Gigabyte GA-EP45-UD3P - P45 at its Finestby Gary Key on February 3, 2009 12:15 AM EST
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The mainstream motherboard market is unbelievably competitive at this time. The breadth and quality of motherboards available in the $85~$135 price range is just remarkable. A lot of this has to do with Intel driving the P45 as the primary chipset of choice for the mainstream user, then backing it up with great processor performance and pricing to boot. AMD is finally back in the game and we will see an expanded rollout of additional performance/value based Phenom II processors shortly.
In a very crowded market space, it is critical that the manufacturers not only offer a compelling product but also back it up with top-flight customer service, technical support, and warranties. We have many compelling products available from a myriad of motherboard suppliers but what we do not have is consistent customer support.
In the effort to drive costs down and compete in an increasingly competitive market, it seems as though customer support has become a lost art. Companies like EVGA get it; they offer the best customer support and warranty in this industry. It is not always perfect, but there are actual human beings interacting with customers on a real-time basis. You might pay a little more for the product, but it is well worth it in our opinion.
We have seen improvements at ASUS, MSI, ASRock, DFI, and GIGABYTE as of late. We still think they all have a ways to go, but it is not as bad as it was a year ago. Of course, it is not as good as it should be either. We have spent the past few weeks discussing this with each company and explaining our retail experience program that is finally ready to launch. We received a mixed bag of opinions but overall the responses were positive and we truly believe each company when it says they intend to improve. We will see as time goes by.
In the meantime, we did a beta test run with the GIGABYTE GA-EP45-UD3P. We purchased the motherboard from Newegg and tested it with the drivers and BIOS available on the website. We sent GIGABYTE's technical support group various questions over a five-week period and they came through four out of five times. This was a significant improvement over our experiences with GIGABYTE last year. We are still not thrilled with the "fill out a help ticket" and wait for an answer method of technical support. In fact, we will not be as kind in our scoring as time progresses if this does not change. Real-time chat is simple to provide if a company is willing to invest in the necessary support staff, and it can be a great help.
The website page for this board was kept up to date and driver/utility updates have been posted on a regular basis. This is a far cry from last year’s debacle with the 780G boards and we commend GIGABYTE on that improvement. We even received our rebate check within thirty days. Support in the forums is strong for this product and we see very favorable comments about it at various sites. Even if GIGABYTE trips up in technical support, we believe you can count on the user community for a solution. So enough soap box talk, what did we think about the board?
GIGABYTE has produced a stellar product when it comes to the GA-EP45-UD3P. This motherboard has a superior layout, great BIOS, incredible overclocking capabilities, high quality components, and a price that belies its feature set and performance. There are many things to like about this board but we think the layout is special. Just about every slot or connector has been perfectly placed to ensure ease of use and no compatibility problems. Even running CrossFire on the board was easy as all of the SATA ports remain accessible - granted the spacing is tight near the SATA connectors but we could still reach them with the board installed in a case.
Second up is the BIOS and overclocking capabilities of the board. The BIOS is a tweaker’s delight, yet the auto settings will allow a newbie to still extract about 90% of the board’s performance when overclocking. However, we still find ASUS' BIOS layout to be more informative and user friendly. The overclocking capabilities of the UD3P are superb and we still think there is additional potential in the board. This board is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
We are excited to present our Gold Editors' Choice award to GIGABYTE for their impressive GA-EP45-UD3P. Where do we start when discussing the attributes of this motherboard? Based on the Intel P45 chipset, GIGABYTE has extracted enormous performance potential from their second-generation design featuring Ultra Durable 3 technology. Impressive overclocking abilities with both dual- and quad-core processors? Check. Excellent stability and compatibility? Check. Feature laden layout and software package? Absolutely. Top all that off with technical support that actually addressed our problems. The performance of this board was consistently at or near the top of our benchmarks and ultimately offered the best overall value we have seen in this market segment.
While performance is important, ultimately the product needs to have the right feature set, stability, compatibility, customer support, and pricing. The GA-EP45-UD3P offers all of this and more to potential buyers. The UD3P offers a flexible layout, a tweaker’s BIOS, CrossFire support, an abundance of storage options, an excellent cooling solution, top-flight electrical components, very good HD audio featuring Dolby Digital Live encoding, and an extensive accessory package along with excellent documentation for about $115 with rebate.
There is no perfect motherboard, but the GA-EP45-UD3P comes just about as close to it as possible for its intended market. At least in our initial experience, GIGABYTE has come a long way in improving their customer support, website information, technical documentation, and warranty support compared to our previous experiences. We would still like to see an improvement in this area - mainly a more interactive approach like EVGA takes in supporting their customers. However, the hardware really delivers and as such we highly recommend it.