Articles: Mainboards

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Our patience has finally been rewarded: Intel P45 Express based mainboards appeared in retail stores! And there was indeed nothing wrong with the previous Intel chipset. Besides, it barely differs from the Intel P35 Express. The two most significant differences are the finer manufacturing process and PCI Express 2.0 support. However, we have been longing for something new and we finally got some variety to choose from when they announced new mainboards. So, with what board could we start? Let’s look through the mainboard makers’ web-sites, before making the choice.

I remember for sure that abit had some info of their IP45 Pro launch, but now it is gone for some reason. Sad. ASUS and MSI introduced six models each on Intel P45 Express chipset, which is pretty good variety. However, Gigabyte offers 14 different models!

As we know Intel P45 Express chipset is destined to live a long happy life in the computer world. In a short while we will know all existing mainboards based on it inside out, just as we know everything about the solution on the good old buddy Intel P35 Express. I can say one thing for sure: we will never be able to test all Gigabyte mainboards. 14 models is only the first batch. Then there will be mainboard revision 1.1, 2.0, etc. and different mainboard revisions may differ dramatically, even if their model name is the same. So, in order to cover the current Gigabyte mainboard lineup on Intel P45 Express chipset most fully, let’s take a quick glance at each of them.

Gigabyte Mainboards on Intel P45 Express Chipset

Gigabyte worked really hard and thorough on the lineup of solutions based on new Intel chipsets. They created a special section on their web-site where you can check out the list of existing models and their brief technical specifications and supported technologies. There is even a Downloads section where you can download demos and pretty wallpaper for your desktop.

On closer examination turns out that far not all 14 models differ dramatically from one another. Gigabyte uses very widely spread and very successful production approach when several mainboards are based on the same PCB layout differing only by the number of additional controllers and functionality. This is certainly beneficial for the manufacturer, because there is no need to invest in individual designs for each and every mainboard, which also lowers the production costs. However, it is also very beneficial for the user. First, lower production costs allow the manufacturer to set the end-user price at a lower level. Second, overclockers have always favored those mainboard models that use the same PCB layout as their higher-end counterparts, but have slightly more modest functionality. As a rule, they retain the overclocking potential of their elder brothers, and even if the manufacturer has limited the board’s functionality, it can be often fixed by reflashing the BIOS from the higher-end model.

The 14-model Gigabyte lineup on Intel P45 Express chipset is built around six major models. Let’s start with the lower-end ones. The first group includes the lowest-end mainboard on this chipset called Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L.

However, it is not actually a group, because there are no other mainboards similar to Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3L. But there is one mainboard on Intel P43 Express chipset based on exact same PCB layout, although, it has nothing to do with our today’s review topic.

In fact, it is the next model that became the base for six other boards. It is Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3.

Although this mainboard is one of the youngest members of the family, it doesn’t look like it lost too many features. Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 uses all the chipset functions (Intel P45 North Bridge, ICH10 South Bridge) and even had enough room for a second Gigabit network card and an additional IEEE1394 controller. If we replace the South Bridge with ICH10R supporting RAID arrays, then we will get Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3R.

By the way, all mainboards with ICH10R South Bridge come bundled with a bracket transforming two Serial ATA ports into eSATA.

Here we have to remind you that Intel P45 Express supports not only DDR2 SDRAM, but also DDR3 SDRAM. If we replace one memory type with another, we will get Gigabyte GA-EP45T-DS3 model.

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