|Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P DDR2 P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Sunday, 25 January 2009|
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EP45-UD3P Detailed Features
The Intel P45 Express chipset may not get top billing in the press kits but it is a capable performer that supports the main components with a very solid foundation. P45 chipsets are manufactured by a 65-nM fabrication process, an improvement over the 90nM process used for the P35 chips. This has improved the thermal performance of the chips, which is one reason they are such willing overclockers. The transistor count has increased, but the thermal dissipation hasn't grown much: P45 TDP = 22 W (9 W idle) versus P35 TDP = 16 W (~6 W idle).
When you add the Intel ICH10R Southbridge chipset, with its support for SATA II RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 configurations and the Advanced Host Controller Interface (ACHI) for HDDs that support this function, you have a pretty modern and robust environment for the latest 45nM CPUs and 1200+ MHz RAM Modules. You also have a versatile chipset that can get the absolute maximum performance from any legacy components that you may want to use.
The Ultra Durable 3 components and Silent Pipe heat sinking add reliability to this Gigabyte product, by keeping the support components cooler. The Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) Advanced feature allows you reduce heat generation and power consumption automatically, by cutting back power phases at the main board level. This has the side benefit of saving electricity, particularly if you have temperature sensing fan controllers for your CPU and case fans. Let's continue our closer look at some of the functionality Gigabyte has implemented in the GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard.
Surrounding the processor socket there are high quality power supply components which, used together, offer a highly reliable, high performance power system for all the major subsystems on the board. For the chokes, GIGABYTE uses ferrite chokes, which are comprised of a compound of iron-oxide and other metal elements, and whose properties hold energy much longer than common iron-core chokes at high frequency. This means there is reduced core energy loss and lower EMI for extended system reliability.
State of the art, low rDS (ON) MOSFETs provide the switching for the six-phase power supply circuit, which is the heart of Gigabytes DES feature. These power semiconductors, which are hidden below the heatsinks, have a lower resistance from Drain to Source in the ON state, which is abbreviated rDS (ON) in industry specs. This means they dissipate less power as waste heat, while passing electrical current to the load. They are used throughout the board, for the CPU, the memory modules, the North and Southbridge, and anywhere there is a significant current requirement.
Japanese manufactured SMD solid state capacitors are used throughout this board, at every location. They contain a solid organic polymer, have a low equivalent series resistance (ESR), and their 50,000 hour service life rating means they will likely outlast the useful life of the GA-EP45-UD3P.
Going from left to right on the I/O panel, there is not an overabundance of connections available, but a generous set, at least. PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports are still made available, which is handy when starting up a new system, if the MB has trouble connecting to a USB KB and mouse. A total of eight High-Speed USB 2.0 ports populate the I/O panel, with another four available on two motherboard headers.
There are two IEEE-1394 Firewire ports on the I/O panel; a 4-pin and a 6-pin version. The 6-Pin is the larger of the two, and is commonly used on larger, stationary devices, such as 3.5" external HDDs. The smaller, 4-Pin connection is used more often on smaller, portable devices, such as HD video recorders and some high end digital cameras. There is also an additional motherboard header available to connect to an IEEE-1394 port on your computer case I/O panel, if one is supported.
Dual Realtek 8111C Gigabit Ethernet LAN connections 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.
Gigabyte includes the high-definition Realtek ALC889A audio controller on the GA-EP45-UD3P with support for Dolby Home Theater. 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 is output in two varieties: optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors. Realtek's ALC889A offers support for both Blu-ray and HD DVD playback. Additional S/PDIF connections for digital audio IN and digital audio OUT are available on the motherboard, and can be used for internal connections to a video card for full HDMI compatibility, or Gigabyte has an external bracket with coaxial connectors for input and output available.
External SATA connectors are not part of the I/O panel; however Gigabyte has included an eSATA brackets with the GA-EP45-UD3P accessories. On each bracket, there are two eSATA ports available with a 4-pin Molex power connector between them.
In the next section, component layout is examined, an area that is all too often an unexpected weakness for some motherboards.