Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R is top mainstream motherboard based on the latest Intel mainstream chipset, P35, supporting both DDR3 and DDR2 memories and having several extra features like eight SATA-300 ports (two of them can be converted into eSATA) and high-end components (solid aluminum capacitors, ferrite coils and better MOSFET transistors). Let’s see the features and performance from this new Gigabyte release.
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Figure 1: Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R motherboard.
Intel P35 succeeds Intel P965 chipset, being targeted to mainstream motherboards. The difference between these two chipsets is the support for DDR3 memories and the new 1,333 MHz bus on P35. Please note that DDR3 support does not mean that all motherboards based on P35 accept DDR3 memories: since DDR2 and DDR3 sockets are different, is up to the manufacturer to decide which kind of memories the motherboard will accept. GA-P35C-DS3R accepts both DDR2 and DDR3 memories, as it have sockets for these two technologies.
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Figure 2: Memory sockets.
Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R has four DDR2 sockets (yellow and red ones) and two DDR3 sockets (green ones), as you can see in Figure 2. This is an advantage over another P35-based motherboards with DDR3 support we’ve reviewed, MSI P35 Neo Combo. This model from MSI has only two DDR2 sockets and if you want to add more memory in the future you would have to replace your old modules – i.e., there is no way to simply add two additional modules, meaning more cost (in this case, for example, if you have two 512 MB modules for a total of 1 GB and you want to have 2 GB total on your computer, you would need to buy two 1 GB modules and remove the old ones; you couldn’t simply add two 512 MB modules). As mentioned, this doesn’t happen with the reviewed board from Gigabyte.
Keep in mind that you cannot use DDR2 and DDR3 memories at the same time; you need to choose between one of the two. The maximum memory capacity for DDR2 is 8 GB and the maximum capacity for DDR3 is 4 GB. Intel P35 chipset supports dual channel technology and in order to enable it you just need to install your memory modules on sockets with the same color.
Officially Intel P35 chipset supports DDR2 memories up to DDR2-800 and DDR3 memories up to DDR3-1066. However, just like it happens with Intel P965 chipset, P35 unofficially supports DDR2-1066 and we could set our DDR2-1066 memories to run at 1,066 MHz without any problem.
Another difference between P35 and P965 is the south bridge chip. Intel P965 uses ICH8 chip, while P35 uses the new ICH9 chip, which comes in four flavors. The vanilla ICH9 is identical to the “old” ICH8 chip found on Intel P965 chipset but supporting 12 USB 2.0 ports instead of 10. The ICH9R variant, which is used on P35C-DS3R, supports RAID, six SATA-300 ports (the plain ICH9 support only four), Viiv support (i.e., support for Quick Resume technology, which allows the PC to imitate the behavior of TV sets, where by pressing the power button located on the remote control the screen goes dark, the sound is muted and the keyboard and mouse stop responding) and the new “Intel Turbo Memory” technology, codenamed Robson Technology, which is a disk cache technology using flash memories, available through the installation of a x1 PCI Express card. ICH9DH (a.k.a. Digital Home) has the same specs of ICH9R but no RAID support. And ICH9DO (a.k.a. Digital Office) has the same specs of ICH9R but no Viiv support – i.e., no support for Quick Resume technology.
As mentioned Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R is based on the ICH9R chip, so this chip controls six of the eight SATA-300 ports available on this motherboard, supporting RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10. These ports are orange. The other two SATA-300 ports and the ATA-133 port are controlled by Gigabyte SATA 2 chip, which is a relabeled Jmicron JMB363 chip, supporting RAID 0, RAID 1 and JBOD. These two ports are purple. What is cool about these two ports is that they support eSATA and this motherboard comes with an adapter that converts them into eSATA ports. This feature is really good because if you won’t use eSATA devices you can free them to be used by internal devices. This adapter also puts one peripheral power plug outside the case and an adapter to covert this plug into a SATA power plug, allowing you to feed your external HDD without the need of buying any extra device.
This motherboard has only one x16 PCI Express slot (we say “only” because there are other P35-based motherboards around with a second x16 PCI Express slot), three x1 PCI Express slots and three standard PCI slots, as you can see in Figure 1.