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Reviewed by: Carl Nelson [08.30.06]
Manufactured by: Gigabyte

 

Introduction

One of the common criticisms of Core 2 Duo, despite its overall greater performance over competetively priced AMD chips, is that it simply costs more money to build a whole system. After all, you rarely see a 975X board for much less than $200, and P965 boards are in the $150 range. NVIDIA chipsets aren't out just yet, but when 590-SLI does arrive for Intel chips, it will be a high-end solution, with motherboards costing no less than $150 as well. ATI getting bought by AMD doesn't help matters either.

On the other hand, you could get an AMD system going for relatively cheaper, if you buy a middle-range nForce 570 motherboard for $80-90.

Right?

What if I told you that was wrong? You don't HAVE to use a 975X chipset to run Core 2 Duo, or even Core 2 Extreme. You don't even need to use Intel's latest chipset, P965. What if I told you that there are motherboards out there, fully supporting Core 2 Duo, and Core 2 Extreme, with full 1066 MHz FSB speed?

Remember 945P? It's back.

The 945P chipset was launched last July, with Intel's first dual core processors. With it came the ICH7 southbridge, which brought SATA-300 support and some nifty RAID features. Since then, we have seen the introduction of the 975X, which still stands as Intel's top dog chipset. The 945P chipset has been replaced by the P965 chipset and ICH8 southbridge.

P965 is still preferred for a middle-range system, because it has true DDR2-800 support and the latest southbridge. Regardless, for those planning to build a Core 2 Duo system based on one of the Alderwood chips (which have a reputation for great overclocking) may want to look at a 945P motherboard to save another $30-50. Or they may not... That's what we're going to find out by the end of this review.

Gigabyte S Series

Gigabyte has launched a full lineup of Core 2 Duo motherboards based on both the 945P and P965 chipsets. There areĀ six models in all, ranging from mATX boards with integrated graphics to full ATX boards with pretty decent overclocking options. There is nothing flashy about the S Series motherboards from Gigabyte; you won't find any crazy cooling options or glowing LEDs, or even dual ethernet or RAID on the southbridge. What you do get are boards built with stability and performance in mind, rather than throwing as many features as possible onboard. For those wanting as many checkmarks on their box as possible, you can look at something from Gigabyte's "6-Quad" lineup.

The two boards we're looking at today are the GA-965P-DS3, and GA-945P-S3. Gigabyte has done a great job of simplifying their names, so we don't get a name that seems like it's gone through 128-bit AES encryption. The "S" is the 'series' of course, and the number beside the 'S' represents how many "S's" that board supports. The first two "S's" are nothing new; they refer to Gigabyte's software and driver installation, BIOS recovery, etc. The last two "S's" are more important, because they refer to overclocking options and a heatpipe cooler. Since our boards are "S3" and not "S4", they do not include the heatpipe cooler (which is important; read on to see). The "D" in "DS3" stands for "Durability" which means the board only uses longer lasting solid-state capacitors (although the regular capacitors on the other boards are all high quality Japanese units).

Because of the basic design, these boards will be very affordable once they hit the street. MSRP is planned to be $127 for the GA-965P-DS3, and $99 for the GA-945P-S3.

This is one review I have looked forward to, because in the past, the more basic motherboards have done very well. As long as they perform well and have the features you need (and can overclock relatively well), I'm all for a lower-priced motherboard.

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