Four-Way Gigabyte P45 Motherboard Round-Up
High-End / Enthusist DDR3 - Gigabyte EP45T-Extreme
The EP45T-Extreme is Gigabyte’s high-end DDR3 platform, and as one glance will surely tell, you can see that this board is designed with overclocking as its primary purpose. While it looked as if the EP45T- Extreme was Gigabyte’s high-end “let’s throw every possible feature on here” type of motherboard, it’s actually been slightly stripped out in some ways to allow for more overclocking functionality, rather than to pump up the feature set to try to please everybody. That’s not to say this platform is anything close to resembling bare bones, it definitely has enough features to satisfy power users, which is this board’s primary market.
The board is packaged quite well, in a box roughly twice as thick as Gigabyte’s budget-class motherboards and at least four times as shiny. Everything about the packaging screams “overclock me”, as just about every feature which is highlighted on the box is in regards to the board’s power circuitry, cooling performance, and energy saving technologies. As for the actual features an expansion ports, they're mostly an afterthought here. This is a board with enthusiast-class features at the forefront.
The layout of this motherboard is dominated by its cooling system, which is completely unique to this particular product in Gigabyte’s arsenal. No doubt this motherboard is a trial for this type of system, which weaves together a complex array of copper heatpipes with copper radiators, and throws in optional water cooling support for good measure. Gigabyte also kicks it up a notch by letting you, the buyer, install an extra two heatpipes and a huge copper radiator on to the already impressive cooling array, providing you with the ability to extend cooling surface area onto a block of copper the size of a small graphics cards.
It’s a ridiculous cooling system for all intents and purposes, as Intel’s P45 chipset doesn’t even produce that much heat. However, with a cooling system such as this, you’ll basically never have to worry about the chipset overheating, even being passively cooled and heavily overclocked. This cooling system works in conjunction with what we consider to be an “unlimited” BIOS, which provides every possible option for tweaking your clock speeds and latencies, without any safety locks or anything of the sort. The board also has hardware buttons for power/reset/clear CMOS, which are becoming commonplace on high-end enthusiast boards, along with a set of post-code indicators to let you know what your motherboard is doing during the bootup process.
Water-Cooling Optional Cooler, 12-Phase Power
Optional Heatpipe/Heatsink Add-On "Card"
While we expected the cooling system to be somewhat fluff, we were surprised (and delighted) to see that this motherboard is an extremely good overclocker. With this silent, passive cooling system, we were able to take our standard overclocking-focused processor and crank it up to 2340 MHz FSB (585 MHz x 4), well beyond its stock FSB speed of 1333 MHz, and well beyond Gigabyte’s officially rated 1600 MHz FSB speed. We found the board to be excellent for overclocking, as it handled our overclocked components brilliantly, and gave us a solid, stable feeling, even when dealing with ultra high front side bus speeds. Throw in the fact that this board has 12-phase power for the CPU, along with dual-phase power for both the Northbridge and memory modules, and you’ve got an overclocking platform which is hard to find fault with.
The EP45T-Extreme has four DDR3 DIMM slots and is capable of holding up to 16 GB of memory at speeds up to DDR3-1900. The (oddly pastel colored) DDR3 slots are a bit further South on this platform compared to what we’re typically used to due to the extra power circuitry added for two-phase DDR3 power. While it appears that the DDR3 modules will get in the way of the graphics card, this is not the case, as there is a small amount of breathing room between the two. Gigabyte puts the primary PCI Express graphics card slot one further down compared to most motherboards, in order to accommodate the huge optional copper heatsink which is bundled with the board.
The board has three PCI Express 2 x16 sized slots, the primary running at (PCIe 2.0) x16 speeds along with one running at x8 (for 8x8 Crossfire multi-GPU support) and another running at x4. There are also PCI Express x1 and 3 x 32-bit PCI slots thrown into the mix as well. The board supports six Serial ATA-II/300 devices (with RAID support) through the Intel ICH10R Southbridge. The notable lack of eSATA support is likely one of the features which was axed from this enthusiast-class motherboard in order to cut down on costs and space. 10x USB 2.0 ports and three Firewire 400 ports are in the mix as well.
In terms of connectivity, the board supports dual Gigabit Ethernet ports, which use Realtek 8111C PCI Express x1 interfaces to the Southbridge. In terms of onboard audio, the board uses Realtek’s ALC889A 8-channel HD audio CODEC. Gigabyte provides eight channels of analog output along with both coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs on the back panel. The board also does support Dolby Home Theater support, which basically says that the audio can support Dolby 7.1 decoding and output properly, although this does not mean Dolby Digital encoding is supported.
At a street price of $260+, the EP45T-Extreme is one of the priciest P45/DDR3 platforms currently on the market. However, this price tag does seem somewhat proper for a board of this nature. Gigabyte has gone above and beyond in terms of board cooling, and provided a platform which is excessively overclockable without cutting down on the raw feature set in any major way.