A few years ago, a high-end motherboard would have had oodles of features and overclocking capabilities – something that Gigabyte’s DQ6-branded motherboards fitted perfectly. But now the market is changing as there are more SKUs that specifically tailor to the consumers’ needs: essentially, the market outgrew the DQ6.
Now Gigabyte has both the P45-Extreme and DQ6, both of which cater to slightly different people – the Extreme (no doubt said while showing the horns) has more cooling but less peripheral hardware shoehorned into the same PCB space.
The EP45-DQ6 on the other hand has become the ultimate connectivity product – there are no less than four Gigabit Ethernet sockets, a pair of open ended PCI-Express x4 slots and more SATA ports that even the most frivolous archiver will never fill. This means the Gigabyte board should aim to be rock solid stable if it’s designed to be the ultimate media hub and basic workstation board, although its BIOS also speaks of some extreme underpinnings.
Like its second generation of P35 boards, the entire P45 range still has the ‘E‘ prefix denoting that it includes Gigabyte's energy efficient software again. However, this time it's been upgraded slightly to Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) Advanced – we'll introduce you to the new features later.
Support for socket 775 Intel Core 2 Extreme, Quad, Duo and Pentium processors with 1,600, 1,333, 1,066 or 800MHz FSB
Intel P45 north bridge
Intel ICH10R south bridge
Four DDR2 DIMM slots supporting up to 16GB of memory at 1,200, 1,066, 800 or 667MHz
Realtek ALC889a audio codec supporting 7.1 channel High-Definition surround sound including Dolby Home Theatre technology
Four Realtek RTL8111C PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet connectors including dual and four way teaming
One PCI-Express x16 2.0 slot (x16 or x8 electrical)
One PCI-Express x16 (x8 electrical)
Two open ended PCI-Express x4 slots
One PCI-Express x1 slot
Two PCI slots
Six SATA 3Gbps ports including support for RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5
Four SATA 3Gbps ports from two Silicon Image 5723 chipsets
One IDE and one floppy port
Three IEEE1394a Firewire sockets
Twelve USB 2.0 ports (eight on rear I/O and four via pin-outs)
Gigabyte DualBIOS, @BIOS, Q-Flash, QuadBIOS, EasyTune 6, DES Advanced, Ultra TPM, XpressRecovery, XpressInstall and Q-Share features
Just looking at the list of features, it’s clearly evident that you couldn’t even fit another morsel anywhere on this board without pushing something else off the other end – Gigabyte should take up a second line of work consulting in space management.
The colours are typical Gigabyte, you'd spot it a mile off, and while helpful through variation we can’t help but want the board to grow up a little. Across the board Gigabyte uses low RDS(on) MOSFETs, even for the north bridge and memory, as well as large, sealed ferrite iron chokes in accordance with its ’Ultra Durable 2’ branding.
What has changed is the use of SMD solid aluminium capped capacitors that frequented the previous X38-DQ6 board – these were claimed to offer a lower ESR and a better quality, however on this DQ6 we’re back to the more familiar Fuijitsu DIP types. It's strange and slightly funny how Gigabyte has changed its tune – these were a key part of the DQ6 ‘Ultra Durable 2’ brand and claimed to offer “a better life and greater reliability” on past boards.
Gigabyte uses the same virtual twelve phase CPU power regulation with two MOSFETs per choke and one driver IC (on the back) per two phases. Included also is the Dynamic Energy Saver that features twelve LEDs on the top right of the board to give a visual indication of phase use. In addition to this Gigabyte also has pseudo three phase power regulation for the north bridge and DDR2 – there maybe three square chokes but there are only four low RDS(on) MOSFETs; so this doesn’t fit the usual 1:2 ratio.