|Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Tuesday, 05 August 2008|
Page 9 of 17
Gigabyte has certainly had to redesign the landscape for their GA-EP45T-EXTREME motherboard. While PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports are still made available, which is rare but necessary for when USB devices fail to be seen because of stability issues, the remainder of the rear I/O panel is a mix of old and new. Optical and coaxial digital audio connections occupy the next parcel of real estate, but a double-wide section of Silent-Pipe copper cooling fins come in directly afterwards.
One feature that seems to have been borrowed from the ASUS Striker II NSE nForce 790i SLI Motherboard we've recently reviewed is the "Clr CMOS" button, which allows the user to clear the custom settings of their BIOS and start over from scratch. I found this function to be very useful, but not at all in a convenient area. I recommend that Gigabyte move this button away from the USB ports which are directly beside it, so that when you're reaching around the backside of the computer case to plug in a cable you don't accidentally reset you hard-earned overclock.
Gigabyte uses bright Canary-yellow plastics to identify the Intel ICH10R SATA-II ports, which offer six points of connectivity. The first set of SATA connections are transverse mounted so the cables do not rise up from the motherboard, but the second and third sets are in a traditional upright position. Last but not least, an iTE IT8213 chip manages the floppy drive and PATA interface controller for ATA-66/100/133 bandwidth.
Gigabyte makes it convenient for hardware enthusiasts to tweak the motherboard without having to reach for a power button, or even have the unit installed inside a computer case. By adding a reset and power button switch directly on the header panel, overclockers can make quick changes and simply press the closest button. Because of the trials and tribulations I had with finding a stable DDR3 overclock, these two buttons (along with the Reset CMOS button) came in very handy.
Because I use several combinations of storage and optical drives, I usually require at least four SATA-port connections. Initially I connected all SATA devices through ports 1, 2, 5, and 6. At the time I was using a ZOTAC GeForce 8800 GT 512MB AMP! Edition video card, which occupied the top 16x PCI-Express graphics slot. However, with this video card SATA port 4 was obstructed and could not be used. The same problem was encountered when I installed the Sapphire Radeon HD 4850. Since I didn't need all six SATA ports, I didn't think very much of it. But then I needed to change out my graphics card for additional testing and...
Because of placement on the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME, only the two transverse mounted ports were accessible. Using the Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 or any of the double-size NVIDIA GeForce video cards (such as the ZOTAC GeForce GTX 280 AMP! Edition shown below), all four of the lower SATA-II ports were completely covered and could not be used to any capacity. This didn't make me happy at all, since all of my test software and driver library reside on a separate drive, and I use a SSD for a large paging file. So unless you require only two SATA ports for your drives or use a single-slot size video card, I strongly suggest considering your options here.
Gigabyte's layout on the GA-EP45T-EXTREME motherboard wasn't all bad, however. Back when the GA-X48T-DQ6 X48 was tested, I noticed that you had to install the DDR3 system memory prior to installing a video card because of how close the DIMM sockets were to the PCI Express slot. In the EP45T you'll have enough room to open the DIMM retaining clips while a graphics card is installed, which is very important to those of you who swap out RAM on a regular basis (like me).
In the next section, Benchmark Reviews begins testing the GA-EP45T-EXTREME, as we compare it against the P35 and X48 chipsets, along with a little rivalry from the 790i to make it all interesting. Please continue on to find out how this P45 motherboard compares.