It's fashionable to go green these days and while motherboard makers have been touting their environmental credentials for some time now, the intensity has increased recently, what with oil prices going up. Already, the latest P45 boards from major brands like ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI all come with some form of proprietary energy saving technologies.
As one of the earlier vendors to get into this trend, Gigabyte used the topical issue of oil prices as an opening to emphasize on the energy savings one could get from its newest version of its Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) technology at its Computex 2008 press event. According to the company, the new DES Advanced is the world's first dynamic 6-gear switching technology, supporting the latest VRD 11.1 specifications, which would allow the board to switch to 1-gear phase (a deeper sleep state) at idle. The caveat however is that this 1-gear phase operation only works with the newer 45nm Intel processors.
Naturally, we had to try this utility with the Gigabyte GA-EP45T-EXTREME and after we were done with the usual tests, we installed the latest version (B8.0709.2) and set about exploring this tool. Basically, the utility has indicators that measure and show the amount of power savings you're likely to get. There are three levels for the CPU voltage, along with CPU throttling and the dynamic power phase gear switching, which cannot be adjusted manually (since it works automatically). Users can only change the CPU voltage, enable/disable CPU throttling and well, turning the DES Advanced on in the first place. Changing the CPU voltage seemed to have some effect:
Gigabyte claims that thanks to the hardware chip from Intersil onboard, the settings will remain working even if the application has been turned off aka a Stealth mode. When we tried that, the DES Advanced utility repeatedly crashed on us and we have no idea whether our settings were actually saved. We'll be reporting the results of the utility in our latter section on temperature and power consumption.
Another new Gigabyte feature is the presence of a 2048-bit Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 1.2 chip on board. Such chips are more commonly found on notebooks but Gigabyte is adding it to all its latest P45 motherboards. This means that all the encryption needs for consumers can be handled by hardware, though not all users will find it useful.
However, we can't fault Gigabyte for its efforts, as it added some tweaks to make the TPM more convenient for users. This includes allowing the user to store the encryption key on a portable USB device and remove the one stored in the system. Hence, users can only access the encrypted data if they have the USB device with them. And if you're worried that you may lose this USB device with the encryption key, Gigabyte allows the user to store a backup key (password protected of course) in the BIOS of the system. While we still don't expect widespread use of encryption among mainstream users, the more security conscious enthusiasts may find these measures to be of some use.