Motherboard Guide

Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R review

Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R (Intel P35)

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Gone are the days where the mainstream board is really designed for the mainstream crowd. Today, we have boards like the Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R that can fit equally well in a nondescript OEM system as well as a souped up enthusiast rig. Motherboard features are no longer one of the most important factors of determining the value of a motherboard. With each generation of chipset, embedded features and functionality have continued to grow to the point where one can just leave a board blank and still have a pretty powerful motherboard.

The GA-P35-DS3R has just about everything anyone would need from a motherboard today, regardless of your 'creed'. Complete support for now and future processors, performance DDR2 support, multiple SATA, USB 2.0 ports, high speed networking, great expansion and good audio functionality. Of course, that particular summary is true to almost every modern motherboard released in the past year or two. What Gigabyte brings into the picture in its Ultra Durable 2 design is not just a puff of hot air (though Gigabyte is guilty of its fair share, but who isn't), but high quality components that try to address some of the issues most common in the PC world: Heat, power and reliability.

For normal usage, we'd say that 99% of consumers will probably not notice any difference in their motherboards with or without these features, and with the current lifespan of technology itself, it is more likely that a motherboard would have gone obsolete before any of its components fail. However, the long term benefits of a more efficient, cooler and reliable platform can be quantified when you're an enthusiast constantly stressing each part to squeeze out more performance. To an overclocker, the GA-P35-DS3R holds a lot of value not only for being one of the highest overclockers around, but also the stability and intelligence of great platform coding.

Looking at our own experience with the GA-P35-DS3R, there is no way to directly link the stability and overclocking performance with Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 2 design, but there is no denying that the GA-P35-DS3R is one hell of a smooth overclocker. Gigabyte plays right into this scenario, offering power users higher quality components with the Ultra Durable 2 design and universally raising the bar for motherboard components and quality.

One of those things sitting on the fence about this board is its overall performance. As you can see from our benchmarks, the GA-P35-DS3R wasn't a consistent performer across all the applications run. In certain benchmarks like SYSmark 2004 and SPECviewperf 9.0, the board displayed strong memory subsystem performance characteristics, but in other benchmarks like PCMark05 and AquaMark3, it was the opposite. One thing to take note of however, is that the numbers would increase back to being very competitive if the Performance Option in the BIOS was enabled. Running a quick PCMark05 set confirmed this. We always disable all proprietary performance enhancements when reviewing any motherboard to ensure best compatibility and stability, and this shows that Gigabyte just needs to tweak the BIOS a little bit more.

The Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R can be found for around US$130, which is a pretty good price for a P35 board with an ICH9R Southbridge and not the weaker ICH9. If the GA-P35-DS3R speaks for the rest of the Intel P35 'S3' boards in Gigabyte's lineup, they've managed to recreate what made the original P965 version such a cult hit. Good engineering, extreme overclocking and great value.