The Gigabyte GA-945PL-S3 motherboard
looks like a very interesting alternative for anyone who is on a very tight
budget. The Intel 945PL chipset only supports upto a 200 MHz Bus (800MHz FSB)
and DDR2-533 memory, but Gigabyte give the GA-945PL-S3 FSB options up to 600 MHz
FSB. The memory controller has the numbers to suggest it is capable of running
memory in DDR2-800 mode!
With an Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor and a set of Corsair Twin2X20048-6400C4 memory installed, PCSTATS
had some high hopes in terms of overclocking. Starting at the 200 MHz bus speed,
the frequency was slowly increased 5 MHz at a time. The GA-945PL-S3 hit a speed
bump almost right away at 225 MHz, and for this FSB voltage had to be increased
by 0.2V to stabilize it. Not a good sign of things to come, but we soldiered on
The Gigabyte GA-945PL-S3
motherboard stumbled again at 245 MHz, and the FSB voltage had to be increased
by 0.3V. That was about as far as things went, the system immediately maxed out
at 255 MHz; just shy of the Intel Core 2 Duo's standard operating bus speed of
Out of curiosity, the Gigabyte GA-945PL-S3 motherboard
was next configured to see if it could actually run its memory at DDR2-800
levels. The speeds were set, the BIOS saved, and the system rebooted... but no
dice. The GA-945PL-S3 would not POST with the memory set to DDR2-800, no matter
the voltage or memory timings. Oh well, the Intel 945PL technically doesn't
support that speed anyway so no big loss.
BIOS Options and
At first glance the Gigabyte
GA-945PL-S3 motherboard lacks a BIOS chiip - at least one that resembles the
familiar standard square CMOS Plastic Leaded Chip
Carrier (PLCC) package.
Just above the lone IDE socket, next to the SATA power
connectors is a Macronix 4Mbit SPI Serial Flash chip. This is an 8 lead surface
mounted chip of about 3mm square, in a SOIC package. The tiny BIOS chip occupies
hardly any board space, and is not removable. On it is loaded an Award BIOS,
which we'll dive into next and see if there are any interesting tweaking
features in the mainstream Gigabyte GA-945PL-S3 motherboard.
To access the memory timing options, you must first
press 'CTRL + F1' at the main menu. In the 'MB Intelligent Tweaker' section you
have CPU clock multiplier options as well as the ability adjust the motherboard
FSB from 100-600 MHz in 1 MHz increments.
The System Memory Multiplier allow for
adjustments up to DDR2-800, however anything above DDR2-533 didn't work. It
should be noted that the Intel 945PL chipset supports up to 800 MHz FSB only.
Memory voltage goes as high as 0.6V above stock, PCI Express voltage to 0.3V
above stock and CPU voltage to 0.5125V above stock values.
There are only the basic memory timing
adjustments from CAS latency, RAS to CAS and RAS Precharge. Up next, benchmarks
on this 'Conroe' Intel Core 2 Duo powered 945PL Express based motherboard.
details of how the Gigabyte GA-945PL-S3 motherboard test system was configured
for benchmarking, including the specific hardware, software drivers, operating
system and benchmark versions are indicated below. In the second column are the
general specs for the reference platforms this Intel 945PL Express based system
is to be compared against. Please take a moment to look over PCSTATS test system
configurations before moving on to the individual benchmark results.
For the purposes of this review, PCSTATS will be testing
the GA-945PL-S3 motherboard with a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 processor.
However, because the Intel 945PL Express chipset runs at most with an 800MHz
FSB, the E6600 processor will be running at 1.8GHz instead of its native 2.4GHz
(on a 1066MHz FSB). Please note this as you look over the benchmark results.
|PCSTATS Test System Configurations|