Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R Motherboard Review
By Gabriel Torres on August 13, 2007


Introduction

Hardware Secrets Golden Award

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.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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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.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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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.

Introduction (Cont'd)

This motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by Realtek RTL8111B chip. This chip is a complete controller, so this motherboard does not use the chipset south bridge chip to control its network interface. This chip is connected to the PCI Express bus, what is great, because a PCI Express x1 connection can provide a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 1.5 Gbps, 50% more bandwidth than necessary.
 
This motherboard has 12 USB 2.0 ports (four soldered on the motherboard and eight available through I/O brackets, which don’t come with the motherboard). This motherboard does not provide FireWire ports and this is something we missed on this product.

On the audio section this motherboard has eight channels provided by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC889A codec, which is the most high-end codec provided by Realtek today, with a 106 dB signal-to-noise ratio, 7.1+2 channels (translation: besides the 8-channel surround sound, it features an extra stereo channel, usually used for audio streaming or frontal panel headphones) and DTS Connect compatibility (i.e., Blu-Ray and HD-DVD audio compatibility).

This motherboard also provides full 7.1 analog audio jacks on the rear panel, so you can easily hook an analog 5.1 or 7.1 set of speakers to this motherboard without “killing” your mic in and line in jacks, plus both optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, making it easy to connect your PC to a home theater receiver.
 
On the rear panel (Figure 3) you can find the PS/2 mouse and PS/2 keyboard connectors, coaxial and optical SPDIF connectors, parallel port, serial port, four USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port and analog audio inputs and outputs. As you can see this motherboard still has a parallel port, feature not found on the most recent motherboards.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 3: Motherboard rear connectors.

For this motherboard Gigabyte chose only high-end components. First all its capacitors are solid aluminum, even the smaller ones – and not only the ones used on the voltage regulator circuit like some manufacturers are doing these days. Using this kind of capacitors prevent the capacitor leakage problem. Second, this motherboard uses ferrite coils on its voltage regulator circuit instead of iron coils. According to Gigabyte this produces 25% less power loss. And third this motherboard uses better MOSFET transistors, which are smaller and don’t have the traditional big metallic heatsink on their back. These transistors provide a lower RDS(on) compared to traditional MOSFET transistors used on other motherboard models. Translation: when the transistor is “on” the source-drain resistance is lower, making the transistor to waste less power, i.e., to dissipate less heat. According to Gigabyte the transistors used on this motherboard heat 16% less compared to traditional MOSFET transistors. This set of improvements is called “Ultra Durable 2” by Gigabyte, as their goal is to provide a motherboard with a higher lifespan.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 4: Solid aluminum capacitors, ferrite coils and high-end MOSFET transistors.

In Figure 5, you can see all cables and adapters that come with this motherboard. On the left-hand side you can see the eSATA adapter and cables we mentioned before.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 5: Motherboard accessories.

Main Specifications

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R main features are:

* Researched at Shopping.com on the day we published this review.

How We Tested

During our benchmarking sessions, we used the configuration listed below. Between our benchmarking sessions the only variable was the motherboard being tested.
 
Hardware Configuration

Software Configuration

Driver Versions

Used Software

We adopted a 3% error margin; thus, differences below 3% cannot be considered relevant. In other words, products with a performance difference below 3% should be considered as having similar performance.

Overall Performance

We measured the overall performance of this motherboard using SYSmark2004, which is a program that simulates the use of real-world applications. Thus, we consider this the best software to measure, in practical terms, the system performance.

The benchmarks are divided into two groups:

The software delivers specific results for each batch and also an overall performance result, all in a specific SYSmark2004 unit.

We compared the reviewed board to Abit IP35 Pro (Intel P35), ECS P35T-A (Intel P35), MSI P35 Platinum (Intel P35), MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35), ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i), ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i), ASUS P5B (Intel P965), ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) and Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X). On the graphs present on this and on the following pages you will see the clock rate we configured our memories. Since we had DDR2-1066 memory modules installed, we ran our tests two times, first with our memories configured at 800 MHz and then configured at 1,066 MHz. Some motherboards (like ECS P35T-A and the ones based on nForce 650i and Intel 975X chipsets), however, do not support DDR2-1066 and that is why you won’t find DDR2-1066 results for them.

You can see the results on the charts below.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 800 MHz, Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same overall performance level of almost all other motherboards we included in our comparison, losing only to MSI P35 Neo Combo, which was 3.86% faster.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz we saw no significant performance improvement on this test.

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 1,066 MHz, Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same overall performance level of almost all other motherboards we included in our comparison, losing only to MSI P35 Platinum, which was 3.24% faster.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R

On Internet Content Creation batch comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 800 MHz Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same performance level of all other motherboards we included in our comparison.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz we saw no significant performance improvement on this test.

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 1,066 MHz, Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same performance level of all other motherboards we included in our comparison.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R

On Office Productivity batch we saw some significant differences. Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 800 MHz, Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same performance level of almost all other motherboards we included in our comparison, losing only to ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition (Intel P965) and MSI P35 Platinum, which were 3.65% faster, and to MSI P35 Neo Combo, which was 6.20% faster.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz we saw no significant performance improvement on this test.

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 1,066 MHz, MSI P35 Platinum and ASUS P5B Premium (Intel P965) were 4.98% faster and ASUS P5B (Intel P965) was 3.83% faster than the reviewed motherboard.

Processing Performance

We measured processing performance using PCMark05 Professional program. PCMark05 Professional measures the system performance by running several tests. The System batch, which was the one we used, performs the following tests: HDD XP Startup, Physics and 3D, 2D Transparent Window, 3D Pixel Shader, Web Page Rendering, File Decryption, 2D Graphics Memory – 64 lines, HDD General Usage and three multithreading tests. The results are given in a PCMark05 specific unit.

ECS P35T-A

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 800 MHz, Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same overall performance level of all other motherboards we included in our comparison.

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz we saw no significant performance improvement on this test.

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 1,066 MHz, ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i) was 4.23% faster, MSI P35 Platinum was 3.58% faster, ASUS P5B (Intel P965) was 3.11% faster and ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition (Intel P965) was 3.08% faster than the reviewed motherboard, which achieved the same performance level of Abit IP35 PRO.

3D Performance: Quake 4

We upgraded Quake 4 to version 1.3 and ran its multiplayer demo id_demo001 at 1024x768x32 with image quality settings configured at “low” four times. The first result was always discarded, and from the other three values, we discarded the highest and the lowest score, i.e., we used the middle value for our comparison. You can see the results below.

ECS P35T-A

On Quake 4 with our memories set at 800 MHz Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R achieved the same performance level as ECS P35T-A, Abit IP35 PRO, ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition (Intel P965), ASUS P5B (Intel P965) and MSI P35 Platinum, being 3.44% faster than Intel D975XBX2 (Intel 975X), 4.49% faster than ECS PN2 SLI2+ (nForce 680i), 6.35% faster than ECS NF650iSLIT-A (nForce 650i), 6.44% faster than MSI P35 Neo Combo (Intel P35) and 7.50% faster than ASUS P5N-E SLI (nForce 650i).

When we set our memories to run at 1,066 MHz we saw no significant performance improvement on this test.

Comparing all motherboards with their memories running at 1,066 MHz, Abit IP35 PRO (Intel P35) was 3.67% faster, ASUS P5B (Intel P965) was 3.21% faster and ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition (Intel P965) was 3.01% faster than the reviewed motherboard, which achieved the same performance level of MSI P35 Platinum.

Overclocking

On Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R we could find these overclocking options (F2, May 21st, 2007 BIOS):

This motherboard feature dynamic overclocking, which Gigabyte calls CIA2. Dynamic overclocking allows you to overclock your computer automatically through a single adjustment on the motherboard setup. You can choose between five overclocking levels: cruise, sports, racing, turbo and full throughst. Our review was done with dynamic overclocking disabled.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 6: Overclocking adjustments.

This motherboard also provides some memory timings adjustments, as you can see in Figure 7.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 7: Memory timings settings.

On this motherboard there is no way to lock the memory clock at a specific clock rate, so overclocking the CPU you will automatically overclock the memory as well. This may be a problem as the maximum clock your memories can achieve may limit your overclocking. On the other hand, you can configure the FSB/memory clock ratio, so you may increase this when you think your memories are running at a too high clock.

The PCI Express clock configuration is also very important, as you can lock the PCI Express clock at a given value (100 MHz, for example). Usually when you increase the FSB clock you will automatically increase the PCI Express clock as well, and sometimes your overclocking will be limited not by the CPU but by the devices connected to the PCI Express bus. Thus with this option you can increase the probability of setting a higher overclocking.

The maximum external clock rate we could configure on this motherboard was 324 MHz, what made our memories to run at 972 MHz (FSB/memory ratio of 1:1.5). With this overclocking our Core 2 Duo E6700, which normally runs at 2.66 MHz, was running at 3.24 GHz, an impressive 21.80% increase on its internal clock rate. With this overclocking our system performance increased 17.83% on Quake 4 and 12.05% on PCMark05.

We could configure our external clock above that but the system was unstable. We only consider our overclocking to be successful after we can run at least four times Quake 4 and PCMark05 with no errors.

Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R
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Figure 8: Maximum overclocking with Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R.

This is a very high overclocking level. So far there is only one motherboard were we could achieve an overclocking higher than this without playing with extra adjustments, ASUS P5N-E SLU (327 MHz). On ASUS P5B Premium Vista Edition we could set our CPU running externally at 323 MHz, on ASUS P5B we could set our CPU running externally at 316 MHz, on MSI P35 Neo Combo we could set our CPU running externally at 314 MHz and on MSI P35 Platinum we could set our CPU running externally at 305 MHz.

We, however, didn’t play with voltage settings or any other fancy adjustments, so you may achieve a better overclocking than we did with more time and patience – on this motherboard and also on the other motherboards we reviewed.

Conclusions

We were really impressed by Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R. Its performance is similar to other P35-based motherboards but it brings a better manufacturing quality and a higher overclocking support, plus is it quoted at a very good price. It can be found, on average, around USD 150 but on some e-tailers like Newegg.com and Mwave.com you can buy this motherboard by USD 130, which is a terrific price for such product.

Its main features include support for the new 1,333 MHz external bus, eight SATA-300 ports supporting RAID – and you can transform two of them into eSATA ports; the adapter is included –, two DDR3 sockets and four DDR2 sockets.

The on-board audio quality brought by this motherboard is fantastic, based on a high-end codec that provides an impressive 106 signal-to-noise ratio. It also features both optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs soldered directly on the board, making it easy to connect your PC to your home theater receiver. It also brings full analog speaker support, so if you prefer to use a set of analog speakers, you won’t kill your mic in and line in inputs.

The manufacturing quality is probably the strongest point of this motherboard, featuring only high-end components: solid aluminum capacitors, ferrite coils and high-end MOSFET transistors.

With GA-P35C-DS3R we could achieve the second best overclocking from all socket LGA775 motherboards we reviewed to date without playing with any fancy adjustments. With more time and patience you will probably achieve an even higher overclocking than we did.
 
Gigabyte GA-P35C-DS3R is, in our opinion, a flawless product for the average user that wants a high-end product with a mainstream price. Go for it.

If you want even more features – and we can only think of SLI or Crossfire, FireWire ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports – then of course you will need to look for another product.

Originally at http://www.hardwaresecrets.com/article/Gigabyte-GA-P35C-DS3R-Motherboard-Review/476


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