.
Call of Juarez is a new Wild Wild West-style first-person shooter that features DirectX 10. This game is system intensive thanks to its realistic graphics.
The settings we will use are listed below.
- Details: High
- Shadowmap size 2048x2048
- Shadow Quality: Normal
- Anti Aliasing: MSAA 4X
The EP35 almost swept the first two resolutions, but the X48 did slightly better.
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the newest installment in the Company of Heroes series. You're given the choice to either play as the British or the Germans in this World War II game.
- 8x AA
- All other settings to maximum
No surprise, but everything was very close in this game!
3DMark06 is the best way for enthusiasts to brag about their systems because everyone uses this benchmark.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
The only board that the EP-35 DS4 does not beat is the X48-chipped DQ6. The EP-35 took all four resolutions in this benchmark!
Dynamic Energy Saver:
To test this feature, I installed the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 both with and without the Dynamic Energy Saver software and took the power wattage readout for idle and load. I let the program run for about two and a half hours each time before I took a reading. After that, I overclocked the motherboard and attempted to repeat that procedure. Sadly, when I went to check the overclock results with the DES software, I was denied because the program can only run at stock frequencies.
Below are the stock power wattage readout for idle and load, with and without the Dynamic Energy Saving software installed.
The EP35-DS4 drew more power than the X48-DQ6, but shaved off about the same wattage.
In my mind, the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is an average motherboard. Overall, it kept up with most of the motherboards, but rarely beat out all the competition. This motherboard did about the same as the Foxconn Mars, which also has a P35 chipset. This EP35-DS4 did nothing to distinguish itself from the competition, so I can't recommend it over any of them. With this motherboard, I was able to achieve a 455 x 7 (3.18GHz) overclock, which is decent, but nothing extraordinary. I almost expected the EP35-DS4 to go above 470 since the Gigabyte EX38-DS4 that I tested did 466 without a problem. On the plus side, the Dynamic Energy Saver worked yet again, shaving off about 20 watts from my idle and load readouts. This P35 chipset runs a little bit hotter than the X38 chipset; this really surprised me since I had this impression that the Silent Pipe technology would not only make the motherboard silent, but also cool it more efficiently. The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is not a bad motherboard at all, but it doesn't really stand out from the crowd. Nevertheless, if you're in the market for a P35 motherboard and you find a great deal on this EP35-DS4 motherboard, don't hesitate to pick it up.
- Dynamic Energy Saver
- P35 Chipset
- SilentPipe Technology
- Dynamic Energy Saver (Only works at stock frequencies)
- Average Performance