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Gigabytes Ga P35 Ds3l First Impresssions

Well this is the first Gigabyte board I have bought and below are my thoughts. But first a little background info on myself to give perspective on my review.

Background Info:
I have built probably over 15 custom PC's, all of which have been Intel. I usually build stock computers budget PC's which are a better value than that of Be$t Buy, Ckt City etc. I have NEVER OC'ed anything but I have a Computer Engineering Undergrad background so stuff like timing, latency etc does not frightened me. This is my first PC that I built for myself to tinker with and so here were my starting parameters: Best value (ie not much money but good performance), Ease install, Ease of Overclocking.

Hardware:
MOBO: As title suggest GA-P35-DS3L rev2.0
RAM: 2x 1GB DDR2-667 (G.Skill 1GBnj)
HD: Western Digital Caviar 250GB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s
CPU: Core 2 Duo E6300
PS: Linkworld LPG2-43-P4-IO ATX12V 630W
Graphics: Palit 8800GT Super 1GB
Cooling: Stock CPU cooler, 3 80mm Case fans.

First off this was probably one of the more expensive builds so I presumed that it would go off without a hitch, of course Moore's law always prevails.

Install Processes:
I did a clean install of standard XP Pro SP2 (User input type with a CD I know to work). Had my RAM in Dual Channel Mode. Right of the bat I had some problems, I was getting errors about copying files during the initial file copies after formatting the drive (NTFS Full not Quick). So I decided to check my memory with Memtest86 v1.20 from an old Knoppix Live CD (type memtest at prompt). Sure enough I had some memory issues (Test 2 which I think it is self addressing test). I checked both stick individually, each DIMM slot, Single channel mode (ie sticks in DIMM 1&2 instead of 1&3 or 2&4) and everything checked out; meaning that it was a problem while operating in Dual Channel mode. So then I increased my RAM voltage .3V above normal operation (approx. 2.03V) and that fixed the Dual Channel Mode RAM issue. Went to Repair the botched prior XP install and again I received copying errors. Restarted and proceed installing with only one stick in DIMM1. This fixed the problem and Windows installed smoothly afterwards.

Install Processes RAM Issue
So I would attribute this problem to the MOBO. Of course I could have bought recommend RAM but I was looking to save money where I could and cheap RAM fit the bill. I have done this with my other builds and never encountered such problems but I never intentionally setup the RAM in Dual Channel Mode before either.

Overclocking via Software:
I have not played much with overclocking because most of the prior systems I was warranty conscious. Stock was the way to go. But here I want "budget performance" so this MOBO was advertised as easy overclocking. First I tried to use the EasyTune5 Pro from the CD that came with the board. It installed and I tried to update from within the program but it failed. So I used the version that came on the MOBO CD with no updates. It started up and I used the easy overclock feature. I increased the CPU Freq from 1.86 -> 2.01 Ghz. Ran 3dmark06 and big performance increase. I was thinking, that was easy, why go through BIOS like everyone else does, I would soon find out. There are 3 setting that you can save your OC setting within EasyTune5, I tried to save it under the Turbo label. It saved and restarted, I logged into XP and the computer would freeze. Spent a lot of time playing with BIOS and software for cooperation but to no avail. I had to start up in safe mode and remove the EasyTune5 and reload my default BIOS settings to correct the mess. I also uninstalled and downloaded the most recent build of EasyTune5. My computer froze before I even got to use the software and I believe it happened when XP attempted to load it.

Overclocking via Software Conclusion:
Don’t use EasyTune5 Pro at all.

Overclocking from BIOS:
The BIOS that came with the board is Award Soft International Inc Version F6. So far I have only had time to increase the Freq to 2.27 letting the MOBO regulate the voltage (auto under CPU voltage in the BIOS). I ran 3dMark06 and had temps of about: Core1 max 54 C avg 46.2, Core 2 max 51 C avg 43.6 C, CPU max 40 C avg 34.3 C. I don't know why I have such a large discrepancy between CPU, Core 1 and Core 2. Maybe has to due with how I applied/cleaned the Artic 5 Silver (more story on that but not important), I will investigate later and any suggestions are welcomed. But temps are not bad, at stock speeds the CPU averaged in mid 20's C under load.

BIOS Overclocking Conclusion:
So far, Overclocking CPU via BIOS is a snap. I just increment the Freq by increasing the Bus speed, currently 325Mhz (325 x 7 multiplier =2.27 Ghz) and let the board adjust the voltage appropriately.

I will tinker with the CPU OC'ing in more detail later but for now I am out of time. I also plan to Overclock my RAM and GPU.

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