Intel P35 Express Comparison: ASUS & Gigabyte

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Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6: Board & Bundle

Much like how the ASUS P5K3 Deluxe is in many ways a DDR3 version of the P5K Deluxe, the Gigabyte GA-P35T-DQ6 is a DDR3 version of the GA-P35-DQ6. In fact, except for the memory slots, which differ in type and color, the P35T and the P35 are visually identical. Like many recent Gigabyte boards, the GA-P35T-DQ6 is very colorful. The board features a snazzy dark blue PCB and it's covered by multi-colored components. Just about everything on the board is color coded and colors are rarely re-used. While this doesn't help the P35T-DQ6 very much in the aesthetics department, it does make components on the board easy to identify which helps during installation.

However, the board's most striking feature is its massive heatsinks. These are simply the largest heatsinks found on a motherboard that we have ever seen. The main heatsink which covers the northbridge and much of the surrounding area is extremely large and is connected to the other three heatsinks by a series of copper heatpipes. The entire assembly resembles a miniature downtown city block, complete with skyscrapers.

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The bottom of the P35T-DQ6 has two Crazy Cool copper heatsinks. The main Crazy Cool heatsink covers the backside of the CPU socket and the northbridge while the significantly smaller secondary Crazy Cool heatsink covers the backside of the southbridge. All of these heatsinks on the front and back of the board make it very heavy for a motherboard. This makes us worry a bit about possible transportation issues. Just like a particularly heavy CPU heatsink could damage the motherboard when the rig it is installed in is being transported, we wonder if the massive heatsinks on the P35T-DQ6 would cause it to suffer a similar fate during a particularly turbulent ride. Gigabyte certainly thinks there is a potential that the heatsink assembly could become damaged during transport since the P35T-DQ6 is packaged very tightly with a large Styrofoam block wedged between the heatsinks to ensure everything stays in place.

The massive heatsink assembly also makes us wonder about efficiency. In recent years we have seen motherboard cooling solutions change from a simple and small heatsink+fan combos to huge interconnected heatpipe systems. While they certainly look very impressive and the elimination of cooling fans is very welcome, it does greatly increase board clutter and production costs. The utility of massive heatsinks for cooling a motherboard's components is also questionable. While it is obvious that the northbridge would require a larger heatsink to absorb the somewhat significant amount of heat it is capable of outputting, we question the necessity of having huge heatsinks on the MOSFETs. The addition of heatpipes to connect all of the heatsinks is also questionable.

During heavy benchmarking, we would occasionally touch the heatsinks to gauge how hot they were getting and none of them threatened to burn our skin although the north bridge and south bridge heatsinks did get rather hot, as did the single heatpipe joining the two. However, the two heatsinks covering the MOSFETs above and to the left of the CPU socket, which are each several times larger than the southbridge heatsinks, got lukewarm at best. The heatpipes connecting these two heatsinks together was also cool to the touch. However, having said all of that, we won't hold it against the P35T-DQ6 since it is, after all, a top-end product and they should be exuberant. Not to mention the P5K3 Deluxe is every bit as quilty of using an unnecessarily large cooling system.

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We liked the P35T-DQ6's layout for the most part. Gigabyte left an acceptable amount of room around the CPU socket, however, due to the height of the chipset heatsinks, larger CPU heatsinks may have mounting issues. Just like the P5K3 Deluxe, the P35T-DQ6's cooling is completely passive and its cooling performance suffers when a passive CPU heatsink or water cooling is used since airflow around the CPU socket is greatly reduced. Unlike ASUS, Gigabyte didn't include an optional fan of any sort in case of such a scenario, however we are confident the extremely large heatsinks will be able to survive the reduced airflow, provided there is some air being circulated by case fans or even just the PSU fan .

Power is supplied to the board by a 24-pin ATX power connector and a 8-pin 12V power connector. The board is compatible with 20-pin power connectors as well as the 4-pin power connector. At the very least, a 4-pin power plug and a 20-pin plug must be connected in order for the system to boot. While 20-pin power connectors are supported, it is highly recommended that a 24-pin connector be used to ensure sufficient power is delivered to the board. Similarly, a power supply with an 8-pin power connector is recommended. If you plan on installing a high-power processor like a quad-core, an 8-pin power connector will become necessary since a 4-pin will not be able to supply stable and reliable power. An optional molex power connector is provided at the top left corner of the board, next to the memory slots. The molex connector supplies additional power to the board when particularly thirsty PCI-E devices are being used.

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Unlike the ASUS board, the P35T-DQ6 retains legacy support and it sports a parallel and a serial port on its I/O array. Two PS/2 ports are also present. Between these legacy ports are two S/PDIF outputs, an optical and a coaxial. On the other half of the I/O array are four USB ports, a Firewire port, gigabit LAN port and the 8-channel audio connectors. Overall, the P35T-DQ6's I/O array is pretty classic, neither missing any essential nor having anything exceptional.

The P35T-DQ6 possesses a large number of internal connectors including three USB connectors, which support six USB ports, two Firewire connectors and S/PDIF audio connector that can be used to output audio from the onboard sound to a HDMI
compatible video card. The P35T-DQ6 only offers a total of four fan connectors, which includes the CPU fan connector. Some people may find this to be inadequate . However, of more concern is the placement of the connectors.

One of the case fan connectors can be found on the top edge of the board and another can be found on the bottom edge. Both of these are easily accessible, but the remaining two connectors are hard to reach. The CPU fan connector and the northbridge fan connector are located on opposite sides of the massive north bridge heatsink. This makes the connectors nearly impossible to reach when a video card and CPU heatsink are installed. This is somewhat of a hassle since you must first remove the video and/or CPU heatsink before you can (dis)connect a fan to either fan connector.

Another problem we encountered has become increasingly common on modern motherboards. The first expansion slot, a PCI-E x1 slot, is so close to the massive north bridge heatsink that it is rendered nearly useless. Unless you have an extremely short PCI-E x1 expansion card, it is unlikely that you will be able to clear the northbridge heatsink without making contact with it. Lastly, the P35T-DQ6 suffers from one of the oldest layout issues around, although it is also a very minor one. When a video card is installed, it is impossible to remove or install RAM into the memory slots because the locking clips have no clearance room. Besides this handful of minor gripes, the P35T-DQ6 is well laid out and free of major problems.

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Included with the P35T-DQ6 is an ample accessory bundle. Included in the bundle is an I/O shield, floppy cable, IDE cable, two internal SATA cables, a header modules that has two USB ports and one Firewire port, and two eSATA kits. Each eSATA kit includes a eSATA header with 2 eSATA ports and 1 molex power port, a eSATA cable and an external molex-to-SATA power cable.

Also included in the box is a Gigabyte case badge, user's manual, hardware installation guide and a driver/utility CD. The hardware installation guide includes detailed explinations on how to install each components of a typical computer system and novice computer builders may find it very useful.

The driver/utility CD launches Gigabyte's Xpress Install utility which automatically determines which drivers you are missing and installs them for you. You can also choose to install the drivers individually. Also on the CD is a selection of software including Norton Internet Security, Kaspersky Antivirus, Acrobat Reader, Gigabyte's proprietary C.O.M. software, EasyTune 5, DMI Viewer, Face-wizard, @BIOS, I-COOL and Easy Tune Center. The C.O.M. software is a web-based system management tool that allows you to monitor various system statistics remotely. @BIOS is a utility for updating the BIOS via the internet. The I-COOL utility allows you to adjust CPU performance, power usage and fan noise while the Face-wizard utility customizes the BIOS boot up screen.

Tags:  Intel, Asus, Gigabyte, Pre, XP, son, express, AR, COM

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