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Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P (Intel P45)
By Vincent Chang
Category : Mainboard
Published by Vijay Anand on Tuesday, 11th November, 2008
Rating : 4.5 out of 5 stars  

Double the Copper, Double the Durability?

Traditionally, motherboard PCBs have come with 1 oz of copper per square foot of PCB. Gigabyte has doubled this to 2 oz for its new Ultra Durable 3 series of motherboard PCBs (denoted by the UD3 suffix). According to Gigabyte, having twice the amount of copper improves power efficiency by reducing circuit impedance while heat dissipation is also improved by the greater amount of copper within the PCB. Hence, Gigabyte claims that the UD3 boards run 50 degrees Celsius cooler than a traditional board though we doubt we'll see that magnitude from an end-user point of use. As it is, the board does not feel much heavier than the typical motherboard even with the extra copper.

From our temperature tests of the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P at load, the Northbridge cooler measured at around 33 degrees Celsius while the small cooler on the Southbridge had a higher reading of 40 degrees Celsius. This was conducted in our air-conditioned environment that hovers about 21 degrees Celsius. Other P45 motherboards that we have temperature readings are the MSI P45D3 Platinum at around 36.5 degrees while the ASUS P5Q3 Deluxe came in at 37 degrees.

However, due to the larger heatsinks on these two higher end enthusiast class motherboards, the areas (rear heatsink) used to take the temperatures were slightly different from that on the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P (Northbridge, Southbridge heatsinks), so take these numbers as a rough estimate rather than a direct comparison.

There are quite a lot of I/O ports at the back of the Gigabyte board. Despite its mainstream billing, we did find two Gigabit LAN ports, both coaxial and optical S/PDIF and two different FireWire ports. No eSATA ports are available, though you can install them through the internal headers and eSATA bracket provided.

Besides its new PCB with more copper, the other facets of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable technology include the presence of ferrite cores and MOSFETs with lower resistance that consumes less power and produces less heat. Of course, as usual, we find the now standard solid Japanese capacitors on the Gigabyte board. Meanwhile, Gigabyte's Advanced Dynamic Energy Saver and its 6-gear power phase switching technology will contribute to better power efficiency. Gigabyte has even thrown in a TPM chip for added data security.

In terms of its specifications, this Intel P45 board from Gigabyte looks to be targeted at enthusiasts despite its expected mainstream pricing, with its support for high FSB (1600MHz) and high speed DDR2 memory (DDR2-1366). Two PCIe x16 slots (configurable as either 1 x16 or 2 x8) ensure that CrossFireX is supported. The ICH10R Southbridge also gives it 6 SATA 3.0Gbps ports with RAID while the Gigabyte branded SATA2 controller adds another 2 SATA along with IDE support. Two Gigabit LAN controllers from Realtek and the usual HD audio CODEC (Realtek again) ensure that it is a full featured modern motherboard.

6 SATA 3.0Gbps ports are provided by the ICH10R Southbridge used with Intel's P45 Express chipset but Gigabyte has added two more (in purple) SATA ports using the 'Gigabyte SATA2' controller chip depicted here. This chip also provides legacy IDE support for up to two devices.

This Gigabyte board supports up to 16GB of DDR2-1366 (when overclocked). The power and IDE connectors are located near the edge of the board, as is often the norm nowadays.

We had no problems installing our components on this board, with most of the headers and connectors located conveniently at the edges of the board. There was a decent number of expansion slots for users who still need these options, including up to 3 PCIe x1 slots. The heatsinks used for the Northbridge and Southbridge were moderately sized, unlike the typically complex copper structures that are found on higher end boards. Users should hence have no difficulties fitting their own CPU coolers.

Onboard LEDs also help enthusiasts troubleshoot their boards during boot up, while the clear CMOS mechanism is not the handy one-button solution found on some boards. Updating the BIOS to the latest F4 version using a simple flash thumb drive through the BIOS was another very convenient feature found on Gigabyte, which capped our very pleasant experience with this board so far. It was polished and trouble-free and enthusiasts should have no problems setting it up quickly.

As you can expect from an Intel P45 motherboard, ATI CrossFire is supported and Gigabyte seems to be quite optimistic about PCIe x1 devices, given that they have included 3 such slots. At the edge of the board are quite a few headers and other less used ports.

Gigabyte's much publicized 6-phase dynamic power switching technology, Advanced Dynamic Energy Saver is found on this board to maximize power efficiency.

It took us a while to locate the clear CMOS option, which does not come with the usual jumper. Instead, you short the two pins to clear the CMOS.

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