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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  • GhettoFly - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    I'm guessing the 1250 kit you guys managed to clock at 1300 was Corsair's TWIN2X2048-10000C5DF. I have a set of those, but haven't tested with my UD3P yet; however I got my Geil DDR2-1160 C4 kit up to DDR2-1333 C5 on this board with only 2.48V using the 1333 OC profile: http://i4memory.com/f90/gigabyte-ep45-ud3p-memory-...">http://i4memory.com/f90/gigabyte-ep45-ud3p-memory-...
    This board is too much fun!
    Reply
  • Gary Key - Wednesday, February 04, 2009 - link

    Yes, it is the Corsair kit and it was an early review sample to boot. Corsair sent us a new SPD and I managed to hit 1333 this morning at 2.50V on it, so I can report that 1333 is stable on this board now after a few runs of Crysis and PCMark Vantage. :) Reply
  • GhettoFly - Wednesday, February 11, 2009 - link

    It just seems a bit odd advertising DDR2-1366+ OC capabilities when the ICs needed for such clocks (D9GMH/GKX) are EOL :p Reply
  • x86 64 - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    I'm still seeing some around and very cheap compared to what they used to be. You can pick up two 2x1GB (4GB) kits of PC2-10400 or PC2-9600 for under $275-$300 US.

    I think there are third party manufacturers who are still making the D9GMH\GKX, etc, because companies like Cellshock (now recently defunct) and Team Group (active) are still selling both of the most popular flavors of D9. Team is very big in Asia so it's not like they are some small niche company like Cellshock moving a small quantity of old stock. All of Team Group's Xtreem memory (not the "Dark" branding) is either GMH or GKX. How else to explain the constant flow of Micron D9 IC's to certain companies? Could there be that much stock still left over in Asia where they are selling them this long after they were discontinued?? I would be surprised.

    Reply
  • GhettoFly - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    It has to be old stock of the ICs at least; when you look at the codes on the ICs themselves (not the D9Gxx code, but like 7KD22) I'm pretty sure the first number indicates the year of manufacture, 7 being 2007, 6 being 2006, etc. I haven't see any Micron RevD chips that have those codes staring with 8 even on sticks with a 2008 production date, for example my Geil 1160 C4 and Team Xtreem 9600 kits, the ICs on both have that code starting with a 7. Reply
  • Mr Roboto - Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - link

    I don't know what the number is on the IC's themselves but you can check the manufacture date of your memory using a monitoring program like Everest.

    I have a set of Team's and using Everest they say the 14th week of 2008 as the date or manufacture.

    Whether or not the IC's were made then or the modules themselves is debatable.
    Reply
  • x86 64 - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    I think you might be right. I just pulled the spreaders off my Team 1200Mhz and sure enough it starts with a 7. I hope they don't run out anytime soon because it's so much fun to push this stuff :)

    It's weird, this has to be the first time in a long time that I'm happy with "last generation" hardware. I just don't see the benefit of i7 and DDR3 right now. I'm enjoying the rock solid P45, excellent inexpensive dual and quad Penryn's and dirt cheap high performance memory. I'd rather buy double the current hardware then spend the same amount for an entry level i7 system and get a 20% increase in performance. I'm sure the i7 will make a great server or HPC but I'm not impressed to much with the desktop parts. We need some multithreaded applications first. Software is seriously lagging.

    I'll wait for the die shrink and in the mean time stick with my DDR2 and D9GKX\GMH :)
    Reply
  • x86 64 - Sunday, February 15, 2009 - link

    Also here's a picture of a TG kit from a review at XBit Labs from the summer of 2007 and it's marked with a 6 which would be in line with the markings on the recent chips, just one year back.

    http://www.xbitlabs.com/images/memory/team-xtreem/...">http://www.xbitlabs.com/images/memory/team-xtreem/...
    Reply
  • GhettoFly - Wednesday, February 18, 2009 - link

    Looks like I have to eat my words about no D9 being manufactured in 2008, these are powering the G.Skill 2GBHK sticks I got in today.
    http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showpost.php?p...">http://www.xtremesystems.org/forums/showpost.php?p...
    Reply
  • Glenn - Tuesday, February 03, 2009 - link

    Great article Gary! I have built approximately 10 systems so far with this board or it's single PCIe X16 twin UD3R, and the "C" version with the DDR3/DDR2 slots. My experiences with each are just as pleasing as you have reported. My own system is the C version with a Q9550 slightly overclocked to 3.4GHz. I am excited to see the followup on the Ultra Durable 3 technology.

    I am equally or even more excited that you are testing the support of Gigabyte and other manufacturers. I have built over 100 systems using gigabyte P35/G35 and now P45/G45 boards in the past year and a half and I honestly nearly quit using them over some issues with the G45 board when it was first released. It wasn't even close to stable but subsequent bios'es corrected all my complaints. I could get no response from Gigabyte during that time and was pretty pist off! Interestingly enough, I just about switched all my builds to Asus, but I was reminded of past problems with them on my first P45Q build when I went to download the newest drivers! Why does a multibillion dollar company like Asus insist on having a dog-assed slow website that is so painful to negotiate? At times during the day, one can't even get a page to open without timing out! And it's been that way for years! Gigabyte! You owe Asus a "save" on that one! Kudos to Anands crew for taking up these frustrations with the mfgs! Great article!
    Reply

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