Inside the GA-P35-DS3R
The Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3R motherboard features the Intel P35 chipset, supports all current LGA775 processors up to the Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and even the upcoming 45nm and FSB 1333MHz CPUs. The chipset was also engineered for the eventual replacement of DDR2 memory with DDR3, but the GS-P35-DS3R is a pure DDR2 motherboard. It supports four DDR2 DIMM slots up to an 8GB memory configuration and high-speed memory support up to DDR2-1066.
On the outset, the GA-P35-DS3R motherboard isn't all that different from other Intel P35 motherboards floating around the market today. The main difference between this board and our previous two mainstream P35 reviews (Foxconn P35A and MSI P35 Neo Combo ) is its use of the ICH9R Southbridge which gives the board enhanced storage performance with AHCI and RAID support through Intel Matrix Storage Technology. The board features six internal SATA 3.0Gbps ports powered by the Southbridge and another two additional SATA 3.0Gbps ports from a secondary storage controller (Gigabyte SATA 2 controller). The main SATA ports all feature Intel Matrix Storage Technology and support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. The secondary SATA ports only support RAID 0 and 1. This particular model also comes with an eSATA bracket with external power connectors and cables all included in the package.
Networking features are straightforward with the onboard Gigabit LAN port controlled by the popular Realtek RTL8111B PCIe chipset. The GA-P35-DS3R has four USB 2.0 ports at the rear I/O panel with the remaining eight as onboard headers. Gigabyte doesn't provide any brackets for additional USB connectivity by default, though they offer them as optional items. The board also does not feature any FireWire support at all. Perhaps the most interesting component that appears throughout Gigabyte's P35 lineup regardless of pedigree is the brand new Realtek ALC889A HD Audio CODEC. So new, you won't even find it on Realtek's own website yet. The ALC889A has a 106dB SNR playback quality and supports content protection technology. The audio encryption should comply with Microsoft's WLP 3.0 protection specification for Windows Vista, allowing full rate lossless audio playback of protected media or sources like Blu-ray or HD DVD from WLP 3.0 compliant media players such as PowerDVD or WinDVD. Without a protected encryption path, audio is designed to be down-sampled.
If you've seen our Gigabyte P35 preview (available here ), you'd also know that Gigabyte has updated its entire suite of Ultra Durable components, now called Ultra Durable 2. With the first batch of Ultra Durable motherboards, Gigabyte introduced the 100% solid capacitor design for motherboards to eliminate the risk of leaking capacitors altogether, improving board lifespan and stability. The GA-P35-DS3R features Ultra Durable 2, which has two new features in addition to the full solid capacitor design, Gigabyte is now using Ferrite core chokes, replacing the normal iron chokes. According the Gigabyte, the Ferrite chokes are able to hold power longer at high frequencies, thus reducing energy loss by up to 25%. Then there is also the Low RDS(on) MOSFETs that allow faster charging and discharging and lower switching resistance, which in turn is supposed to reduce overall heat generated by 16% over normal MOSFETs.
The GA-P35-DS3R isn't a proper full sized ATX board. It has the length, but the width has been reduced slightly from the usual 244mm to 210mm. As such, the board looks slimmer and a lot more cramped. Component spacing is well optimized for such a board. For example, there is plenty of spacing between the PCIe x16 and DIMM slots, making memory installation and removal an easy task. Component placement is also decent enough, though we would have liked it better if the IDE and Floppy connectors were switched. The last PCIe x1 slot may also be too close to the Northbridge cooler though, and Gigabyte could have done without it instead of trying to cram in a full seven-slot expansion design.