Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Ran fast and reliably at default speeds and when overclocked, Has useful overclocking options, Sports a large, passive chipset cooler; Supports a CrossFire graphics configuration
- Its eSTA ports aren't located on the rear panel, instead they need to be installed in expansion slots; DDR3 memory is still very expensive, Ships with only one FireWire port
The Gigabyte P35T-DQ6 is impressively built and is fast and reliable while also offering plenty of connectivity options. We didn't encounter any instability throughout our prolonged tests, even though we overclocked it, and it returned some of the fastest test results we've seen to date. If you're thinking of building a super-fast PC, then you need this board.
Price$ 380.00 (AUD)
This high-end Gigabyte motherboard uses Intel's P35 Express chipset and DDR3 memory. To date, it's one of the fastest desktop motherboards that we've tested, but apart from its speed, it has plentiful ports and slots that make it a solid base for a gaming, video editing or professional PC.
Its two full-size PCI Express slots support an ATI CrossFire configuration, and its four memory slots can accommodate up to 8GB of DDR3 memory (running at up to 1333MHz). Eight Serial ATA II (SATA II) ports provide ample connectivity for hard drives and modern optical drives, and they can be used in RAID 0, 1, 5 or 10 modes. In addition, the board retains one IDE and one floppy drive port. Unfortunately, because it also retains parallel and serial ports on its rear panel, the board doesn't have any external SATA (eSATA) ports built in. Instead, it comes with two rear-mounting brackets that can supply up to four eSATA ports, plus a power port. These brackets need to be connected to the internal SATA II ports and to an internal power connector in order to provide the eSATA infrastructure. The rear panel of the board is packed with a mix of old and new connectivity, which includes the aforementioned parallel and serial ports. Also present are four USB 2.0 ports (eight more are available via internal pin headers for connecting the supplied USB 2.0 bracket and also for connecting to front-mounted case ports), one FireWire port (two more are available via internal pin headers for connecting the supplied FireWire bracket), one gigabit Ethernet port, two PS/2 ports, as well as analogue and digital (coaxial and optical) audio ports.
The build quality of the board is second-to-none and its chipset cooler is among the biggest we've seen. Indeed, the copper cooler consists of four heat sinks, which are connected by heat-pipes, almost in an 'S' shape, around the CPU, and there is another heat sink attached to the bottom of the board, under the CPU (Gigabyte calls this Crazy Cool). The heat sink atop the Northbridge chipset (the one that controls the flow of data from the CPU, the memory and the PCI Express slots) is tall and chunky and its height makes it a little awkward to remove the standard Intel CPU cooler. Likewise, the location of the CPU fan pin-header next to this heat sink means that you have to remember to plug in the fan before installing your CPU cooler. It will be almost impossible to plug the fan in if the CPU cooler is already installed.
When building up the board, we had to install our 2GB of DDR3 memory before plugging in our ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card, and this is because the graphics card slot is located very close to the memory slots. We didn't have any problems installing our Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU -- we remembered to plug the CPU fan in first. Our test system also had a Seasonic 900W power supply, a 500GB Western Digital hard drive and it ran Windows Vista Ultimate. The board's driver installation was almost perfect under Vista -- we only had to run the supplied chipset driver disc in order to install the SM Bus (system management bus, which can be used for reporting system temperatures through Windows) driver. Vista identified all the other components, including the built-in audio device, and installed them all without any problems.
We tested the board using 2GB of DDR3 memory, and we used two different brands: Samsung and Corsair. While the sticks of memory that we used had a 1066MHz speed rating, we were able to use them at 1333MHz without any problems while overclocking our Intel Core 2 Extreme QX6700 CPU to 3.3GHz (from 2.6GHz). It's the stability of this memory that allowed us to achieve a super-high score of 123 in our WorldBench 6 benchmark, but we also achieved a fast result (119) when the memory ran at its native 1066MHz. With the CPU at its default speed of 2.6GHz and the memory at 1066MHz, WorldBench 6 returned a score of 108, which is still a very fast result and better than we were expecting.
The previous fastest result we'd achieved from a motherboard in WorldBench 6 was 115, which was scored with Gigabyte's DDR2-based P35-DS4 and the same CPU settings (3.3GHz), but with an 833MHz DDR2 memory speed. The DDR3 memory on the P35T-DQ6 helped it to post a seven per cent improvement over the P35-DS4, but the performance improvement does come at a price as the board itself costs.$350. This isn't an unreasonable amount of money for a high-end model such as this one -- it's actually a very competitive price. But, DDR3 memory is still very expensive. Expect to pay at least $600 for 2GB of DDR3 memory with a speed rating of 1066MHz.
If you can afford it, then this board won't disappoint. In addition to its zippy WorldBench performance, with a 3.3GHz CPU speed and a 1333MHz memory speed, it took only 35sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 56Kbps MP3 files using iTunes. It took only 1min 20sec to encode the same amount of files to 192Kbps MP3s using Cdex. The Cdex result is particularly impressive as we were expecting a time between five and 10sec longer.
The motherboard's BIOS has a clear interface and it offers useful features for overclocking. As well as using the built in automatic overclocking modes (called C.I.A.2), the board can be overclocked manually. The front side bus speed, the clock multiplier for the CPU and the memory speed (via the memory frequency multiplier) can all be adjusted. Voltages for the CPU and the memory can be managed automatically by the motherboard, or they can be manually changed. We let the motherboard automatically manage the voltage of our components, but we did manually change the speed of the board. We used a 333MHz front side bus speed (which is 1333MHz when multiplied by the four data bits that the Intel Core 2 CPU micro-architecture can process in one clock cycle) and a clock multiplier of 10. This gave us our 3.3GHz CPU speed. Using the 333MHz front side bus speed, we were able to set the memory frequency multiplier to four in order to get our memory speed up to 1333MHz. As mentioned previously, the memory we used is only rated at 1066MHz, but it performed reliably at 1333MHz.
Dynamic fan control in the BIOS kept our CPU fan spinning at a sub-1000 RPM speed when we used the CPU's default speed of 2.6GHz, which made for a quiet working environment. When we overclocked the board to 3.3GHz, the fan roared at over 4000rpm, which is an indication that the dynamic control works well.
As mentioned earlier, the board's two full-sized PCI Express slots (one is a PCIe x16 slot and the other is a PCIe x4 slot) can be used to accommodate an ATI CrossFire graphics configuration. When using double-thickness graphics cards (such as the Radeon HD 2900 XT) in each of these full-size slots, the adjacent PCIe x1 and PCI slots, respectively, won't be usable. There are a total of three PCIe x1 slots and two PCI slots.
Overall, this board is impressively built, has plenty of connectivity options and, most importantly, is fast and reliable. We didn't encounter any instability throughout our prolonged tests, even though we overclocked it, and it returned some of the fastest test results we've seen to date. If you're thinking of building a super-fast PC, then you need this board.
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