Looking back on 2005's list of hot products, dual-core CPUs and dual-graphics solutions are a couple of things that immediately come to mind. Adoption of dual-core processors continues to increase, with both Intel and AMD bringing their own renditions to the frontline. Both company's products have their own pros and cons, however. AMD's dual-core processors in general are a bit more expensive, starting at over $300 for the A64 X2 3800+. This is offset by terrific backward compatibility, though. Upgrading to a dual-core Athlon 64 X2 usually means nothing more than a BIOS update in most cases. Intel comes in with somewhat lower priced dual-core CPUs, starting at just over $240, but most Intel fans will probably also need a new motherboard and perhaps RAM to utilize a Pentium D.
Which brings us to the ever growing popularity of dual-GPU solutions. NVIDIA has its proven SLI technology, while ATI is finally starting to spread its wings with the CrossFire platform. Even S3 got into the mix with their MultiChrome technology, supported by their relatively new S27 Chrome graphics card.
For some though, running with dual graphics cards isn't about improving framerates, it's about productivity. This is where EPoX steps in. The product we'll be looking at here offers an affordable solution to those who don't need SLI or CrossFire, but rather a robust multi-monitor environment. The EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI is an Intel 945P based motherboard that comes with two physical PCI Express x16 slots, with the first offering a full 16 PCI Express lanes linked to the Northbridge, while the second delivers 4 lanes via the ICH7R Southbridge.
Socket LGA775 for Intel Celeron D 3xx, Pentium 4 5xx/6xx and single core P4EE up to 3.8+GHz
Support Intel Pentium D with Dual core processor
Support 533/800/1066 MHz front-side bus
Support Intel EM64Tp 64-bit Computing platform
Support Intel 05B or 05A Platform Compatibility Guide
Intel i945P + ICH7R (Lakeport-P)
Four 240-pin DDR2 SDRAM DIMM sockets
Support 1.8v DDR2-400/533/667 DIMMs with dual channel architecture
Support single-sided or double-sided, non-ECC, DIMMs with 256Mb/512Mb/1Gb devices
Support up to 8GB system memory
Three PCI connectors compliant with PCI v2.3
One PCI-Express (x1) connectors compliant with PCI Express 1.0a
One PCI Express (x16) connector compliant with PCI Express 1.0a
One PCI Express (x4) connector for extra PCI-E VGA in GLI (Graphics Link Interface) mode
One IDE interface (up to 2 IDE devices) with UDMA-33, ATA-66/100 support from embedded IDE controller
Eight USB connectors compliant with USB2.0 from embedded USB controller (4 connectors at rear panel)
S-ATA II RAID:
Four S-ATA II ports with up to 300MB/s bandwidth from ICH7R with RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, Intel Matrix RAID
One Gb Ethernet from Marvell 88E8053 PCI-E (x1) controller
Two 1394 ports with up to 400Mbps bandwidth from onboard VIA VT6307 1394 controller (EP-5LDA+ GLI only)
Selectable 2, 6 or 8-CH audio from ALC880 HDA compliant CODEC with 20-bit ADC and 24-bit DAC
Support CD-In, S/PDIF-in and S/PDIF-out
Optical & Coaxial S/PDIF-out available on rear panel
Support Jack detection for fool-proof audio device installation
The EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI retail package came with a good collection of extras to complement the board itself. Along with the motherboard, a User's Guide, RAID Guide and Setup CD covered all of the installation and configuration details of the board. EPoX also included a rounded IDE cable, flat floppy cable and two SATA cables for drive connectivity. USB and IEEE1394 expansion brackets were included along with a non requisite SLI bridge to compliment the board's GLI capabilities (GLI is the name EPoX has given to the board's dual graphics slot configuration). We say non-requisite since driver lockouts will not allow the cards to benefit from being bridged together in SLI mode, although this may work with older driver sets. (Think Forceware v66)
Rounding out the bundle was EPoX's Powerpack items which were comprised of mini heatsinks, a useful double ended screwdriver and a ThermoStick Cable. ThermoStick is a thermometer probe that connects to the board and can report temperature readings in Windows using EPoX's Thunder Probe software included on the setup CD.