Mid-Range / Budget DDR3 - Gigabyte EP45T-DS3R
While DDR3 based motherboards have typically been targeted at enthusiasts and power users, as DDR3 prices are dropping steadily, more budget-minded DDR3-based platforms are hitting the market. Case in point, the board we have here, the EP45T-DS3R. This platform is based on the Intel P45/ICH10R platform and uses DDR3 memory modules, but yet is selling at a price tag at about $175. It’s certainly not the cheapest P45 motherboard on the market, but may be one of the more affordable P45 boards with DDR3 support.
Despite its somewhat budget-class looks, the EP45T-DS3R is actually quite feature packed, but has been more or less neutered to support the needs of a more mass market audience. Likewise, the cooling system is drastically stripped down compared to Gigabyte’s enthusiast class mainboards, as this platform only features simple heatsinks on the Northbridge and Southbridge chips, devoid of heatpipes or VRM cooling. Despite this toned down cooling layout, Gigabyte still claims that the motherboard can support vigorous overclocking, including 1600 MHz FSB and DDR3-1900 speeds. Neither are particularly difficult for an Intel P45 platform to do, but it’s still interesting to see them touting these features.
The motherboard has six-phase power components surrounding the CPU socket, and well, not much else. Gigabyte has left a lot of room around the CPU socket for larger coolers on this motherboard, should you choose to go that route. Again, all manner of Socket-775 CPU’s at speeds up to 1333 MHz are supported, and up to 1600 MHz officially through overclocking. Like its bigger brother, the EP45T-DS3R uses funky floral colored DDR3 DIMM sockets which support up to 16GB of memory in a dual-channel configuration at up to 1900 MHz clock speeds.
P45 / ICH10R Passive Cooling
EP45T-DS3R I/O Panel
The board is equipped with two PCI Express 2.0 x16 sized slots, the primary in blue and the secondary in orange. If you’re going to use a Crossfire multi-GPU configuration, these will drop to 8x8 speeds when necessary. The board is also equipped with three PCI Express x1 slots and two 32-bit PCI slots. You’ve also got 12 x USB 2.0 ports and 3 x Firewire 400 ports, including a rarely used mini-Firewire port on the I/O panel.
While the board lacks eSATA support, it does have a full six ports of Serial ATA-II/RAID support through Intel’s ICH10R Southbridge, along with a standard IDE port for you legacy folks. The EP45T-DSR3 is equipped with the same two PCI Express x1 based Realtek Gigabit Ethernet ports and Realtek 889A HD audio connectivity. Like its bigger brother, this platform also features 8-channel analog audio and optical and coaxial S/PDIF digital 7.1 audio outputs, and is also a certified Dolby Home Theater platform. Nice!
While the EP45T-DS3R could not match the overclocking prowess of its bigger DDR3 brother, the EP45T-Extreme, it proved itself to not be a slouch in the overclocking department either. With a simple six-phase power system and passive aluminum alloy cooling, we were able to take our overclocking testing components up to a max front side bus speed of 520 MHz (2080 MHz FSB). That’s pretty respectable for a platform of this nature, as high-end platforms were only just touching the 500 MHz barriers a few months ago. This motherboard has the same BIOS as its high-end brother, so you get all the same controls and access to low-level timings and voltages as one would get in an overclocking-targeted platform.
While it lacks some visual appeal and any sort of heavy duty cooling, the EP45T-DS3 platform has a surprisingly solid feature set, combined with better than expected overclocking, it’s a very nice package for the $175 price point.