That seems to be about it, however, Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard is accompanied by one more plastic box with a huge additional heatsink, a pack of thermal compound and a set of retention screws:
Now it is clear why the copper plate serving as a base for the liquid-cooled water block on top of the chipset North Bridge is so thick, long and features a few additional retention holes. This is where you attach the additional heatsink, so that the two heatpipes could transfer heat directly to it:
As a result, the fully assembled cooling system of Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme looks as follows:
The heatsink dissipates some of the heat outside the system case by taking one of the slots in the case rear panel and blocking one of the PCI slots on the board completely:
This is not that big of a loss. A much bigger problem is that you may have hard time trying to reach the internal block of audio-connectors that is located right behind the audio-jacks block on the connector panel. The user’s manual warns that you have to connect the internal audio connectors to the case front panel first, and then install the additional heatsink. Of course, I noticed this warning only after I installed the heatsink. However, if your system case has all front panel audio connectors in a single block, you may still plug them in easily. If all the cables are separate, then it will be pretty hard anyway.
Of course, the question is: do we really need this gigantic heatsink? As always, it is pretty hard to answer simple questions like that…
First, I have to say that although I criticized the chipset North Bridge heatsink, the entire Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme cooling system doesn’t heat up much when the CPU cooling fan is on. That includes the additional heatsink, too. And honestly it is not quite clear if it gets warm from the North Bridge heat transferred via heatpipes or from the extremely hot ATI Radeon 4870 512MB graphics card installed next to it. I used a thin booklet to separate the heatsink and the scorching hot graphics card: the heatpipes are working – the heatsink is still warm. Barely warm.
Let’s make a few measurements to illustrate our discussion. There is a thermal diode not too far from the chipset North Bridge. You can check its readings in the GA-EP45T-Extreme mainboard BIOS and monitor using special utilities, such as CPUID hardware Monitor, for instance. To increase the load on the cooling system let’s overclock our quad-core Intel Core 2 Quad Q9330 processor and increase its Vcore as well as the chipset voltage. We are going to run LinX (Linpak) 10 times and take the reading off this thermal diode near the chipset North Bridge. The maximum temperature recorded was only 49°C. Now let’s remove the additional heatsink and run the same test again: the temperature got only 2°C higher: 51°C.
However, we cannot really trust Gigabyte GA-EP45T-Extreme temperature monitoring. The diodes tried to convince me that the temperature of a quad-core CPU overclocked by raising its Vcore over 1.4V varied between 17-19°C in idle mode, while the ambient room temperature was at 22-23°C. I believe that I can do much better by using my own finger as a measuring tool. It felt like the heatsinks and heatpipes temperature got just a little higher once I removed the additional heatsink. They got just a little warmer, but not hot.
So, do we need this additional heatsink unit or not? I doubt it is a vitally necessary component, but we can’t call it useless either, because it does work and dissipate heat. However, even without this heatsink, the cooling system doesn’t get too hot. We performed these tests with the CPU overclocked by raising its Vcore, but the processor fan was working at its full speed. Gigabyte mainboards use very aggressive CPU fan rotation speed management algorithm by default, and most of the time it doesn’t work at all. In this case the additional heatsink will be very handy. A unit like that could become a nice additional to a few other high-end mainboards, like Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6, for instance, that uses a very hot additional PCI Express controller heating up the chipset North and South Bridge heatsinks significantly.