11-Way P45 Motherboard Shootout

Gigabyte GA-EP45-DQ6

Gigabyte’s DQ6 series is always feature-packed, and today’s sample is no exception. Indeed, the EP45-DQ6 takes the DQ6 series concept to new heights with four Gigabit network ports and support for up to four graphics cards—all at a Web price starting around $250.

We wouldn’t think of using a mainstream chipset that supports only sixteen PCI Express 2.0 and six previous-generation PCI Express lanes to support four graphics cards and four Gigabit network ports, but Gigabyte had a plan to make it all work. The device seen between the x16 slots is a PCI Express hub, and it is able to add four by x4 transfer mode to the chipset’s native two by x8 and one by x16 modes. The two x4 slots are open-ended, allowing PCI Express x16 graphics cards to function by “hanging out” past the end.

Before anyone screams that it’s unfair to give Gigabyte a pass on it’s 4x x4 configuration after criticizing the x4-mode x16 slot on Asus’ P5Q Deluxe, there are two important things to remember. First, since the sixteen pathways from the northbridge are all PCI Express 2.0, Gigabyte’s x4 slots have twice the bandwidth as the third x16 slot of the Asus motherboard. Second, Gigabyte’s x4 slots wont’ be knocked down to x1 transfers if another PCI Express slot is filled.

So the EP45-DQ6 can support one card at twice the speed (2.0 mode) of older chipsets, such as the P35, or it can support two cards in x8 mode at the same transfer rates as the former chipset’s x16 mode, and it can even support four cards in x4 mode while providing each with the same transfer rates as previous found in first-generation Crossfire 2x x8 motherboards. That sounds like a reasonable compromise, but we’d still have preferred Gigabyte to apply this technology to a chipset that had more pathways, such as the X48.

You wouldn’t want to run four HD 4870 graphics cards in x4 mode even though it is as fast as the previous chipset generation’s x8 mode, but you can’t fit four HD 4870 into this motherboard anyway. The cards are too thick. For 4-way CrossfireX, your options will be to run two double-processor cards (such as the HD 4870 X2) with each getting eight pathways, or four single-thickness cards (such as the HD 4850) in x4 mode.

But those aren’t your only options. If your system resembles a home server, the x4 slots can be used for other high-bandwidth devices such as professional RAID controllers, multi-port network controllers, and the like. Given the motherboard’s four onboard Gigabit network controllers, we can guess that RAID would be the most likely use.

There’s also a x1 slot at the top and two legacy PCI slots at the bottom, but the x1 slot is limited to cards with a maximum 4.5” length.

Gigabyte doesn’t move its memory slots as far south as Asus, but its primary PCI Express x16 slot is moved one position up. The resulting layout puts DIMM latches a little close to the back side of longer graphics cards, but skilled hands can still remove modules with a card installed.

A twelve-phase CPU voltage regulator bodes well for voltage stability under high-loads, even if it isn’t quite as overkill as the sixteen phases offered by Asus. Gigabyte cools its transistors with two large sinks, and a double heat pipe connects these to the northbridge.

24-pin and 8-pin EPS/ATX power connectors are well placed for most installations, near the EP45-DQ6’s front and rear top corners. Likewise, Gigabyte kept Windows XP users in mind by putting its floppy header on the front edge, above the motherboard’s center line. The Ultra ATA connection is irresponsibly positioned at the bottom edge, but few will need it for a completely new build.

CrossfireX builders may need to sacrifice a few Serial ATA ports if they want to use super-long graphics cards : The uppermost outward-facing ports are a tight squeeze below a super-long double-slot cooler, and the lower two outward-facing ports are covered up by the same types of cards. Non-X2 versions of the HD 4870 will work, but X2 versions will block at least two ports.

Four more SATA ports face forward, so ATX cases that have a hard drive cage near the motherboard’s front edge will block them. Getting back to the CrossfireX HD 4870 X2 scenario, any case that supports cards this long shouldn’t cause problems with the forward-facing ports.

Two USB and three IEEE-1394 FireWire headers line the bottom edge of the EP45-DQ6, which is the opposite of our preferred ratio. The reason for this oddity is that Gigabyte removed the FireWire port from the back of this motherboard and put two extra USB 2.0 ports there instead.

A little further back on the EP45-DQ6’s bottom edge are Power, CLR_CMOS and Reset buttons. Gigabyte bests its competition in cable convenience in the bottom-rear corner by putting a communications port header there, rather than a front panel connection. The front-panel audio connector typically found here is instead located in front of the rear-panel ports, for easy cable reach to front-panel connectors at either the top or bottom of a case.

Summary
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  • nickchalk
    Where are the lower price P45 M/B ?
    Asus P5Q pro is out for €110 and P5Q deluxe for €165 the price difference is about 70$ in Greece.
    1
  • nihility
    51 pages... You won't be upset if I read just the last 3 pages right?
    5
  • Proximon
    I suppose I can get some good from having read this. Did you get paid by the word? Maybe next time you could just put together a complete features chart so that we can have some convenient comparison? You know, so someone could go to a chart and see at a glance which boards had eSATA or firewire, or 8 USB.
    1
  • JPForums
    I'd rather have the overabundance of information than a lack of information. Presentation could use a little refining (I.E. comparison charts and the likes), but having the relevant information available at least is a good thing.
    5
  • Anonymous
    the introduction and specifics are nice, the comparision isn't. so, why don't you test with an 8500 or qx9650? 6850 are outdated... and a mobo handling a c2d doesn't mean it can handle a quad too, see P5K for example (it stinks when it comes to a q6600).
    1
  • Crashman
    procithe introduction and specifics are nice, the comparision isn't. so, why don't you test with an 8500 or qx9650? 6850 are outdated... and a mobo handling a c2d doesn't mean it can handle a quad too, see P5K for example (it stinks when it comes to a q6600).


    Tom's Hardware wants the performance of current articles to reflect that of recent articles, so a "standard test platform" was chosen a while ago. It will get updated, but probably not before the new socket becomes widely available.
    2
  • zenmaster
    I would have liked to see something such as a P35 and an X48 as controls to help analyze the P45 Performance.

    In otherwords, What is the P45 Gaining me over the older P35.
    What would I gain by going to the X48. (Or Lose)
    3
  • Crashman
    zenmasterI would have liked to see something such as a P35 and an X48 as controls to help analyze the P45 Performance.In otherwords, What is the P45 Gaining me over the older P35.What would I gain by going to the X48. (Or Lose)

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/intel-p45-chipset,1961.html
    0
  • johnbilicki
    The first 17 pages were filled with nothing but junk from ASUS. Do us a favor: don't even bother featuring or *MENTIONING* anything for any reason from a company that refuses to RMA 200-400 dollar brand new motherboards with anything other then used and usually broken junk. It destroyed my enthusiasm for the article.
    -6
  • dobby
    nickchalkWhere are the lower price P45 M/B ?Asus P5Q pro is out for €110 and P5Q deluxe for €165 the price difference is about 70$ in Greece.


    the p5q PRo is a p43 board, i should know i have one
    -1
  • dobby
    johnbilickiThe first 17 pages were filled with nothing but junk from ASUS. Do us a favor: don't even bother featuring or *MENTIONING* anything for any reason from a company that refuses to RMA 200-400 dollar brand new motherboards with anything other then used and usually broken junk. It destroyed my enthusiasm for the article.


    if you RMA through your Vendor then you get a new one, which BTW most big vendors dont even check to see whether the part is broken.

    also this article is good, way better than other recent articles especially mac orinated ones) what would be good though is a big summary table. also if the charts where updated.
    2
  • Anonymous
    "the p5q PRo is a p43 board, i should know i have one"

    Funny, so do i and it's a p45.
    3
  • Shadow703793
    You forgot the EP45-DS3L. :( . Also why include cr@ppy brands (ie JetWay) any ways?
    1
  • Crashman
    johnbilickiThe first 17 pages were filled with nothing but junk from ASUS. Do us a favor: don't even bother featuring or *MENTIONING* anything for any reason from a company that refuses to RMA 200-400 dollar brand new motherboards with anything other then used and usually broken junk. It destroyed my enthusiasm for the article.


    Lies. The first two motherboards were from ASRock. The two companies are not the same, regardless of any ties they may have.
    1
  • Crashman
    nickchalkWhere are the lower price P45 M/B ?Asus P5Q pro is out for €110 and P5Q deluxe for €165 the price difference is about 70$ in Greece.


    There are low-priced P45's in there. The ECS only cost $110 US, which, given the weakness of US currency, is cheap.
    0
  • Crashman
    Shadow703793You forgot the EP45-DS3L. . Also why include cr@ppy brands (ie JetWay) any ways?


    NO motherboards were "Forgotten". Everyone got a chance to submit up to two motherboards, Gigabyte sent one. Jetway send one. Any of the other brands you disliked that were in the review, were there because everyone got an equal shot.
    1
  • jerreece
    johnbilickiThe first 17 pages were filled with nothing but junk from ASUS. Do us a favor: don't even bother featuring or *MENTIONING* anything for any reason from a company that refuses to RMA 200-400 dollar brand new motherboards with anything other then used and usually broken junk. It destroyed my enthusiasm for the article.


    At least you have a completely unbiased view of this...

    I haven't read through the entire article. I actually skipped to the Conclusion first to see what board was rated as best (frankly that's important to me). Unfortunately, I see the second best, third best, but I'm having a hard time identifiying what Tom's calls the 1st best. It is not clearly stated.
    1
  • cruiseoveride
    that msi rocks ass. my next board.
    0
  • johnbilicki
    ASRock is a subsidiary of ASUS hence their RMA policies are likely to emulate that of ASUS.

    Don't give me a thumbs down for sticking up for consumer rights. Thumb my comments down if you LIKE getting used and often broken replacements for your $200+ brand new though malfunctioning/broken boards.

    Another problem ASUS seems to create is that it is usually the only company that builds motherboards for the GOOD AMD socket chipsets leaving us to wait for only a very select few (1~3 780A and nForce 4 true 16X SLI are examples) motherboard choices. This is *NO* different then how Dell used to use proprietary parts to lock you in. I LIKE choice and I expect ANY part regardless of it's price to have a NEW replacement for a RMA so long as it's covered under warranty.

    So long as they play politics this way and try to sucker people I will speak up for the less informed enthusiasts. Let's not forget Gigabyte busting ASUS *AND* having a couple articles featured on this very site about it earlier this year.

    My favorite is the Gigabyte board based on features. The article was interesting though what is with the inconsistencies? For example some motherboards have images of the IO panel while others do not. Still it was a good read.
    2
  • jimmysmitty
    ^I will agree with you on that part but when it comes to good quality, performance and extra features I have never had a problem with Asus. I of course have been lucky enough to never have one break one me.
    0