Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3 Intel P965 Motherboard Review
Layout and Features
The board layout on the Gigabyte 965P-DS3 is pretty basic and is a bit smaller than others we have reviewed recently.
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While still fitting the ATX motherboard specifications, you can see that this Gigabyte 965P-DS3 is noticeably skinnier than some others we have seen in recent months. DIY-ers that have been around for a while will remember when ALL motherboards were shaped like this.
The LGA775 socket is left fairly open and users shouldn't encounter any issues with heatsink installations. Supporting all the Pentium 4 processors as well as the new Core 2 Duo processors that are bringing Intel back into the DIY space, the GA-965P-DS3 can fit in just about any Intel-platform system without an issue. The 4-pin ATX 12V connection is seen here with the release latch going towards the top of the motherboard.
The four DIMM slots on the Gigabyte 965P-DS3 are located just between the CPU socket and the main ATX power connector. Supporting DDR2 memory speeds of 800 MHz, the DIMM retention arms interfere with an installed PCI Express graphics board, though memory installation and removal is still possible without taking the video card out. The ATX power connection is well placed and keeps the power cabling out of the way of the processor heatsink and other components.
The north bridge, the Intel P965 chipset, is covered only with a passive heatsink. Without an active cooling solution on it, you lose a bit of heat dissipation (and maybe chipset overclockability) but you have the advantage of lowered noise levels. Oh, and that's just one less thing to go wrong on the motherboard! User's that have had hard-to-replace chipset fans go bad on previous motherboards will know what I am talking about. We have seen Gigabyte use this same heatsink on other motherboards but with an optional heatsink fan, but one didn't come with our DS3 sample.
The expansion slot configuration on the Gigabyte 965P-DS3 is pretty simple and shows a leaning towards legacy products with its three, fully accessible PCI slots. There is only a single PCIe x16 slot, so users that want CrossFire support on their P965 chipset motherboards are going to have to skip over this Gigabyte model. However, if you only need a single video card, even a dual slot cooler option will leave all three PCI slots open for use. There are three x1 PCIe slots on the board too, not to be overlooked, with one above the PCIe x16 graphics card slot.
Looking down at the storage selections available on the Gigabyte GA-965P-DS3, we can see six total SATA connections and a single IDE channel. The two purple SATA connections and the single IDE channel are provided by the Gigabyte-branded storage controller and supports RAID 0, 1 and 0+1. The four other SATA channels are powered by the ICH8 chipset, with no integrated RAID support since Gigabyte did not use the ICH8R south bridge.
Looking at the external connections on the Gigabyte DS3 motherboard shows a limited number of I/O connections: standard PS2 ports, legacy serial and parallel ports (!!), a single Gigabit NIC connection, four USB 2.0 connections and audio support for analog 8-channel as well as optical and coaxial outputs. I was more than a bit surprised to see absolutely NO FireWire connections on the board -- here on the external headers or with an included dongle.
As you would expect with a very budget-minded feature set, the included extras are also very budget-esque. You'll get four SATA cables, an IDE and floppy cable, case back panel header and some manuals. There aren't any power adaptors here, wildly innovative software, flashing pens or anything of the sorts. That might disappoint some, but chances are there are just as many others that will find this package a breath of fresh air.