|Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P DDR2 P45 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Bruce Normann - Edited by Olin Coles|
|Sunday, 25 January 2009|
Page 7 of 16
If you're an overclocking enthusiast, then you need to be aware about capabilities of the motherboard BIOS. The BIOS never makes it onto the front page of the news release, it never gets a mention on the slick product packaging, it never gets displayed at CES, but it has a big influence on how well you are going to get along with your new system. All of the heatsinks and heat-pipes will not have the impact over the ability to achieve a decent overclock, to the same degree as a well designed BIOS will. And you get a bonus with this Gigabyte motherboard; not just one BIOS, but two, a main and a back-up BIOS.
The first thing that any hardware enthusiast or overclocker should to do is investigate the latest BIOS available from the manufacturer. In some instances, the latest BIOS will only be found on special support forums, and you won't see any mention of it in the official product documentation on the manufacturer's website. That's just downright cruel, IMHO.
The board I received had the latest officially released BIOS installed, F6. The latest BIOS that was released into the wild, so-to-speak was F7c, a Beta version. I did some research and found universal agreement that it was (seemingly) stable; the first rule of driver and BIOS updates is "Do No Harm". Then I did some benchmarks with the F6 BIOS, updated to F7c, and repeated the benchmarks and did some stability testing. Guess what....no change. Like many firmware updates, the changes are related to bug fixes, where the device reacts badly in one or two limited scenarios. (Video card driver updates are another matter, altogether!) In my case, I did not have any of the problems associated with the F6 BIOS, so I saw no difference.
Gigabyte puts all of its system tuning parameters on the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (MIT) section of the Award BIOS. This is the main page of that section; there are several sub-pages, especially with regard to memory timings and voltage control. There is no question that this BIOS, in either version, is a tweaker's paradise. I freely admit that there are people who know 10-100 times more than I do about BIOS tweaking, yet within an hour or so of muddling around, I was able to get the E7300 and the memory performing better than I could with the GA-EP35-DS3L that I've known and loved for about a year. I mean, some things are so easy; for instance the "Fine CPU Clock Ratio" allows you to dial in an extra 0.5 into the CPU multiplier, as long as you don't exceed the maximum multiplier for the chip. BAM, an extra 200MHz, bringing the 7300 up to a stable 3.8GHz overclock with a bog-standard FSB to work with when adjusting memory ratios and timings.
We last saw this level of control in the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME motherboard review here on Benchmark Reviews. Even though that board supports DDR3 memory, as befits its EXTREME status, Gigabyte did not hold back on memory support in the BIOS for this DDR2 board. They get top marks for this BIOS, and for the fact that they don't make you buy a high end board, just to get this high level of functionality.
In the next section, Benchmark Reviews begins testing the GA-EP45-UD3P, and we compare it against a prior darling of the overclocking society, which used the Intel P35 chipset. Please continue on to find out how this P45 motherboard compares to its spiritual kin, the GA-P35-DS3L.