Pipe Dreams: Six P35-DDR3 Motherboards Compared

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R

Two additional DDR3-capable boards arrived that also support DDR2 memory. Gigabyte's entry appears to support DDR2 primarily with the DDR3 upgrade option, and will be benchmarked in both DDR3 and DDR2 P35 Express motherboard reviews.

Features Overview

Boards that support multiple memory types are usually limited to the low-cost upgrade market, but Gigabyte wants to push the envelope with its GA-P35C-DS3R. Starting with its all-solid-capacitor construction, Gigabyte adds a more-than-adequate 6-phase power regulator. The second move is likely a tribute to the board's Pentium-D backwards compatibility, as this board is actually designed to be a highly flexible overclocking monster!

The GA-P35C-DS3R provides exceptional support for up two seven expansion cards, but only one PCI-Express x16 graphics card. None of the onboard devices are blocked by a single graphics card of nearly any size, and memory slots are located far enough towards the top of the board to prevent DIMM latch to graphics card interference problems. As to the "missing feature" of a second graphic slot, informed buyers know that the x4 pathways found on the second x16 slot of other boards are simply inadequate for use with high-performance graphics cards.

Four DDR2 slots indicate that this board was designed primarily to support older memory, while two DDR3 slots are the fewest needed for dual-channel capability.

Most cable connectors are located perfectly for traditional case designs, with the four-pin ATX12V connector at the board's top edge, the 24-pin ATX connector near the top of the front edge, a Floppy connector above center at the front edge, a Front Panel Audio connector adjacent to the rear audio jacks, and eight SATA ports near the bottom of the board. These will allow easy cable reach to the power supply, a mid-bay floppy drive, upper or lower mounted front panel audio jacks, and up to eight Serial ATA drives in lower bays.

The only design complaint concerns the Ultra ATA connector, which will force builders to stretch a wide cable over or around many components, even SATA cables, in order to reach an upper-bay optical drive. The board has a wide swath of unused space where this connector could have been placed.

Gigabyte uses standard passive chipset sinks for its GA-P35C-DS3R, with the Northbridge sink just a little larger than traditional designs. The Northbridge remains very cool in the vicinity of an Intel reference-design CPU cooler, making the oversized monsters seen on "high-end" boards appear even more ridiculous.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R (Revision 1.01)
Northbridge Intel P35 GMCH
Southbridge Intel ICH9R
Voltage Regulator Six Phases
BIOS F2O (5/11/2007)
266.7 MHz (FSB1066) 266.7MHz (+0.0%)
Connectors and Interfaces
Onboard 1x PCIe x16
3x PCIe x1
3x PCI
4x USB 2.0 (2 ports per connector)
1x Floppy
1x Ultra ATA
8x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
8x Serial ATA 3.0Gb/s
1x Front Panel Audio
1x S/P-DIF Out
1x CD Audio In
2x Fan 4 pins (CPU/System)
2x Fan 3 pins (System)
IO panel 2x PS2 (keyboard + mouse)
1x Serial COM Port
1x Parallel Port
1x RJ-45 Network
4x USB 2.0
2x Digital Audio Out (S/P-DIF Optical + Coaxial)
6x Analogue Audio (7.1 Channel + Mic-In + Line-In)
Mass Storage Controllers
Intel ICH9R 6x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1,5,10)
GigaByte SATA2 (by JMicron) 1x Ultra ATA-100 (2-drives)
2x SATA 3.0Gb/s (RAID 0,1, JBOD)
Realtek RTL8111B 1x Gigabit LAN Connection
HDA (Azalia) Controller Interface Realtek ALC889A 8-Channel Codec

The scant few controllers of the GA-P35C-DS3R appear to be a move towards the low-cost upgrade market, but the added-in Serial ATA connector hints to the boards' "wolf in sheep's clothing" intent. Gigabyte also uses the more expensive raid-capable Intel ICH9R Southbridge rather than the lower cost "standard" ICH9, and even the premium ALC889A DTS-Connect and 8+2 channel multi-streaming audio codec described earlier for the upscale GA-P35T-DQ6.

Two digital audio outputs (coaxial plus optical) and six analogue audio ports allow full use of audio functions.

Gigabyte clings to legacy connectors with PS/2 keyboard and mouse, parallel, and serial ports. One network and four USB ports bridge the gap between old and new technology, but all the new tech is found on the board's top side.

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