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Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P Ultra Durable 3 Motherboard
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Date: Nov 26, 2008
Section:Motherboards
Author: Robert Maloney
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Introduction

Home PCs have reached a new plateau recently with the much heralded release of the Core i7 processor from Intel, which goes hand-in-hand with the X58 Express chipset and the motherboards built upon it.  Although the Core i7 does borrow technology from earlier CPUs, there are some major changes including placing all four cores on a single die, adding the memory controller directly to the die thereby foregoing the Northbridge, and having said memory controller able to support triple-channel DDR3.   Early adopters will be pleased with their performance, as we pointed out in our release piece just a few short weeks ago, but as all major updates go, this requires not only a good deal of money up front, but some patience as well, as kinks get ironed out with the new technologies.

 

Today, we take a step back from the Core i7 to look at one of the motherboards from Gigabyte's new Ultra Durable 3 line, the EP45-UD3P.  As its name suggests, this board is based on the current mainstream chipset offering from Intel, the P45 Express.  Although we've covered this ground before, most recently with our look at two recent offerings from MSI, it's helpful to remember that the P45 is closely related to the X48 Express with support for Core 2 Duo and Quad processors as well as DDR2 or DDR3 RAM.  What that means for most people is that the EP45-UD3P, as well as other P45 boards, makes for a great upgrade without breaking the bank.  We'll get into the UD3P part of the name, and its ramifications a bit later, but for now here's a look at the specifications and bundle.

Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P
Specifications and Features

CPU
• Support for Intel Core™ 2 Extreme / Quad / Duo CPUs
• Also supports Intel® Pentium® Extreme Edition / Intel® Pentium® D / Intel® Pentium® 4 Extreme Edition / Intel® Pentium® 4 and Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA 775 package
• L2 cache varies with CPU 
      
Chipset
• North Bridge: Intel® P45 Chipset
• South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R Chipset

Front Side Bus
1600/1333/1066/800 MHz           

Main Memory
• 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 16 GB of system memory
• Dual channel memory architecture
• Support for DDR2 1366+*/1066/800/667 MHz memory modules

Storage
South Bridge:
• 6x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0, SATA2_1, SATA2_2, SATA2_3, SATA2_4, SATA2_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
• Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10

GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
• 1x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
• 2x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_0, GSATA2_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
• Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD

iTE IT8718 chip:
• 1x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive

Expansion Slots
• 1x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16
• 1x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8
 (The PCIEx16 and PCIEx8 slots support ATI CrossFireX technology and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
• 3x PCI Express x1 slot
• 2x PCI slots  

Audio
• Realtek ALC889A codec
• High Definition Audio
• 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
• Support for Dolby Home Theater
• Support for S/PDIF In/Out
• Support for CD-In

IEEE1394
• T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
• Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports
 (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)



LAN
• 2x Realtek 8111C chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
• Support for Teaming

ATI CrossFire
Supports ATI CrossFire graphics cards (x8, x8)

On-Board Peripherals
• 1x 24-pin ATX main power connector
• 1x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
• 1x floppy disk drive connector
• 1x IDE connector
• 8x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
• 1x CPU fan header
• 2x system fan headers
• 1x power fan header
• 1x front panel header
• 1x front panel audio header
• 1x CD In connector
• 1x S/PDIF In header
• 1x S/PDIF Out header
• 2x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
• 1x IEEE 1394a header
• 1x parallel port header
• 1x serial port header
• 1x power LED header
• 1x chassis intrusion header

Back Panel I/O Ports
• 1x PS/2 mouse port
• 1x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
• 1x optical S/PDIF Out connector
• 1x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
• 8x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
• 2x IEEE 1394a ports
• 2x RJ-45 ports
• 6x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line
  
BIOS
• 2x 8 Mbit flash
• Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
• Support for Dual BIOS
• PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b

Hardware Monitoring
• System voltage detection
• CPU/System temperature detection
• CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
• CPU overheating warning
• CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
• CPU/System fan speed control

Dimensions
• 30.5cm(L) x 24.4cm(W) ATX Form Factor
      
Mounting
9 mounting holes


Gigabyte's EP45-UD3P ships in a box that is more focused on features than fancy graphics and imagery.  Primarily highlighted are the components making up their Ultra Durable 3 Technology, including 2oz. of copper embedded in the PCB, 50,000 hour rated Japanese capacitors, Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, and ferrite core chokes.

   

Inside the box we found a user's manual, another manual regarding Trusted Computing, and yet another multi-language hardware installation guidebook.  The last of these is a guide written in 25 languages that quickly covers the basics from installing the CPU or RAM to connecting drives and assorted cables.  The main manual is all you'll really need as it covers the same ground, but in more detail.  Finally, the Ultra TPM manual is a step-by-step description of how to set up encrypted folders on your PC using hardware-based encryption.  Drivers and applications arrive on a single DVD for both Vista and XP users.  Along with the device drivers, Norton IS, Easy Tune 6, G.O.M. (Gigabyte's Online Management Utility) and Ultra TPM Security software are included.

Two case badges, one each for promoting Gigabyte and Dolby Digital Audio, are thrown in with the cables.  There are four orange SATA cables, 2 completely straight while the other two have angled connectors.  Blue ribbon IDE and floppy cables and a colored/labeled I/O shield make up the rest of the basic items.  An additional bracket with external eSATA data and power ports connects to two open SATA ports on the board, and gets equipped with eSATA power and data cables.  Overall, nothing too fancy outside of the external SATA equipment.
 

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Layout and Features



 Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P Layout and Features
 Built Strong...Built to Last

Gigabyte's boards are typically more colorfully adorned than most other manufacturers, and the GA-EP45-UD3P is no different.  We've literally got a rainbow assortment of components onboard, with various stickers attached to reinforce some of the more salient points regarding the board's features.


Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P

There are only four fan headers placed on the EP45, one of which is already used up by the CPU fan.  Two more are found on opposite sides of the board along the median, while the last is located between the DIMM slots and the 24-pin ATX power connector - not exactly the easiest location to get to in a fully assembled PC.  The 8-pin ATX power connector is placed at the highest point of the board which is a good placement for normally mounted power supply units as it requires little in the way of cabling, but could cause an issue with cases that have their PSUs mounted along the bottom.

     

Headers are all encapsulated in plastic along the edge including CD-IN, S/PDIF, COM, LPT, Floppy drive, 1394, two sets of USB, and Front Panel pins.  We don't prefer running a floppy cable this far out from the drive, especially flat ribbon cables which can impede airflow, but who still uses a floppy drive anyway?  We're also a bit surprised to see COM and LPT ports on a board this recent, as it's doubtful many new builders will be using them too often.  Clearing the CMOS requires shorting two pins near the front panel header.  With the emphasis that Gigabyte has placed on overclocking the EP45, we figured they might have had an easier accessible button like the kind seen on MSI's or ASUS's boards.

    
     

Red and gold DIMM slots, each signifying a separate channel, are onboard, along with six orange SATA ports controlled by the ICH10/R South Bridge with two more purple ports controlled by the Gigabyte branded SATA2 chip in between them. This chip also controls the IDE connector as well, supporting an additional two IDE devices. Two PCI-E X16 slots are colored in blue and peach, while a Green IDE port is placed nearest the drive cage.  All of these are clearly labeled and use plastic molding to guide the installation, including the front panel headers. 

Seven slots allow for many configurations, including two PCI-E slots for graphic cards one using 16 lanes, the other only eight and both using eight lanes when set up for CrossFire.  Oddly, the retention measures differ between the two slots, with one using a pull-tab and the other having a more secure locking mechanism.  Two of the three PCI-X1 slots are on the right side of the primary graphics slot, yet this still doesn't create enough room to prevent the DIMM slots from running right up an installed video card.  The PCI slots are really crammed in around the other headers.  Although these probably won't get much use in one of today's PCs, if they are and other devices are also connected (LPT, COM, FDD), cabling in this area could be tight.

     
     

The most striking feature is probably the cooling system, a vibrant metallic blue setup that is somewhat subdued compared to the elaborate structures we've been seeing lately.  A passive, low profile heatsink sits over the ICH10/R while a larger one rises above the MCH with a single heatpipe curling away to another heatsink placed by the rear I/O.  Finally, two small finned heatsinks sit directly on and over the MOSFETS surrounding the CPU socket.  These are attached using small thermal pads, but also have retention clips so they won't heat up and fall off later on.  The VRM consists of some low-rise solid capacitors with ferrite chokes stabilizing the power.  The same setup is found in and around the DIMM slots, although a little too close for our tastes.  One fat finger can easily damage the board when inserting or removing memory.

     

Near to the DIMM slots, six LEDs light up to show the current load placed on the CPU as long as Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced is enabled in the BIOS beforehand.  The EP45-UD3P accepts up to 4 DDR2 DIMMs, 16GB in total, and supports dual-channel memory for increased performance.  Along the rear, external connections consists of PS/2 ports for keyboard and mouse, 8 USB 2.0 ports, IEEE-1394a regular-sized and mini ports, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out and dual RJ-45 LAN jacks.  6-in-1 audio jacks are used for supporting 7.1 channel audio.
 

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Applications and Technology



The technology behind Ultra Durable 3
The story behind the stuff


So, now that we've taken a look at the exterior of the board, it's time to get a handle on the technologies that drive the board from the inside and how they help keep the EP45-UD3P performing well, while remaining cool and stable.  We'll start by looking at a small cross-section of the board itself:

Ultra Durable 3 boards are a first of their kind,  adding 2 oz. of copper over the standard 1 oz. embedded in the PCB.   Doubling the amount of copper provides a more effective thermal cooling solution by delivering a more efficient spreading of heat from critical areas of the motherboard such as the CPU power zone throughout the entire PCB.  In addition, doubling the amount of copper lowers the PCB impedance by 50%. Impedance is a measure of how much the circuit board impedes the flow of current. The less the flow of current is impeded, the less amount of energy is wasted. For Ultra Durable 3 motherboards, this means total PCB electrical waste is reduced by 50%, which also means less heat is generated. 2 ounces of copper also provides improved signal quality, providing better system stability and allowing for greater margins for overclocking.

GIGABYTE Ultra Durable 3 motherboards are also equipped with a trio of power regulating components, that are a step up from previous offerings.  With an average lifespan of 50,000 hours, solid capacitors provide the stability, reliability and longevity essential to meet the power needs of high-end processors and other components running today's most demanding applications and games. Ferrite chokes are comprised of a compound of iron-oxide and other metal elements 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 interference for extended system reliability.  Finally, Gigabyte uses Low RDS(on) MOSFETs. These are MOSFETs that are specially designed to produce lower switching for faster electric current charging and discharging. The benefits of using these more expensive components is that Low RDS(on) MOSFETs have lower power consumption during the switching process, resulting in a faster switching process and less heat generation.


Gigabyte Easy-Tune 6 and Dynamic Energy Saver
Applications that actually work


Unlike some of the bloatware that we find with other boards, we find that Gigabyte's included apps are not only useful, but they work well without crashing or having otherwise poor effects.  We focused on two of them, Easy-Tune 6 and Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced.

   

Easy Tune 6 can fine tune system settings or overclock the system from within Windows.  CPU tabs display vital information on CPU and motherboard, and memory via SPD settings.  The Tuner tab has a Quick Boost Mode with three pre-defined levels of CPU Frequency.  Easy Mode only allows the user to change the CPU Frequency while Advanced Mode unlocks clock speeds and voltages that can be changed separately using sliders.  The Graphics tab let you overclock the video card as well, including non-Gigabyte ones.  Finally, the Smart tab lets you choose a C.I.A. level and Smart Fan Mode while the Hardware Monitor doubles the functionality of the same section in the BIOS - checking on temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds.

 

Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced is another application that Gigabyte provides for free that displays a host of helpful information to the user.  In Meter Mode, you can get a real-time display of much power was saved over a period of time.  It also displays the current load on the CPU, similar to the 6 Phase LEDs found on the motherboard itself.  A warning appears, however, if EIST and C1E options are not enabled in the BIOS beforehand, so be sure to check these settings first before launching the application.
 

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BIOS Options & Overclocking


 

An AWARD BIOS is used for controlling the EP45-UD3P.  The MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) menu is the very first section that you'll see, even though it contains the most advanced options available.  Immediately following M.I.T. are the Standard, Advanced, Integrated Peripherals, Power Management, and PC Health sections.  There is also an extra section at the end for Security Chip Configuration that is to be used with the TPM functionality.

     

Standard CMOS Features are used to configure the system date and time, drive types, and define the types of errors that will prevent the system from booting.  Advanced BIOS Features determine the boot order, toggling advanced CPU features, and setting the primary graphics adapter.  Power Management allows the user to set all of the power saving features while Health Status displays information about detected system and CPU temperatures, voltages, and fan speeds.

     

M.I.T. contains a lot of the more advanced tweaks including altering the CPU Clock Ratio or frequency, items typically used when overclocking the system.  CPU Host Clock Control must be enabled first in order to change these settings, acting as an initial safety measure for users who might get in over their heads.  Along with the CPU, Robust Graphics Booster helps enhance the performance of the graphics card based on the system configuration.  Options available here are Auto, Fast, or Turbo which aren't exactly helpful in describing what's being altered here.

     

C.I.A.2, otherwise known as the CPU Intelligent Accelerator, is designed to automatically adjust CPU speed to maximize system performance.  Unlike the obtuse settings for the video, C.I.A. 2 has five presets ranging from 5% at Cruise level to 19% at 'Full Throttle'.  DRAM Performance Control has performance-enhancing settings of Standard, Turbo, and Extreme although, again, what is getting enhanced here is not fully explained to the user.  However, a full set of DRAM timings are available to the user for manually configuring their memory as they best see fit.

What would a board be these days without offering some sort of "green" options?  Gigabyte offers up a Green LAN option - if an onboard LAN port is enabled, the system will dynamically detect if LAN cables are connected or not.  If not, that controller will then be disabled and powered down.  Finally, Smart LAN runs diagnostics which can detect a cabling issue and report approximately the distance to the fault.  It also display the current transmission speed for those interested.

Overclocking the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P
Getting out what you put into it

Using Easy Tune 6, we were able to quickly and easily choose from the three preset options: 2.8 GHz on a 400 MHz FSB, 3.01GHz (425MHz FSB), or 3.15 GHz (450 MHz FSB).  The memory dividers and CPU Core Voltage are adjusted accordingly to make things run correctly.  Simply clicking the buttons got us the overclocks desired without any problems at all.  The system ran stable at each speed without any other assistance from us.

     
     

Switching over to manual testing, M.I.T. has all of the typical options we wanted to use to get speeds even higher.  CPU Frequency can be entered in directly anywhere within the range of 100 MHz to 1200 MHz.  The System Memory Multiplier may have a fancy name, but its the section where memory dividers can be found, although the process is made all the more confusing by using letter codes for frequencies that are then combined with a multiplier.  Thus 2.0A might mean 2x a 266MHz FSB or 533 MHz RAM. Voltage options are plenty, with CPU VCore, CPU Termination, CPU PLL, CPU Reference, MCH Core, MCH Reference, MCH/DRAM Reference, ICH I/O, ICH Core, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Termination, Channel A Reference and Channel B Reference listing out the individual choices here.

Since Easy Tune 6 previously had easily gotten us to a 450 MHz FSB, we used that speed as our starting point and continued from there.  Once we chose a multiplier that would keep our memory speeds under 1150, we started to raise the FSB a few MHz at a time.  CPU and Memory speeds are dynamically updated on screen to give you an idea of what you're shooting for.  We managed to quickly get into the low 500 MHz range with a few voltage tweaks for the CPU and MCH.  When an overclocking attempt did fail, we typically had an easy time of getting back into the system, as it reset the clocks to original specs, with a warning that the overclock had failed.  We were then allowed to continue modifying the system to try an increase stability, or reduce speeds if necessary.


Overclocking Results
FSB: 537 MHz  CPU: 3.76 GHz

540 MHz appeared to be the ceiling point where we could no longer attain a stable system, so we backtracked a few steps arriving at a 537 MHz FSB, 3.76 GHz for the CPU which just so happens to be the highest speed we've achieved with the particular processor.  Another run of 3DMark's CPU Module gave us results that were 57% greater than the original scores at default speeds.

 

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Test Systems and PCMark Vantage

 

How we configured our test systems:  When configuring our test systems for this article, we first entered their respective system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High performance Defaults". We then saved the settings, re-entered the BIOS and set memory timings for DDR2-1066 with 5-5-5-18 timings. The hard drive was then formatted, and Windows Vista Ultimate was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we updated the OS, and installed the drivers necessary for our components. Auto-Updating and Windows Defender were then disabled and we installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

 HotHardware's Test Systems
 Intel Inside

Motherboards:
Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P (P45)
MSI P45 Platinum (P45)
ASUS Rampage Formula (X48)
ASUS Striker II Formula (780i)
ASUS Blitz Formula (P35)


Processor:
Intel Core 2 Duo E6550
(2.33GHz - Dual-Core) 

RAM:
2x1GB OCZ Reaper PC2 9200
CL 5-5-5-18 DDR2-1150

Components:
GeForce 8800 GTS 512
On-Board Ethernet
On-board Audio

Hard Drive:
Seagate Barracuda 7200.10
7,200 RPM SATAII

OS / Drivers
Windows Vista Ultimate
INTEL INF Update v9.0.0.1009
NVIDIA Forceware v175.19



 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 http://www.futuremark.com/products/pcmarkvantage/

For our first round of benchmarks, we ran all of the modules built into Futuremark's PCMark Vantage test suite which was updated using the November 2007 Hotfix.  Vantage is a new Windows Vista-only benchmarking tool that we've incorporated into our arsenal of tests here at HotHardware.  Here's how Futuremark positions their new benchmarking tool:

"The PCMark Suite is a collection of various single- and multi-threaded CPU, Graphics and HDD test sets with the focus on Windows Vista application tests. Tests have been selected to represent a subset of the individual Windows Vista Consumer scenarios. The PCMark Suite includes CPU, Graphics, Hard Disk Drive (HDD) and a subset of Consumer Suite tests."

The overall PCMark Vantage score is derived from the subset of individual scenarios and suite tests, calculated in total "PCMarks".  Here are the overall results:

 

Overall scoring in PCMark Vantage found the Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P in a favorable position: second, right behind the high-end X48-based ASUS Rampage Formula.  It fared much better than the only other P45 board in our round-up, the MSI P45 Platinum, whose numbers put it closer to last.     


"Our memories are often kept in digital form. Here, large digital photos in HD Photo format are stretched, flipped and rotated using the CPU. Plenty of system memory is highly beneficial for manipulating large images. Importing digital photos to Windows Photo Gallery is where a high performance HDD shines. More and more image manipulation is being done using the GPU, enabling instantaneous color correction, sharpening and softening of images. Home video editing with Windows Movie Maker can be very time-consuming – unless you have a high performance HDD. Home videos recorded on digital video cameras are sometimes transcoded and transferred to a portable media player. High definition videos are often archived in media servers. It may, however, be handy to have them transcoded and transferred to a portable media player. A fast CPU with many cores can handle transcoding swiftly." - Futuremark

The PCMark Vantage "Memories" suite includes the following tests:

Memories 1 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU image manipulation and HDD picture import
Memories 2 - Two simultaneous threads, GPU image manipulation and HDD video editing
Memories 3 - Video Transcoding: DV to portable device
Memories 4 - Video Transcoding: media
server archive to portable device

 

The Memories suite of tests are quite similar to the overall results, with the two P45 boards at opposite ends of our testing spectrum.  The EP45-UD3P just misses out at the top, edged slightly by the Rampage Formula yet again.  While the sole NVIDIA board moved up to the middle position, MSI's P45 Platinum is again the second to last.


"High definition TV broadcasts and movies have arrived. Playing an HD DVD with additional HD content, a Blu-ray movie, or watching HDTV smoothly (while making a backup of an HD DVD by transcoding to a media server or transcoding from a media server archive to a portable media player) requires lots of computing and graphical power. Windows Media Center with a high performance HDD can handle simultaneous video recording, time-shifting, and streaming to an Extender for Windows Media Center, such as Xbox 360™."

Vantage TV and Movies suite includes the following tests:

TV and Movies 1 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback: HD DVD w/ additional lower bitrate HD content from HDD, as downloaded from the net
TV and Movies 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Video transcoding: HD DVD to media server archive, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 19.39 Mbps terrestrial HDTV playback
TV and Movies 3 - HDD Media Center
TV and Movies 4 - Video transcoding: media server archive to portable device, Video playback, HD MPEG-2: 48 Mbps Blu-ray playback


 

ASUS flexes its muscles in the TV & Movies suite, with two of their boards taking the top two slots.  While the EP45-UD3P falls to the third position, the delta between it and the next fastest board is much closer than it is with the boards behind it.  Although cheaper, this P45 board is keeping up with the more expensive boards from the Intel and NVIDIA camps.

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PCMark Vantage (continued)

 

We continue our test coverage with the remaining modules from the comprehensive PCMark Vantage suite of benchmarks.   Unlike the majority of our benchmarks, Vantage takes nearly and hour and a half to complete its round of tests, hitting upon all facets of hardware and drivers to come up with its final results.

 Futuremark PCMark Vantage
 Synthetic Benchmarks

Courtesy, Futuremark:  "Gaming is one of the most popular forms of entertainment for all ages. Today’s games demand high performance graphics cards and CPUs to avoid delays and sluggish performance while playing. Loading screens in games are yesterday’s news. Streaming data from an HDD in games – such as Alan Wake™ – allows for massive worlds and riveting non-stop action. CPUs with many cores give a performance advantage to gamers in real-time strategy and massively multiplayer games. Gaming Suite includes the following tests: "

Gaming 1 - GPU game test
Gaming 2 - HDD: game HDD
Gaming 3 - Two simultaneous threads, CPU game test,
Data decompression: level loading
Gaming 4 - Three simultaneous threads, GPU game test, CPU game test, HDD: game HDD

 

Vantage's Gaming suite took a surprising turn, with the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P suddenly leading the entire pack - and by a decent margin.  While each of the other boards hovered mostly nearly the lower 3900s, the EP45-UD3P pushed up just over 3950.  MSI's P45 board, on the other hand, once again winds up towards the bottom of our list.
 



"Online music shops have changed the way we purchase music, letting us buy exactly the tracks we want, right from home. Cataloguing your music library is a breeze for fast and powerful HDDs. The most common audio file formats decrease your music’s audio quality which is undesirable. Luckily, lossless audio file formats are becoming more popular. Transcoding from non-compressed audio to a lossless format is heavily taxing on the CPU. Transcoding your audio files from one format to another is much quicker and easier using high performance CPUs."

Vantage Music suite includes the following tests:

Music 1 - Three simultaneous threads, Web page rendering – w/ music shop content, Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player
Music 2 - Audio transcoding: WAV -> WMA lossless
Music 3 - Audio transcoding: MP3 -> WMA
Music 4 - Two simultaneous threads, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA, HDD: Adding music to Windows Media Player



We almost chalked up another "win" for the EP45-UD3P until we ran the numbers for the Blitz Formula, which just nipped Gigabyte's board by a mere three points.  That creates a tight grouping between these two and the ASUS Striker II Formula, leaving the Rampage Formula and P45 Platinum boards almost 100 points behind.


"To compress and encrypt all personal information is vital for safe computing. Emails are the most important type of communication, whether it is personal or business. To keep the workflow smooth and enjoyable, high performance CPUs and HDDs are recommended. Reading news online while having your cup of coffee is quality-time. Often one site isn’t enough, so tabbed browsing is a perfect solution for news-hungry people. Spyware is very common on systems without protection against it, letting Windows Defender scan & protect your system is recommended. Voice over IP – with Skype™ or Windows Live Messenger – is very popular these days. Encrypted messaging for home and workplace gives additional security."

Vantage Communications suite includes the following tests:

Communications 1 - Three simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Data compression, Web page rendering: graphics content, 1024x768, windowed
Communications 2 - Three simultaneous threads. Web page rendering: open various news pages from IE 7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one, Data decryption: CNG AES CBC, HDD: Windows Defender
Communications 3 - Windows Mail: Search
Communications 4  - Two simultaneous threads, Data encryption: CNG AES CBC, Audio transcoding: WMA -> WMA - to simulate VOIP

 

All of the Intel chipset based boards performed on mostly equal ground in the Communications suite, while the nForce board trailed by a decent margin.  Our P45 boards bookmarked the Intel group, with Gigabyte on top, MSI on the other side and the ASUS board sandwiched in between. 


"Starting various applications can take a long time – unless you have a high performance HDD. Editing text with WordPad is a breeze when done with fast CPUs and graphics cards. Often one site isn’t enough, so tabbed browsing is a perfect solution for highly productive people. Spyware is very common on systems without protection against it, letting Windows Defender scan & protect your system is recommended. Starting Windows Vista is a rather demanding task for the storage device, but a fast HDD will notably decrease the loading time. Our busy lives find us hard at work, balancing multiple tasks; with little time for breaks. It’s the same for our computers. Multiple tasks, running simultaneously, put your system under a lot of stress. Having a modern, up-to-date CPU, HDD, graphics card and board full of system memory increases your computer’s productivity and reduces your stress."

Vantage Productivity suite includes the following tests:

Productivity 1 - Two simultaneous threads, Text editing, HDD: application loading
Productivity 2 - Two simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, HDD: Windows Defender
Productivity 3 - HDD: Windows Vista start-up
Productivity 4 - Three simultaneous threads, Windows Contacts: search, Windows Mail: Run Message Rules, Web page rendering: simultaneously open various pages from IE7 Favorites in separate tabs, close them one by one.


 

PCMark's final testing suite downplays the gains we saw in other areas.  Productivity applications just didn't perform as well on the two P45 boards as they did on the X48, or the P35-based Blitz Formula, whose score we might chalk up as an anomaly.
 

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POV-Ray & Cinebench Testing

POV-Ray, or the Persistence of Vision Ray-Tracer, is an open source tool for creating realistically lit 3D graphics artwork. We tested with POV-Ray's standard included benchmarking model on all of our test machines and recorded the scores reported for each.  Results are measured in pixels-per-second (PPS)throughput.

POV Ray Performance
Details: www.povray.org

  


Considering how well the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P did in the PCMark Vantage testing, we expected much better results in POV-Ray.  It's not that the EP45 didn't do well, it actually came in a respectable third place, beating out the X48-based Rampage Formula, but it was beaten by the MSI P45 Platinum which had typically placed last or near last in the earlier testing.

 Cinebench R10 Performance Tests
 http://www.maxon.net/pages/download/cinebench_e.html

Cinebench R10 is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on Cinema 4D. Cinema 4D from Maxon is a 3D rendering and animation tool suite used by 3D animation houses and producers like Sony Animation and many others.  It's very demanding of system processor resources and is an excellent gauge of pure computational throughput.  This is a multi-threaded, multi-processor aware benchmark that renders a single 3D scene and tracks the length of the entire process. The time it took each test system to render the entire scene is represented in the graph below, listed in seconds.

Almost identical to the POV-Ray benchmarking, the graph of our Cinebench results has the P45 Platinum leading the way in both single- and multi-threaded benchmark runs.  The EP45-UD3P doesn't fare as well, with third and fourth place finishes, respectively.   Variances in the single-thread tests are so slight, however, that we consider them all in a virtual tie.
 

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3DMark06 and LAME MT MP3 Encoding

3DMark06's built-in CPU test is a multi-threaded DirectX gaming metric that's useful for comparing relative performance between similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are processed with a software renderer that is dependent on the host CPU's performance.  Calculations that are normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the CPU for processing and rendering.  The frame-rate generated in each test is used to determine the final score.

 Futuremark 3DMark06 - CPU Test
 Simulated DirectX Gaming Performance

 


CPU performance was spot-on in the 3DMark06 benchmark with each motherboard hovering right around 2100 Marks.  Although the EP45-UD3P is towards the higher end of our list of boards, the entire margin of difference is 9 Marks, less than a single percent from the highest to the lowest performer.

 LAME MT MP3 Encoding Test

 Converting a Large WAV To MP3

LAME MT is an open-source mid to high bit-rate and VBR (variable bit rate) MP3 audio encoder that is used widely around the world in a multitude of third party applications. In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file and converted it to the MP3 format using this multi-thread capable application in single and multi-thread modes. Processing times are recorded below, listed in seconds. Here, shorter times equate to better performance. 

 


There's little to be gleaned from the LAME MT Encoding results.  Whether using a single threaded pass or a multi-threaded one, the times from start to finish almost always turned out to be exactly the same, with two of the ASUS boards off by a second during one of the runs.

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Crysis & ET: Quake Wars Framerates

 

Benchmarks with Crysis and ET: Quake Wars
DirectX 10 and OpenGL Gaming Performance

For our next set of tests, we moved on to some in-game benchmarking with the Crysis and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars. When testing processors with Crysis or ET:QW, we drop the resolution to 800x600, and reduce all of the in-game graphical options to their minimum values to isolate CPU and memory performance as much as possible.  However, the in-game effects, which control the level of detail for the games' physics engines and particle systems, are left at their maximum values, since these actually do place some load on the CPU rather than GPU. 



Although not necessarily pegged as a gamer's board, the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P proved itself to be a great choice with the second highest frame rates in Crysis and the highest overall in ET: Quake Wars.  We had previously lauded MSI for their performance in this area, as the boards are considered part of their gamer's series, but Gigabyte pulled ahead here.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

 

Performance Summary: Gigabyte's EP45-UD3P performed well -- it placed right in line with other Intel and NVIDIA boards that we used for comparison -- but in general it was the best P45 board we've come across.  Frame rates were the fastest recorded, even beating out the "gamer" intended MSI P45 Platinum.  We were also able to get some large dividends from overclocking.  Possibly due to the effects of the Ultra Durable 3 components, we achieved the highest overclock we've seen with the particular CPU we've been using over the past year or so.


The EP45-UD3P is the first motherboard from Gigabyte utilizing the Ultra Durable 3 Technology, and overall we would have to say that we are pretty impressed withit.  The EP45-UD3P offers more secure computing with the TPM Security software, higher power efficiency, and cooler operation with the high quality component selection.  As we stated earlier, we can't exactly point at UD3 and say that it granted us the highest overclock we've achieved with our Core 2 Duo testing CPU, but we're sure that it had a big hand in it.  Either way, the whole overclocking experience was a bit of a delight for once, made even easier by simply using Easy Tune 6 from within Windows. 

Perhaps one of the biggest features of the EP45-UD3P is how Gigabyte managed to put it all together for a decent price; currently just under $150, and even lower with rebates found on some retail sites.  With support for bargain-price DDR2, it's a quick and cheap way to get yourself into a powerful system without spending a lot of hard-earned cash.  If you're in the market for a new motherboard, but don't necessarily want to upgrade your entire set of hardware, you might consider the Gigabyte EP45-UD3P.  It's got a complete list of components onboard and comes with a nice price tag, especially during the holiday season where everyone's looking to save a dollar or two.

  • 2oz. copper in PCB helps board run cooler
  • Uses inexpensive DDR2, with support up to 1366MHz 
  • Great overclocking results
  • BIOS options needs more detail
  • Tight areas in motherboard layout

 

 



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