Moving along to our next board we have the top of the line board GIGABYTE intends to release to the public under the Dual Quad 6 or DQ6 brand. Since the introduction of DQ6 boards back with the P965, GIGABYTE has thrown everything onto them and then some. The PCB used is almost identical to the DS3R board with a few modifications, its still the same 24x30cm blue full ATX 6 layer design. One thing that we love to see is the fact that GIGABYTE has finally added easy DIY power, reset and CMOS clear buttons at the base of the board which makes life much easier when first setting up the system and overclocking.
The 24-pin power connector and FDD connector get placed behind the four DDR2 memory slots on the right hand edge of the board and the 4/8 pin power connector gets the same location behind the PS/2 port at the top left of the board.
One of the major changes is the SATA ports. Since the QD6 is designed for hardcore users, additional ports have been added to the board (four extra in total) which makes for a total of 10 ports. All of them have been placed on the right hand bottom edge of the board along with the single IDE. The six yellow SATA ports are controlled by the ICH10R Southbridge and the four purple ports are hardware RAID based (256k memory on board) and are powered by the JMB363 controller chip with two Silicon Image repeaters. Since the JMB363 can't natively support four ports, the board gets two repeater hubs to turn the two SATA channels it has into four channels, allowing for a four drive RAID array operated by the JMB363 chip.
What we love with the SATA setup is that GIGABYTE has finally listened and rotated four of the 10 SATA ports on a 90 degree angle to avoid installation with large graphics cards. Top marks there! Next time though we would love to see ALL SATA ports angled as standard.
The EP45-DQ6 boards CPU area is a little cramped, while we did manage to get our test heatsink on, it wasn't too easy, in fact a few scrapped knuckles resulted from the surrounding heatpipe fins. The CPU is fed though a virtual 12 phase voltage regulation system. What this means is the board has two separate six phase voltage regulators working in parallel to supply an even more stable voltage to the system which is part of the "Ultra Durable" marketing that GIGABYTE is pushing. DES is of course included which will help reduce power consumption at idle and load. We will check out the power consumption numbers later in this article to see if we agree with the "Ultra Power Efficiency" marketing messages we keep hearing.
The cooling setup is extensive. A series of heat pipes cool the dual six phase Mosfets, the Northbridge, Southbridge and the IDT PCI Express hub. Two smaller heat sinks cover the JMB363 RAID controller chip and a separate heatsink cools the two Silicon Image SATA repeater chips. In other words, all the important chips are covered and we would go along with the "Ultra Cool" part of GIGABYTE's marketing message.
As we move to the rear I/O we see some changes here. While it has the same tower arrangement as the DS3R board, the Firewire ports have been removed. GIGABYTE has upped the Ethernet port count from two to four. This gives you the option to use all four on a single gigabit hub to get a 4GB/s connection. However, why you would need this is beyond us as even a HDD RAID 0 array can't transmit data at this speed, even a single gigabit connection is fast enough for this. The firewire ports have been moved to a PCI cover expansion bracket system as well as the eSATA ports.
Lastly on our journey we come to the expansion slots and the DQ6 has without a doubt the best arrangement we have ever seen. First off for graphics cards you can have up to four of them for ATI CrossfireX configurations. First off there are two PCI Express x16 slots - one blue and one yellow. These work on the same principal as the DS3R board whereby both will operate at x8 if two cards are installed.
Between the two PCIe x16 slots are two PCIe x4 universal slots. These have no end at the back allowing for you to install longer cards. These two slots (along with the four Realtek 8111C Gigabit Ethernet chips) are routed to the IDT PCI Express root hub and it uses four of the six lanes of the ICH10R Southbridge. There is also a single black PCIe x1 slot located at the top of the blue PCIe x16 slot. And finally we have two PCI legacy slots for older expansion cards like TV tuners and sound cards.