Intel has really pulled all of the stops out when it comes to its 4 series chipsets. So far we only have three players; the X48, P45 and P43 chipsets with P41 due for the entry level market sometime hopefully before the end of the year.
P45 has already proven itself to be a valuable chipset for the mid-range and enthusiast, but without its full speed Crossfire support it won't be used for quad GPU operations. P43 is Intel's mid-range chipset aimed at the mainstream and value end of the spectrum. It's almost identical in specifications to the P45, but it doesn't support the true Crossfire setup and is aimed at more budget conscious users.
Today we have been sent GIGABYTE's first P43 based motherboard supporting the older Ultra Durable 2 technology as well as DES Advanced; a perfect companion for HTPCs and workstations. Let's see how it fairs.
Specifications of the GIGABYTE EP43-DS3R
Supports Intel Core 2 Series (Extreme/Quad/Duo)
Supports Intel Pentium Dual Core Series
Supports Intel Pentium D Series
Supports Intel Pentium 4 5xx/6xx Series
Supports Intel Celeron D 3xx/4xx Series
Supports Intel 45nm Series CPU
Intel P43 Express Chipset
Intel P43 Northbridge
Intel ICH10R Southbridge
DMI @ 2GB/s
4 DDR2 SDRAM 240pin DIMM Sockets
64/128Bit Dual Channel
Supports up to 8GB Total Memory (4x 2GB)
P4 Bus Architecture
2 PCI Express x16
1 PCI Express x1
1 Parallel ATA port supporting 2 IDE Drives
6 Serial ATA ports
1 Gigabit Ethernet Port
1 PS2 Keyboard Port
1 PS2 Mouse Port
12 USB 2.0 Ports (6 rear accessible, 6 via expansion bracket)
6 Stereo Audio Ports
1 RCA SPDIF Port
1 Toslink SPDIF Port
1RJ45 Ethernet Ports
3 Firewire ports (2rear accessible, 1 via expansion bracket)
The Box and What's Inside
Package and Contents
GIGABYTE's package design for the 4 series chipsets is almost identical across the board. The base colour is white with green overtones and some nice artwork on the front. There is the GIGABYTE logo along with the board model number and chipset. CPU support logos also adorn the front.
On the back GIGABYTE has put a lot of info on the DES Advanced, Ultra Durable 2 and VRD11.1 technologies along with other marketing info that you expect to see. However, there is no colour photo of the board which we would like to have seen, even though this isn't an extreme board.
GIGABYTE includes a total of four manuals; the first and foremost is the user manual for the board, then a quick install guide, a CPU installation manual and ICH10R user manual. By far this is the most amount of manuals we have seen. The included DVD contains Windows XP and Vista drivers for both 32-bit and 64-bit OSs along with antivirus software, the DES Advanced control panel and Easy Tune 6 tweaking utility as well as a few other misc tools.
On the accessories side GIGABYTE has toned it down a little compared to what you get in the extreme packages. For the storage side of things there are four of GIGABYTE's special SATA cables with locking tabs at each end to prevent them from coming loose during transport, or when you're fooling around inside your case. I can't remember how many times I have installed some memory or something else inside the system and found I have accidently pulled the SATA cable out of either the board or the drive.
To complete the round-up, there are two ribbon cables, one for the single FDD support and an IDE cable with two drive support. Next on the list is a PCI cover bracket with two SATA to eSATA ports. This allows you to steal one or two SATA ports from the internal headers and turn them into eSATA ports, if this is what your require.
Time to look at the board itself. On the surface the board looks just like any other board that GIGABYTE puts out. A full sized 30x24cm 6 layer PCB in the ocean blue colour returns to us; GIGABYTE love their blues.
The 24-pin power connector along with the single black FDD port are placed on the upper right hand edge of the board behind the four DDR2 memory slots that the board is equipped with. The 4/8 aux power port is located in its usual spot on the upper left hand side of the board, right behind the PS/2 ports. The single green IDE port is located on the bottom right hand edge of the board, just in front of the six SATA ports that the ICH10R controls.
The CPU area is extremely clean and open. Thanks to the solid state components used for the voltage regulation system, a lot of space is freed up. We had no problems installing our OCZ Vanquisher heatsink to the board and removing it; this is also because the DS3R doesn't have any heatsinks on its Mosfets. The DS3 series of boards uses a standard four phase voltage regulation system to provide the CPU with all its power needs. Being a basic board, it's not aimed at extreme overclocking.
Lastly on the list are the expansion slots and the extra little features added to make it what it is. The board has two PCI Express x16 slots; one blue and one orange. The blue slot is connected to all 16 lanes from the Northbridge and supports PCIe 2.0 specs. The orange slot is electrically only able to provide four lanes and runs off the ICH10Rs PCIe channels. This is the same as how the older P35 was given its Crossfire support, so the DS3R has Crossfire support but it's the older 16/4 configuration. Since four of six lanes are taken up by the orange slot, there is only a single x1 PCIe slot. However, if you want to use the x1 slot you can't have a GPU in the orange slot. Four PCI legacy slots are also included for legacy connection.
Taking up the last two PCIe lanes are a PCIe x1 Realtek Gigabit Ethernet controller and a Marvell PCIe to IDE controller. To give the board FireWire support, a Texas Instruments PCI to FireWire-400 controller is included with three-port support. Two of them are on the rear I//O in the form of a 4-pin and 6-pin connector and one in the form of a 9-pin header for either a PCI Expansion cover or a front panel FireWire port connector.
BIOS and Overclocking
Moving into the BIOS; GIGABYTE has made a few aesthetic changes this time around. The same blue Award BIOS is used for the base, however GIGABYTE has moved the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker(M.I.T) menu from the top of the right hand menu to the very first one selected when entering the BIOS.
CPU Host Frequency: 100 - 1200 MHz in 1MHz Increments
PCIE Frequency: 100 - 150 MHz in 1MHz Increments
CPU VCore: 0.50v to 2.3v in 0.00625v increments
CPU Term Voltage: 1.1v to 1.7v in 0.02v increments
CPU PLL Voltage: 1.5v to 2.81v in various increments
CPU Reference: 0.76v to 1.010v in Various increments
MCH Core: 1.1v to 2.0v in 0.02v increments
MCH Reference: 0.76v to 1.040v in Various Increments
MCH/DRAM Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v increments
ICH I/O: 1.5v to 2.31v in 0.02v Increments
ICH Reference: 1.1v to 1.4v in 0.1v increments
DRAM Voltage: 1.45v to 3.02v in 0.02v increments
DRAM Termination: 70.9v to 1.355v in Various increments
Channel A Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v increments
Channel B Reference: 0.9v to 1.76v in 0.02v increments
With all of the extra tweaking options on tap, we expected to see a very high overclock from the board. However, the P43 is not all that good at overclocking the FSB. We only managed to hit 512 MHz with this board, so we were a bit disappointed. However, we have revised our overclocking criteria; anything past 500MHz we still consider a very impressive result, where 450 MHz to 500 MHz is just acceptable. Anything from 400 to 450 is really not that good considering 400 MHz FSB is standard on the high-end Intel chips.
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
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 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 22.214.171.1248, Forceware 175.16
Today's tests consist of the P45 based EP45-UD3, our recent addition to the TweakTown test bed and the EP43-DSR3 which we're looking at in detail today. For our stock clocking tests we ran the FSB at 333 MHz with a 9.5x multiplier and the memory at a ratio to give us 800 MHz which is the highest DDR2 spec recognised by the JEDEC.
For our overclocking tests we lowered the CPU multiplier to 6x and raised the FSB while keeping the memory as low as possible to prevent the CPU clock or memory from being the limiting factor.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy 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.
First off, it's into memory performance. At stock speeds both the EP43 and EP45 board are equal thanks to an identical memory controller used in both boards. When we overclock, the EP45-UD3 manages a slightly higher speed thanks to a higher FSB.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product 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.
Moving into synthetic PC performance, PCMark Vantage shows us that the two boards are identical at stock. But when overclocking, we see the EP45-UD3 managing a better system result with higher memory performance.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer 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.
SYSmark again works similar to PCMark Vantage, but with real world applications. So while it's semi real, it's also semi synthetic. Here we see that the EP43 and EP45 boards once again perform just about on par at stock settings. Only when overclocking do we see them spread apart.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer 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.
Now it's onto true real world benchmarking and Premiere Elements loves memory bandwidth along with a strong CPU. Here the EP45 manages that at overclocked speeds. At stock speeds both boards are identical.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product 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.
Our synthetic gaming is taken care of with 3DMark Vantage, which puts the EP45 ahead only when we take overclocking into account. However, it isn't a huge lead.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer 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.
Real world gaming happens through Crysis and here we see that even when overclocked the memory bandwidth gives it a bit more power. However, CPU and GPU power really are the key factors here. The CPU isn't that far above the P43 board in actual terms.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We 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.
Power wise the EP45 and EP43 boards are pretty well close spec'ed; the extra power rails on the P45 board help it to get a bit better efficiency under load conditions when compared to the EP43.
As 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.
Due to a lack of heatpipe cooling on the EP43 board, it heats the components up a bit more. And with no cooling at all on the Mosfets we see that they heat up even more. Clearly the heatpipes on GIGABYTEs other boards do a good job.
To be as frank as I possibly can, the P43 chipset really doesn't do anything special for us. Intel already has a high-end chipset with the X48 along with full speed CrossfireX support. And the P45 with its split 8/8 design makes a good chipset for the enthusiast and mid-range market. The P43 just seems like another chipset Intel wants to push to make more money.
If this had an IGP or something in it then we would think it worth another name. Put clearly, it's just a cut down P45. The P43 chipset itself isn't that much cheaper than P45, meaning that you're still going to be shelling out close to what a base line P45 board would cost you and P45 will give you true Crossfire support where P43 uses the older and slower 16/4 design, providing the board even has two x16 slots.
GIGABYTE's EP43-DS3R board, however, is extremely well designed for a mid-range board. But the P43 chipset simply doesn't do much for us; you would be better off with a P45 board if you want this board for Crossfire. The EP45-DS3R would be a far better option, especially since they aren't that much different in price.
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