- DDR2 and DDR3 memory support, ran 45nm-based CPUs without any problems, eSATA, no unnecessary legacy ports, ran quickly with our 45nm-based CPU and DDR3 RAM
- We had to set our CPU speed manually, doesn't have FireWire facilities, ran slightly slow with our 65nm-based CPU and DDR2
For well under $200, this board is well worth considering. Its ability to run 45nm-based CPUs, as well as either DDR2 or DDR3 RAM modules, makes it versatile and, dare we say it, future-proof. It ships with a utility that aims to bring power consumption to the forefront of users' minds, but the major selling point is still the memory support.
Price$ 188.00 (AUD)
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- Intel Z97 LGA 1150 Micro ATX Motherboard GA-Z97... 276.99
Buying a new motherboard for an Intel-based system can be tough, as there are so many options to choose from. But this particular Gigabyte model seems to have all bases covered thanks to its support for DDR2 and DDR3 memory modules, as well as 45nm-based CPUs, and it's well-under $200. Not only that, it also ships with a utility that will tell you how much power your board – or more accurately, your CPU – is consuming, and allow you to customise it in order to save power.
Dynamic Energy Saver is the interface that allows energy savings to be applied, which will affect the speed of the system due to CPU throttling, so it could be described as an underclocking utility. While it was enabled, it reduced the system's performance by about 26 per cent when converting WAV files to MP3s using iTunes. There are three user-selectable levels for throttling the CPU, but only very slight differences were noticed between them. The utility does tell you how much power the CPU is consuming, which is handy, and a meter keeps an accumulative count of the amount of power you've saved – we'd rather see an accumulation of how much we've used.
Physically, the board is a little different than others we've seen, particularly its rear port cluster. Legacy ports are almost completely gone (two PS/2 ports get a stay of execution), and there are eight USB 2.0 ports, along with a gigabit networking jack, and analogue and digital audio ports. Two more USB pin headers on the board accommodate connections to the front panel of a PC case, but we were disappointed not to find any FireWire facilities. It's not like the board is cramped for space; the eight SATA ports are neatly laid out and easy to access, while the PCI Express graphics slot is located a good way down from the memory modules, so you won't have to remove the graphics card to install more memory. An eSATA bracket is part of the package, and it requires the use of two internal SATA connections.
Only one full-sized PCI Express x16 slot is present on the board, so it won't support an ATI CrossFire configuration, but it does have three PCI Express x1 slots for devices such as sound cards, digital TV tuners and wireless networking.
When we setup the board, it didn't automatically detect the correct settings for our CPUs – it ran them slower than their default speeds, so we had to set the front-side bus speed manually. The good new is, it did run 65nm and 45nm CPUs without any problems.
Like the ASRock 4Core1600P35-WiFi+, this Gigabyte board uses the Intel P35 chipset and is capable of running either DDR2 or DDR3 memory modules. It can run a front side bus speed up to 1600MHz and different memory ratios can be set so that you can overclock your CPU without running your RAM too fast.
Using a 65nm-based Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6850 (3GHz) and 2GB of DDR2 RAM, the board recorded a score of 114 in WorldBench 6, which is about two points slower than we expected. In iTunes, it took 55sec to convert 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s, which is exactly what we expected.
With a 45nm-based Core 2 Extreme QX9650 (3GHz) and 2GB of DDR3 RAM, the board recorded 118 in WorldBench 6, which is a very good result and actually a little faster than we expected. Furthermore, its time of 46sec in iTunes makes it the Speedy Gonzales of MP3 encoding.
We observed mixed results when we overclocked the board – it ran fine at 3.6GHz, for a while, until we had problems booting up. It was a little happier at 3.4GHz, but we still experienced instability.
Although the idea behind this board is commendable, which is to clearly let people know how much power their CPU is consuming and let them reduce it, it could be implemented better. It would be nice if there was an accumulation of how much power was actually used, rather than how much was saved. Elsewhere, the board showed good speed with our QX9650 CPU, but was a little sluggish with our QX6850 CPU. We also wish it had FireWire, but that's only a minor blemish.
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