|Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P DDR2 P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Sunday, 25 January 2009|
Page 6 of 16
Gigabyte has stuck with a pretty traditional layout on the GA-EP45-UD3P motherboard. The basic ATX format doesn't allow for too much variation, and to be honest I've seen more of the "creative" solutions turn out poorly than not. Traditional doesn't have to mean mediocre, however; careful attention to detail makes all the difference when it comes to the design of such a complex system.
The first reality check on component layout is how well the thermal package has been integrated, and I give Gigabyte high marks for the GA-EP45-UD3P. The heatsinks and heat pipe are modest in scope and do not intrude on either the CPU space or the DIMM space.
The DIMM slots are well clear of the CPU space and I had no problems filling all four slots with high profile RAM like Corsair Dominator of OCZ Reaper HPC modules. I used a CoolerMaster Hyper 212 CPU cooler on this build and it is fairly wide, at 73mm between the two 120mm x 25mm fans I have mounted in push-pull. By comparison, the XIGMATEK HDT-S1283 is only 50mm wide, so most any CPU HSF cooling option you choose should fit on the GA-EP45-UD3P.
The "CLR CMOS" button, which allows the user to clear the custom settings of the BIOS and start over from scratch, is not a button at all, but an old fashioned two pin header near the obligatory front panel header. This is one example where tradition could be improved. The front panel header is half way to class leading convenience. All the header pins are contained in a rectangular box, that is color coded, with nice, big + signs identifying the positive pin. I'm thinking of adding some thin colored stickers to the mating sleeves from my case wiring, and I'll never have to look at the product manual for this chore again.
Gigabyte uses bright Canary-yellow plastics to identify the six Intel ICH10R SATA II ports. All six SATA connections are mounted in a traditional upright position. They are well positioned, just to the north of the PCI-E 8X slot and didn't interfere with my ASUS EAH4850 TOP video card when I mounted it in that slot.
The two purple SATA II ports are connected to the GIGABYTE SATA2 chip, provided by JMicron. They are also mounted in a traditional upright position and are located just north of the PCI-E 16X slot. Again, they didn't interfere with my ASUS EAH4850 TOP video card when I mounted it in that slot. This chip also manages the PATA interface controller for up to two ATA-66/100/133 devices.
I used several combinations of storage and optical drives throughout this test, using sometimes four SATA connections and an IDE connection on one occasion. I never had a circumstance where I couldn't use any one of the ports. This seems like it would be a given, I mean why put them there if they can't be used. In this day and age though, there are still products being sold that can't meet this standard.
Last but not least, an iTE IT8718 chip manages the floppy drive interface. It seems like a waste of real estate to me, but I know there are still situations with RAID drivers and such, where a floppy drive makes the installation/update process a bit simpler. The layout of all the remaining headers is along the bottom edge of the board, where it is generally easy to route cables and wires to. From left to right we have: CD_IN, S/PDIF_IN, COM_A, LPT, FDD, 1394, F_USB_2, F_USB_1, and the previously described front panel header box.
In the next section, Benchmark Reviews takes a look at the BIOS included with the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P, and we come away mightily impressed.