Help choosing MoBo (yes, yet another one...)


I'm building a new computer to be used mainly for video encoding, photo editing, web browsing and, time permitting, some gaming. The aim a very stable, substantially OCed system (though not X-treeem!...), to be determined by CPU choice and, of course, MoBo. It'll run WinXPpro/SP2 x86, with eventual migration to a 64-bit OS not yet scheduled.

The main components will be the following:

-CPU: Intel C2D E7200 (tray), but I'm also considering the E8400 or an E2180, depending on availability and/or budget constraints;

-Cooler: AC Freezer 7 Pro;

-RAM: Corsair XMS2-DHX PC2-6400/CL4 2x2048MB kit (I know, I know, 32-bit memory addressing limitation...);

-VGA: Powercolor HD3850 PCS 512MB (the one with the ZEROtherm cooler);

-PSU: CoolerMaster Real-Power M520.

These are final choices (except the CPU), due to the above mentioned "availability and/or budget constraints". Plus there will be a couple of TV-cards, and either a dedicated video-capture card or a network-adapter card, all PCI (that's, at least, three PCI slots filled). Storage will be taken care of by two/three S-ATA HDDs and a single optical device (IDE or S-ATA). The case is a very well ventilated Aerocool, with 3x12cm + 2x9cm fans, perforated all around.

The problem is, no surprise, the motherboard (SURPRISE!!!...)

After initially going for a GigaByte GA-EP35C-DS3R thinking it'd be future proof, the flak it got because of the mem controller had me rethinking the whole DDR2 + DDR3 combo strategy. I'll be glad to stand corrected.

Anyhoo.... I managed to narrow the replacement candidates to these (bear with me, please):

Gigabyte GA-EP35-DS3:

Pros: It's simple, tried-and-tested, cheap;
Cons: It's simple... BIOS settings reportedly confusing, dodgy mem controller(?).


Pros: Excellent I/O connectivity, good CPU socket location, undone by...
Cons: God-awful 24-pin power connector location (!!), questionable (?!) chipset heatsinks, not exceedingly good OCer (according to

MSI P45 Neo3-FR:

Pros: 4x PCI (!!!), rather impressive chipset cooling system, good internal connectivity;
Cons: Bare minimum and somewhat absurd external connectivity, don't know much about MSI products as I never owned any.

ABIT IP35 Pro:

-Pros: Clearly the "top-shelve" product compared with the others, clean/roomy layout (even if the extra PCI-e@4x is, and will remain, superfluous), dual Gbit LAN controller, rare optical S/PDIF input port, overall "kick-ass" look;
-Cons: €17 (US$27) more expensive than the other 1-year-old board, ABIT is no-longer the enthusiast darling it once was... Or is it?...

Well, that's what I can gather from the "printing" media. But what I want to know is: How do they perform in the "real world"? Which has the best BIOS, settings and support? Are there any known issues?

The system OC target will depend on the final choice of CPU. For the E7200 something between 3.8-4GHz; the E8400: 4.0-4.4GHz; and the E2180: 3.3-3.6GHz. I'll try to keep the OCed RAM with a tight CAS4 timing, as long as it's rock-solid stable and error free.

Unrealistically ambitious?!?

Anyway, the main question here is about the motherboard, and I'd surely appreciate your help.

Thank you.

(...and sorry about the length.)
3 answers Last reply
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  1. I don't know what you mean by "dodgy memory controller" cuz the memory controller is made by Intel built into the chipset. P35, P45, etc. They call it Memory Controller Hub (MCH). I think you mean memory compatiblity.

    How did you come up with the pros & cons if you have never used any of the boards? I have used DS3L & IP35. They're both capable boards. Can do your o/c targets. However, you need to know overclocking is luck of the draw. Plus the right parts & skills.

    Freezer 7 is ok, but not the top. Swap it out for something better like Xigmatek HDT-S1283.

    The ram is ok for o/cing E2180, but maybe not E8400. To do 4.4Ghz, 4400 / 9 = 488.88888888888888888888888888889 or 489Mhz x 2 = 977.77777777777777777777777777778 or 978Mhz DDR2. Can that 800mhz be o/c'ed to 978Mhz? If you're not sure, get 1066Mhz ram and underclock it instead. That way, you're not bottlenecked by ram.

    It looks like you underspend on parts and overestimate the potential.
  2. auscanzukus said:
    It looks like you underspend on parts and overestimate the potential.

    Isn't that the definition of "budget management"? LOL

    Yes, I'm going for the bang-per-buck angle, and I would settle for any of those lower OC figures and be happy. If I'm lucky enough to get a good part the better, if not, well...

    Bar the CPU, every component is settled (the store don't sell the Xigmatek anyway, and any comparable cooler costs three times as much), and only the mobo choice concerns me. It is the core of the system and it'll have the longest life-cycle: three to five/six years. I'm still running a six year ancient A7N8X-E dlx (nForce2) with a XP-M2400+@2200/400 (Barton,1800/266). An excellent board that will now handle much lighter loads.

    My comments on these mobos were compiled from what I read around and/or could appreciate visually. Several people comment on the excellent overclockability of the DS3 but complain about the BIOS lack of refinement. For instance, FSB ratios and RAM voltage are mentioned. (I understand I wrote "mem controller" which could be misinterpreted, I'm sorry)

    The Corsair sticks, with the fancy DHX heat-spreaders, are good overclockers (again, reportedly), allowing >950MHz@CAS4 and >1100MHz@CAS5, with just a little bit more juice.

    Right now I'm inclined to pick the IP35 Pro, with the E7200.
  3. Go with them then. They're solid choices.
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