Final Words

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.

Award

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.

Power Consumption
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  • Archeon - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    I've used this board in my main rig now for about two months. I found this board has ONE major downside, which is not mentioned in this review I think.

    The problem is this: there is one electronics component VERY close to one of the holes which is used to hold to cooler onto the board. You can see the component I mean when you look at the second pic on page 4 (board layout) of this review. It's the hole surrounded by all the caps. If you look closely, you'll see that right above this hole, there's some sort of flat, slightly elevated electronics component.

    Why is this a problem? Because this hole is preventing me from mounting about any other cooler than the stock Intel cooler! I've tried both a Scythe Infinity (Mugen) and Ninja. I simply cannot install these coolers without pushing off the electronics component, which surely would not be a good idea. Even the stock Intel cooler of my old E6600 CPU doens't fit!! (Luckily the stock cooler of my E8500 does!)

    So now I run my rig with the stock Intel cooler, which is a shame since I have such a nice Mugen cooler readily available here, but it just won't fit!!! This is bad board design INHO, nothing less, nothing more.

    Apart from this issue, I absolutely love this board: rock solid, and all the features I need (and then some!)
    Reply
  • The0ne - Tuesday, February 10, 2009 - link

    Looks like an oscillator to me and it does appear to sit too close to the locking hole. However, the photo might be deceiving my eyes. But judging from the pics alone I'm pretty sure my Artic Freezer 7 fan wouldn't fit on there. The clips will hit the component as well. However, my fan does sit fine in my EP45-DS3R but it's a bit different board. Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    Hmm, that is odd as the reviews seemed to say that most of the common high-end coolers had no problem. I have the Xigmatech 120mm Rifle cooler and it installed with no clearance issues (pushpin pieces of $hit are another story). Is it that you want to mount the cooler in a specific orientation and it won't work, or that there is no way that any direction would work? Reply
  • Archeon - Wednesday, February 04, 2009 - link

    No specific orientation. It didn't work in either way. I even bought [url=http://www.scythe-eu.com/en/products/pc-accessory/...">http://www.scythe-eu.com/en/products/pc-accessory/...]Scythes CPU Cooler stabiliser[/url] in the hope that would work, but again, no go... Reply
  • LoneWolf15 - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    and I have to say, this board is the best I've ever owned. Tons of features and ports, (including two PS/2 ports for you KVM users, yes, I'm talking to you ASUS) a great layout, loads of BIOS options, rock-solid stability --about the only things I could nitpick about are Gigabyte's funky color scheme, and perhaps not having right-angle front-mounted SATA ports. Both very minor details. It's working well with two 4GB DDR2 modules and a Q6600.

    I'd recommend this board to anybody, it's a quality part. Thanks for the review, AT.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    I just built a rig using the R (single GPU) mobo and have had some problems upgrading my rig from an old 80gig PATA drive to a new 320gig SATA drive. Here is my problem:

    -I installed Vista 64bit on the new rig with my old 80gig drive and then decided I wanted to rebuild my old rig (replaced everything but case and HD) using the old drive. I need to clone my 80gig onto my 320gig so I can swap the old drive out. Problem is when I connect the SATA drive using the 90 degree elbow SATA cable that says HD, it is not recognized in windows. I can find it in the device manager, and it says it is working properly, but there is no way to copy/format/etc. to it?

    I've tried using both the 6 orange SATA ports, and also the 2 purple ports (I don't know if there is a difference here or not), but no luck. Should I try a no 90degree elbow cable? I'm unfamiliar with SATA tech and so wonder if the 90degree cable designates the SATA drive as master, and I need to have it as a slave? When I go into the bios BOTH drives come up as MASTER, but seem to be on different channels so I didn't think this was an issue.

    Sorry to take this off topic but I spent a couple hours this past weekend and got nowhere.


    I have another issue that seems to be related to some power saving thing with this board. Before I turned off the power saving features in the bios it would seem to randomly not like to start from a cold boot (I'd have to turn it off and on, or restart if it got to the bios screen). It almost seemed like it was cutting power too quickly on shutdown and startup. Most of the issues seem to have gone away since I turned off the power saving functions, but I still get some squirly things happening when turning on for the first time. I'm currently using optimized defaults in the bios so it's not a wierd overclocking issue.

    Thanks for the advice.
    Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    Wanted to mention this is with the latest chipset drivers and the F7 bios. I LOVE the online bios update. No more floppy flashes for me! Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    Yeah, that's an old Gigabyte feature. When I used it on my old AMD based GA-K8U-939 it worked flawlessly then. People rip on Gigabyte's BIOS support and complain about bad flashes but I've NEVER had any of those problems with them.

    However on less popular boards BIOS support is slow.
    Reply
  • Glenn - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    I suggest you review the owners manual and make sure which SATA controller you are connected to and ensure that it is properly set in the bios for your configuration. I suspect you have whichever controller you are connected to, to AHCI or Raid and it isn't recognized. I know it's confusing until you get used to it, but SATA doesn't use the old master slave ...! Reply
  • 7Enigma - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    Wanted to also add I tried both the G-SATA (purple connectors) and the standard orange Intel ones with no effect. It wasn't until I quit and removed the SATA drive that I thought to try the non 90 degree elbow one that says HDD on the cable. Can you comment on whether there are specific SATA cables that denote HD's or whether they just had the 90 degree bend to facilitate placement in the case without stressing the connectors (I have read many complaints on breaking off). Reply

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