|Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 05 August 2008|
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Closer Look: GA-EP45T-EXTREME
In this section we (finally) put our hands on the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME Ultra Durable 2 DES motherboard and give it a close inspection. Go ahead an take a look, because I know that's what you came here for. I can't really blame you for checking out the pictures first and then (hopefully) returning to the article. Seeing so much color, so much copper, and so many I/O ports, it all makes me feel bad for motherboard reviews of years past. How did they ever survive the boredom? This review will focus less on fashion and more on functionality, but it's difficult to deny that the EP45T deserves equal attention on both.
Gigabyte builds the GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 motherboard from a dark blue printed circuit board (PCB), which seems to create a nice clean background effect which shows off the contrasting components. Well known for using colorful plastics, Gigabyte keeps to tradition and uses every tool made available to them for molding the plastic connection and port pieces. The added color really seems to set their motherboard products apart, in my opinion.
One of the primary selling points to the Gigabyte EP45T is that it supports Intel's Core 2 Multi-Core and 45nm processors with 1600 MHz front side bus (FSB) speeds. Presently, the only processors to have this high of a Front Side Bus (FSB) will be among the most expensive Intel Elite offerings with unlocked multipliers. But then again, this is the EXTREME edition motherboard so it all makes sense.
For graphics, the first PCI Express slot offers 16 lanes of bandwidth, the second offers 8 lanes, and the third PCI Express slot delivers only 4 lanes (despite the Gigabyte website claim of two 16x and one 4x). When two video cards are installed using PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX8_1 slots, they both operate with eight lanes (8 GBps) of bandwidth. This is going to be useful for only a few combinations of ATI CrossFireX configurations, because I imagine most hardcore gamers will demand 16x out of each slot for the most expensive Radeon products. Finally, there is just one single PCI Express 1x slot, however it becomes unusable if you elect to use the Hybrid Silent-Pipe add-on or populate the PCI Express 4x slot. To my dismay, Gigabyte does not include a CrossFireX bridge with this kit.
The EP45T features the second generation of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable motherboard functionality. The all new copper Hybrid Silent-Pipe thermal cooling solution covers the P45 Northbridge and ICH10R Southbridge chipsets and CPU power MOSFETs. This inventive design dramatically reduces CPU zone temperature as we have seen before in the P35 GIGABYTE vs ASUS Thermal Test Report. Cool electronics last longer, and offer better stability when overclocked, so every little bit of extra effort helps.
Two pairs of DDR3 DIMM sockets are available to this Intel P45 motherboard, with color-coding present to assist the enthusiast in matching memory modules for dual-channel compatibility. In the expansion slot area there are three PCI 2.3-compliant slots total, matched with another three PCI Express slots.
Gigabyte has added Intel's XMP (Extreme Memory Technology) support for DDR3 on the GA-EP45T-EXTREME, which allows for overclocker-specific memory profiles to automatically adjust the system variables. To understand XMP, think of SPD from days past and then know that the settings are meant for extremely tweaked overclocks. And while most overclockers would never find themselves in this situation, it's important to note that when memory modules of different capacity are installed the Intel Flex Memory Technology will activate to retain dual channel memory performance.
If one thing is made certain, it's that the GA-EP45T-EXTREME is made "Ultra Durable" through the generous use of copper cooling components. The heatpipe assembly begins at the ICH10R Southbridge where temperatures are fairly lukewarm, and travel up to the Northbridge via a single heatpipe interconnect. At the Intel P45 Express northbridge chipset, which appears to be the heart of the heatpipe cooling efforts, two additional rods reach out to an area behind the I/O panel to expel heat through a long copper cooling fin assembly.
Gigabyte has done away with their Crazy Cool feature from on the backside of the PCB. Previously, such as on the GA-X48T-DQ6 X48, Gigabyte added copper-plated metal heatsinks to the back of the motherboard. However, with the GA-EP45T-EXTREME there is nothing more than a few support braces for the Hybrid Silent-Pipe feature.
In our next section, Benchmark Reviews goes in deeper to examine some of the fine details that make up the GA-EP45T-EXTREME motherbard.