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Appeared on: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS4


1. Features, specifications

Gigabyte is one of the biggest motherboard manufacturers that offer innovating products and rich features. Recently, Gigabyte shipped their P35 based motherboard with energy saving features. We have already seen such features with various motherboards so we wanted to compare and check how Gigabyte's approach performs.

The EP35-DS4 is based on Intel's P35 series, which of course is not a new chipset. However, the Gigabyte EP35 series is brand new since it includes a new Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) software/hardware combination that adjusts the CPU power phase use on the fly to maximise the efficiency of the subsystem. In theory that can give you up to 70% CPU power savings and up to 20% improved CPU power efficiency.

- Gigabyte EP35-DS4

GIGABYTE’s GA-EP35-DS4 motherboard is the ultimate dream machine for serious overclockers and enthusiasts. Making sure gamers have plenty of CPU headroom, the GIGABYTE GA-EP35-DS4 supports Intel Core 2 multi-core processors as well as the Intel 45nm CPUs. In addition to providing record setting support for 1600MHz (O.C.) Front Side Bus and up to 1200 MHz (O.C.) of DDR2 memory, the GA-EP35-DS4 is further equipped to support ATI CrossFireX with dual PCI Express x16 interfaces.

The GA-EP35-DS4 also delivers several Unique GIGABYTE innovations including the Dynamic Energy Saver (DES), providing extensive power savings with one simple click. Featuring the award-winning Durable 2 design, the GA-EP35-DS4 provides ultra cooling and extended system durability for even the most hardcore PC gamers.

Gigabyte EP35-DS4 features:

  1. Supports Intel Core 2 multi-core and Intel 45nm processors
  2. Supports DDR2 1200(OC) memory for outstanding system performance.
  3. Revolution energy saving design with GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver(DES) technology.
  4. Ultra Durable 2 motherboard features High Quality CPU Power design with Ferrite core chokes, Low RDS (on) MOSFET and Solid Capacitors.
  5. Ultimate graphics performance with dual PCI-E x16 interface
  6. Integrated SATA 3Gb/s with RAID function
  7. Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet and IEEE1394
  8. Unique Silent-Pipe with outstanding cooling performance
  9. Audio controller from ALC 889A codec and DTS Connect, featuring 106 dB Signal to Noise ratio and supporting for both Blu-ray and HD DVD formats.
GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy SaverGIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver is a technology that delivers unparalleled power savings with the simple click of a button. Featuring an advanced proprietary hardware and software design, GIGABYTE Dynamic Energy Saver is able to provide exceptional power savings of up to 70% and up to 20% improved power efficiency without sacrificing computing performance...more

Intel Core 2 multi-core and 45nm processors GA-EP35-DS4 supports Intel latest high performance CPU delivers the most energy-efficient performance available today. Based on Intel's Micro Architecture, the Intel multi-core processors with 4 cores and two shared L2 caches provide the best capability-per-watt solutions and are an ideal choice for multi-media enthusiasts and intensive multi-tasking environments. This cutting-edge processor offers significant performance boosts and provides an overall more energy efficient platform.
Dual Channel DDR2 1200 by OC

Experience the advanced technology of DDR2 1200 (O.C.) memory, featuring faster speeds and higher data bandwidth, which delivers superior performance for the most demanding applications.

In order to get familiar with the full features of the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 visit Gigabyte's website.

- Full specifications

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel Core 2 Extreme processor/ Intel Core 2 Quad processor/Intel Core 2 Duo processor/ Intel Pentium processor Extreme Edition/Intel Pentium D processor/ Intel Pentium 4 processor Extreme Edition/Intel Pentium 4 processor/ Intel Celeron processor in the LGA 775 package
    (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
  2. L2 cache varies with CPU
  3. 1600 (O.C.)/1333/1066/800 MHz FSB
Chipset
  1. North Bridge: Intel® P35 Chipset
  2. South Bridge: Intel® ICH9R
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.8V DDR2 DIMM sockets supporting up to 8 GB of system memory
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR2 1200 (O.C.)/1066/800/667 MHz memory modules
Audio
  1. Realtek ALC889A codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for DTS (dts NEO:PC)
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In
LAN
  1. Realtek 8111B chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots (The PCIE_16_1 slot supports x16; the PCIE_16_2 supports x4.)
  2. 3 x PCI Express x1 slots (share with the PCIE_16_2 slot)
  3. 2 x PCI slots
Form Factor
  1. ATX (305 x 244mm)
Storage Interface South Bridge:
  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
  1. 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  2. 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATAII0, GSATAII1) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
iTE IT8718 chip:
  1. 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
IEEE 1394
  1. T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  2. Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394 bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394 header)
USB
  1. Integrated in the South Bridge
  2. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x 4-pin PCIe 12V power connector
  4. 1 x floppy disk drive connector
  5. 1 x IDE connector
  6. 8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  7. 1 x CPU fan header
  8. 2 x system fan headers
  9. 1 x power fan header
  10. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  11. 1 x front panel header
  12. 1 x front panel audio header
  13. 1 x CD In connector
  14. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  15. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  16. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  17. 1 x IEEE 1394a header
  18. 1 x parallel port header
  19. 1 x serial port header
  20. 1 x power LED header
  21. 1 x chassis intrusion header
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  2. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  3. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 2 x IEEE 1394a ports
  7. 1 x RJ-45 port
  8. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
I/O Controller
  1. iTE IT8718 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
  6. CPU fan speed control
BIOS
  1. Supports DualBIOS Plus
  2. 2 x 8 Mbit flash ROM
  3. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.3, ACPI 1.0b.
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Download Center
  3. Support for Q-Flash
  4. Support for EasyTune
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2

2. The Package

The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 is a medium-priced motherboard available online for around 135~150 Euro (+shipping).

The retail package follows the traditional design of Gigabyte motherboards with all the usual logos printed on the box

Inside the retail box we find cables, various connectors and adapters.

Gigabyta has included just the essentials in the box. Specifically, there are four (4) SATA internal cables and an eSATA bracket included that turns a couple of the internal ports into external ones. You will find a backplate for your case and of course a printed manual that explains in depth the various functions of the motherboard. In the included driver/utility CD you will find all you need in order to get things started with a single click.

Don't expect to find any retail game included since Gigabyte has chosen to keep the overall cost at fair levels.

The board's layout looks very "clean" as most parts can be identified easily.

Let's take a closer look at the CPU area.

In the picture above you can see a 6-phase power design and low heighted MOSFETs for minimum switching loss & lower temperature. The copper heatpipes connect the north/south bridge and are there to keep the temperature levels down under overclocking conditions.

The overall size is small enough allowing for easy installation of any additional big sized cpu coolers. There are also four DDR2 DIMMs for up to 8GB memory configurations, properly coloured for easy dual-channel installations:

At the lower left of the board we find six (8) SATAII connectors and of course the ATA133 connector. The Southbridge is also covered with a passive copper heatsink.

The newly adopted PCI-e v2.0 has higher bandwidth for the latest graphic cards. There are three PCI-e slots, two blue-colored using the PCIe2.0 x16 mode and a black one working at PCIe x4 or x1 modes.

The motherboard also supports ATI's CrossFire Technology. The available space between the slots could be useful in case you choose to install oversized graphics cards. However the location of the yellow/purple SATA ports could pose a problem if you try to install the lengthy Nvidia/ATI based graphics boards in dual cards setups (Crossfire in our case).

There are also several extra ports in additional brackets that can be installed on the rear side of the PC chassis.

The I/O panel has the following ports and connectors:


3. BIOS, test configuration, Energy Saving function

Not much have changed in the BIOS settings. There are various auto overclocking modes (Gigabyte C.I.A.) and performance boosters ("Performance Enhance" & and "Robust Graphics Booster").

While the settings are well layout, they don't have the depth that other motherboard makers offer, at least at their top lines. For example, you cannot exactly set the cpu/memory voltages, since the BIOS offers only + offsets of the basic value. Under windows you can also select the exact memory/cpu voltage with EasyTune Pro, but of course settings through BIOS would be ideal. The profile saving option is very useful, although you need to press the F11/F12 buttons to access it.

- Test Configuration

Let's see now how our CPU was identified under CPU-Z:

Our testbed included an Intel Q9300 processor, paired with 2x1GB of Crucial PC2-8000 memory modules @ CL5-5-5-15-2T.

- Energy Saving function

In order to use the Dynamic Energy Saver function, you will have to install the corresponding software.

The software starts automatically when windows loads. The energy saving function are turned off by default, but you can enable it by clicking on the big oval button:

Several menus have now been enabled and it may take you some time experimenting with the buttons in order to find out how it works. First of all the three CPU Voltage levels, each of them set to offer different power saving levels. However, changing these power settings does not reveal their actual impact to the core voltage.

Note that when Dynamic Energy Saver is enabled, the EasyTunePro software doesnt work...

The software also records the current power use, the amount of power you have consumed in total and of course how much energy has been saved in terms of wattage. Of course these numbers are refering to main cpu and not the whole system... If you like cars, you will have fun with the animated cylinders that represent the six power phases of the motherboard.

The Dynamic Frequency CPU throttling tab also uses a progress bar without giving any specific values for each setting.

After using the Gigabyte Dynamic Energy Saver for some time, we saw that it actually works and hopefully it offers some kind of energy saving. However, the absence of a calibrated scale for the various settings does not allow us to give you some actual figures...


4. Benchmarks - Everest Ultimate Edition, SiSoftware Sandra

- Everest Ultimate Edition

Click for official website!EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems. Furthermore, complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC. The software has build-in several tests for memory and CPU/FPU.

The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 didn't give the highest performance in most tests, at least compared with the Blitz Formula.

Summing all above results we can say that Gigabyte EP35-DS4 performed well, close enough to the other two tested motherboards, either with P35 or X38 chipsets.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what's really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCIe, ODBC Connections, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc. Sisoft Sandra offers a variety of tests for Memory and CPU.

The Sisoft Sandra results confirmed that the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 was slight behind the two Asus motherboards. Of course such differences cannot really make any difference in daily tasks..


5. Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage, SYSmark 2007 Preview

Click for homepage!PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and hi-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.

The Gigabyte EP35-DS4 had the highest PCMark Vantage Score.

BAPCo's SYSmark 2007 Preview builds upon its predecessors and is the next generation of benchmark utilities that unitiliaze real life applications like: Adobe After Effects 7, Adobe Illustrator CS2, Adobe Photoshop CS2, AutoDesk 3ds Max 8, Macromedia Flash 8, Microsoft Excel 2003, Microsoft Outlook 2003, Microsoft PowerPoint 2003, Microsoft Word 2003, Microsoft Project 2003, Microsoft Windows Media Encoder 9 series, Sony Vegas 7, SketchUp 5 and WinZip 10.0.

SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications. All results are directly comparable between various configurations and operating systems.

Both the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 and Asus Maximus Formula has similar scores. The Blitz Formula got a higher rating of 151 index score due to its faster sub-test results.


6. Benchmarks - MAXON CINEBENCH, x264 HD Benchmark, - TMPGEnc 4 Xpress

MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such and Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making.

The CineBench R10 benchmark uses all four cores of Intel Q9300 therefor, it can render faster the test image, like x2 times faster, we could say. The highest score comes from Asus Blitz Formula with 9643 points at xCPU and from the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 at 1x CPU

- x264 HD Benchmark

x264 Benchmark utilizes the next generation of Video Encoding benchmarks with support for x264 codec that is considered to be one of the most demanding for Video applications. Simply put, it is a reproducible measure of fast your machine can encode a short, HD video clip to a high quality x264 video file. It's nice because everyone running it will use the identical video clip and software. The video encoder (x264.exe) reports a fairly accurate internal benchmark (frames per second) for each pass of the video encode and it also uses multi-core processors very efficiently. All these factors make this an ideal benchmark to compare different processors and systems to each other.

The benchmark procedure is very simple, you just run a batch file that encodes the same file four times. There are two kinds of results, for first pass and second. Below you can see the average results:

The x264 HD benchmark really tests the cpu/HDD subsystems. At both passes, the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 was found slightly faster than the other two Asus motherboards.

- TMPGEnc 4 Xpress

TMPGEnc came from Tsunami MPEGEncoder. "QUALITY" comes before everything in TMPGEnc! Encoding time will automatically be faster as CPU speed gets faster! TMPGEnc converts *.AVI files to MPEG1, the format which is used in VideoCDs. Using a variety of options in TMPGEnc, you can compress your video file in high quality. TMPGEnc enables you to adjust bitrate, quantize matrix, GOP structure, interlacing and many other parameters so that you can create the most appropriate movie file depending on your needs.

For our test we used a 350MB AVI file encoded with the Xvid (Mpeg4 ASP) codec. We used the build-in Mpeg4 ASP/AVC MediaEncoder profile and by dividing the total frames via the needed encoded time, we get the average frame/sec speed of each motherboard.

The TMPGEnc 4 Xpress results were slightly different than what we had seen with x264 HD benchmark. This time, the lower memory timings of the Asus Blitz Formula got a higher average rendering speed in both ASP/AVC encoding tasks.


7. Benchmarks - SuperPI, wPrime

SuperPI has become an utility to benchmark modern systems. In August 1995, the calculation of pi with up to 4,294,960,000 decimal digits was succeeded by using a supercomputer at the University of Tokyo. The program was written by D.Takahashi and he collaborated with Dr. Y.Kanada at the computer center, the University of Tokyo.

The software offers up to 32M calculations of PI numbers. For all the tests we used up to 8M calculations:

At both tests, the Asus Blitz Formula had the lowest calculation times.

- wPrime

wPrime is a benchmarking application designed to use a highly multithreaded approach to calculating the square-roots of large amounts of numbers (up to 32 billion at this stage!)

wPrime uses all four cores of quad processors, therefore it can finish the fask much faster than a C2D.

At this test, the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 had the highest calculation time with 17.093secs.


8. Benchmarks - 3DMark 06, Crysis, Unreal Tournament 3

Click for homepage!3DMark 06 is the worldwide standard in advanced 3D game performance benchmarking. A fundamental tool for every company in the PC industry as well as PC users and gamers, 3DMark06 uses advanced real-time 3D game workloads to measure PC performance using a suite of DirectX 9 3D graphics tests, CPU tests, and 3D feature tests. 3DMark06 tests include all new HDR/SM3.0 graphics tests, SM2.0 graphics tests, AI and physics driven single and multiple cores or processor CPU tests and a collection of comprehensive feature tests to reliably measure next generation gaming performance today.

The highest score came from the Asus Blitz Formula, which however had a lower CPU index score than the other two tested boards. On the bright side, the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 had the highest CPU index score with 3835 points.

The Crysis CPU benchmark gave exactly the same score for all three tested motherboards.

With Unreal Tournament 3 demo, we saw some small performance gains by using the Asus Maximus Formula.


9. Overclocking

Overclocking an Intel C2D/Quad processor is not very easy and a good motherboard could make a huge difference. In our tests we tried to follow the easiest approach for the end user, leaving the voltage settings at Auto mode and pushing each motherboard as high as we can. Each motherboard has to make its own adjustements and give us the best results.

In the first test, the Gigabyte P35-DS4 got a rather low score, compared with the other motherboards.Using manual voltage settings could further improve overclocking margins.

Let's pass to the maximum FSB we achieved with a Quad Core processor...

The Gigabyte motherboard reached the 430MHz, which is low for a Quad Core processor. Remember that all settings were left to auto and using manual settings could give better performance.

- Overclocking stability

In general the Gigabyte showed good behavior, being able to post back after a bad overclocking attempt. Of course you have to turn off the PSU and power it up again in order to achieve this. We would welcome any on-board CMOS reset buttons, like the ones you will find in much higher priced models.


10. Conclusion

With all those talking about energy efficiency and environmental concerns, Gigabyte' s EP35-DS4 will probably attract users who need a decent solution. The product works as advertised, even we cannot be certain of the exact power savings we got using the special "Dynamic Energy Saver" feature.

Beside that special feature, the Gigabyte EP35-DS4 offers a good board layout, although we would like to see a more space-efficient approach when it comes adding a second graphics card for CrossFire. In that case several SATA ports would be wasted...But for most users this won't be such issue, since Crossfire configurations are expensive and as such, they would probably match better to a different high-end motherboard solution by Gigabyte.

Looking at the performance figures, we see that clearly, the compared Asus motherboards are slightly faster, but again the performance gains are to small to make that statement look absolutely true. What's true is the retail price of this model, which is around 130~150 Euro, at least for Europe. For that price you are getting a well balanced Intel P35 motherboard, with good overclocking abilities. While there are no exotic features like dual 1GB network, the package has good potentials. In addition, we didn't have any stability issues even with a 45nm quad core. So go ahead and add Gigabyte P35-DS4 to your cue list, at least if your budget is low and need a product that will not give you any headaches.



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