Once again we have a motherboard with the Intel P45 chipset for review. The P45 is still the most popular chipset for Socket 775. As for the motherboard, it's a mid-end product from Gigabyte. This model differs from the older DS3 series by featuring the Ultra Durable 3 technology. The latter is a complex of technological solutions aimed to evenly distribute the heat radiated by the onboard components, and to somewhat prolong the product's lifespan.
The motherboard has the minimal functionality (except for those functions provided by the chipset). There is only one graphics slot (PCI-E 2.0 x16), no additional SATA, FireWire, or other controllers, no eSATA ports on the rear panel. However, the EP45-UD3LR still has one IDE channel and an FDD connector. Plus, it has the still popular PS/2 ports for a keyboard and a mouse. The old COM and LPT ports are implemented as pin headers on the board. That is not to say that missing ports and interfaces are interesting for many users, so some of them will only welcome the chance not to pay for unnecessary functions.
Few additional controllers and overall simplicity of the board let the engineers from Gigabyte focus on a convenient layout. We have no gripes with the motherboard in this respect, even though it's narrower than the ATX format: a graphics card does not block access to memory modules, and power connectors are installed in the usual convenient places. Even if a graphics card has a bulky cooling system, both classic PCI slots will be accessible
The CPU voltage regulator is simplified and has only 4 phases with three MOSFETs per channel. Voltage regulators of the chipset and memory have two phases. So the EP45-UD3LR is not the best choice for overclockers -- a 4-phase voltage regulator may fail to cope with the CPU load in the non-standard modes. Nevertheless, it should do fine at the nominal frequency or overclocked without significantly increased voltage. All components of the Ultra Durable 3 technology also contribute to stable operation and long service life. This technology implies the use of only reliable polymeric capacitors made in Japan, RDS(ON) MOSFETs, and ferrite chokes. Copper power and ground layers are twice as thick in this PCB, which should make channeling the heat away from hot components easier.
Note that this series of motherboards officially supports DDR2-1336+ memory modules (in the overclocked mode, of course). The other motherboards with this chipset usually have no problems with such a high memory frequency either, but it's still good to have official support
The onboard cooling system is very simple -- two separate aluminum heatsinks. They look good, but they are less efficient than the classic pin-fin solutions. These heatsinks are secured with traditional weak plastic pins. The voltage regulator has no heatsink at all, but it does not actually need it.
Both heatsinks remain barely warm after a heavy load for many hours, you can even touch the heatsink on MOSFETs with your finger. Ultra Durable 3 posters blow the trumpet of reduced temperature in the power circuit by up to 50°C relative to the other motherboards. Well, perhaps it's really possible in perfect conditions. But in practice, most motherboards with Intel P45 are "cold-blooded", and the EP45-UD3LR is no different. On the other hand, advantages of an extra ounce of copper in the PCB will probably be appreciated by overclockers and owners of tight badly ventilated PC enclosures.
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