The color scheme is very reminiscent of other GIGABYTE boards. Sky blue PCB with multicolored slots and ports. While sometimes, you might think your staring at a two year olds Lego block set, the varying color scheme does aid in identifying different ports during the hardware install process.
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The board makes use of somewhat bland chipset cooling, with separate passive heatsinks. No intricate heatpipe cooling found here, but given this boards mainstream price point, its of no surprise. Throughout the board Gigabyte uses low RDS(on) MOSFETs, in keeping with the “Ultra Durable 2” branding.
Nothing out of the ordinary is located on the back of the PCB.
The CPU socket area is pretty clean and should not inhibit the installation of most large coolers. Located around the CPU socket area, is a large number of ferrite chokes, and lots of MOSFETs. This close proximity allows the components to grab some extra cooling air, if you happen to use a down draft style CPU cooler. GIGABYTE also incorporates the VRD11.1 feature set into the board. VRD11.1 allows for increased energy savings while running the latest 45nm processors. This falls in line with GIGABYTE’s commitment to producing energy efficient motherboards as of late.
The board should fully support all of your SATA needs, as it offers six internal SATA connections overall. The ICH10R south bridge allows for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 capabilities. There are two USB expansion ports and one IEEE1394 port, and they differentiate in color as well. The single IDE connector is located next to the SATA ports.
The EP45-DS3R supports 4 x DDR2 memory modules, and a memory capacity up to 16 gigs. The 24-pin power connection is also located on this top right corner. I find this placement works well, as it makes it easy to route the power cable away from other board components. If you still using a floppy drive, a board connection is provided for you next to the power receptacle.
The EP45-DS3R uses six phase CPU power regulation. The 8-pin CPU power connector is placed at the top the socket.
In the peripheral expansion department, the board sports one PCI-E X16 slot, one x PCI-E X8 slot, three PCI-E x 1 slots and two PCI slots. In the only real limitation of the P45 chipset, if you utilize ATI’s dual GPU Crossfire solution, the bandwidth will drop to X8 vs. the dual X16 some chipsets offer. However, this shouldn’t be to much of a detrimental factor, as most current cards most likely do not over saturate a X8 PCI-E bus. The ports are clearly labeled, and in some cases even labeled inside the actual port itself. This can be seen on the com port located at the bottom corner of the board.
I/O back panel connectors include: PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, coaxial and optical S/PDIF, 2 x LAN, 8 x USB 2.0, 2 X 1394a firewire and HD Audio ports. In regards to the two Realtek Gigabit Ethernet ports, GIGABYTE’s specifications claim that they can be used with “Teaming functionality”, which allows 2 single connections to act as 1 single connection for 2x Bandwidth, improving overall throughput. GIGABYTE also includes rear eSATA support by expansion bracket.
Located just slightly to the right of the memory and CPU sockets is GIGABYTE’s Hardware Overvoltage Control ICs.
“Hardware Overvoltage Control ICs which provide more voltage control options than before for the CPU North Bridge and memory. The overvoltage controllers also provide hardware linear real-time voltage control. In addition, Hardware Overvoltage Controller ICs also allow for much finer voltage control, allowing power users to adjust voltage in as little increments as 20mV for better overclocking performance.”