- Supports either DDR2 or DDR3 RAM
- Has only one graphics card slot, doesn't have FireWire
The Gigabyte P35C-DS3R is a well-performing, future-proof solution for any new Intel-based PC as long as you can live without FireWire and a second graphics slot.
Price$ 229.00 (AUD)
It's a somewhat transitional period for the PC market at the moment due to the fact that DDR3 memory has been introduced for the latest Intel Core 2 CPUs. Since it's still in its infancy, and still very expensive, when building a new PC with an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, a motherboard based on DDR2 memory is still a wise economic decision. In some cases, it's even a better performer. At the same time, a board with DDR3 memory will provide good future-proofing until such time that DDR3 memory becomes affordable and lower latency modules are introduced.
Gigabyte's P35C-DS3R gives you the best of both memory worlds. This board has DDR2 and DDR3 memory slots, so you can upgrade your motherboard now, for a reasonable price, yet you'll still be able to make the transition to DDR3 some time in the future.
The P35-DS3R runs Intel's P35 chipset and can accommodate the 1333MHz front side bus (FSB) of the latest Core 2 Duo CPUs, which have stormed onto the market with very affordable price tags attached to them. It has six memory slots -- four of them are for dual-channel DDR2 memory modules, and two of them are for dual-channel DDR3 memory modules. You can't mix and match memory; you can only use either DDR2 or DDR3 modules, but not both at the same time, and the maximum capacity for DDR2 is 8GB, while for DDR3 it's 4GB (in both instances, using 2GB modules).
We tested the board with 2GB of 1066MHz DDR3 RAM (overclocked to 1333MHz) and 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 RAM, using a Core 2 Duo E6850 CPU (which has a 1333MHz FSB) with a standard Intel cooler, an ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card and a 500GB Western Digital hard drive. On a side note, this configuration ran practically silently, even under heavy processing loads, thanks to the board's dynamic fan control.
In WorldBench 6, with DDR3 memory, this configuration scored 110, which is nifty. However, with DDR2, the board was even niftier, scoring 112. Our encoding tests using Cdex and iTunes racked up almost identical times for each memory type, which means that you're better off sticking to DDR2 memory, for now.
As for connectivity and expansion, this board isn't fully stocked. It can support up to 12 USB 2.0 devices, but only four ports are present on the rear port cluster, and no USB brackets are supplied to tap into the USB port pin headers on the motherboard. FireWire is also absent on this model. It does have serial and parallel ports, as well as PS/2, so it can support older peripherals.
The layout of the board is clean, and it's actually bare on the bottom-right corner. Eight SATA ports are available for storage devices, and three PCIe x1 and PCI slots are available for expansion cards. It has a single PCIe x16 graphics slot, so only one graphics card can be installed.
The BIOS makes it easy to tweak the CPU and memory settings. It allows for the memory speed to be set independently of the front side bus speed (via an FSB ratio), so you can run a faster FSB to overclock your CPU, without having to run your memory faster. This can help you achieve stable results at higher clock speeds. The clock ratio of the CPU can be changed only if your CPU has an unlocked clock (for example, if it's a Core 2 Extreme-based model).
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