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Old November 30, 2007, 09:20 PM
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Default Reviewer Tryouts: Gigabyte DS3L & Intel C2D E4400

Gigabyte P35-DS3L Motherboard Review


1. Specifications
2. Packaging

3. Layout
4. Cooling
5. BIOS
6. Test setup
7. Overclocking
8. Testing methodology
9. Benchmarks
10. Temperatures
11. Conclusion


1. Specifications

Gigabyte has been in the overclocking crowd for a while now and today we will be taking a look at some of their lower end offerings.

Gigabyte's DS3L is the cheapest motherboard built around Intel's latest mainstream chipset : P35. The manufacturer promises us a good set of interesting features, on paper at least. The board is fully compatible with 333 Front Side Bus processors meaning it will run the latest hardware, even Penryn and Yorksfield processors. We also get native PC2-8500 support and up to 8GB of RAM. For cost saving reasons, Gigabyte only included a single PCI-E 16x slot and used the Intel ICH9 southbridge, which does not support RAID.

Click here for complete product specifications.

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2. Packaging


Gigabyte released this motherboard shortly after Intel officially unveiled the P35 chipset last summer. They ship it in a clean looking green box and promote there "Ultra Durable" motherboards which strictly uses solid capacitors. Therfor, the lifespan of the board is increased and they can also provide slightly cleaner power. The "S3" is for Speed, Smart and Safe. They set expectations quite high for such a low cost board.



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The included bundled is a pretty basic one. You get only what you need to get started : 2 SATA, an IDE and a floppy cable along with a backplate and the usual user manual and CD.



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The motherboard is wrapped into an anti-static bag; the standard for mainstream motherboards instead of the hard plastic we now usually see in higher-end boards.



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Gigabyte designed yet another colorful board. Good or bad? Only you can judge!


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The back of the board is clear from any obstacles, coolers requiring a backplate won't cause any headaches.


3. Layout

The layout is generally well done except for a few things. The IDE connector is located under the SATA2 ports, but in horizontal position. It's not a big deal, but for those still using an older hard disk or optical drive it would have been nice to it mounted vertically on an edge. There's also the audio header located right behind the I/O ports which will leave you with a cable hanging over the northbridge. Both power connectors are placed perfectly, right on the edge of the board.

4. Cooling

The biggest different with it's bigger brothers in the P35 family is the cooling, this one uses a simple passive heatsink solution rather than fancy heatpipes. This leads to an advantage : the area around the processor's socket is clear from obstacles, so installing an aftermarket heatsink won't cause any problems. Also, there's nothing on the back so the big coolers that require backplates won't require the removal of anything.

5. BIOS

Manufacturers tend to supply stripped down versions in their low end boards, but this board didn't leave us wanting more. It features everything necessary for overclocking, which is quite impressive for a $100 motherboard. The only down side here is that Gigabyte had the not-so-great idea to hide some options by default, so when you enter the BIOS through the usual Delete key, you have to press Ctrl+F1 to reveal everything which isn't stated anywhere in the manual or on their website.

Here are the overclocking options available to the user :

CPU Host Frequency (FSB) : 100Mhz to 800Mhz --- 1Mhz increments
Somewhat overkill, but still nice to have it available.

CPU Voltage Control (Vcore) : 0.51250V to 1.6V - 0.xxxx increments --- 1.8V and 2.0V also available.
This is great, tiny increments and high voltage.

DDR2 Overvoltage (Vdimm) : Normal (1.8V) to +0.7V (2.5V) --- 0.1V increments
More than enough for the vast majority, although It would've been nice to have 0.05V increments.

FSB Overvoltage (Nortbridge) : Normal to +0.3V --- 0.1V increments
(G) MCH Overvoltage (Southbridge) : Normal to +0.3V --- 0.1V increments
PCI-E Overvoltage : Normal to +0.3V --- 0.1V increments
It's awesome to see those available in a budget board!

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6. Test setup

Processor : Intel Core 2 Duo E4400 (M0 stepping) $123.00
Motherboard : Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L $91.40
Memory : Crucial Ballistix PC2-6400 4-4-4-12 2GB kit $54.99
Video card : eVGA 8600GTS $159.97
Hard drive : Seagate Barracuda 7200.10 SATA2 7200RPM 8MB Cache
Operating system : Windows Vista
Cooling : Stock

All the latest updates and drivers released at the time of writing this article were used for testing. For testing at stock setting everything was left to "Auto" except for memory frequency and timings which were manually set to 500Mhz 5-5-5-15 to match overclocked settings. Before the overclock was called stable, the system had to pass 12 hours of ORTHOS blend stress test.

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7. Overclocking

Those settings may not be fully stable, the system only had to complete a 1M SuperPi run.

Maximum FSB (FSB OverVoltage set at +0.3V) :

Not quite as impressive as other P35 boards, but it isn't bad at all when considering we're looking at a sub-$100 board.

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Maximum CPU clock speed (CPU Voltage Control set at 1.5V) :

Impressive overclock, 60% over stock clock speed! The processor wouldn't go higher no matter how much voltage we gave it, so the bottleneck here isn't our motherboard.

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Maximum memory clock speed (DDR2 Overvoltage set at +0.5V (2.3V)) :

It booted up to 600Mhz, but Vista quickly greeted us with a blue screen. Basically, the board can do it although the same can't be said for the memory.

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Maximum memory clock speed at 3-3-3-3 timings (DDR2 Overvoltage set at +0.5V (2.3V)) :

Although this has close to nothing to do with the motherboard used, results are quite good and we thought it was interesting to add this. Not that many DDR2 kits can reach that speed at such tight timings!

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Maximum stable overclock (CPU Voltage Control set at 1.5V and DDR2 Overvoltage set at +0.4V (2.2V)*)

Here, we tried to balance processor and memory clock speed to get the best of both worlds, quite impressive for a setup based on $100 parts!

*We only give the memory 2.2V because those chips (D9's) tend to have their lifespan greatly shortened when running more than that for everyday use.

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To wrap this up, overclocked settings used for benchmarking are :
Processor : 3.2Ghz
Memory : 1066Mhz @ 5-5-5-15

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8. Testing methodology

The only difference inthose tests is the processor clock speed. Memory was set at about the same, 1000Mhz for stock settings and 1066 when overclocked which shouldn't significantly effect scores. The graphics card was left at stock settings. All the tests were ran twice and then averaged.

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9. Benchmarks

Futuremark's (in)famous 3DMark06 :

Clock speed scales almost perfectly here, we see a 58% improvement in the CPU score although total score only increased by 7%.

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Cinebench R10, by Maxon, evaluates processor performance by rendering an image - Click here for more information. *Freeware*

Using the single threaded test, the image is rendered 37% faster. When running the multithreaded version, we only render it 34% quicker, but it's still nearly twice as fast as the single threaded benchmark in both stock and overclocked settings!

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EVEREST is an all in one monitoring and benchmarking tool - Click here for more information.
All four processor benchmarks were ran twice and then averaged into one score.

We saw a 50% improvement overall in these tests.

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SiSoftware Sandra 2008 - Click here for more information.

We observed a linear improvement with clock speed in this test, nearly 60%.

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SuperPi : 'nuff said. Click here for more information. *Freeware*

SuperPi likes clock speed, but it also likes cache and the E4400 only has 2MB. It still manages to finish the 1M run 37% faster and the 32M run 33% quicker.

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10. Temperatures


While idling, the difference isn't huge; air cooling won't idle much lower than that no matter what cooler is used. On load, the stock cooler does fine, but when overclocked it gets kind of scary, hitting 65C at full load. This is explained by the voltage we had to use on the processor to stabilize it at that speed : 1.49V. Running it 24/7 at those temperatures might not be the best idea, an aftermarket cooling solution is needed.

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11. Conclusion

Overall, it is safe to say this is a great combo for someone looking for an awesome overclocking setup at a great price or something to hold them off until (affordable) Penryn processors are released. Conroe is over a year old now and steppings have gotten better and better, even the lower end offerings easily reach high-end speeds. For about $250 including shipping and taxes this is possibly one of the best setup for the price. At over 3Ghz we're ahead of all the Core 2 Duo retail processors available for a fraction of the price.

Pros :
Great price:performance ratio
Good overclocker

Cons :
CTRL-F1 to show BIOS options
Limited northbrige cooling
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  #2 (permalink)  
Old December 1, 2007, 12:17 PM
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My System Specs

Thumbs up thankyou

i couldn't think of whether to get his board or not but now i have made up my mind my 8800gt goes in here:)
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Old December 1, 2007, 09:27 PM
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Yep great board for the price :)

I originally wanted to bench with a 8800GT but it got home too late and I didn't have enough time to bench. I'll bench it soon enough with my AMD system
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Old December 29, 2007, 04:03 PM
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I wouldn't call this a budget motherboard though...
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Old December 29, 2007, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darksideleader View Post
I wouldn't call this a budget motherboard though...
compared to the prices of very good OCing mother boards this one is a buget Mother board
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Old December 31, 2007, 02:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shadowmeph View Post
compared to the prices of very good OCing mother boards this one is a buget Mother board
well then you should call it a very good overclocking motherboard that will fit most people's budgets, not a budget board cuz those are $60 matx boards.
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Old December 31, 2007, 11:20 AM
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I recently ordered 2 of those boards. One for a budget gaming rig for my nephews friend, and the other for myself.
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Old December 31, 2007, 11:26 AM
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A boards overclocking ability doesn't define the category it belongs in as you can have a $300 motherboard that does not overclock. Its more so all about the price and features.
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Old January 3, 2008, 04:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by darksideleader
I wouldn't call this a budget motherboard though...
Good luck finding another sub-100$ board that has just as much overclocking headroom and a BIOS with as many options.

mATX boards shoot for a completly different market, mainly HTPCs or your grandma's computer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by slugbug
I recently ordered 2 of those boards. One for a budget gaming rig for my nephews friend, and the other for myself.
You won't regret it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by slugbug
A boards overclocking ability doesn't define the category it belongs in as you can have a $300 motherboard that does not overclock. Its more so all about the price and features.
I'm not sure what you're trying to say, but Gigabyte clearly advertises this board as an overclocking board and it is indeed a great overclocker for the price.
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Old January 7, 2008, 02:05 AM
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I downgraded from a P35-DQ6 to one of these boards. Seems pretty decent so far. Although I've done not much for OC'ing as my cooling from DC.com hasn't shipped yet
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