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EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI 945P Motherboard
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Date: Jan 18, 2006
Section:Motherboards
Author: Jeff Bouton
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Introduction and Product Specifications

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.

Specifications: EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI 945P Motherboard
Not To Be Confused with SLI
CPU Socket:
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

Chipset:
Intel i945P + ICH7R (Lakeport-P)

System Memory:
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

Expansion Slots:
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

IDE:
One IDE interface (up to 2 IDE devices) with UDMA-33, ATA-66/100 support from embedded IDE controller

USB:
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

LAN:
One Gb Ethernet from Marvell 88E8053 PCI-E (x1) controller

1394a:
Two 1394 ports with up to 400Mbps bandwidth from onboard VIA VT6307 1394 controller (EP-5LDA+ GLI only)

Audio:
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

I/O:
Onboard Finetek F71872F LPC bus I/O controller
Legacy peripheral interface for PS/2 keyboard & mouse, FDD, Parallel, Two Serial and IrDA (v1.0 compliant), Support Hardware Monitoring for fan speed monitoring, CPU/System temperature and ThermoStick temperature.
Intelligent fan speed control for CPU-fan (PWM) and Chassis-fan (DC) for quiet operation

BIOS:
4Mb Flash EEPROM with Award Plug&Play BIOS
Support ACPI S3 (Suspend To RAM) mode in ACPI compliant O/S
Support EZ Boot for fast bootable device selection
Support Magic Health for system hardware status report during system boot-up

Special Features:
Support KBPO (Keyboard Power ON) function
Support Wake-On-LAN by PME
Support USB resume in S3
Onboard Post-Port LED display
Support Asynchronous clocking mode between FSB and PCI/PCI-E

PowerBIOS for excellent overclocking features:
Programmable FSB and PCI Clock output frequency with 1MHz fine tuning
Support BIOS adjustable CPU multiplier, FSB clock, PCI-E x16 clock, DIMM frequency
Support BIOS adjustable CPU Core voltage, Chipset voltage, DIMM voltage settings

Powerful utilities for Windows:
EPTP (EPoX Thunder Probe) for system hardware monitoring
Magic Flash for BIOS update without requiring DOS flash utility and bootable diskette
Magic Screen for personal bootup screen design

Form Factor:
305mm x 245mm x 40mm, ATX Size

Accessories
User's manual
1 IDE cable & 1 FDD cables;
2 S-ATA data and power cables;
CD for drivers, utilities and bundle software
IO shield

OS Supported:
Windows 2K/XP(32/64bit)/Server2003(32/64bit)

 


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.

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The EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI Up Close

The EPoX 5LDA+ GLI Up Close
GLI, Not SLI

Upon first inspection, it's easy to look at the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI and think it is a SLI capable motherboard, but it's not.  Being based on the Intel 945P chipset, the board is not SLI certified, but it is "GLI" (Graphics Link Interface) capable.  This means the board comes with a standard PCI Express x16 slot , but the second graphics slot only has a 4x electrical connection driven by the ICH7R Southbridge.  The goal here is to offer a second slot for multi-monitor support using two PCI Express graphics cards. Some may find this confusing as the package comes with a bridge clip labelled SLI, yet the Installation Guide shows two graphics cards installed and makes no mention of the bridge clip whatsoever.  So do you need a bridge clip?  Currently, no.  The latest driver sets have lockouts preventing two NVIDIA cards from running in SLI mode for improved performance.

  

Aside from the GLI integration, the EP-5LDA+GLI is a standard Intel 945P chipset based motherboard with a quality feature set.  The layout of the board was clean, well planned and had a slick look with its black PCB.  The board supports all Pentium 4 single core solutions, along with all Celeron and Pentium D Dual-Core processors.  The board supports up to 4GB of DDR2 400, 533, and 667MHz memory.  Along with the two graphics slots (PCI Express x16 and x4), the board comes equipped with three PCI slots and one PCI Express x1 slot.  One ATA100 IDE port is offered backed by four SATA II ports powered by the ICH7R Southbridge capable of RAID 0, 1, 1+0 and 5.  The on-board 8 channel 24-bit audio is driven by an ALC880 Azalia CODEC.

  

The rear I/O panel includes standard PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse ports as well as legacy Parallel and Serial connections.  There is one RJ45 Ethernet port for Gigabit LAN clustered with four USB 2.0 ports.  Headers are provided to expand the board by four additional USB 2.0 ports while adding two IEEE1394 ports powered by a VIA VT6307 chip.  The board also has six audio ports along with one coaxial and one optical SPDIF jack.  The board sports a total of three fan headers, on-board power and reset buttons and a diagnostic LED that offers a status code of the board's current POST state.

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BIOS and Overclocking
The EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI BIOS Overview
Lots of Options

EPoX is marketing the EP-5LDA+GLI as an enthusiast-class motherboard built for overclocking.  With that in mind, we'll focus our attention on the performance related settings available in this version of its Award BIOS.  EPoX includes a versatile selection of options that give a good amount of control over the system's behavior.  Starting with the memory settings, the DRAM timings could be set By SPD as well as manually.  CAS Latency settings from 3, 4, 5, 6 and Auto were available.  And both DRAM RAS# to CAS# Delay and Precharge offered settings of 2 through 6, and Auto.  Precharge Delay started at 4 and went up to 15 in steps of 1.

   

The PC Heath Status Screen offered insight into the state of the system's various temperatures, fans speeds and voltages.  Additionally, the SmartFan Function could be configured to throttle CPU fan speed based on Full Speed, Duty Cycle or Temperature.  There is a PC Health status screen that can be enabled to display this information during system POST and the system can be set to shutdown if a pre-determined CPU temperature is exceeded, ranging from 60C to 95C in 5C increments.

   

The POWER BIOS Feature screen, as the name implies, contained all of the advanced performance settings for those looking for more control over their hardware.  Here, the CPU Clock/Speed setting offered FSB options of 200MHz through 350MHz which can be keyed in directly.  There was also a Real Time Turbo Mode setting that had settings of 1-15, with each adding 4MHz to the FSB.  So in this case, setting "1" resulted in 204MHz while 15 resulted in 260MHz.  And the PCI Express frequency could also be keyed in from 100MHz to 150MHz.  The System Memory Frequency offered dividers of 1:1, 3:4 and 3:5 resulting in 400, 533 and 667MHz respectively.

   

Voltage options were adequate, with the VCore ranging from -.0875v up to +.25v.  Chipset voltage ranged from +.10 to +.30 pushing the voltage from a default of 1.5v to 1.8v.  Memory Voltages defaulted at 1.80v and maxed out at 2.15v with an overvoltage option from 0 to .35v in .05 increments.

So, with all of these options and decent frequency and voltage controls, the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI should impress in overclocking, right?  Well, the answer is yes and no.  Using the latest BIOS available on the EPoX website, we had a relatively poor overclocking experience, unable to exceed a 219MHz FSB no matter what we tried.  When we reached out to our contact at EPoX, they provided a new BIOS that improved our experience somewhat, but the results were still somewhat disappointing.  In the end, we reached a maximum 235MHz FSB, which pushed our Pentium D 820 from 2.8GHz up to 3.3GHz, well below this CPU's peak.  We hope EPoX comes out with an update that will improve this situation.  But until then, those looking for a solid overclocking board may want to contact EPoX about this before making a purchase.  If a BIOS is available that corrects this issue, however, we think the EP-5LDA+ GLI will not disappoint with its host of options.

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Test System Specifications and SANDRA

How we configured our test systems: When configuring the test systems for this review, we first entered their system BIOSes and set each board to its "Optimized" or "High-Performance Defaults."  The hard drives were then formatted, and Windows XP Professional (SP2) was installed. When the Windows installation was complete, we installed all of the necessary drivers and removed Windows Messenger from the system.  Auto-Updating and System Restore were disabled, and we set up a 768MB permanent page file on the same partition as the Windows installation. Lastly, we set Windows XP's Visual Effects to "best performance," installed all of our benchmarking software, defragged the hard drives, and ran all of the tests.

Test System Specifications
"Intel Inside!"
SYSTEM 1:
Intel Pentium D 820
(2.8GHz)

EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI

2x512MB PQI DDR2-667

GeForce 6800 GT
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD 80GB HD
7200 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
Intel 7.2.2.1006
NVIDIA Forceware v81.95
DirectX 9.0c
SYSTEM 2:
Intel Pentium D 820
(2.8GHz)

Abit AL8 945P

2x512MB PQI DDR2-667

GeForce 6800 GT
On-board Ethernet
On-board Audio

WD 80GB HD
7200 RPM SATA

Windows XP Pro SP2
Intel 7.2.2.1006
NVIDIA Forceware v81.95
DirectX 9.0c
Software:
SiSoft Sandra 2005
FutureMark PCMark05
Content Creation Winstone 2004
PC World's World Bench 5.0
-Photoshop 7 Module
-Office XP SP2 Module
-Windows Media Encoder 9 Module
Lame MP3
Adept Development's KribiBench v1.1
Cinebench 2003
Unreal Tournament 2004
Doom 3
Preliminary Benchmarks with SiSoft SANDRA 2005
Synthetic Testing

We began our testing with SiSoftware's SANDRA, the System ANalyzer, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant. SANDRA consists of a set of information and diagnostic utilities that can provide a host of useful information about your hardware and operating system. We ran four of the built-in subsystem tests that partially comprise the SANDRA 2005 suite (CPU, Multimedia, Cache, and Memory) with the Pentium D 820 installed into our test rig.


CPU Arithmetic Benchmark

Multimedia Benchmark

CPU Cache Benchmark

Memory Benchmark

Using the SANDRA synthetic test to get an idea of the EP-5LDA+ GLI's performance compared to its peers yielded no surprises.  The board's performance was within expected ranges for all four SANDRA modules.  In the pages ahead, we'll run a number of more specific tests to get a better idea on how this product compares to similarly equipped systems.

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Futuremark PCMark05

For our next round of synthetic benchmarks, we ran the CPU and Memory performance modules built into Futuremark's PCMark05.   Moving forward, we're going to compare the EP-5LDA+GLI's performance to another I945 based motherboard, Abit's AL8.

Futuremark PCMark05
More Synthetic CPU and Memory Benchmarks


 

The CPU test leaned in favor of the AL8 comparison board, with a slight lead of 15 PCMarks.  The Memory Module shifted in favor of the EP-5LDA+ GLI, with a minor lead of 7 PCMarks.  For all intents and purposes, these boards were tied in performance.

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CC Winstone 2004 & World Bench 5.0

To get this next batch of results, we used Veritest's Content Creation Winstone 2004 suite.  Before running these benchmarks, we patched the program to its latest version (v1.01), shut-down any unnecessary background processes, and defragged the hard drive.

Content Creation Winstone 2004
Real-World Application Performance

The Veritest Content Creation Winstone 2004 test utilizes the following applications in its benchmark routine. For more information about this test, see this page:

  • Adobe Photoshop 7.0.1
  • Adobe Premiere 6.50
  • Macromedia Director MX 9.0
  • Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 6.1
  • Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 Version 9.00.00.2980
  • NewTek's LightWave 3D 7.5b
  • Steinberg WaveLab 4.0f

With Content Creation Winstone 2004, both boards performed on the same level, which was no surprise.  The AL8 had a fractional lead that is well within the realm of normal test variations.

PC World's World Bench 5.0: Photoshop 7 & Office XP Modules
More Real-World Application Performance

PC World Magazine's WorldBench 5.0 consists of a number of performance modules that each utilize one, or a group of, popular applications to gauge performance.  Below we have the results from WB 5's Photoshop 7 and Office XP modules, recorded in seconds.  Lower times indicate better performance.

With both modules, the two test systems offered comparable results, with no one board having an advantage over the other.  In both tests, the variations were no greater that 2 seconds.

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WB5.0 Continued & LAME MP3 Encoding

We continued our testing with a video encoding benchmark based on Windows Media Encoder 9.  In this test, we ran the Windows Media Encoder 9 portion of the World Bench 5 suite where encoding times were recorded in seconds.  Lower times indicate better performance.

World Bench 5.0 - Windows Media Encoder 9
More Digital Video Encoding

With Windows Media Encoding, the EPoX EP-5LDA+ GLI topped the Abit AL8 by 2 seconds overall, a minor lead at best.

LAME MP3 Encoding Test
Converting a Large WAV To MP3

In our custom Lame MP3 encoding test, we convert a large digital audio file to the MP3 format.  In this test, we created our own 223MB WAV file (a never-ending Grateful Dead jam) and converted it to the MP3 format using the multi-thread capable LAME MT application. Processing times are recorded below. Once again, shorter times equate to better performance.

Utilizing the multithreading capabilities of the Pentium D 820, both test systems completed the encoding in 54 seconds or less.  With the single threaded test, the scores jumped to 1:31 at best, which is not quite double the time of the multi-threaded test.

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Kribibench v1.1

Next up, we ran the Kribibench rendering benchmark produced by the folks at Adept Development.  Kribibench is an SSE aware software renderer.  A 3D model is rendered and animated by the host CPU, and the average frame rate is reported.  We used two of the included models with this benchmark: an "Exploding Sponge" model consisting of over 19.2 million polygons and then its enormous "Ultra" model that is comprised of over 16 billion polygons.

Kribibench v1.1
Details: www.adeptdevelopment.com

With the Sponge Explode test, the AL8 had a fractional lead over the EP-5LDA+GLI board, whereas the Ultra Model test had both boards tied at .94 FPS.

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Cinebench 2003 & 3DMark05: CPU Test

The Cinebench 2003 benchmark is an OpenGL 3D rendering performance test based on the commercially available Cinema 4D application.  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). 

Cinebench 2003 Performance Tests
3D Modeling & Rendering Tests

We ran two sets of numbers here, one in single-thread mode, and another in the benchmark's multi-thread mode.

Once again we find the variations between the two systems negligible, with both boards effectively returning the same results.

Futuremark 3DMark05 - CPU Test
Simulated DirectX Gaming Performance

It may not be an actual game, but 3DMark05's built-in CPU test is a "gaming related" DirectX metric that's useful for comparing relative performance among similarly equipped systems.  This test consists of two different 3D scenes that are generated with a software renderer, which is dependant on the host CPU's performance.  This means that the calculations normally reserved for your 3D accelerator are instead sent to the host processor.  The number of frames generated per second in each test are used to determine the final score.

With the 3DMark05 CPU test, we continued to see narrow margins between the EP-5LDA+GLI and the AL8.  In this case, the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI managed a slightly better score, besting the Abit AL8 by 10 points.

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UT2004 & Doom 3 Low-Quality Testing

Next we delved into the gaming side of things a bit and performed some low-resolution benchmarking with Epic's Unreal Tournament 2004.  We specifically used a "Low-Quality" game setting with UT2004 which allows us to isolate CPU and memory performance with little burden on the graphics subsystem.

Benchmarks with UT2004
DirectX 8 Gaming Performance

We saw more of the same trend with the UT2004 low-res test, with the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI coming in a mere 1.5FPS over the Abit AL8 comparison system.

Benchmarks with Doom 3
OpenGL Gaming Performance

For our next game test, we benchmarked all of the test systems using a custom multi-player Doom 3 timedemo. We cranked the resolution down to 640 x 480, and configured the game to run at its "Low-Quality" graphics setting. Although Doom 3 typically taxes today's high-end GPUs, when it's configured at these minimal settings it's more CPU / Memory-bound than anything else...

We continued to see the EP-5LDA+GLI maintain a slight lead over the Abit AL8, albeit by less than 1 FPS.

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Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: Comparing the performance of the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI motherboard to our reference test system, we find that the product performs on par with similar hardware in its class.  Neither testbed had a clear advantage over the other in any of the benchmarks we ran.  With the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI, it all boils down to features, price and overclocking, as its stock performance is typical for an i945P based motherboard.

The EP-5LDA+GLI has a good balance of integrated components and expandability, with the potential for decent overclocking once EPoX works out a few kinks.  Also, the ability to add a second PCI Express graphics card to a system based on this motherboard is a major plus.

Overall, the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI turned out to be an interesting product that fills a select niche.  The retail package comes with a decent collection of software and hardware, and the board's expected $149 MSRP is attractive considering its dual-PEG slot configuration and list of integrated features.  There are a couple of caveats, however.  First, we have had a lot of trouble locating this board in retail channels.  Secondly, EPoX hasn't resolved the overclocking issues thus far.  If overclocking is not a major concern and the EP-5LDA+GLI's features appeal to you though, then you probably won't be disappointed.  However, if overclocking is high on your priority list, you may want to look elsewhere until EPoX has all the wrinkles ironed out.  In it's current state, we give the EPoX EP-5LDA+GLI a Hot Hardware Heat Meter Rating of 7.

•  Dual PEG Slots (GLI)
•  Dual-Core Support
_64-Bit Support
•  Features and Price
• Overclocking Issues
• Availability

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