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  • Recommended by TR

Summary

Our Score

9/10

Review Price free/subscription

Believe it or not Gigabyte lists 18 models of motherboard that are built around the Intel P45 chipset. Add the G45, P43, G43 and X48 chipsets into the equation and the total number of current Core 2 models rises to 29 which is confusing to say the least, so it's worth taking a moment to see exactly where the GA-EP45-DS3P fits into Gigabyte's product range.

Every P45 model has a model code that starts GA-EP45 so it's the suffix that we're interested in, which in this case is DS3P.

We recently reviewed the incredibly expensive GA-EP45-Extreme which sits at the top of the tree and close to that we have the bizarre DQ6 which has quad Gigabit LAN. Next we have the DS5 model which includes a secondary RAID controller to supply a total of ten SATA ports and then we come to the DS4 models which only have the six SATA ports that are native to the ICH10R Southbridge.

These mid-range and premium models share a number of common features but the most visually striking is the extensive Silent-Pipe cooling system. This uses heatpipes to link passive coolers on the power regulation hardware, Northbridge and Southbridge.

At the bottom of the P45 range we have a selection of DS3 models which are very similar to the DS4 except that the passive cooling system is rudimentary. This means that the GA-EP45-DS3P comes in close to the bottom of Gigabyte's P45 range but there's no such thing as a cheap P45 motherboard so the price only sneaks under £100 by a tiny margin.

Run your eye down the list of features and you'll find it looks surprisingly healthy for a budget model, including full support for Intel Core 2 processors with the fastest DDR2 memory that money can buy. In addition you can run a pair of ATi graphics cards in CrossFire X and the list of ports and connectors on the IO panel is as comprehensive as you might hope to see.

Gigabyte still supplies two PS/2 ports, which seems a touch cautious as PS/2 mice went by the wayside some time back and we've seen plenty of motherboards with a single PS/2 port that supports both mouse and keyboard just in case. At least those are the only legacy ports on the panel. There are optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors for the ALC889A audio hardware as well as six audio mini jacks, no less than eight USB 2.0 ports, a six-pin Firewire port, a mini four-pin Firewire port and dual Gigabit LAN. If that's not enough there are headers for four more USB ports and a third Firewire port.

This is an Ultra Durable 2 motherboard so the area around the CPU socket is typically neat and tidy and that won't change with the transition to Ultra Durable 3 as the chokes, capacitors and MOSFETs look the same. The cooling system is slightly more extensive than we would expect for a DS3 model with a heatpipe linking the passive cooler on the power regulation hardware behind the IO panel and the cooler on the Northbridge. The tiny cooler on the hardware at the top of the board and the similarly small Southbridge cooler aren't connected and have to rely on the airflow inside the case to keep them cool.

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