It's still early days for the P45 Express chipset, and based on our test results, motherboard makers may need some additional time to familiarize themselves with the chipset's new memory controller and optimize their BIOSes accordingly. Even so, the P45 offers competitive application and peripheral performance that neatly keeps up with its P35 predecessor. But if the P45 isn't any faster than the chipset that came before it, why bother?
PCI Express 2.0, for one. And not just for the faster signaling rate, but because the P45 can split its PCIe lanes evenly between a pair of graphics cards for CrossFire. Once written off as expensive gimmicks, multi-GPU configurations now deliver considerable value at affordable price points, making proper CrossFire support a rather attractive feather in the P45's cap.
The P45's die shrink to a 65nm process appears to be paying dividends, as well. The chipset's power consumption is very lowâ€”provided your board isn't burdened with excessive peripheralsâ€”and 500MHz front-side bus overclocks appear to be all but a lock. Now the P35 was hardly a slouch in the overclocking department, but it certainly didn't overclock as easily or consistently as the P45 boards we've tested thus far.
In the end, then, the P45 looks like an incremental update to an already solid P35 foundation. It's a worthwhile update, though, and one that should extend Intel's mid-range chipset dynasty for another generation. Tick-tock indeed.
As for Gigabyte's EP45 motherboards, we're a little torn. The DQ6 is no doubt a solid offering, but at $260, it's just too expensive unless you absolutely must have four Gigabit Ethernet ports or a couple of x4 slots that can accommodate longer expansion cards. The DS3R, however, looks like a fantastic option. You get everything you need, including dual GigE ports, Firewire, and a pair of x16 slots wrapped in a power-efficient package that overclocks like a champ and costs just $150. That's a tough combo to beat, and one we'd heartily recommend.