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Take a close look at the GA-EP45-DS3P and it is clear that the hardware is identical to the GA-EP45-DS4, all barring the Silent-Pipe cooling system. The difference in price between the two models is £15 which isn't a huge premium for a hefty chunk of ironmongery but our experiences suggest that P45 requires very little cooling so the EP45-DS3P does a fine job. This was the main reason that the EP45-Extreme sunk in our review as you are paying a great deal of money for a cooling system that is unnecessary.
The layout of the EP45-DS3P is generally good although the eight-pin power connector is a touch fiddly and the six SATA connectors stand vertically instead of being laid down, which could cause your SATA cables to get in the way of expansion cards. If you choose you can use the supplied bracket to convert two of the SATA ports into eSATA.
There are some neat features that distinguish the DS3P from other DS3 models in the shape of three illuminated micro buttons for Power, Clear CMOS and Reset across the foot of the board and an array of diagnostic LEDs.
Testing the EP45-DS3P went very smoothly on standard settings with our Core 2 QX9650 CPU, 2GB of Kingston memory and MSI GeForce 8800 GT graphics card but it was a different story when we tried overclocking. We started with what looked like the easy approach as the Gigabyte BIOS includes a feature called CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2 or C.I.A.2 for short. It has five settings Cruise, Sports, Racing, Turbo and Full Thrust that load factory performance profiles but none of them would allow us to boot into Windows.
Raising the CPU clock multiplier from 9x333MHz to 10.5x333MHz looked promising until the system froze while running PCMark05. A modest speed increase to 10x333MHz worked reliably and then it occurred to us that this was exactly the same level of performance that we saw with the EP45-Extreme so we lowered the clock multiplier to 7.5x and raised the front side bus to 500MHz for a CPU speed of 3.75GHz and memory running at 1,000MHz. Attempts to raise the front side bus any further proved to be fruitless.
So what we have here is a fairly basic P45 motherboard that has identical performance to the most expensive model in Gigabyte?s Core 2 range. Although the EP45-DS3P may look a bit dull it takes the fight to the superb Asus P5Q Deluxe and wins by a narrow margin.
Its combination of decent features and overclocking capabilities combined with a fair price make the Gigabyte EP45-DS3P a convincing choice.
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