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Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard E-mail
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Written by Olin Coles   
Tuesday, 05 August 2008
Table of Contents: Page Index
Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard
Intel P45 Specifications
GA-EP45T-EXTREME Unique Features
Advanced Dynamic Energy Saver
GA-EP45T-EXTREME BIOS Part 1
GA-EP45T-EXTREME BIOS Part 2
Closer Look: GA-EP45T-EXTREME
GA-EP45T-EXTREME Details
Component Layout
Motherboard Testing Methodology
PCMark05 System Tests
PCMark Vantage System Tests
World in Conflict Results
Crysis Benchmark Comparison
Power Consumption Results
Intel P45 Express Final Thoughts
Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME Conclusion

GA-EP45T-EXTREME Conclusion

Having served for eight years in the Marines, I find myself a little desensitized to camouflaged patterns. Back when I reviewed the GA-X48T-DQ6, Gigabyte certainly captured my attention with a large gold retail box. For the GA-EP45T-EXTREME however, a camo-on-black design was used. Call me picky, but I think that even a solid red package would have been more eye-catching. Nevertheless, the information on the package was enough to educate consumers on their purchase, and at the same time gives you a glimpse of what's inside.

Once the retail package is opened, there becomes an undeniable difference as you switch from dark colors to bright pastels with Copper almost everywhere. Much like other Gigabyte motherboards, the use of bright and unique colored plastics paired with brilliant metals seems to work to their advantage. The appearance Gigabyte has developed with the GA-EP45T-EXTREME is certainly one of excitement, and it gives some credit to the Extreme moniker. Just as I indicated within this article, I am yet to see another motherboard look as interesting as one that Gigabyte designs.

GA-EP45T-EXTREME_Splash.jpg

Most would agree that the Ultra Durable feature has helped to launch Gigabyte's motherboard technology into mainstream conversation. Now into the second generation of the technology, Gigabyte certainly offers everything available to make sure their product exceeds all expectations. High-quality CPU power modules with ferrite core chokes, lower RDS MOSFETs, and lower ESR solid capacitors all create the basis for the best constructed motherboard Benchmark Reviews has seen to date.

Performance is a measure that takes on several meanings when we look at the GA-EP45T-EXTREME. Overclockers, not the kiddie tweakers who occasionally use software tools, but the hardcore bunch that dream of liquid Nitrogen set-ups, will absolutely love the BIOS on this motherboard. It's extreme... it's advanced... and it's way out of reach for most novices. I personally spent more time getting the right combination of settings in the BIOS than I did testing all of the motherboards. So to that extent, the hardware enthusiast will be pleased.

On the other hand, there are a few sacrifices made on the EP45T that won't exactly cause gamers to swoon. The original design of the P45 Express chipset accommodates either a full 16-lane PCI Express 2.0 graphics port, and I could be wrong about this but it seems to me that reducing the bandwidth down to 8x for each card in a CrossFireX isn't very impressive. You still get one full-speed lane, so single card graphics are uneffected, but CrossFireX is not would it could have been.

But the hits don't stop there. SATA port location renders all but two connections useless if you're among the many users who own a dual-slot sized graphics card. Gigabyte could easily remedy this in future PCB design revisions of the EP45T by making all six SATA ports turned sideway for transverse mounting. I'm hopeful on this one, since it wouldn't require change to their production process.

Motherboards, while getting much better at offering everything a person could ever want, have also gradually gotten to be more expensive as well. Long gone are the days of high-end mainboards costing less than $100. It was only back when the Intel 945 chipset launched that top-end motherboards would approach $200. So when it comes to value, I think that the consumer must approach the subject with their own personal list of qualifications.

At the time of this writing NewEgg lists the GA-EP45-EXTREME P45 motherboard for $264.99. This is a higher-end price for a extreme-level motherboard, but without question there's a whole lot that comes with the kit. There hasn't been a solid launch date for Intel's 5-series of motherboards, so hopefully the P45 will be the last chipset update from Intel for at least another several months. Serious overclockers will really see their investment pay off with the EP45T-EXTREME, while gamers with a taste for three-way CrossFireX will also be satisfied. On the other hand, NewEgg still offers the GA-X48T-DQ6 for $309.99, which puts the P45 chipset centered almost $50 less than the X48.

Those who are keen to system tweaking will enjoy the overclocking potential of this chipset, without question. So after all of the tests and benchmarks I've conducted, can I still recommend the P45 chipset? Yes. Do I think that the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME is the best delivery of Intels chipset? Not so much. The EXTREME connotation should not be taken lightly, and only the most hardcore overclockers should approach a product like the EP45T-EXTREME. The BIOS is overwhelming to anyone who lacks a deep experience in fine-tweaking hardware parameters, relegating this product to only a very small niche of enthusiasts. Gamers will have a mixed opinion on this motherboard, too. At one end you have full 16-lane bandwidth for single-card graphic solutions, and at the other end you have a CrossFireX configuration crippled by 8x lanes for video data bandwidth.

If you already own either a P35 or X38 chipset than it becomes less of a value decision, and more of a need for special features. Gigabyte loads their GA-EP45T-EXTREME with more additional system functionality and product features than anyone else, but you don't get them for free, and the price may have an impact on budget-conscious overclockers. In conclusion, the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 motherboard is the perfect platform for enthusiast overclockers and multi-card gamers, but there are some rough edges to get around that might cause a snag for everyone else.

Pros:

+ Outstanding BIOS - designed for overclockers!
+ Hyrbid Silent-Pipe component improves P45 thermal stability
+ Advanced Dynamic Energy Saver offers VRD 11.1 ultra-low power state
+ Dual PCI Express 2.0 compliant graphics
+ BIOS updates are made safe with dual-BIOS
+ Japanese-manufactured surface mount all-solid capacitors
+ Blu-Ray/HD DVD Full rate audio with DTS connect
+ Supports three-way ATI CrossFireX video card set
+ Industry-leading thermal cooling architecture
+ DDR3 1900 memory support (via OC) with Intel XMP technology
+ Dual Gigabit LAN network teaming
+ Supports 45nm processors with 1600MHz FSB

Cons:

- Extremely poor SATA2 connection port location/orientation
- Only one PCI Express 16-lane (16 GBps) interface
- Expensive motherboard solution
- Lacks SLI and ESA support
- Complicated BIOS for novice overclockers
- System Memory is difficult to overclock without advanced experience
- Kit does not include CrossFireX bridge component

Ratings:

  • Presentation: 8.75
  • Appearance: 9.50
  • Construction: 8.75
  • Functionality: 9.50
  • Value: 6.75

Final Score: 8.65 out of 10.

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