The Intel 965 chipset is best known in its P965 incarnation. The G965, where an Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3000 has been added to the chipset's features, is the cornerstone for Intel's Viiv platform, designed to offer integrated HD video, 3D rendering and audio capabilities without costing the earth. Gigabyte's GA-965G-DS3 is based on the same chipset.
Like most other integrated video cards, we don't recommend the GMA X3000 for serious gaming, but in a break from what we are used to seeing with Intel's graphics chips, 3D performance (in Direct 3D) is bordering on acceptable. Nevertheless we filled its single PCI-e x16 slot with a standalone ATi X1950 Pro for all our tests.
The GA-965G-DS3 has seen some changes after Gigabyte's last Intel board. The sharp heatsink near the processor socket is gone - a good move as the old design could have easily led to cut fingers, while fitting a CPU cooling fan. In its place is clear access to the CPU, although the gigantic northbridge heatsink just below may still be an obstruction. The northbridge heatsink became incredibly hot as there were now no fans or heat pipes to keep it cool.
Everything else is laid out tidily. The IDE port is easily accessible, with colour-coded SATA connectors above it. Three legacy PCI slots and the same number of PCI-e X1 slots mean expansion should be easy, although large GPU heatsinks could render the lower slots unusable.
You can't fail to notice the sticker on the box advertising the all-solid capacitor design. Gigabyte says this increases the lifespan of the board's capacitors - a once-common point of failure - by six times. This also means they can handle higher temperatures than normal electrolytic capacitors, making the board friendlier for overclocking. The wealth of BIOS options, including the ability to adjust FSB frequency in 1MHz increments, mean that if you fancy overclocking your processor, this motherboard shouldn't get in your way.
Performance is what counts, and the GA-965G-DS3 was slightly ahead of other 965-based boards we've tested. We have already seen what the 965 chipset can do, and this motherboard comes out a few points higher in SysMark04. In real world usage, you're unlikely to notice such a difference, but it's a solid performer.