Intel G45: Gigabyte GA-EG45M-UD2H
The fastest Intel core logic set with integrated graphics core that can compete against AMD 785G is Intel G45 Express. This chipset is the analogue to a popular discrete solution – Intel P45 – equipped with an integrated Graphics Media Accelerator X4500HD graphics core. Intel accelerator features 10 shader processors and four raterization units, but works at 533 MHz frequency. It also has a special engine for hardware decoding of high definition video called Clear Video technology.
G45 evidently yields in 3D performance to AMD solution, besides, it doesn’t support DirectX 10.1. Nevertheless, Intel G45 functionality is enough for most tasks where the use of integrated graphics accelerators is applicable at all. In other words, we won’t make any hasty conclusions just yet, but will take a closer look at Intel G45 in action.
For the tests of Intel integrated platform we used Gigabyte GA-EG45M-UD2H mainboard. Just like GA-MA785GM-US2H, this solution is a MicroATX mainboard supporting DDR2 SDRAM, but this time with an LGA775 socket. However, although there is nothing supernatural about the features of this mainboard, it retails for about $130. Unfortunately, Intel’s price policy is not as good for the user as AMD’s. Therefore, platforms using AMD chipsets turn out more attractive for the end-user than alternative solutions from Intel.
GA-EG45M-UD2H has pretty standard base functionality. I don’t think I need to list all the available slots and connectors, because you can see it all very well on the photograph. I would only like to stress that the mainboard is equipped with four DDR2 DIMM slots and supports external graphics cards that can be installed into the PCI Express x16 slot.
There is four-phase processor voltage regulator circuitry. This circuitry is powered from a four-pin power supply connector, but it doesn’t impose any obvious limitations on the CPU compatibility. And even though Gigabyte engineers didn’t provide the voltage regulator components with any type of cooling, all brand name innovations are right there. The voltage regulator circuitry uses solid-state capacitors with polymer electrolyte, ferrite core chokes and low RDS (on) MOSFET.
Moreover, the mainboard supports DES technology that allows it to adjust dynamically the number of active phases in the voltage regulator circuitry depending on the current load for the sake of better efficiency optimization.
By the way, high-quality components are used not only in the voltage regulator, but also on the rest of the mainboard PCB, which distinguishes GA-EG45M-UD2H very nicely from GA-MA785GM-US2H.
Just like other contemporary Gigabyte mainboards, GA-EG45M-UD2H uses special PCB with thick copper layers. Despite the MicroATX form-factor, it boasts very convenient design: the location of all slots and connectors shouldn’t cause any difficulties during system assembly. Even Serial ATA ports have been placed along the lower edge of the mainboard PCB having moved them as far away from the graphics card slot as possible, which definitely won’t remain unnoticed by those users who decide to install an external performance graphics card into this platform. Those users who decide to use a large CPU cooler will also be pleased with the available free space around the CPU socket.
In fact, the only issue we have found with the design of this mainboard is the availability of only two fan connectors. Note that these are four-pin fan connectors and it is only possible to enable automatic fan rotation speed management if you use fans with PWM control support.
The chipset is cooled with ordinary aluminum heatsinks, which, however, are of pretty unusual shape. There are no heatpipes used, which is actually not surprising for a mainboard that is not targeted for computer enthusiasts. However, despite this fact the developers didn’t remove overclocking related features from the GA-EG45M-UD2H mainboard BIOS. BIOS Setup allows increasing the FSB frequency, setting major memory timings and adjusting the voltages. The maximum voltage that can be sent to the CPU is 1.6 V, to the memory – 2.5 V. However, there are no options for GMA X4500HD graphics core overclocking on GA-EG45M-UD2H.
The back panel of GA-EG45M-UD2H is exactly the same as that of the GA-MA785GM-US2H. There are also six USB ports, an IEEE1394 port, eSATA connector and a Gigabit RJ45 connector. Another six USB ports and one more IEEE1394 port can be used via onboard pin-connectors. Also the board is equipped with connectors for the serial and parallel ports.
Since GA-EG45M-UD2H uses an ICH10R South Bridge there are five Serial ATA-300 ports (the sixth one is available on the back panel in the form of an eSATA connector). The hard drives connected to these ports can be united into RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 55 arrays. The board also supports Parallel ATA interface and even has a floppy drive connector.
Display devices can be connected to GA-EG45M-UD2H mainboard via three ports: D-Sub, Dual-Link DVI and HDMI 1.3. Just like on AMD 785G based mainboard, you can only use two ports of the three at the same time (except the DVI + HDMI combination), and the DVI port doesn’t support D-Sub adapters. The sound section on this mainboard is implemented via eight-channel Realtek ALC889A codec. The back panel has six analogue jacks and an optical SPDIF Out.