Gigabyte EP45-Extreme Review

Makaveli - 2008-07-17 17:22:46 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: Makaveli   
Reviewed on: August 17, 2008
Price: $249.99 USD

Introduction:

If you’ve ever overclocked a motherboard before, you know that keeping the Northbridge cool is one way to get the most out of the motherboard. When Northbridge temperatures rise, it becomes harder and harder to squeeze out better clocks. What’s the solution for this problem? A bigger heatsink for the Northbridge, of course! The all new Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme Socket 775 motherboard is built for the extreme users who want to be able to squeeze the most out of their system. This motherboard is designed for use with water cooling setups, but it’s still usable without the water cooling. What else does this limited edition Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme offer that’ll put it above the competitors? Will the extra cooling on the Northbridge make a huge difference when overclocking this motherboard?

The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard uses the new Intel P45 chipset, which is considered a “mainstream” chipset by Intel. How will this chipset compare to the wildly popular X48 chipset? Will the overclocking be better on the P45 chipset? Paired up with the Northbridge heatsink, will there be anything that can stop the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard?

 

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme comes packaged in a large box that has some green camouflage in the background of a giant green “X”, with bullet holes surrounding the “X”. You’ll also find a lot of the key features on the front of the box, as well as the back side of the box. The back of the box has many charts, comparisons, and descriptions of all the great features of the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard. The side of the box has information about the motherboard in multiple languages for international consumers.

 

 

 

That’s not all for the outside of the box! The front of the box has a flap that is held together with Velcro, and with a light pull, you can open it. Upon opening, you can set your eyes up on this limited edition Gigabyte motherboard through the plastic. On the adjacent side of the flap, you can get a look at some of the LED alerts that this Gigabyte motherboard features, as well as a breakdown of the Northbridge cooling system that Gigabyte labels as “Hybrid Silent-Pipe” technology.

 

 

 

Now, let’s unpack the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard, and take a look at the included accessories before we take an in-depth look at the motherboard itself.

Closer Look:

The green camouflaged box is just an outer shell for the motherboard. Once you take the black box out of the shell, you’ll need to open that up to get to the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard and its accessories. The motherboard is encased in a plastic shell, to securely hold it in place, while the accessories come packaged in a black box that can be opened from either end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There's an abundance of accessories that are included with the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard. Inside of the accessory box, you’ll find a manual, hardware installation guide, CPU installation guide, driver CD, three stickers, an IDE cable, floppy cable, four SATA cables, rear I/O shield, eSATA bracket, IEEE 1394 bracket, an eSATA power cable, and a power cord. That’s quite a list, huh? Gigabyte never ceases to amaze me with the abundance of accessories they include with their products.

 

 

Take a closer look at the rear I/O shield, IEEE 1394 bracket, eSATA bracket, and the eSATA power cable and power cord. Most of these are included in every Gigabyte motherboard that I’ve tested, and they do prove to be quite useful in my setup.

 

 

 

Now, let’s take a closer look at the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard itself.

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme is a standard ATX motherboard that is made for Socket 775 processors. The first thing I noticed was the extravagant cooling on the Northbridge, Southbridge, and PWM. All of the heatsinks are connected with heat pipes, and on the back of the motherboard; you’ll see the Northbridge and Southbridge have aluminum bars to securely hold the heatsinks into place. Just by looking at the board, it’s quite clear that it should have every port you’ll need for your system.  Now let’s break down every aspect of this motherboard.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

The rear I/O panel houses 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 a Clear CMOS switch. This is the first external Clear CMOS switch that Gigabyte has manufactured, and from personal experience, this is one of the handiest buttons to have on your rear I/O panel for overclocking.

 

 

This Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme supports AIT's CrossFireX technology, PCI Express 2.0, and houses single PCI Express x16, x8, x4, and x1 slots. There are also three PCI slots onboard as well. On the bottom of the motherboard, there are two USB 2.0 ports, and three FireWire 1394a ports. The bottom right of the motherboard is where you’ll find six onboard SATA ports, the single IDE port, the front panel header, onboard Power and Reset buttons, and LED readouts for errors. The onboard Power and Reset buttons and LED readout are very important, in my opinion. The onboard Power and Reset buttons come in handy when you’re not using a case, or you just don’t have the front panel hookups to plug into the motherboard. The LED display is probably one of my favorite things on this motherboard, because it allows you to know exactly what’s wrong with your system if you encounter any errors upon booting up.

 

 

 

This motherboard supports up to 16GB of RAM. Yes, you read that right – up to 16GB of RAM! The motherboard's memory standard is DDR2-1200MHz for the board’s four 240-pin slots. Adjacent to the memory slots are a floppy drive port, and a 24-pin power port.

 

Now, let's look at the heatsink setup.

Closer Look:

There are four heatsinks total on this motherboard - one each on the Southbridge, Northbridge, PWM, and at the top of the motherboard for heat dissipation. The Northbridge is the most decorated heatsink, with two connections for a water cooling setup, as well as four screw holes for you to attach the heatsink that Gigabyte has included. The heatsink is about as long as a sound card, and takes up a full expansion slot by itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The motherboard supports Socket 775 CPUs, such as Intel's Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Quad processors. It’ll be interesting to see if this cooling setup will benefit the Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme, or if it still isn’t enough.

 

 

Now that we’ve thoroughly examined the motherboard, let’s take a look at some of the key software features of this motherboard.

Closer Look:

The BIOS is vital to overclocking, and is where you can alter many of your system's settings. Gigabyte uses a Dual BIOS technology, which basically means that if one of your BIOS is shot or doesn't boot up, the motherboard will load up the second BIOS. This provides great peace of mind while you're overclocking, because you know that if you mess up the BIOS, there's a second one that will load up.

Main & Standard CMOS:

When you first boot up, you'll be shown the Main screen, which is where you can pick and choose what you want to alter from multiple sections. The "Standard CMOS Setup" is where you can check on the drives you have hooked up, and you can also change the time and date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advanced BIOS Features:

Here you can alter the CPU functions, such as CPUID, C1E, EIST, and Virtualization, as well as your boot device order.

 

 

Integrated Peripherals & Power Management:

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

 

 

 

PnP/PCI & PC Health Status:

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

 

 

 

Closer Look:

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

The Motherboard Intelligent BIOS section is where the fun begins. You can alter the frequencies of your CPU and memory, as well as adjust the voltages for them. There's quite an abundance of options here, but the one thing I wish they had was an option to unlink the CPU and memory. Other than that, this BIOS is loaded with settings you can alter for overclocking. The multiplier can be set from 6x up to 8x, and the CPU frequency can be set from 100MHz to 1200MHz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can alter so many settings with the memory, and when I first saw the plethora of options, I was stunned! The vCore for the CPU has excellent steppings, and goes all the way up to 2.3v - yikes!

 

 

 

We've covered the BIOS, now it's time to see the included programs and drivers.

Closer Look:

Insert the included driver CD, and you'll be prompted to install some or all of the drivers you'd like. I needed to install everything, so I selected the designated option to do just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You'll also be given a selection of quite a few utilities and applications you can install on your machine, including the EasyTune 6 overclocking utility, and COREL MediaOne. Easy Tune 6 is an easy way to overclock and monitor your computer, and it's user friendly.

 

 

Also included on the disc are the user manuals, application manuals, and various other guides. You'll also be able to see your system specifications, and contact information for Gigabyte.

 

 

Now that we've installed the drivers, applications, and utilities, let's test the motherboard!

Specifications:

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

Quad-core / Core 2 Extreme / Core 2 Duo / Pentium
(Note) This motherboard is designed with VRD11.1 power phase, and cannot be compatible with VRD10 designed CPU. Please refer to "CPU Support List" for details.

 
 
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 x4
1
PCI Express x1
1
PCI Slots
3
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
4 x Realtek 8111C
Max LAN Speed

Dual 10/100/1000Mbps
Support for Teaming

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 USB
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 Headers
Onboard 1394
3 x 1394a
Physical Spec
 
Form Factor
ATX
Dimensions
12.0” x 9.6”
Power Pin
24 Pin
Packaging Contents

GA-EP45-EXTREME
Driver Disk
User Manual
Rear I/O Panel Shield
IDE/PATA Cable
FDD Cable
SATA Cable
IEEE 1394 Bracket
eSATA Bracket
eSATA Cable & Power Cord
Chipset Heatsinks

 

 

Features:

-Information sourced from Newegg.com and Gigabyte's website: http://www.gigabyte.com.tw/News/Motherboard/News_List.aspx?NewsID=1399

Testing:

In order to push this Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme motherboard, I'm going to put it through a very tough group of benchmarks. I'll send it through various scientific, real world, and video benchmarks, to see how well this motherboard fares. There will be three other motherboards that will be compared to this EP-45 Extreme from Gigabyte - the ECS P45T-A, the ASUS P5QL-E (P43+ chipset), and the Gigabyte X48-DQ6 motherboard (X48 chipset). All components will be set to run at their stock voltages, timings, speeds, and frequencies. Let's get to testing this motherboard!

Test Setup: 

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

After hours of overclocking, I finally realized that the inability to unlink the memory and CPU was really making a difference. The Mushkin XP-8000 set of RAM I had in the board couldn't be pushed over its rated 500MHz, thus leaving the maximum FSB I could achieve at 500. Now, a FSB of 500 is actually a very good overclock on a quad-core processor, and I'd love to see how far I could take this motherboard, if the memory wasn't holding me back. I haven't had too many motherboards that have made it to 500, so I was quite impressed with this motherboard.

 

 

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 P45 boards were just about even, and beat the X48 chipset in a few WinRAR times.

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.

 

Wow! The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme started off really strong in SPECview. Can it keep the fire going?

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 Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme was right there with the ECS P45, but both boards were behind the X48 in most benchmarks.

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.

 

 

 

Same deal here - the P45s were about neck and neck, but still behind the X48 motherboard. The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme did well when overclocked.

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 EP-45 Extreme did better than the ECS board in every resolution.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

It was very close in the high resolutions amongst all of the motherboards.

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:

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EP-45 Extreme took over in the higher resolutions, but slacked a little bit in the first two resolutions.

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme did better and better as the resolutions got higher.

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:

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

The Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme tied with the ECS P45T-A in three of the four resolutions.

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 EP-45 Extreme did better than the ECS board in every resolution by one frame per second.

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 ECS board outperformed the rest of the comparison boards in all four resolutions. The difference in performance was usually within one frame per second.

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 EP-45 Extreme did better than the ECS board in every resolution except 1920x1200.

Testing:

Dynamic Energy Saver: To test this feature, I'll install the software and test the amount of energy saved by the software, at both idle and under load. To allow this software to work correctly, the C1E and EIST features must be enabled, because they dynamically lower the CPUs core speed and voltage at non-load times. The software expands on this reduce energy consumption even more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are some screenshots of the Dynamic Energy Saver, while off and on at idle. You can throttle the CPU voltage to get the meter running even more.

 

 

Measured Wattage:

 

Wow! A whopping 26 watts saved at idle, and 28 watts saved at load! This Dynamic Energy Saver function really works well.

Conclusion:

Overall, I would have to say that the limited edition Gigabyte EP-45 Extreme is the best motherboard that I've ever used for overclocking. The BIOS was simple to navigate, and Gigabyte's Dual BIOS technology really gives the user some peace of mind knowing that if they screw one BIOS up, another BIOS is right there for them to use. The LED readout is an overclocker's dream, because it allows us to see where the issues are if the system isn't booting. For me, the memory was what was holding my overclocking back. I was able to obtain an FSB speed of 500MHz, which is extremely good, considering four threads of data are being sent through the Northbridge at 500MHz x 7 (3.5GHz). I don't think I've ever hit 500 on a motherboard due to some sort of bottleneck of the CPU or memory. The only downside to overclocking with this motherboard is the fact that you can't unlink the memory and CPU. I can only imagine how far I could push this board if the memory wasn't holding me back. With 1.45v to the CPU, 500MHz x 7 (3.5GHz) seems like it would yield high CPU temperatures, right? Not exactly; I was sitting at a cool 40C idle with air cooling. As you can see, overclocking is definitely this motherboard's forte.

Gigabyte is constantly coming out with new technologies for their motherboards, and they never cease to amaze me. For example, on the EP45-DQ6, Gigabyte includes their UltraTPM, Smart Backup, VRD 11.1, and Dynamic Energy Saver features - to name a few. UltraTPM features an industry high level 2048-bits of encryption for the onboard TPM (Trusted Platform Module), and this key can be stored on a USB drive or in the BIOS. Smart Backup is Gigabyte's plug-and-play hardware RAID that features a total of three independent RAID systems, for both software and hardware RAID. VRD (Voltage Regulator Down) 11.1 is one of my personal favorite technologies, because it allows systems to go into a very deep "Sleep Mode" while consuming less power. Less power consumption equals a lower electricity bill, right? As you can see, Gigabyte is ahead of the industry with their technologies.

Alas, this is not the EP45-DQ6. The EP45-Extreme is a purpose-built product for the enthusiast, kind of like an F40 Ferrari, sporting unique features like the hybrid Silent-Pipe cooling solution for the motherboard. Gigabyte goes several steps beyond the norm for this board; not only does it use a heatpipe matrix to cover all of the heat generating components on the motherboard, there’s also a hybrid water cooling setup that helps remove heat from the Silent-Pipe cooling system. As if that’s not “extreme” enough, there’s a massive, air cooled heatsink that works to cool the hybrid Silent-Pipe by means of convection. If that's still not enough, there are additional features that make this board the "Overclocker’s Dream". Voltage equals heat, and the EP45-Extreme has the answer for that in spades; over-voltage alerts let you know just how close to the edge you are, monitoring the voltages of the Northbridge, Southbridge, CPU, and memory. There’s an overclocking LED to tell you just how extreme your overclock is, and there are temperature alerts for the CPU and Northbridge. Onboard Power, Reset, and Clear CMOS switches provide function and convenience; plus, there’s a Clear CMOS button on the EP45-Extreme’s I/O panel - finally! All of this stuff is great, but the fact that the new DES Advanced software is leaps and bounds better than the old version just makes the EP45-Extreme mean and "green!” The new DES Advanced app even works when you are overclocked. What does this mean? We can now be green when we’re pushing the boundaries of the performance envelope. Coupled with the Ultra Durable 2 construction and component selection, you have a board that is indeed the Overclocker’s Dream! All the tools are there to make your dreams come true, you just have to use them.

This motherboard not only overclocks well and has a lot of cool features, it also performs quite well. This motherboard consistently did a little bit better than the competing P45 motherboard. However, you can still see that this motherboard isn't quite the caliber of the X48 chipset. The stock performance of this motherboard was about what I expected it to be. The only negative that I can think of is the motherboard's layout. If you have a long video card, such as an Nvidia 280GTX, you will lose two of the onboard SATA ports because the video card covers them up. I only use four SATA ports, so I got around this issue, but for some, this could be something to consider. All in all, this Gigabyte EP45-Extreme features great overclocking headroom, an abundance of accessories, and industry leading features, all while delivering the performance you expect from a P45 chipset.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: