Power Consumption and Overclocking
Power Consumption and Energy Saving
Gigabyte’s big new “thing” is power consumption. While overclocking used to be the head-turning feature, most consumers today are just as interested in lowering power consumption levels than they are about eeking out an extra FPS or two through overclocking. Gigabyte is heavily promoting their new Dynamic Energy Saver technologies with the P45 lineup, which is their name for an array of technologies that perform on the fly voltage and clock speed monitoring and throttling, dependant upon the system load.
DES Software - De-Activated
DES Software - Activated w/ Power Savings Count
Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced is their new set of technologies which is featured on three of the four boards we’re looking at today. When enabled through software, these motherboards can switch off and tune down various parts of the motherboard which are not in use (the pistons represent power phase components which can be enabled or disabled on the fly). You can also monitor power consumption levels through software, and when enabled, Gigabyte’s software will show you how many watts of power you’ve saved. If you really want to save power, you can cut power to the motherboard's LED lights to save that extra milliwatt or two. I suppose that’s kind of neat. While writing this paragraph, these technologies saved 0.5 watts of power. Thanks, Gigabyte!
The big question is, will it hurt performance if I enable this thing? Everyone wants to save power and produce less heat, but if it kills performance, most people won’t give it a second thought. We decided to run some benchmarks with DES disabled and enabled on each of the three levels of power consumption. Amazingly, leaving DES enabled did not hurt our benchmark numbers, but it did cut down power consumption by significant quantities. This is what we like to see. Here's how DES Advanced worked with a Core 2 Q6600 processor @ 2.4 GHz clock speed on the Gigabyte EP45T-Extreme P45 motherboard.
Enabling DES at its highest level saved us 12W of power under full load, without hurting performance. While it may not sound like much, over time, little things like that can add up, and we’re happy to see that Gigabyte has implemented a power saving system which works, pretty much flawlessly. However, we should let you know that if you are overclocking, DES won’t work. The motherboard will lock in your clock speeds and voltage levels where DES won’t touch them.
For the sake of fairness, we did not use DES for our power consumption tests, as we want to give the boards and chipsets a fare shake before adding software-level power consumption fixes into the mix. Here’s how the boards stack up in power consumption against each other and against their peers. Our full system specs can be seen on the following pages.
Backing up our prior numbers, it appears that Intel’s new P45 chipset with DDR2 memory consumes more power than the older P35 chipset with the same memory modules. However, Gigabyte’s new DDR3-based P45 boards seem to be much more power friendly, consuming an average of about 20W less than the DDR2 variants. Interestingly enough, the more feature packed EP45T-Extreme board consumes the least amount of power, but this board also has the more advanced 12-phase power array along with lower-power DDR3 memory modules working for it. It’s good to see the P45 finally showcasing its low-power abilities which we were hoping we would see eventually.
For testing the overclockability of these boards, we equipped each platform with an Intel Core 2 Duo E8500 processor coupled with a huge Coolermaster Eclipse II cooling system with dual 120mm fans. We dropped the multipliers down to their lowest possible (6x), than sought to push the front side bus speed up as far as we could. As this chip is based on a relatively high-clock speed to begin with, along with Intel’s 45nm processor architecture in a dual-core format, it’s proved to be an exceptional overclocker in the past. Here are the peak overclock FSB levels we obtained with each board - keeping in mind the default front side bus speed for this processor is 333 MHz (1333 MHz FSB).
EP45T-DS3R - 520 MHz (2080 MHz FSB)
EP45T-Extreme - 580 MHz (2340 MHz FSB)
EP45-DQ6 - 433 MHz (1733 MHz FSB)
EP45-DS3L - 390 MHz (1560 MHz FSB)
With the exact same components, we found our DDR3-based P45 platforms to be much more solid in terms of overclocking. These boards were easily able to push beyond 500 MHz (2000 MHz FSB) with minimal voltage tweaks, whereas the DDR2-based platforms just struggled to meet minimal overclocking levels. The EP45T-Extreme specifically, proved to be an amazing overclocker, hitting an impressive 580 MHz (2340 MHz FSB) with very little effort and retaining stability. We were able to get our board to hit the 600 MHz (2400 MHz FSB) level for short periods of time as well. For those curious, all the boards have virtually the same BIOS setup and all of the core voltage and timing control sets between the BIOS’s are identical.