Less than a decade ago it was quite the task to locate a good overclocking motherboard capable of squeezing every little bit out of a processor. During this period, big time motherboard manufacturer Gigabyte was probably the last name you would think about for tweaking and overclocking capabilities as they avoided offering any kind of support in this aspect. Back then Abit was a big advocate of overclocking and this is how the company quickly built a strong reputation for itself; others were to follow.
Since the late 90s much of this has changed and overclocking has become a much more mainstream resource. Gigabyte who used to be one of the most anti-overclocking manufacturers, now develops some of the best overclocking boards out there. And I guess this also applies to some extent to other large companies like Asus and MSI.
Most recently the affordable and popular Gigabyte 965P-DS3 for example, at roughly $150, this motherboard can easily push a Core 2 Duo E6300 processor from 1.86GHz all the way to 3.50GHz without compromising stability. Granted, early releases of the 965P-DS3 had their fair share of bugs but Gigabyte appears to have ironed the majority of them out.
The second release of the 965P-DS3 (rev 2.0) featured a few nice improvements, amongst which included a 100% solid capacitor design for greater stability when overclocking. The 965P-DS3 (rev 2.0) was one of the greatest Intel LGA775 overclocking motherboards available, and at $150 it was also one of the more affordable ones going around. The only problem was that it was missing many of the features found on the more expensive 965P-DQ6 which retails for a little over $200.
Features such as ATI CrossFire technology was not supported at all by the 965P-DS3 (rev 2.0). Furthermore, there was no RAID support for six of the eight SATAII ports found on the board, and Firewire support was non-existent. Therefore, it seemed obvious that Gigabyte needed to meet their customers halfway, and they have with the new 965P-DS3P (rev 2.0), the P standard for Pro. This version will cost around $170 and will feature everything found on the 965P-DQ6 with the exception of its elaborate cooling system and 12 phase power design.
So in essence the 965P-DS3P is a slightly cheaper alternative to the 965P-DQ6. While not nearly as aggressive on cooling, this is where the cost reductions come into play as the two small chipset heatsinks are much cheaper to produce. The inclusion of the extra PCI Express x16 slot is important for CrossFire support and although this port is only really operating at x4, it does support multi-GPU technology regardless.
Affordable high-end motherboards such as the 965P-DS3P that can overclock to 500MHz bus frequencies and beyond will become extremely valuable throughout the new year. This is because even more affordable Core 2 Duo processors such as the E4400 and E4300 are on the way. The E4300 for example uses the same 9x clock multiplier used by the E6600. The difference being that the E4300 utilizes a much lower 800MHz FSB and a 2MB L2 cache. Theoretically if the E4300 was to operate on a 266MHz FSB, it would match the E6600 for clock speed at 2.40GHz. Then again, we kind of expect that the E4300 will be able to reach speeds beyond 2.40GHz and this will be confirmed in the very near future.
Overall the 965P-DS3P looks to be one of the best Intel P965 motherboards on the market, particularly considering its price point. With a huge array of features that include SATAII RAID, Dual BIOS, Dual PCI Express x16, 8-Channel Audio, Gigabit LAN, Solid Capacitor design, Firewire, USB 2.0 and more. Gigabyte is also claiming that the 965P-DS3P is an overclocking enhanced motherboard, so I am obviously very keen to check that out trying some overclocking using Core 2 Duo E6700 and E6300 processors.