GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard - Exclusive Review

GIGABYTE's Ultra Durable technology steps up to a third generation on the new EP45-UD3P. Let's see how it shapes up.
| Oct 15, 2008 at 11:00 pm CDT
Rating: 90%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction

GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
IntroductionP45 chipset boards are now coming in thick and fast. Intel really has a cash cow when it comes to the 4 series chipsets, especially P45. While P35 managed to give Intel the winning hand over AMD, P45s upgraded features such as true Crossfire support, PCIe 2.0 specs as well as upgraded DDR2 and DDR3 memory controllers has us looking at what could now be the next '440BX' chipset. GIGABYTE has been on the forefront of motherboard technology for some time; not only were they the first to introduce dual phase voltage systems on their boards to allow voltage phases above 8, but they were the first company to introduce the RoHS motherboards as well as being able to implement any sort of power saving technology on their boards. While others claim to save more power, GIGABYTE can't be knocked for starting this power saving revolution and it continues today.Just recently GIGABYTE added a new chapter to its motherboard line, namely the Ultra Durable 3 design. UD3 is the final replacement for the UD2 line that GIGABYTE has used for the last three years and hopefully we will see a lot more UD3 based boards in the near future. Today we have the first UD3 board to roll out from GIGABYTEs Taiwan factory; we graciously test out the EP45-UD3P.

Specifications

Specifications of the GIGABYTE EP45-UD3PCPUSupports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core SeriesSupports Intel Pentium D SeriesSupports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx SeriesSupports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx SeriesSupports Intel 45nm Series CPUChipsetIntel P45 Express ChipsetIntel P45 NorthbridgeIntel ICH10R SouthbridgeDMI @ 2GB/sSystem Memory4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM SocketsSupports DDR2-533/667/800MHz64/128Bit Dual ChannelSupports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)Bus Frequency100/133/200/266/333/400MHz Internal400/533/800/1066/1333/1600MHz ExternalP4 Bus ArchitectureExpansion Slots2 PCI Express x163 PCI Express x12 PCIConnectivity1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives8 Serial ATA ports2 e.SATA port (via expansion brackets)2 Gigabit Ethernet PortsExpansion Ports1 PS2 Keyboard Port1 PS2 Mouse Port12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)6 Stereo Audio Ports1 RCA SPDIF Port1 Toslink SPDIF Port2 RJ45 Ethernet Ports2 Firewire ports

The Box and What's Inside

Package and Contents
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
As always, we start off with our package and contents. GIGABYTEs EP45-UD3P gets the same colour scheme as the older UD2 series boards, however there is a lot of hype on the front about UD3 and its cooling properties.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
On the back of the box there is a lot more info on how the UD3 system works; mostly it's a combination of existing technologies along with a new 2oz copper PCB design, which we will get into later. Unfortunately, due to the marketing hype on the back there is no room for a colour photo, a big no-no, even with a new product line.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
While the EP45-UD3P is aimed more at the mainstream to value end of the line, it doesn't stop GIGABYTE from giving you a good software and documentation bundle. In total there are two users manuals; one for the board itself and one hardware installation guide book which is a fancy term for quick install manual. The Driver DVD that is included contains drivers and software for Windows XP and Vista (32-bit and 64-bit versions) along with their DES Advanced software for both OSs.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
On the accessories side GIGABYTE has done a modest job. First off we look at the data cables supplied; out of the total eight SATA ports that the board supports, you get four yellow SATA-II data cables which include the locking tabs to prevent them from accidentally being removed or bumped when installing or removing hardware, or even when transporting the PC to and from your home and LAN events. The ribbon cables consist of a single FDD cable with mono drive support and an IDE cable with master and slave drive support. GIGABYTE continues to do their eSATA ports a different way to most. Rather than forcing you to give up two SATA ports, all of the ports are internal ports. If you want to use eSATA you install a PCI expansion cover bracket with two eSATA ports on it; these ports then take two (any two) SATA ports and convert them to eSATA.

The Motherboard

The Board
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Now its time to move onto the motherboard itself. The layout of the board is on a full ATX 30x24cm design using 6 layers of PCB and 2 layers of copper for cooling purposes. Despite the extra copper in the board, compared to our EP45-Extreme and X48T-DQ6, the board didn't feel any heavier, nor did it look any different, so it's purely in the design.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
There are no cosmetic changes to the PCB; the same blue design is used, so any hopes for a new colour or some visible design changes are diminished. GIGABYTE has gone for its tried and true placement of connectors. The 24-pin power connector along with the single IDE port is located behind the yellow and red DDR2 memory slots. The 8-pin power connector is once again at the top left of the board behind the PS/2 towers to help elevate cable clutter. Below the IDE port are two purple SATA ports which are powered off the came JMicron controller chip that runs the IDE port. The six yellow SATA ports that are controlled off the ICH10R are placed just below the heatsink that cools the Southbridge chip.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
The EP45-UD3P's CPU socket is extremely clean of any high rise components thanks to the use of solid state Japanese capacitors. We have an abundance of room and the smaller heatpipe unit that cools the Northbridge and the Mosfets allowed us to install our OCZ Vanquisher heatsink without any knuckle scrapes. GIGABYTE, my hands thank you for this one. The UD3P uses a 6 phase voltage regulation system that is controlled by the DES Advanced system to allow for a much more energy friendly PC, which we must admit really does work well.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Moving along to the rear I/O ports, GIGABYTE has decided to use the same layout we have seen on the X38-DQ6, X38T DQ6 and the EP45-DQ6 motherboards. The same amount of connectors are there as well, so nothing has changed. It's nice to see some consistency here.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Lastly, we are onto expansion possibilities. Thanks to the P45 Express chipset we get true Crossfire. How this works, if you haven't read any P45 reviews in the past, is the 16 lanes from the P45 Northbridge have two modes; single GPU and multi GPU. When in single GPU, all 16 lanes are routed to the blue PCIe x16 slot. When a second graphics card is inserted into the orange PCIe x16 slot, the board automatically steals eight lanes from the blue slot and sends them to the orange slot, giving both cards eight lanes of bandwidth each. One disadvantage to this setup is the fact you can't run two of ATIs X2 series cards in CrossfireX, since there isn't enough bandwidth, they just won't work. Three PCIe x1 slots are also included for any and all PCIe expansion. And why not, we now have PCIe TV tuners and PCIe sound cards. Two legacy PCI slots are included as well, just in case you want to run any older TV tuners, sound cards or (god help you) PCI modems.

BIOS and Overclocking

BIOS
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
On the BIOS layout scene GIGABYTE uses the same Award 6 "Blue" BIOS they have used for years. However, a major change has been made. Normally we have the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker(M.I.T) menu on the right hand side of the screen, but on all of the new boards GIGABYTE is releasing, the M.I.T menu is the first menu that is selected on the top left. This is nice to see as this is where we want to go when we are in the BIOS to overclock the system.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
BusesCPU Host Frequency: 100 - 1200 MHz in 1MHz IncrementsPCIE Frequency: 100 - 150 MHz in 1MHz IncrementsVoltagesCPU VCore: 0.50v to 2.3v in 0.00625v incrementsCPU Term Voltage: 1.1v to 1.7v in 0.02v incrementsCPU PLL Voltage: 1.5v to 2.81v in various incrementsCPU Reference: 0.76v to 1.010v in Various incrementsMCH Core: 1.1v to 2.0v in 0.02v incrementsMCH Reference: 0.76v to 1.040v in Various IncrementsMCH/DRAM Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v incrementsICH I/O: 1.5v to 2.31v in 0.02v IncrementsICH Reference: 1.1v to 1.4v in 0.1v incrementsDRAM Voltage: 1.45v to 3.02v in 0.02v incrementsDRAM Termination: 70.9v to 1.355v in Various incrementsChannel A Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v incrementsChannel B Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v incrementsOverclockingOverclocking the EP45-UD3P, we found ourselves extremely impressed. With only six voltage rails we didn't expect to see extremely high clock speeds, however GIGABYTE seems to have done a very impressive job with the UD3 design. We managed to press the FSB up to a max speed of 558MHz FSB; that's not far off the EP45 Extreme and ASUS' P5Q. We did have to tweak all of the FSB and CPU voltages a little as well as push DRAM to 2.3v, however, the board remained stable at this speed across all our tests. Pressing to 560MHz caused us lock ups in Premiere Elements 4, so we considered this unstable and 558MHz was our highest FSB; well done GIGABYTE.Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.

Test System Setup and Memory Performance

Test System Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 @ 3.16GHz (9.5x333MHz)Memory: 2x 1GB DDR2-1186 Geil (Supplied by Geil)Hard Disk: 500GB Western Digital SE16 (Supplied by Western Digital)Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 (Supplied by GIGABYTE) Cooling: GIGABYTE 3D Galaxy II (Supplied by GIGABYTE)Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista SP1Drivers: Intel INF 9.0.0.1008, Forceware 175.16Its now time for the benchmarks. Today we have the GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P against the EP45 Extreme motherboard; both from GIGABYTE, but at different ends of the spectrum just to see if there is any major difference. As per usual, stock speeds were done with the CPU at its stock clock rate and the DDR2 memory was set to 800MHz, which is the highest that the JEDEC recognises for DDR2. At OC we lowered the multiplier of the CPU to 6x and the memory dividers to 1:1 to prevent the memory and CPU being the limiting factor.EVEREST Ultimate EditionVersion and / or Patch Used: 2006Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.comBuy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
First on the list is synthetic memory performance; GIGABYTE has unified its BIOS' so the EP45-UD3 gets the same BIOS tweaks as the Extreme board. To this end at stock both are identical in memory reads and writes. At OC there is only little difference thanks to the EP45-UD3P's high clocking abilities.

Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage

PCMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: UnpatchedDeveloper Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
PCMark Vantage only gives a win to the EP45-Extreme when overclocking, thanks to a higher CPU, memory and FSB. But it's nothing to really give a definitive win.

Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview

SYSmark 2007Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview/>
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista™. SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista™ to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
SYSmark results shows the same trend as PCMark, as it's an overall system test, not just specific to the memory or chipset.

Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0

Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Moving into real world testing, at stock speeds both boards are identical so there is no need to spend the extra on the Extreme if you're just going for a stock clocked rig. When we overclock, the Extreme knocks a couple minutes off the encode time, which is what we would expect. However, you really have to be pushing the overclock to do it.

Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage

3DMark VantageVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.01Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.comProduct Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage/Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware. 3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Our first gaming benchmark falls into the synthetic category. 3DMark Vantage does a good job here. As we can see, at stock both boards are just about equal. At OC the Extreme manages to get a slight lead.

Benchmarks - Crysis

CrysisVersion and / or Patch Used: 1.1Timedemo or Level Used: Custom TimedemoDeveloper Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/ Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G. Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Lastly, our gaming benchmark is Crysis which puts quite a bit of stress on the system. Here, even at OC there is very little in it.

Power Usage and Heat Tests

Power ConsumptionWe are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Power wise, both boards consume just about the same amount at stock speeds. The EP45-UD3P manages just a slight drop thanks to newer components along with the UD3s new PCB design.Heat GenerationAs a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
GIGABYTE EP45-UD3P Motherboard Review
Here is where we see a change; the UD3P manages to drop heat on the NB, SB and Mosfets by a bit, but it's not here that the real benefits are. The PCB temps are supposed to drop with UD3, but we couldn't really test that as we don't have an IR camera to test this out. However, we were greeted with lower motherboard temps according to the software utility in windows. How accurate they are is left to you, but a 10 degree drop was registered.

Final Thoughts

Final ThoughtsUltra Durable 3 technology has been a while coming; GIGABYTE has used Ultra Durable 2 for over four years now and it's about time to see some improvements. Since power saving has already come under the DES heading, GIGABYTE couldn't really use this as UD3s only advantage. Thankfully they have added in a new design rule, that being the new 2oz copper layers through the PCB and from our initial results, it seems to be helping.The first UD3 board we have tested to date really gave us hope that UD3 will improve, not only overclocking, but also by helping to reduce power consumption within a PC. After all, if you can lower the temps by reducing power and keeping the components cooler without using extra fans, you are already helping towards a more efficient system. The EP45-UD3P managed to impress us with its performance, overclocking and features; a three win combo here.
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