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Old November 9, 2007, 06:36 PM
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Default Reviewer Tryouts: GA-P35-DS3R

Gigabyte P35-DS3R (rev. 2.0) Review

Price: tdDirect.ca - Canada's Technology Source $133 | NCIX.com - Canada's Premier Computer Store - Great Technology, Service and Selection. $150
Availability: In Stock
Manufacturer’s PN: GA-P35-DS3R
Warranty: 3 year warranty

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Packaging
  • Features
  • Layout
  • Installation
  • Bios
  • Overclocking
  • Benchmarks
  • Conclusion
1. Introduction
Gigabyte is a well-known electronics component manufacturer, based in Taiwan and operating since 1986. Their products range from cell phones to pc peripherals, though they appear to be best known by North American consumers for their motherboard products.

Welcome to Bearlake…and no, we’re not in Idaho. This review is focusing on one of Gigabyte’s motherboards, the P35-DS3R, based on the Intel “Bearlake” P35 chipset used to replace Intel’s Broadwater 965 lineup. The P35 has recently been replaced by X38, and will eventually be further replaced with the X48 chipset, however the P35 still retains strength in popularity due to its stability, compatibility with both DDR2 and DDR3, support for Intel’s 45nm Penryn processors and the comparatively cheaper price point to the newer boards.

2. Packaging
I received the board a few weeks passed, and was immediately drawn to the flashy colours on the white background. It was packaged in a simple box that details some of the technology included in the board on both the front and back.




A minor point to note, on the top left we see a little dent in the box, having most likely occurred during shipping.

Opening the box we see the 5 SATA cables + 1 power cable, IDE and floppy cables, I/O panel cover, driver CD, manual and quick start instructions.




3. Features
You can find Gigabyte's full spec list here. Snapshot of features:
  • FSB of 800 / 1066 / 1333Mhz
  • Supports Intel® Core™2 Extreme Quad-Core / Core™2 Duo / Intel® Pentium® Extreme/ Intel® Pentium® D processors
  • Northbridge: Intel® P35 Express Chipset
  • Southbridge: Intel® ICH9R
  • Gigabit Lan Controller
  • Dual Channel DDR2 1006/800/667, with up to 8gb on 4 DIMM slots
  • Realtek ALC889A codec HD Audio, 7.1 channel and S/PDIF in/out w. 6 audio jacks
  • 12 USB ports, with 8 on the back panel and 2 on the headers supporting 2 ports each
  • PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors
  • 1 Coax S/PDIF out, 1 Optical S/PDIF out
  • 8 USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 RJ45 gigabit Ethernet port
  • 6 Audio ports
The board has some great features, but by no means exhaustive. There is no support for IEEE 1394 / Firewire, does not have dual gigabit controllers like some enthusiast boards, nor support for DDR3 that is offered in Gigabyte’s P35C board. I can appreciate the lack of support for such RAM, considering the price premium that exists in the market today, and only a maximum of 4GB of DDR3 can be used. If there is any “future proofing” in this board, it is found in the support for the new upcoming 45nm Penryn processors from Intel, currently provided by the beta bios version F7D and discussed in later sections.

4. Layout
The first thing I noticed on the board was the large, gold coloured heatsink sitting on the P35 – either that chip is a furnace to keep the board nice and toasty, which may not be so bad with our Canadian winters (who needs to worry about natural gas or heating oil prices with an overclocked computer around?), or Gigabyte is expecting some overclocking from enthusiasts.





One feature I appreciated was the 8 SATA 2 ports and the multitude of expansion slots – 1 PCIe 16x, 3 PCIe 1x and 3 PCI slots. Legacy support is brought in the form of serial and parallel ports, a single IDE channel and even a floppy disk connector.

Also note the absence of a board heatpipe cooler – you won’t have any trouble fitting an after market HSF onto your CPU if you choose to do so.


Here we can see the 4 DIMM slots for the ram, legacy floppy connector and ATX 24 pin power connector



A beautiful shot of the 8 SATA connectors, green coloured IDE connector and the solid state capacitors



This is the I/O panel on the revision 1.0 board with PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, gigabit Ethernet, parallel and serial ports, S/PDIF optical and coax, four USB 2.0 ports and six audio jacks.



This is the I/O panel for the revision 2.0 board that is reviewed today – note the extra 4 USB ports, how nice!




5. Installation

Installation in the Antec 900 was easy, however a chassis with a motherboard tray would have made the installation even quicker. Only one brass support needed to be installed, the rest that were pre-screwed into the case fit with the standard ATX board.



I want to note that for a first-time build, the instructions in the manual could not have been clearer or easier to follow.

For additional cooling, you can replace the stock HSF with an aftermarket HSF, and there is plenty of room for both the ‘north-south’ and ‘east-west’ orientations on ones as big as the Thermalright Ultra 120 Extreme. There are no cooling pipes to remove from the motherboard prior to installation, and memory with high heat sinks, such as the OCZ Reaper HPCs can also be installed without interference, though this will limit the TRU 120 X’s orientation to ‘north-south’. (For clarity, the author’s interpretation is as follows: north-south refers to an orientation where the longest part of the HSF point to the top and bottom of the case, and where east-west points to the front and back of the case)

6. BIOS
When I first ran the computer, it did not detect my e2180 at the proper 200MHz * 10 = 2.0Ghz frequency – the BIOS had set the multiplier to 9. This could have been either due to the version (F5), or the fact that speedstep and C1E were on, both power saving features that can bounce the CPU multiplier around – although only lower for good reason - and change the CPU frequency and voltage as required by CPU load. I updated to the F7D beta BIOS from Gigabyte, using the included @BIOS update utility, which can update the BIOS without flashing. The updated BIOS properly recognized my e2180 and will allow me to upgrade to the 45nm processors when they are released.

Here is the standard BIOS selection menu. You can save/load CMOS settings after you are done making changes, which is a nice feature.



This is the sub-menu for standard CMOS features. Here you can select the type of devices connected to your system, system time etc.



Advanced BIOS features allows you to enable/disable power saving features, HDD S.M.A.R.T and so forth.



The following are the other sub-menus that can be accessed from the main screen: integrated peripherals, power management, PnP/PCI Config and PC Health.






Now what you’ve all been waiting for I’m sure – the tweaking sub-menu. You can select all those wonderful settings to push your computer to the max, or squeeze that extra bit of value from your components.




The first image is the top part of the menu, and the second is the same menu but the bottom half, after scrolling down. Notice how you can access the memory timings without having to press CTRL+F1, which is nice little inclusion with this version of the BIOS. You can change the multiplier, CPU frequency, SPD ratio, memory timings, and voltages to all parts of the motherboard (Vcore, FSB, PCIe, Northbridge and RAM).

Overvoltage allows you to increase the voltage over stock levels; DDRS +0.1v to +0.7v in 0.1v increments, similarly for FSB (+0.1v to 0.3v), North Bridge (+0.1v to 0.3v) and the CPU voltage hits a max of 2.0v.


7. Overclocking
I tested out the motherboard on the following rig:
  • Intel Pentium dual core e2180
  • BFG 8800GTX OC (600/900MHz)
  • OCZ Reaper HPC PC2-6400 4-4-4-15 rated
  • Corsair HX 620 (620 watts)
  • Antec 900 (case fans on medium, ‘big boy’ top fan on fast)
The initial stock run, as mentioned before, detected the e2180 at 1.8GHz however a BIOS update corrected this. Ram voltage and timings were detected as per JEDEC specs, at 5-5-5-15 with 1.8v despite the OCZ memory being rated for 4-4-4-15 at 2.1v (max 2.2v under OCZ’s EVP feature).

One fact that made overclocking a little challenging, for a first-timer, was the fact that the voltages were only set in increments over stock, which Gigabyte calls “over voltage”. For those who may not know the stock voltage of their components, this may pose an issue to performing safe overclocks. There is enough information out on the internet however, and generally a simple search for your component and its specifications on your favourite search engine should turn up all the information you require.

Overclocking is made easy by setting the Vcore to “auto” and letting the BIOS set the voltage, however I wanted to see how far I could push the system without increasing the voltage.

On stock 1.275v, I was able to reach 3.0GHz by simply increasing the CPU frequency. Memory was 5-5-5-15, 2.1v and 900MHz.

The maximum overclock that I have tested, is 3.4GHz at 1.437v, stable for over 17 hours with Orthos. The memory is at barely tighter-than-stock timing 4-4-4-12, 2.1v and 850MHz, representing a 4:5 ratio FSB:DRAM ratio.

This represents a 70% overclock on a stock 2.0GHz processor that is currently selling for $90. Not bad for a motherboard barely $45 more expensive. Keep in mind that any serious overclocking of your CPU should have you installing an after-market HSF at least – those stock ones won’t go far in keeping your processor running cool or lasting long.



I felt the greatest feature of all was the ease with which the system recovered from unbootable settings. The bios reset itself and restarted all on its own – I never once had to reset the CMOS. On this note, while OC’ing I found out about a special feature called a dual BIOS. I was pushing my memory too hard (4-4-4-12 990MHz +) and the system crashed on stability testing. When I restarted, I reset the BIOS to the stable OC but it would load at stock – despite having all the settings saved. What happened is that the motherboard loaded from a secondary BIOS, if you will, that had stock values. This explained why I could save my overclock settings, but they would not be loaded. The feature is for safety in case the primary BIOS settings are unstable, like in my case. A simple jumper on the clr_cmos pins for 5 seconds (remember to turn off power and unplug the PSU before doing this) reset everything and I could return to using my settings on the primary BIOS. Thanks goes out to the guys on the HWC forums who detailed this feature to me and allowed me to present a more thorough review.

8. Benchmarks

Here we can compare the stock processor and motherboard results to the overclocked settings (2.0GHz and 4-4-4-15 @ 800MHz vs 3.4GHz and 4-4-4-12 @ 850MHz).

First up is 3DMark06, and we see that the 70% CPU overclock gives us ~70% increase in the CPU score. What made up the biggest difference was the scoring on the CPU tests – speed does make a difference with this benchmark.



Next we test the memory benchmarks using Everest Ultimate Edition. Memory read, write and latency are tested and compared between stock and overclock. As expected, the overclock gave us better performance but I must say I was not expecting such a drastic improvement. Latency decreased barely more than 10ns with the overclock.



Next up was Super PI, testing how fast the computer could calculate PI to 1 million digits. Despite the stark differences in the graph, the improvement was nominal from 18.875 to 18.36 seconds, a 2.8% improvement.


Last on the docket was Aquamark 3, testing overall, gpu and cpu performance. Scoring can be seen below, and again the overclock does much better.



It’s apparent that this motherboard has some good features friendly to overclockers, and more headroom than I know what to do with. Note that I did not max out at a FSB of 340, but rather I did not wish to push the processor further.

9. Conclusion

Gigabyte has done a great job putting together a solid mid-range motherboard with the features enthusiasts love, but at a price even a student can’t complain about. The fact that a budget CPU was able to be pushed so hard is a testament to the quality of engineering that went into this board. Gigabyte appears to be committed to its consumers, having released a bios that will support Intel’s new processor lineup as well. The dual BIOS feature is a great inclusion and comforting fail-safe that helps beginner and expert overclockers alike protect their components.

If you aren’t able to afford the pricier DQ6 board, or the newer X38 chipsets, then I would strongly suggest considering this board. Just make sure to get revision 2 for the extra USB ports on the I/O panel!

Pros:
Easy board to overclock
Manual explained all features clearly and concisely
Supports up to 1333 FSB, and new 45nm Penryn CPUs
Dual BIOS protects against unstable settings
Very unique colour scheme

Cons:
Unique colour scheme may turn some consumers away
Hard to determine actual voltage – can only set voltages as amounts over stock
Despite supporting new processors, P35 chipset is “out of date”
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Old November 9, 2007, 06:47 PM
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Wicked review! I had the P version of that board, it's wicked. It is also in the mail right now to Sampson....enjoy!
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Old November 9, 2007, 07:13 PM
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this is a good review I was hoping someone would review this board because I bought the board bought it was on sale for97.99 but it is rev.1 haven't used it yet still slowly picking up the parts for my build .
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Old November 9, 2007, 08:14 PM
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wheres the quad core overclocking? all anyone ever does is dual cores cuz they can get higher fsb. some boards will do 520+ with a d/c but cant even hit 333 with a quad.
edit: very thorough on the rest of the review tho. and i know you dont have a quad you could try with it; just mentioning something i'd like to see with this board. i've recommended this board to a few people, even tho i've yet to read a review of it with a quad. my post came across a little snarky. my bad.
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Old November 9, 2007, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BrothaInFaith View Post
wheres the quad core overclocking? all anyone ever does is dual cores cuz they can get higher fsb.
You're right, I didn't have the budget for the quad-core lol. I appreciate your kind words and constructive criticism The second I get a quad-core, I'll update this review with what I find.
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Old November 9, 2007, 10:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Cipher View Post
You're right, I didn't have the budget for the quad-core lol. I appreciate your kind words and constructive criticism The second I get a quad-core, I'll update this review with what I find.
Until then, check out my sig for Quad oc'ing with the DS3L and the P35C-DS3R. 400 Mhz both, but I managed to boot up to 470Mhz using the DS3L.

I'm surprised that the Southbridge does not have a passive cooler, though. Nice review for a first timer. Good job.

John
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Old November 11, 2007, 08:26 PM
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I checked the Gigabyte site regarding the DS3R and found this pic: GIGABYTE - GA-P35-DS3R (rev. 2.0). Better be careful, your Southbridge is missing the heatsink and without it, it may overheat.

John
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Old November 12, 2007, 07:48 AM
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whoa crazy...I'll have to RMA this thing...unless you know if there are any SB hs'?

By the way, thanks for looking into that for me.
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Old November 12, 2007, 09:29 AM
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Call Gigabyte. They offer great service. They could simply send you a heatsink, since the board runs fine. If not, there are aftermarket SB coolers out there. Just make sure it fits, since the 8800GTX is a thick card.

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Old November 12, 2007, 10:11 AM
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That's some amazing overclocking- That's quite outstanding that you reached 3 with stovk voltage- It sort of sounds as if you were using stock cooling, bit you must have been using tghe Ultra 120 in your sig, no?

Great review- very polished
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