|Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 05 August 2008|
Page 8 of 17
From everything that I have read on the P45 Express chipset up to the point of this article, you might think that it's an X48 underachiever. Not So. While the Intel X48 series has generated a lot of industry hype as the highest-level chipset from Intel, there are more than a few difference on the P45 which make it nearly as valuable. All on its own the new Intel P45 Express chipset doesn't deserve much attention, but when you add the matched ICH10R Southbridge chipset to the equation it begins to add up.
Additionally, the Ultra Durable 2 components and Hybrid Silent-Pipe certainly add a high level of reliability to this Gigabyte product, and the Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) feature allows your system to virtually pay for itself over time by cutting back power phases at the main board level which saves electricity (and thus indirectly makes you a more globally-conscious person). So let's begin our look at the add-in functionality Gigabyte has supplemented into the GA-EP45T-EXTREME motherboard to make it appealing.
There are several new improvements that accompany the P45 chipset which make is worthwhile over some of the older predecessors. Aside from the obvious support for the 1600MHz FSB, there is also the update to 1900MHz DDR3 (through overclocking), and PCI Express 2.0. What I consider to be the biggest improvement is in the ICH10R Southbridge, which replaces the ICH9/9R found on the X48-Express chipset. The new ICH10 improves over the past generations, and more specifically, it corrects a problem previous controllers has with Solid State Drive (SSD) technology.
Gigabyte includes an add-on cooling component with the GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 motherboard called Hybrid SilentPipe. This item features a very large fin-sink array integrated around two heatpipes which connect to the base. The entire Hybrid SilentPipe unit attaches to the P45 Northbridge base, so a combination of liquid cooling (optional) can be combined with the high-performance air-cooling functionality of copper heat-pipes. Our Hybrid SilentPipe component was mounted using a very thin layer of thermal paste (not included). I recommend reading our Best Thermal Paste Application Methods guide to get a better understanding of how less is more, but also recognize that this is not a perfectly flat surface and some addition TIM is required to fill in the excessive gaps.
Surrounding the processor socket there are many high quality CPU power modules which utilizes ferrite core chokes which minimize electromagnetic (and radio) interference signals noise for a cleaner electrical circuit. A lower Resistance from Drain to Source rDS (ON) MOSFET array allows for transitional power steps, which is the heart of Gigabytes DES feature. Japanese manufactured SMD solid state capacitors, which contain a solid organic polymer and lower equivalent series resistance (ESR), are implemented throughout this board and will likely outlast the useful life of the GA-EP45T-EXTREME.
External SATA connectors are not part of the I/O panel, however Gigabyte has included a total of two SATA brackets with the GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 motherboard kit. On each bracket, there are two eSATA ports available with a 4-pin Molex power connector between them. A total of four eSATA ports are made available with these two brackets installed.
Gigabyte includes the high-definition Realtek ALC889A audio controller with DTS Connect capability on the EP45T. This audio chipset may be integrated, but with a featured 106 dB Signal to Noise ratio over eight channels it is anything but low-end. Digital audio outputs arrive in two varieties: optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors. Realtek's ALC889A with DTS Connect is meant to enable high quality full-rate lossless audio, and offer support for both Blu-ray and HD DVD.
A total of eight High-Speed USB 2.0 ports populate the I/O panel, with another four available at the mainboard header connection. There are not any IEEE-1394 Firewire ports here, but the Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 processor allows up to three to be added from the motherboards header panel. Gigabyte includes one dual-port Firewire bracket, which leaves one more port available to your computer case I/O panel if it is supported.
The remainder of the input/output panel is quite busy, with a wide assortment of ports and connections for everything that is connectable by today's standard. Dual Realtek 8111C Gigabit Ethernet LAN with Teaming functionality are supplied, with activity and link speed indicators at the corner of each RJ-45 port. With teaming functionality enabled the two single connections can operate as one for twice the bandwidth, which improves the overall throughput with lower CPU utilization and adds network fault tolerance to prevent downtime by transferring the workload from a failed port to a working port.
In the next section, component layout is examined and a few small concerns given necessary attention. I recommend reading this section is you are one of the many users of NVIDIA's latest graphics solutions.