nsofar as accouterments the P965-DS3 series topology is a fairly barren landscape, eschewing heat-pipe cooling and many of the extras which are found on most enthusiast boards. This is a true budget platform with every penny spent on FSB overclocking performance. The layout is user friendly, as in no surprises such as power connectors placed between PCIe slots
The P965-DS3 features a large North Bridge heatsink, the same heatsinks used on many Gigabyte boards including the GA-8N-SLI Royal
on page one and the GA-G1975X Turbo I reviewed
Gigabyte along with some other board makers has been incorporating solid state components, especially in the power circuitry feeding the CPU. Video card makers have been using solid state caps for sometime. Solid state capacitors and mosfets are more efficient, run cooler and have a lower profile, what more could we ask for. What piqued my interest on the P965-DS3 were the number and position of chokes relevant to power stages. Intuitively this looked like a three stage design which struck me as odd given today's eight and ten stage designs.
Given this is a solid state design fewer devices are needed to regulate, smooth and step-down current to the processor. I didn't find any voltage fluctuations even during my recent Sub-Zero ExodusFlow CPU-waterblock
review in which my E6400 was overclocked beyond 400FSB at full LOAD on this exact system. The Sub-Zero easily mounts onto the P965-DS3 as does an Intel stock cooler. The proximity of the chokes and capacitors did concern me with larger "High Rise" Tower coolers .
Onto the ever-lovin DDR2 DIMMs where many of our dreams are realized or dashed on the jagged rock of incompatibility. One issue reported by P965-DS3 end-users was an inability to boot certain memory due to the 1.8V default DDR2 voltage. I've found the easiest way to circumvent this issue is to remove one stick of memory and re-boot. No need to clear CMOS since it won't do much good in many circumstances, in fact Dual Channel mode seems to be at issue.
Gigabyte chose a large low profile passive heatsink for the P965-DS3's Intel ICH8 South Bridge. There are a total of six SATA 3Gb/s connectors, four orange ports supported by the Intel ICH8 which eschews RAID function, the ICH8 also supports the FDD. Gigabyte employed their own data storage controller supporting RAID from the two purple connectors as well as the green IDE connector.
Below we see Gigabyte's SATA RAID and IDE controller chip and a close-up of the SATA ports. The ports in orange are non/SATA controlled by the Intel SB ICH8 chips. RAID features are handled by Gigabyte's proprietary chip, the ports color coded in purple. Gigabyte kept costs low by using their own SATA RAID chip, as opposed to buying Intel's more costly ICH8R part smart thinking for a true budget board.
Finally I wanted to show the CLEAR CMOS jumper which is the first I've seen using only two pins. The pins are bare and require a jumper to short them for a few seconds to CLEAR CMOS. Unfortunately I had to un-install my card to gain access to the pins. Perhaps Gigabyte in their developing a "budget" board thought only single slots cards would be used?
The location couldn't have been worse unless it was on the back on the board. You have to remove your graphics card to get at the pins and you all know how frustrated your are when your at the point of clearing the CMOS, so removing the graphics card only makes matters worse. The close-up below shows the pins with a blue jumper in place as I had to clear the CMOS a few times.
Despite a few minor issues the layout is sill better then some and not nearly as bad as many I've seen. There's was no real problem except clearing the CMOS (which shouldn't be something you’re doing often) and SATA hook-up which is difficult since the ports are obstructed from view by the graphics card. If you want to access SATA or IDE ports you have to lift your tower onto a desk, or lay down with a mini-light.
Next BIOS settings and EasyTune 5. ->