GigaByte GA-965P-DS3: Core 2 Motherboard for Everyone

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LAYOUT

Board Layout

 

The Bad:

  • The color scheme is a motley blend of blue, yellow, orange, and every other color in the rainbow. Admittedly, a minor beef.
  • The IDE connector is placed horizontally at the bottom of the board, making routing an IDE ribbon cable to the top half of a tall case quite a stretch.  
  • Due to its small size, the board has only seven mounting holes instead of the usual nine for an ATX board. In some PC cases, only six of these mounting holes can be utilized.
  • A VRM cooling heatsink is noticeably absent.  
  • No Firewire/IEEE1394 interface. Not a big deal unless you specifically need it; generally it's not found on budget boards.
  • Last but not least, the CMOS battery is located directly below the PCI-E 16x slot along with the reset jumper. A video card with a large heatsink makes this jumper virtually inaccessible. However you may never need to use it because Gigabyte's "Virtual Dual BIOS" feature works very well. Not once was it necessary to reset the CMOS during the course of testing, because last stable settings are restored in the event of POST failure.

The Good:

  • The rest of the connectors are on the edges as they should be to reduce cable clutter.  
  • The 3 PCI slots are located at the bottom of the board, which is the standard, preferred configuration. PCI-E 1x cards are still very uncommon and many users are hanging onto expensive PCI sound cards, TV tuners, and RAID controllers, and ideally you want to keep them as far away from the video card as possible.  
  • There are four fan headers, two 4-pin headers (one above the DIMM slots and one next to the floppy port) and two 3-pin headers (one to the left of the northbridge and another just below the floppy port).  
  • Finally, the use of solid-state capacitors brings a big grin to our faces.  Countless number of motherboards have failed over the years due to substandard electrolytic capacitors bulging, leaking fluid, and sometimes exploding. (See badcaps.net) Gigabyte puts our minds to rest by using solid capacitors made with an organic polymer, which reduces impedance, endures more heat while maintaining high capacitance, and lasts up to 6 times longer.  This is an expensive move on Gigabyte's part and it makes the DS3's low price even more remarkable.  

Northbridge Heatsink

The northbridge heatsink is not particularly large, nor does it stand out in any other way aside from the color and branding.  The middle row of fins is very wide, like a series of fat razor blades.  Gigabyte would have done well to chop this row up into multiple fins, and remove the nameplate altogether for the sake of better cooling performance.  

Southbridge Heatsink

The design of the southbridge heatsink is much more practical with many narrow fins for increased surface area and airflow.

Socket

Clearance around the CPU socket is good, and should accomodate most third party heatsinks.  However, some Scythe Ninja Rev. B owners have reported that the metal rentention mechanism needs to be filed down to clear the capacitors around the CPU.  Those using the Sunbeam Tuniq Tower 120 have discovered they need to insulate the underside of the PCB where the metal backplate makes contact with the board, to prevent a short.  This may apply to other coolers as well.

Themalright Ultra-120 Extreme

Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme Clearance


We are also happy to report the Thermalright Ultra-120 Extreme fits in the proper east-west orientation, though the heatpipes come within millimeters of touching the northbridge heatsink.



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