Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Designed for energy savings
- Conservative power consumption while processing full loads, plenty of connectivity options, flexible
- The DES utility needs a better interface and more options, CPU speed wasn't detected automatically
A very good board for a mid- to high-end system. It will consume a conservative amount of power while running at full speed.
Price$ 249.00 (AUD)
It seems motherboard vendors are all doing their bit to try and curb the amount of power their boards consume. This is especially pertinent with models, such as the GA-EP45-DS4P, which burst at the edges with more ports than ever for external devices, hard drives and Gigabit network connections. This means any saving is welcome.
The GA-EP45-DS4P supports a glut of ports, as well as the fastest Intel CPUs on the market and DDR2 memory, and it also comes equipped with an energy-saving facility that aims to dynamically reduce overall power consumption.
This energy-saving facility is known as DES — Dynamic Energy Saver — and its interface can be run through Windows. It's not an intuitive utility, and there are only three levels of CPU voltage adjustment that can be selected. CPU throttling is dynamic and automatic. None of the adjustable voltage levels affected the performance of the board, but we did see slight reductions in peak power consumption.
The board recorded identical performance at all CPU voltage levels in the Blender 3D tests, in which all four cores of the CPU are used to render a 3-D scene. Without DES running, it completed this task in 32sec, and this is exactly what we were expecting from our test configuration: an Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 CPU, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, a 750GB hard drive and an ATI Radeon HD 2600Pro graphics card.
During the Blender 3D test, our PC's overall peak power usage with DES disabled was 173W. When we enabled DES at its most vigorous level of CPU voltage reduction, the same test finished in 33sec and power consumption peaked at 164W. This translates into a power saving of around six per cent. However, when we compare the board's power consumption to the ASUS P5Q Deluxe, it turns out that the GA-EP45-DS4P consumes less power while supplying maximum performance. The ASUS board consumed 185W when completing the same Blender 3D test in 32sec, which is also a six per cent saving in favour of the Gigabyte. The ASUS board is capable of saving much more power through its intermediate and vigorous power-saving levels (up to 35 per cent), but performance drops by about 60 per cent.
Like the ASUS, the GA-EP45-DS4P is based on the Intel P45 chipset, which can support a front-side bus up to 1600MHz and has support for PCI Express 2.0, and it also harnesses Intel's ICH10 Southbridge chipset. It scored 114 in our WorldBench 6 benchmark, which is exactly what we were expecting, and which is the same speed that the Intel P35 chipset–based GA-EP35C-DS3R scored.
As far as connectivity is concerned, Gigabyte's GA-EP45-DS4P is as modern as they come; its rear panel is a clear indicator of this. It's littered with USB 2.0, Ethernet and audio ports, and it also includes 6-pin and 4-pin FireWire ports, which isn't something we're used to seeing. It still has PS/2 ports on its rear panel, which isn't a bad thing, as many of us probably have a favourite old keyboard that we just don't want to part with when moving on to newer and faster PCs. You can add e-SATA ports using the supplied bracket connections.
Power users will appreciate the three full-sized PCI Express slots, which can be used in CrossFire X mode. The board only has one PCI slot, which means you'll need to buy PCIe-based expansion cards or opt for USB devices where possible. RAID modes 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported by the Southbridge chipset, and you can install up to six SATA drives. ITE controller chips supply IDE and floppy ports, while Realtek chips supply dual Gigabit Ethernet ports (which support teaming) and high-definition audio.
The layout of the board makes it easy to install, and we love the power, reset and clear CMOS buttons that are located on the board itself; these are useful when troubleshooting. Heat-pipe technology is used to cool the chipsets on the board, and these didn't get overly warm during our tests. Older chipsets tend to get too hot to handle, but these ones produced only a small amount of warmth.
All up, this board has good features and good speed. It's suitable for overclocking, and its power consumption was low without affecting performance. We do wish its DES utility was easier to use, however. It needs a much clearer interface and more flexible power saving options.
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