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BIOS Setup

Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard uses BIOS based on Award code. We got it with an F3 BIOS version. In the end of June the company released F4 version BIOS update that promised higher performance and enhanced overclocking potential. However, some issues with graphics cards compatibility were discovered, so they rapidly released a fixed F5 version. During our test session we used the latest available BIS version at the time: the July F6 version. Here they not only added support for 45nm E0 processor stepping, but also improved compatibility with different memory modules.

We have already mentioned multiple times that Intel P45 Express chipset has minimal differences from its predecessor, however, the BIOS of Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard differs dramatically from what we saw with the previous generation solutions, such as Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS4, for instance. First of all, you can immediately notice a few differences in the looks of it: the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section with all overclocking related functions “moved” to the very top of the list:

It could seem like a trifle, really, but I am sure overclocking fans will appreciate it. Mainstream users or system builders only access the BIOS Setup once to set the necessary parameters. And  that’s it. Then they can work for years without even remembering about the BIOS. As for overclockers, they have to access BIOS Setup dozens of times searching for the most optimal frequency, timings and voltage settings. Of course, if the section you need is right there, the whole process will become much simpler and faster. It is a small thing, but a very useful small thing, I should say. Things like that distinguish real overclocker mainboards from those that are only claimed to be designed for overclockers.

We have already praised the functionality of Gigabyte’s MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section multiple times. This section contains all overclocking related functions dealing with adjustment of frequencies, timings and voltages. However, they are not all mixed together or listed one after another, but split into logical groups. The section is usually very convenient to use and very illustrative, however, this time, we were slightly disappointed. In the beginning of this review I already said that I like Gigabyte mainboards for being very easy to configure and work with. However, the entry-level Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard boasts so many settings, that even some of the flagship solutions couldn’t offer more. Some of the functions are even a little excessive, IMHO. Of course, there is nothing bad about having a few extras, it could have been much worse if something were missing. However, the board ended up not so simple as we expected. You may disagree with me, but see for yourselves first.

I had to give up the idea of putting together a few screenshots in order to show all the existing parameters and functions of the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section: the list would have been way too long. So, we are going to discuss one part of this section after another, especially since it is very conveniently split into sub-sections.

Robust Graphics Booster parameter allows to overclock your system graphics card automatically and can be set at Auto, Fast or Turbo. CPU Clock Ratio sets the desired processor clock frequency multiplier. You may think that you won’t be able to set a fractional multiplier, because Fine CPU Clock Ratio parameter is unavailable, but this is not true. 45nm CPUs automatically get +0.5 to their multiplier, and the maximum for our Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 is x9. If we lower our multiplier to x8 or x7, then Fine CPU Clock Ratio will offer you to select x8.5 or x7.5. CPU Frequency parameter will then display the resulting frequency.

If you set CPU Host Clock Control to Enabled, you will be able to select the desired FSB bus frequency using CPU Host Frequency parameter in the interval from 100MHz to… What do you think would be the maximum FSB frequency Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 mainboard would let you select? You will never guess: 1200MHz!

I would like to refrain from commenting on this value. Let those Gigabyte engineers who decided to use this simple trick to impress us take the heat. However, it immediately reminded me of Gigabyte mainboards from 6 years ago when first Intel Pentium 4 processors on Northwood core just came out. They also claimed the maximum supported FSB frequency to be around 350-355MHz, while processors didn’t overclock even to 200MHz yet. The funniest thing about it was the fact that some Gigabyte mainboards couldn’t even increase the processor Vcore, and even if they could they inevitably lost to their competitors during CPU overclocking. In other words, they tried to get users’ attention by offering unrealistically high maximums.

A lot of time has passed since then, the company now makes excellent mainboards including overclocking-friendly ones. So why did they need to show off now? I doubt anyone will really believe these unrealistic numbers. Even if you lower the processor clock frequency multiplier to its minimum of x6, then with FSB set at 1200MHz it will have to work at 7.2GHz and the memory will have to operate at 2400MHz. Just in case, let me remind you that far not every DDR2 memory module can get past 1GHz mark, however, Gigabyte apparently claims that they have modules working at 2.4GHz.

This is not too funny. Looks like some marketing people have once again interfered with the engineering team. However, the worst thing is that it could be a way to conceal the not very good overclocking potential of the new boards with unreal numbers. So, we will definitely get to checking out the overclocking friendliness of Gigabyte GA-EP45-DS3 later one today, however, unfortunately, this “improvement” did discourage us a little bit right from the start. Do they really think we can tell the fairy-tales from reality?

But let’s put crazy numbers aside for a while and return to MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) functionality. PCI Express Frequency parameter allows changing PCI-E bus frequency from 90 to 150MHz with 1MHz increment. C.I.A.2 enables automatic CPU overclocking under higher workload and can be set at Cruise, Sports, Racing, Turbo and Full Thrust.

  • Cruise implies that the CPU will get overclocked by 5-7%;
  • Sports – by 7-9%;
  • Racing – by 9-11%;
  • Turbo – by 15-17%;
  • Full Thrust – by 17-19%.
 
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