Gigabyte EP45-DS3R Review

Makaveli - 2008-07-17 17:30:22 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: September 10, 2008
Gigabyte
Gigabyte
Price: $134.99

Introduction:

There is an abundance of consumers who don’t need all of the flashy accessories and features that come with a number of high-end motherboards these days. It definitely seems like overkill, doesn’t it? Some users don't need the motherboard with insane overclocking features or excessive cooling. Gigabyte has answered this call with the all new Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R motherboard. Not only does it feature the newer Intel P45 chipset, it also has almost all of Gigabyte's standard features, including the Dynamic Energy Saver feature. With the price hovering around one hundred and thirty dollars, this motherboard carries a mid-range price point but what will the performance be like? Will the performance be worth more than what the motherboard costs? Let's see how it does when compared against some higher end P45 motherboards. Join me as I thoroughly examine the Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R standard ATX motherboard.

Gigabyte has become one of my favorite motherboard manufacturers for many reasons. Firstly, the company always includes an abundance of accessories that come in handy quite often. Also, the amount of features that it packs into each motherboard is just amazing. The new technologies that Gigabyte implements never seem to stop with each new motherboard the company releases. This Gigabyte EP45-DS3R shouldn't be any different than I expect in terms of accessories and features.

 

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R comes packaged in a very simple green and white box with its features displayed brightly on both the front and back sides of the box. On either side of the box, you'll find the name of the motherboard as well as the serial number for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon opening the box, you'll be presented with the accessories lying on top of the box . These accessories included a user's manual, a hardware installation guide, a driver CD, stickers, rear I/O shield, four SATA cables, an IDE cable, floppy drive cable, eSATA bracket, IEEE 1394 (Firewire) bracket, eSATA power cable, and a power cable. Definitely a good bundle if you ask me!

 

 

 

Now that we've unpacked the accessories, it's about time we unpacked the motherboard!

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R is a standard ATX motherboard that supports Socket LGA 775 processors. Gigabyte places some shiny stickers on the motherboard illustrating some key features. After pulling off the stickers, you can see that this motherboard uses the Gigabyte-standard of multiple colors on the motherboard, including green, yellow, white, blue, orange, and red. You can also see right away that the Northbridge and Southbridge aren't connected with a heatpipe or anything. Also, notice how there isn't a heatsink on top of the PWM. It appears evident that this motherboard isn't made for extreme overclocking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

The rear I/O panel features eight USB 2.0 ports, two PS/2 ports for older keyboards and mice, one each optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs, two Gigabit LAN ports, six audio ports, and two 1394a (Firewire) ports. This is a pretty standard rear I/O panel for the most part.

 

 

The DS3R supports ATI CrossfireX technology that, when taken advantage of, can produce much higher scores in almost every gaming benchmark. You will find six onboard SATA 3.0GB/s ports, a single 1394a (Firewire) port, and four USB 2.0 ports. Even though IDE isn't as popular as SATA, Gigabyte placed one IDE port on the bottom-right side of the motherboard.

 

 

 

The two Gigabyte motherboards that I've reviewed with the P45 chipset both support up to 16GB of 240-pin DDR2 RAM. I still haven't been able to comprehend this because I'm used to motherboards these past few years only being able to take 8GB of memory. Next to the memory slots you'll find a single floppy connector and a 24-pin power connector. This motherboard does need an 4-pin power cable as well to fully power it on. The connector is located just above the CPU socket.

 

 

As I mentioned earlier, the Northbridge and Southbridge have seperate heatsinks. Will this be a factor during overclocking? We'll have to find out.

 

 

Now let's take a look into the BIOS that's included with this motherboard.

Closer Look:

The Basic Input Output System (BIOS) is vital to any computer, and is where you can alter many of your system's settings. Gigabyte implements a unique feature called the Dual BIOS technology, which basically means that if one of your BIOSes is corrupt or doesn't boot up, the motherboard will load up the second BIOS instantly. This really does provide users with a peace of mind during overclocking, because you know there is a back up for your BIOS.

Main & Standard CMOS:

The first thing you'll be shown is the Main screen. This is where you can pick and choose what you want to change from multiple sections. "Standard CMOS Setup" is where you can check on the hard drives and optical drives that you have hooked up. You can also change the time and date here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

This tab is where you can change the CPU functions, such as C1E, EIST, and Virtualization, as well as your boot device order.

 

 

Integrated Peripherals & Power Management:

"Integrated Peripherals" is where you can alter the onboard SATA and LAN settings. The Power Management tab is where you can set up your power features.

 

 

 

PnP/PCI & PC Health Status:

Here you can decide which display initializes for graphics first, and also view the temperatures and fan speeds of your system.

 

 

 

Security Chip Configuration:

Here is where you can take advantage of the Ultra TPM feature of the BIOS. Ultra TPM provides industry-leading data security that you can turn on, activate, or disable in this tab.

 

 

Closer Look:

Motherboard Intelligent BIOS (M.I.B.):

The Motherboard Intelligent BIOS section is where we get all the options for overclocking. The frequencies of your memory, CPU, and the voltages for them can be changed. Talk about an abundance of options here! This BIOS is loaded, especially for a mid-range board! You can alter the multiplier anywhere from 6x up to 8x, and the CPU frequency can be set from 100MHz to 1200MHz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are many settings you can alter for the memory, when I first saw the plethora of options, I was stunned! The vCore for the CPU has great stepping that goes all the way up to 2.3v!

 

 

 

Now it's time to take a look at the included programs and drivers.

Closer Look:

To get this motherboard installed correctly, insert the included driver CD. You'll then be prompted to install all of the drivers or pick and choose which you'd like to install, some or all of the drivers you'd like. For me, I'm going to have to install everything since I don't have anything installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is quite a selection of applications and utilities that you can install onto your machine, including COREL MediaOne and the EasyTune 6 overclocking utility. I really enjoy using EasyTune 6 because it's an easy to use overclocking utility. Just about all of the performance settings in the BIOS can be accessed in the Windows environment.

 

 

 

You'll find various guides, user manuals, and application manuals on the disc. Also, you can find contact information for Gigabyte and your system specifications.

 

 

 

You know what time it is! It's time to test this motherboard!

Specifications:

Model
GA-EP45-DS3R
CPU Socket Type
LGA 775
CPU Type

Quad-core / Core 2 Extreme / Core 2 Duo / Pentium

 
 
FSB
1600/1333MHz
North Bridge
Intel P45
South Bridge
Intel ICH10R
Number of Memory Slots
4 x 240 pin
Memory Standard
DDR2 1200
Maximum Memory Supported
16GB
Dual Channel Supported
Yes
PCI Express 2.0 x16

1 x PCI Express x16 slot
1 x PCI Express x8 slot
(The PCIEx16 and PCIEx8 slots support ATI CrossFireX technology and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

PCI Express x1
3
PCI Slots
2
Storage Devices
 
PATA
1 x ATA100 2 Dev. Max
SATA 3GB/s
6
SATA RAID
0/1/5/10
Onboard Video
 
Onboard Video Chipset
None
Onboard Sound
 
Audio Chipset
Realtek ALC889A
Audio Channels
8 Channels
LAN Chipset
2 x Realtek 8111C
Max LAN Speed

Dual 10/100/1000Mbps

Rear Panel Ports
 
PS/2
2
USB
8 x USB 2.0

S/PDIF

1 x Optical, 1 x Coaxial
Audio Ports
6 Ports
Onboard IEEE 1394a 2 Ports
Onboard USB
4 x USB 2.0
Onboard 1394
1 x 1394a
Physical Spec
 
Form Factor
ATX
Dimensions
12.0” x 9.6”
Power Pin
24 Pin
Packaging Contents
GA-EP45-DS3R
Driver Disk
User Manual
Rear I/O Panel Shield
IDE/PATA Cable
FDD Cable
SATA Cable
eSATA Bracket
eSATA Cable & Power Cord

 

 

Features:

-Information sourced from Newegg.com and Gigabyte's website: http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=2842

Testing:

To fully test the Gigabyte EP45-DS3R motherboard, I'm going to put it through the gauntlet of benchmarks that we at OverclockersClub.com have created. This set of benchmarks will stress this motherboard during the testing of various real world, scientific, and video benchmarks. There will be four motherboards that I will compare this DS3R to, including the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme, the ECS P45T-A, the ASUS P5QL-E (P43+ chipset), and the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 motherboard (X48 chipset). Eeach component will be set to its stock timings, speeds, and voltages to ensure we are getting accurate stock scores from each motherboard. Enough talking, let's start testing!

Test Setup: 

Comparison Motherboards:

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Overclocking this board felt exactly the same as overclocking the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme. The only difference is that the multiplier had to be 6 on this DS3R whereas on the Extreme I could take it to 7. I was able to obtain a front side bus of 500MHz, which is quite good. I definitely could have gone further but the memory was holding me back. As much as I fought, I wasn't able to get anything higher than 500 x 6. I tinkered with the memory until it would finally pass MemTest and Prime 95 in Windows. Overall, it was easy to overclock but the memory was holding the motherboard back.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. SPECviewperf 10
  4. PCMark Vantage Professional
  5. SiSoft Sandra XII
  6. ScienceMark 2.02 Final
  7. CineBench 10
  8. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Crysis
  2. Knights of the Sea
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty 4
  5. World in Conflict
  6. Call of Juarez
  7. Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional

 

Testing:

First up are the system specific benchmarks that will test overall scientific performance. For the science tests, only the scores with the 8800GT are shown to make the direct comparison to the other boards with the same setup.

 

To get things stated, I will begin with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 10MB, 100MB, and 500MB files, as well as test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

ZIP:

 

RAR:

 

 

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R and the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme performed just about the same in most of the benchmarks. My main test board the X48-DQ6 is beaten at the 500MB RAR test

Testing:

SPECviewperf 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure the performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

 

 

 

PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.

 

Everything seems a bit close right now. Both of the EP45 motherboards from Gigabyte are neck-and-neck. Performance-wise the X48 based board is a little bit stronger in the Specview testing.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

 

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

 

 

Memory Latency

 

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

 

File System

 

 

 

Physical Disks

 

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

The scores were very close between all the motherboards, but the X48 chipset did the best in a majority of the tests. With performance this close across brands the difference becomes how enthusiast friendly the board is.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

 

Wow, this is definitely a close race! The DS3R and the EP-45 Extreme are roughly performing the same, a performance that has them a strong number 2 and 3 in all of the benches behind the X48-DQ6.

Testing:

Crysis has been out for quite some time now. In that time, there has yet to be a single or multi-GPU setup that can fully showcase the graphics performance of the game.  The Crysis single player demo includes both CPU and GPU benchmarks to test the performance of your processor and video card.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R performed almost exactly the same as the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme!

Testing:

PT Boats: Knights of the Sea is a new DX10 title that features its own proprietary graphics engine currently in development. The game is a combination of Real Time Strategy and Simulation. You have the ability to control the entire crew or just a single member. Play as the German, Russian or Allied navies, and prove your mettle on the open seas.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

What a close battle between all of the motherboards! The 1680 x 1050 resolution was the most interesting because all of the motherboards performed almost exactly the same.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games out in the wild, chronicling the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong - its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory, with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies." It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's so close that the margin of error probably explains the difference in frame rates between the DS3R and the Extreme.

Testing:

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the successor to the Call of Duty crown. This iteration of the game is fought in many of the world's hot spots with modern armaments and firepower. You can play as either a US Marine or British SAS trooper. Since this game does not feature an in-game test, I will run through a section of the game and measure average FPS using Fraps 2.9.3.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both P45 boards are neck and neck.

Testing:

World in Conflict is a  DX10, Real Time Strategy game that simulates the all-out war the world hopes never comes. The difference in this RTS game is that it is not the typical "generate wealth and build" type of game. Instead, you advance by conquering your foe.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

Everything was neck-and-neck in this benchmark. The overclocked scores weren't as high as I thought they'd be for the DS3R.

Testing:

Call of Juarez is a DX10, First Person Shooter set in the Wild West of the late 1800's. The game is inspired, in part, by the movies of the Wild West genre of the seventies and eighties. The game can be played as both single player and multiplayer. The game focuses on realistic graphics and gameplay designed to take advantage of the latest video cards on the market.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The DS3R couldn't quite reach the EP-45 Extreme in this benchmark, losing by a single frame in each resolution.

Testing:

Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts is the latest chapter in the Company of Heroes series. The scene is WWII. The mission is Operation Market Garden, the first Allied attempt to break into the Third Reich. Play as the British or Germans. This Real Time Strategy game is brought to us by Relic Entertainment.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 The DS3R did better than the Extreme in two of the four resolutions but tied it in the other two.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R did slightly better than the Extreme in all of the resolutions. In fact, it took the top spot in all four resolutions. Are these results bragging-right worthy?

Testing:

Dynamic Energy Saver: I'll test this by installing the software and testing the amount of energy saved at both idle and under load. In order for this software to work correctly, the C1E and EIST features must be enabled in the BIOS, because they dynamically lower the CPU's core speed and voltage at non-load times. The software takes advantage of this and reduces energy consumption even more. With other Gigabyte motherboards, I've had some great success with this feature and it really has impressed me a lot. How great will the energy savings be with the DS3R? Gigabyte has finally allowed the DES software to run while the system is overclocked; previously you could not do so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few screenshots of the Dynamic Energy Saver on at idle as well as off. Also, you can throttle the CPU voltage to get the meter running more. Now that the DES software works while overclocked, we'll test that too. 3.00GHz isn't that much of an overclock so the wattage shouldn't be that different. Let's see if the savings are still amazing.

 

 

 

Measured Wattage:

Just because a software application says I am saving power should I believe it? The phrase "trust but verify" comes to mind here. So in order to verify the savings I used a Killawatt meter to check the system power consumption at idle and under a load both at the stock settings as well as when overclocked to see just how much juice I can save.

 

I saved a total of 31 watts at idle, and 33 watts at load! This Dynamic Energy Saver function works quite well on every Gigabyte motherboard that I have ever tested it on. The DES feature also worked well with a slight overclock, saving a whopping 33 watts at idle and saving 32 watts under load. While it may not seem like a lot of energy saved, the results are cumulative. The longer you run with the software on the longer you will be saving those hard earned dollars and keeping them in your pocket instead of sending them to your power company.

Conclusion:

The Gigabyte EP45-DS3R performs almost exactly the same as the Gigabyte EP45-Extreme when all settings are equal. It just does not have the additional cooling capabilities. This motherboard has many of the same features, performance, overclocking abilities, and a similar BIOS. As a bonus the non extreme overclocker can get this motherboard for more than one hundred dollars cheaper than the EP45-Extreme. On the other side of that cost coin is the fact that the Extreme is just that. A thoroughbred that is designed to be pushed to the limits, limits far in excess of what the DS3R is meant to reach. I was able to get an overclock of 500 x 6 which is quite good in my book. The only issue that I had with overclocking was that I couldn't run the CPU faster than the memory. With the CPU and memory locked together, you can only go as far as one component can go. For me, it was as far as the memory could go and unfortunately, that was only about 1000MHz after tweaking with it for a while. A shame since the EP45-DS3R now natively supports DDR2 speeds to 1333MHz. Gigabyte has fixed the issue of the Dynamic Energy Saver software not being able to work while the system is overclocked with the DES Advanced software and motherboards; now overclockers can use DES to its fullest extent. When it comes time to secure your data Gigabyte has you covered. The built in TPM chip uses 2048 bit encryption to make sure your encrypted data stays safe and secure. WIth easy to use features and multiple avenues to store your pass key, the Ultra TPM (Trusted Platform Module) is the way to go for securing your data.

Gigabyte now offers up support for the latest power standard from Intel VRD 11.1. This new standard is needed for the new E stepping 8000 and 7000 series CPUs from Intel. Like every Gigabyte motherboard, this EP45-DS3R comes with an abundance of accessories as well as software. You'll find all the programs and utilities you'll need on the included disc. If you don't have a water-cooling setup, then the EP45-DS3R makes a really nice alternative to the EP45-Extreme, heck even if you are water cooled the EP45-DS3R makes a nice alternative, just one less item in the water loop. Just by taking a look at the numbers from the benchmarks, almost every score in every test was very close to the performance of the EP45-Extreme's scores. This of course is the expected result. What is capable above the stock speeds is where the difference lie. Overall, I was impressed by the overclocking abilities of this motherboard, the included features and accessories but mostly the price. Definitely do yourself a favor and pick up a Gigabyte EP45-DS3R motherboard, you won't regret it the slightest bit.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: