Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - The Overclockers Dream

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Product: Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 Motherboard
Provided By: MemoryExpress
Price: $279.95 CDN

Introduction:

We have been fortunate to be able to take a look at one the latest and greatest motherboards from Gigabyte today.  We are looking at one of the most expensive Intel 965P based motherboards on the market.  This board uses a very innovative cooling system and boasts the claim 6-Quad.  All these extras make this board one of the most features laden boards around as the price tag indicates.  This board is geared for the enthusiast and today we are going to see if it hits the market it's aiming for or if it falls a little short.

Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Box
Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Box

In the past, I've personally not been that impressed with Gigabyte boards as they have failed within the first year without exception.  Gigabyte has tried to improve the life of this product with an excellent cooling solution, exception voltage regulation and control as well as using all solid-state capacitors instead on electrolytic capacitors.  This should make the board stable, reliable and last a long time.  We will test a couple of these in our review, but only time will tell if this boards stands up to the punishment of an enthusiasts tweaking.

Bundle & First Look:

The motherboard comes in a very large box.  It is almost twice as thick as a regular motherboard box and comes with a ton of extras.  If fact, there are so many extras we had to set up a couple of pictures to shot off everything that came in the box.

Bundle #1
 Bundle #1

Bundle #2
Bundle #2

eSATA is becoming more popular so it's forward thinking for Gigabyte to include a couple of eSATA brackets.

 

eSATA Package
eSATA Package

 

Gigabyte includes a total of four internal SATA cables, two eSATA cables, and two eSATA add-on brackets.  If all of these are plugged in, they will occupy six of the eight SATA ports on the motherboard.  I personally don't have any eSATA devices, but if I did I'd be pretty happy about this add-on.  As it stands, it's kind of a non-issue for many users.

Below is a picture of the multi-color 965P-DQ6 for your viewing pleasure.

Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Board
 Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Board

The layout of the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 is pretty good. Gigabyte keeps the 24-pin power connector over at the edge of the board.  This helps clean up the large cable clutter from over top of the CPU area.  Also beside the main power connector is an auxiliary 4 pin Molex connector.  The secondary power connector is an 8pin connector that is on the other side of the CPU socket toward the rear I/O panel.  This is not the perfect place for the power connector, but it's located toward the top of the board so it keeps things fairly clear of the heatsink.

The SATA and IDE connectors are all located at the bottom right of the board.  Two SATA ports and the IDE port are powered by the JMicron controller as Intel doesn't natively support IDE anymore.  This board has USB and Firewire headers available as well.

The DIMM slots are located a little close to the top 16x PCIe connector and it could cause a few issues when you have a long graphics card installed.  You will still be able to add and remove RAM without removing the graphics card, but the clearance would be very slim.

On the next page we'll take a look at this board up close.


Up Close:

This board has a nice layout, lots of features and is eye catching with its colorful theme.  Take a look below and see what we are talking about.  You can click on any of the pictures below to view a full-sized image.

Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Back I/O
Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 - Back I/O

As you can see on the back I/O, the Gigabyte board is a mixture of old and new.  It supports legacy PS/2, Parallel, and Serial ports as well as Digital Audio outputs through optical and composite connectors.  Also on the back are four USB2.0 ports, a single 6-Pin Firewire port, a 10/100/1000 Ethernet jack as well as support four 8 channel audio.  If I had a choice, I'd drop the serial for a couple extra USB2.0 ports or even an extra Ethernet jack.

Power:

In order to provide solid power to the components, companies are now using 24-pin power connector's standard.  Gigabyte also uses an auxiliary 8 Pin power connector as well as a standard Molex connector.  All of this power is filtered through a 12 phase system that provides clean power to the CPU. 

Memory Slots & Power
Memory Slots & Power

4Pin / 8Pin Power
 4Pin / 8Pin Power

12 Phase CPU Power
12 Phase Power

Cooling:

In order to be an overclocking friendly board, you need to be able to run your chipset at high FSB without getting too hot.  The cooling solution Gigabyte has used on this board is really tremendous.  They use a long heatpipes that cools the Southbridge, Northbridge and voltage regulators around the CPU socket.  Not only that, but Gigabyte has included a "CrazyCool" heatsink on the back of the board to help cool the back of the CPU socket.  While this seems like a good idea, and in practice is actually a good idea, it makes the installation of aftermarket coolers quite challenging.  If you have a cooler than requires a back plate, you will need longer screws or to remove the heat sink.

HeatPipe Cooler
Heatpiple Cooler

Crazy Cool Back
Crazy Cool Back

Sockets & Slots:

As we carry on, we take a look at the CPU socket and expansion slots around the board.  Below are some close up pictures that show more detail.

CPU Socket
 CPU Socket

PCIe Slots
 PCIe Slots

SATA & IDE Connectors
 SATA & IDE Connectors

Gigabyte hasn't chosen a color theme on this board as you can see.  Slots and ports range from blue to green, to black, orange, purple and yellow.  If you think variety is the spice of life, this board color may suite you.

Get Chipped:

We wrap up the gallery of the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 with a look at some of the chips that make things happen.  The BIOS chip is small, unlabeled and so is the CMOS reset.  Gigabit Network is taken care of by Marvel while Audio is taken care of by Realtek.

CMOS Reset
 CMOS Reset

Marvel Gigabit Ethernet
 Marvel Gigabit Ethernet

Realtek HD Audio
 Realtek HD Audio

Please take a look at the next page as we go over the official specs of this board.


Features & Specs:

This board has enough features to keep the most discerning computer enthusiast quite happy.  Originally, the 965P chipset didn't support Crossfire, but it now appears that it is available for DirectX based titles at least.  Take a look at the current official info below.

Features

  • Intel Next-Generation Core™2 Duo Processor
  • Intel P965 Express Chipset
  • Dual Channel DDR2 800
  • Dual PCI Express Graphics Slots
  • SATA 3Gb/s
  • Intel® Matrix Storage Technology
  • Gigabit LAN connectivity
  • IEEE1394 motherboard
  • Intel® High Definition Audio
  • Home theater Audio with Dolby and DTS support
  • Durability Enhanced-The Industry's Leading All-Solid Capacitor motherboard Design
  • Quad Cooling: Revolutionary cooling design combines Crazy Cool and Silent-Pipe technology
  • Quad BIOS: DualBIOS™ and Express BIOS Rescue Technology.
  • Quad e-SATA2
  • Quad Triple Phase: 12 Power Phases
  • Quad Core Ready
  • Quad DDR2 Slots

Specifications

CPU:

  • Supports LGA775 Intel® CoreTM 2 Extreme / CoreTM 2 Duo / Intel® Pentium® Processor Extreme Edition / Pentium® D / Pentium® 4
  • L2 cache varies with CPU
  • Supports 1066/800/533MHz FSB

Chipset:

  • Northbridge: Intel® P965 Express Chipset
  • Southbridge: Intel® ICH8R

Memory:

  • 4 DDR II DIMM memory slots (supports up to 8 GB memory)
  • Supports dual channel DDR II 800/667/533 unbuffered DIMMs *
  • Supports 1.8V DDR II DIMMs

* To use a DDR II 800/667 memory module on the motherboard, you must install an 800/1066MHz FSB processor.

LAN:

  • Onboard Marvell 8053 chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

Audio:

  • Onboard Realtek ALC888 DD chip
  • Supports High Definition Audio
  • Supports 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 channel audio
  • Supports DTS function
  • Supports Dolby Digital Live
  • Supports SPDIF In/Out connection
  • Supports CD In connection

IEEE 1394:

  • Onboard T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  • 3 IEEE1394a ports

Storage:

  • ICH8R Southbridge
  • 1 FDD connector supported by I/O controller, allowing connection of 1 FDD device
  • 6 SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATAII0, SATAII1, SATAII2, SATAII3, SATAII4, SATAII5), allowing connection of 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Supports data striping (RAID 0), mirroring (RAID 1), striping + mirroring (RAID 0+1), RAID 5, and RAID 10 for Serial ATA
  • GIGABYTE SATA2 Controller
  • 1 IDE connectors with UDMA 33/ATA 66/ATA 100/ATA 133 support, allowing connection of 2 IDE devices
  • 2 SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATAII0, GSATAII1), allowing connection of 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Supports data striping (RAID 0), mirroring (RAID 1) and JBOD for Serial ATA

Onboard Peripherals

  • 1 PS/2 keyboard port
  • 1 PS/2 mouse port
  • 1 parallel port
  • 1 SPDIF out port (coaxial)
  • 1 SPDIF out port (optical)
  • 1 serial port (COM)
  • 10 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 rear)
  • 3 IEEE1394 port (1 rear)
  • 1 RJ-45 port
  • 6 audio jacks (Line In / Line Out / MIC In / Surround Speaker Out (Rear Speaker Out) / Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out / Side Speaker Out)

Expanstion Slots:

  • 1 PCI Express x16 slot (the PCIE_16_1 slot)
  • 1 PCI Express x4 slot (the PCIE_16_2 slot)*
  • 3 PCI Express x1 slots (share the same PCIe bus with the PCIE_16_2 slot)*
  • 2 PCI slots

* The three PCI Express x1 slots will not be available when the PCIE_16_2 slot is in use.

Were going to jump into the BIOS and take a look at overclocking on the next page.


BIOS:

Gigabyte uses the standard issue Award BIOS that has all the good features hidden behind the CTRL-F1 keystroke.  The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) part of the BIOS remains very bland until you press the key combo once you've entered the BIOS.  We'll briefly cover the BIOS with some pictures below and point out some interesting features.

Main BIOS
Main BIOS

Many of the BIOS features are quite common across many motherboards.  They are pictured below.

Standard CMOS
 Standard CMOS

Advanced BIOS
 Advanced BIOS

   

Integrated Peripherals
 Integrated Peripherals

Power Management
 Power Management

Now we start to get into things that are a little more interesting.  The first thing we look at here is PC Health.  This section always interests me at first boot as it indicates how things are running.  It's interesting to see that the 965P-DQ6 case supports Chassis Intrusion Detection which can be monitored and reset here.  Also take a look at the warning settings available and the fan/noise control options.

PC Health
 PC Health

M.I.T. Simple
 M.I.T. Simple

On the tails of the PC Health section we jump into the M.I.T. section first in simple mode.  As you can see by clicking the thumbnail above on the right - there really aren't a lot of options available.  Once we hit CTRL-F1 at the main BIOS screen, things open up a bit for us as you can see below.

Once we enabled the advanced BIOS tweaking we no have a lot of extra options to choose from.  As we are looking at this board from an overclockers perspective, we'll take a look at a few of the fun features.

CPU Voltage
 CPU Voltage

FSB Voltage
 FSB Voltage

RAM Voltage
 RAM Voltage

In order to push the edge of your hardware, you need a stable board with good cooling, the ability to tweak and adjust multipliers and ratios, as well as the ability to turn up the voltage to really push things.  Gigabyte has outdone themselves with this board.  There are many voltage options available and with ranges that will certainly fry your hardware if you adjust them carelessly.  For instance; you can select CPU voltage as high as 2.375.  It can be adjusted in 0.0125 increments which allows for fine adjustments to tweak stability.

FSB voltage can be tweaked and bumped up to an extra 0.35v in increments of 0.05.  MCH voltage can be adjusted to the same amount as well.  This brings up an interesting bug we noticed in the original F2 firmware that shipped with this board.  When we selected the MCH voltage control on the left, the "Item Help" stated that it was FSB voltage.  When we selected the FSB voltage control, the friendly help stated that we were adjusting MCH voltage.  Once we flashed the BIOS to the newest available at the time of testing (F5), this issue went away.  That's a good thing as I was confused as to what voltage I was really going to tweak.

Memory voltage can be adjusted way up to a chip blowing 2.575v - which I don't recommend under any circumstances.

CPU Speed
CPU Speed

As we wrap up the BIOS section, I thought I'd leave you with a look at the CPU Host Frequency.  You can key in a number anywhere between 100Mhz and 700Mhz.  Now I don't claim to be an idiot, but that is an amazing range.  Obviously I don't expect the board to reach anywhere near 700FSB, but it's great to see such a wide range - this is usually an indicator of a fair bit of overclocking headroom.  We'll see in on the next page.


Overclocking:

This board has a good reputation as an overclocker and we got a retail board - not a hand-picked unit for testing.  We ran overclocking tests two ways.  First, we dropped the multiplier down to 6x on the CPU and started raising the front side buss.  We kept bumping up the FSB until we ran into stability.  The system started to become unstable around 370FSB so we bumped up the FSB voltage to at extra 0.15v.  At this voltage we managed to gain more FSB until things become a bit unstable again at 410FSB.  At this point we bumped up the MCH voltage to 0.10 and moved the FSB voltage up to 0.30v.  This kept us stable up to about 450MHz FSB, and we managed to even get screenshot at 460Mhz FSB.

You'll notice in the screenshot below that CPU-Z identifies the CPU as a E6200.  When we change the CPU multiplier in the BIOS, we get some pretty weird readings with CPU-Z.

460FSB!
High FSB - Not Stable

Now that we know how high we can get the Front Side Bus, it's time to see how high we can get the CPU.  We managed to run as high as 9x367MHz=3.3GHz, but it wasn't stable even with a CPU voltage of 1.41.  For our overclocking tests we set things at 445Mhz FSB with a multiplier of 7x.  This gave us a real CPU speed of 3.108GHz on air-cooling and has remained 100% stable over a week of 100% CPU load.

CPU-Z Main - Stable
CPU-Z Main - Stable

Test System:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 CPU @ 2.4GHz.
  • 2GB Kit of Crucial PC2-1000
  • MSI 965P Neo-F Motherboard
  • Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 Motherboard
  • Samsung 400GB SATA2 HDD
  • Plextor PX-750A DVDRW
  • eVGA 7600GT 256MB
  • Windows XP Professional SP2

The MSI motherboard didn't overclock as well as the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6.  We ran stock speed tests with identical memory timings and the systems were clocked exactly the same.  For overclocking comparisons, we overclocked each motherboard to the maximum stable overclock and compared the results.

Initial Testing:

We used RightMark Audio Analyzer to see just how high quality the High Definition Audio is.  The results are pretty normal for an integrated audio solution.  It's no X-Fi, but when you plug in a set of $30 headphones I'm sure you can't hear the difference anyway.

Rightmark Audio Analyzer
Rightmark Audio Analyzer

We have started looking at network performance and CPU load to compare just how fast Gigabit Ethernet really is.  We've found some motherboards have incredible network throughput, while others use a lot of CPU load.  How does the 965P-DQ6 fare?  Take a look below.

Net Speed
Throughput
Efficiency
CPU Load
100Mb/Sec
94.3
94.3%
4%
1000Mb/Sec
325
32.5%
9%

 

The Marvel Gigabit doesn't perform like it should at all.  We find 1000base performance very weak on this board.  On a positive note, it uses very little CPU power.

On the next page we're going to jump into some synthetic benchmarks such as SiSoft Sandra, SuperPi and more.


Synthetic Benchmarks:

As a point of reference, we compared the MSI 965P Neo-F board to the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6.  As far as overclocking comparisons go, the Gigabyte board was clocked in at 7x445Mhz with the Memory at 5-5-5-15 running at 890Mhz.  The MSI board is clocked in at 9x296Mhz with memory clocked at 5-5-5-15 at 860Mhz.  The overclocking field is not level as the Gigabyte board spanks the MSI board in this department.

The first batch of tests that we take a look at are from the popular SiSoft Sandra 2007 suite.  We ran memory, CPU Arithmetic and CPU Multimedia performance benchmarks and compared stock and overclocked numbers to the MSI 965P Neo-F.

SiSoft Memory
 SiSoft Memory

SiSoft Arithmetic
 SiSoft Arithmetic

SiSoft Multimedia
 SiSoft Multimedia

At stock speeds both boards score very close, but the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 takes the lead in all but one test.  In the CPU Multimedia test, the MSI 965P Neo-F yields a marginally better score in the Float test.  When it comes to overclocked results, the Gigabyte board runs away with the lead.

Another interesting test is SuperPi.  We use this test to analyze the board and CPU raw processing power and see how fast it can calculate Pi to 1,000,000 digits.  The Intel Core 2 Duo turns out some pretty impressive numbers at stock speed, and the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 unleashes the beast and completes the calculation in less than 17 seconds.  Wow.

Super Pi
Click for a full-sized image.

Real-World Applications:

In this next section we take a look at a bunch of real-world applications that many people use on a daily basis.  We find that although synthetic benchmarks give an indication of performance, the best way to gauge real performance is in the real-world.  Without further introduction, we give you dbPowerAMP, ConvertX to DVD, DivX Encoding, Quicktime Encoding and more.

Media Conversion -

dbPowerAmp Conversion
 dbPowerAmp Conversion

ConvertX to DVD
 ConvertX to DVD

   

DivX Encoding
 DivX Encoding

Quicktime Encoding
 Quicktime Encoding

There are a few interesting things to note here.  In the first dbPowerAmp application the MSI board edges out the Gigabyte board when onverting WAV to OGG.  The Gigabyte board responds and takes a lead in the OGG to MP3 conversion and boath board tie in MP3 to WAV.  When overclocked the Gigabyte board dominates the lesser overclocked MSI board however.

VSO Software's ConvertX to DVD program was only ran on the 965P-DQ6 as I had no data available on the MSI board.

Next up was DivX encoding at the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 took the cake at both stock and overclocked speeds.  However when we ran Quicktime Encoding tests, the MSI board smoked the Gigabyte board.  We checked the data for differences in quality, encoding and keyframes, and both tests were set up exactly the same.  We ran multiple times on the Gigabyte board to make sure and the results posted above are accurate.

More Applications -

PhotoShop CS2
 PhotoShop CS2

Ultima Online Server Load
 Ultima Online Server Load

File Compression & Extraction
 File Compression & Extraction

This series of tests also proved interesting.  PhotoShop CS was owned by the Gigabyte board on all accounts as was the Ultima Online Server test.  The Ultima Online Server loads up and parses well over 100MB of XML and data files.  Both PhotoShop CS2 and Ultima Online are very CPU intensive.

WinRAR was a little different though.  The Gigabyte board has better compression times, but slower extraction times.  This is true even when the CPU is clocked higher on the 965P-DQ6 than on the MSI 965P Neo-F.  We did use different hard drives on the systems and this could be the reason for the slower extraction on the Gigabyte board.

On the next page we'll jump into some games before we wrap things up.


Game Benchmarks:

We used several of today's popular games to gauge gaming performance on the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6.  Some games we compared to the 965P Neo-F, while some games were not previously available when we tested the MSI motherboard.  We gather all of our gaming benchmarks using actual gameplay and recording the framerates with FRAPS.  We run through each test a minimum of three times to ensure accuracy and consistency in our gameplay.  The results are below for your viewing pleasure.

Battlefield 2142 Demo
Click chart for full-sized image.
___________________________________________________________________

F.E.A.R.
Click chart for full-sized image.
___________________________________________________________________

G.R.A.W.
Click chart for full-sized image.
___________________________________________________________________

Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Click chart for full-sized image.
___________________________________________________________________

Oblivion
Click chart for full-sized image.

Overall, the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 provides a marginally better gaming experience in the performance department.  However, our graphics card really limits us to running at higher resolutions.  Our gaming benchmarks are purposely ran at low resolutions to compare the CPU and motherboard impact on gaming.  Both of these boards score well, although as a rule the DQ6 takes a slight lead overall.

Please check out the last page as we wrap things up.


Conclusion:

The Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 "6 Quad" motherboard is a little difficult to sum up.  It is a great board that offers a ton of features, extras and great performance.  It comes with everything you need to set up a great system, and has performance that is just downright incredible.  It has an incredible amount of voltage adjustments, memory dividers and other options that let you tweak far beyond what your hardware can take.  Although it is nice to be able to put almost 2.4v through your CPU, I really don't recommend over-volting a 65nm processor a whole volt.  Once you combine all of these features with the fact that this board is quad-core ready (now with BIOS F6) and that it supports Quad displays through two long PCIe graphics slots, you know it has a lot to give.  I also applaud Gigabyte for using all solid state capacitors on this board as it will provide greater stability and longer lifespan than older conventional capacitors.

The difficulty in summing up this board lies in its price.  It is priced in the high-end 975X Crossfire range, but doesn't fully support Crossfire.  Even if ATi and Intel make a deal and enable full Crossfire support, the PCIe layout is 16x for the top slot and 4x for the bottom slot.  In some situations, this will bottleneck the link and hamper performance.  If you want all solid capacitors and don't want to spend as much money, Gigabyte also offers the 965P-DS4 that offers many of the features of the DQ6.  If offers the same heatpipe cooler, 8 SATA, two long PCIe slots and all solid capacitors for about $80 less.  The only thing it is missing is the 12 Phase power circuit.

While the Gigabyte 965P-DQ6 is a great board with great features and offers excellent tweakability and stability, it is overpriced in my opinion.  This is how it shapes up.

Pros:

  • Excellent bundle with many extra (incl. 2 eSATA).
  • Good layout.
  • Lots of SATA ports.
  • All Solid Capacitors.
  • 12 Phase Power.
  • Very stable throughout testing.
  • Excellent overclocking features.

Cons:

  • Priced too steep for a 965P based motherboard.

 

BCCHardware.com Rating
Quality:
10/10
Performance:
10/10
Software Pack:
9/10
Stability:
10/10
Features:
10/10
Value:
7/10
Total Score 9.3

 

Although this board is a tremendous board - one of the best 965P motherboards on the market, it is priced a little high for many people.  This will keep it out of the cases of all but the most hardened tweakers that demand 12 Phase power for stability.

I'd like to send a huge thanks to MemoryExpress for letting us take a look at this board.  It was fun to see what our little E6600 could do on air without burning anything up.  I'm sure we could take things further and faster, but like Seekers signature states "If you find yourself upside down and on fire, you've just discovered the meaning of too fast."

Please post any comments, questions and feedback in the forum at the comments link below.  Who knows if you quiz me enough about this board - they may just have to give it to me to keep so I can answer more of your questions! ;-)