The Gigabyte X58A-UD9 is arguably one of the most sought after motherboards on the market right now. Although much easier to find outside the US [right now it is only available on NewEgg.com in the US] it is still very expensive and not always in stock. The reasons for this are many but most focus on the fact that Gigabyte has built this board as the benchmarker?s dream system. Let?s face it; the board can handle four top end GPUs – or eight, if you put four AMD Radeon HD 5970 or the upcoming HD 6970 X2 boards. as well as Intel?s 32nm flagship CPUs.

The power setup on it is made with the anticipated current draw in mind from both of these [the CPU and a loaded up PCIe slots]. But the design process did not stop at the power demands. Instead the R&D [research and development] team at Gigabyte built and tuned this board for both stock and overclocked performance. This is not something easy to do and unlike a few other "overclocking" motherboards we have seen means that you do not have to push the CPU, RAM or system to get something in return. Just how much you get we will show you in the following pages.

The Box and the Loot
The Gigabyte [or GB for short] X58A-UD9 is a big motherboard. As such it does need a rather large box. When we first saw the box at GOOC 2010 in LA – we were more than a little surprised to see just how big it was. When it arrived in the lab we again thought about how big this product is. It is much bigger than any other single socket motherboard we have ever worked with. Now even though there is a ton more real estate on the front of the box GB has chosen to go light on the marketing information [at least on the front] However, even with this choice, they still could have done better. After all this is a board that screams ?Overclock me!? and they put a sticker for On/Off Charge on the front. How many overclockers are going to put that to use on this board?

To make up for the lack of "Hard Sell" on the front there is the now familiar front flap with its view of the product and additional space for marketing information. Out of this jumble of information the big ones are the power regulation [dual 12 phase] and the quad GPU potential. The rest, while interesting is really only filler for space on the inside flap.

The back of the box is something of a rehash of the front space [including the inside flap]. At the very bottom is a detailed image of the X58A-UD9 with highlights of the board pointed out.

All of that marketing goodness is nothing more than a shell though as we find the real money is ticked away inside a black box. Inside this we find the X58A-UD9 and all of the hardware needed to run it. Even if you intend to run it with four GPUs, GB has thrown in the stuff you need.

The X58A-UD9
Of course the real money is in the X58A-UD9 itself. This is a board that can only be described as an ATX form factor on steroids. We told you before that it is a big board but you really have to see if in person to really get a feel for it. Gigabyte calls this form factor XL-ATX and list its dimensions as 34.5cm x 26.2cm. Of course it has to be this big to accommodate the seven PCIe slots on the board along with the beefed up cooling for the Intel X58 chipset plus the two nVidia NF200 chips on the board. So let?s take a walk around and see what design and component choices GB has made with the UD9.

Kicking things off in our usual spot we take a look at the CPU and memory side of the board. GB has decided to keep things compact here. The memory slots are right on the edge of the CPU "air space" but do leave enough room to ensure that most oversized heat sinks will clean them [unless the ram cooling is overly tall]. GB has also put the power and reset buttons in this area although the reset button can be a little hard to see depending on how you have your cables run to your test bench. To help with this GB has moved the 24-pin power connector down a little to keep things clear around the board mounted swtiches.

The CPU socket is made by combining the Foxconn LGA [Lane Grid Array] socket with Lotes cover for those of you keeping track of that sort of thing. Tim Handley told us that the reason for Foxconn-Lotes combination is quite simple: Lotes delivers polished metal in the same color as their chokes, making an unified color experience. The chokes are all ferrite in this area and we can see them extend out from under the VRM heatsink.

The X58A-UD9 like many other boards that are meant for high clock speeds has dual 8-pin aux power connectors, originally coming from multi-socket motherboards. On the UD9 they are more than likely split between the dual 12 phase VRM setup on the board. The idea behind this type of configuration is that you can run what you need on the first set of 12 phases with the other 12 off to save not only power from the wall but also to help retain component life. This approach differs from the normal thought process of stepping the power phases one at a time. In some ways it is more efficient and in others it is a little less. But for a board that is meant to push the upper end I think it is the right choice over trying to step the individual phases.

Moving towards the middle of the board we see the beefed up cooling solution for the chipset. This is Gigabyte?s Silent Pipe II/Water cooling combo. But, there is a small problem; if you take a closer look you can see a 3-pin fan header and a 4-pin Molex connector. If you use that Molex connector [which provides power for the PCIe slots] then you cannot use the Silent Pipe II cooling. There is just no way to run it there. Even a 90-degree angled connector is just too high here. So if you are thinking of running three or four GPUs you can count using this cooling out. You will be better off running water here, or if you are adventurous enough – you can cut a section out of the Silent Pipe Cooler to give it the needed clearance.

Moving down the board again we find the seven, yes seven, PCIe slots. These are a mixed bunch with four of them being fully x16 electrical and the remaining three being x8. Now there is something you need to know about that, if you are using any of the x8 slots then the x16 slot right above it will fall back to x8 only. This is due to the way the PCIe gen 2.0 lanes had to be shared for the group of seven slots here. 

At the very bottom of the image you can see the second of the 4-pin Molex connectors that supply the board with additional power for the PCIe slots. This one is angled at 90 degrees and with the large size of the X58A-UD9 can be a little bit of a problem to use if you are installing this in a case.

Gigabyte has also put a floppy connector down here just in case you wanted to use one; while I am not sure of the reason for having this here, I do have to applaud them for keeping it there.

Looking at the SATA ports we see a habit that Gigabyte has gotten into that is a tad annoying.  For some reason they have colored their own SATA2 ports the same white as the Marvell SATA 3.0 ports. They do separate them by a PATA port, but as most people associate the white ports with SATA 3.0 it can get a little confusion. Also I am not sure why the need for the extra RAID functions on the UD9 in the first place, I guess if you want a quick way to setup RAID 0 or 1 it can be handy but again for most overclockers this will be turned off.

Moving around to the back of the board and the I/O ports we find what you would expect from a high-end motherboard. Dual GbE [Gigabit Ethernet] ports, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, multiple USB 2.0 ports and of course all the audio goodness.  Overall you can tell that GB has put some thought into this, but it also appears they have left in a few things that might not be needed if someone buys this for pure overclocking. However, I can understand their motivation for having these items here. They give the best range of flexibility for the end user. It also shows a very high level of design work to ensure that all of these items work together properly.

Features
With the contraction of the chipset market into two islands [AMD and Intel] we have been talking about how this affects performance and how it forces the manufacturers to work harder to differentiate their products from each other. This has come down to a handful of items that are covered during the intial design of the motherboard. These are things like; use of solid capacitors, FPCAPs, extra copper, additional layers for the PCB, trace tuning, and of course features. It is features that more often than not will sway a consumer to buy one product over another. But not all features are really features. Some are brand items that appear in every product [and in products by other manufacturers by other names]. You know the thing; Dual BIOS, On board power switches, SLI, Crossfire, etc. These are items that you expect to get but are often still advertised as if they are exclusive. So with that in mind let?s take a look at what the X58A-UD9 really has to offer for features.

One of the first things that jumps out at you as far as features if the support for Quad SLI or Quad Crossfire i.e. Crossfire X. Although not everyone will think this is such an amazing thing for the market space this is aimed at it really is.

The next item up our list of features is the 24 phase power management. Again, on the surface this does not seem like much but it is. Especially with the way that these 24 phases are arranged and how they operate.  In "unlocked mode" all 24 phases are available to push maximum power to the CPU for more stable overclocking. Conversely you can also kick in a dual phase switching mode which can lengthen the life of the board components. In Dual Switching mode 12 phases are active while the other 12 are powered down; the board automatically alternates the states of these phases to help lengthen component life. It is a pretty snazzy idea really.

USB and SATA 3.0 support are also good solid features, but I am not sure that both are important to the market they are presented to. While you could argue quite successfully that SATA 3.0 is important to the benchmarker or overclocker I would have a hard time believing that USB 3.0 is. In fact most high-end overclockers that I spoke with said it was something they would have turned off. The mainstream overclocker might leave this on, but that is really not the market the X58A-UD9 is being marketed to.

Now there are other features listed for the X58A-UD9 but again these are not specific to the product and are also of dubious use to the people that would buy this board.  Items like On/Off Charge, CloudOC, the Smart-6 software bundle, Auto Green and Dynamic Energy Saver. These are all products that are better suited to the mainstream market than the high-end overclocker. I think that GB could have provided a better feature bundle for this board, but then again they do have to cover the people that will want use this as a regular or mainstream product. In that regard Gigabyte has our bases covered.

Bios and Overclocking
The BIOS on the X58A-UD9 is very similar to the Award based BIOS you find on Gigabyte?s UD7 line up [and most other Gigabyte boards]. You have the very familiar MB Intelligent Tweaker page [M.I.T.] and the rest of the gang.

Once you drill down into the MIT page you have a page of options. These break down into a few important categories. The first gives you the status of the system at a glance. This is everything from the CPU frequencies to the RAM timings and sub-timings. It is actually a very nice page to have as it can quickly show you if something is out of whack.

The next page in the MIT family is the Advance Frequency settings page. Here is where you do all of the tinkering with the clocks on the board. Everything from memory, to BLCK, Uncore, QPI Etc. it?s all right here.

From there we get into the meat of the memory performance. As you can see you can adjust almost everything even by individual channel for the best performance/stability.

One of the last areas we will cover in the MIT section is voltages. Here things extend off of the single page that the other sections have stuck to. Still that does not mean that you are not getting all of the voltage tweaks and options you need right on this one page.

Stepping out of the MIT area we find the more typical sections of the BIOS. The Advanced BIOS Features page is one that we have been seeing for many years now from Award based BIOSes.

Integrated Peripherals is a good page to hit up if you are getting the X58A-UD9 just for overclocking. Here is where you can disable anything that you do not want running on the board for those outrageous clocks.

The last two pages we are going to show you are the Power Management page and the PC Health Page. The Power Management page is very typical and the PC Heath page lets you get a rough estimate on what the X58A-UD9 is doing in terms of heat and power draw [although it is rarely accurate, but then again most boards are not].

Overclocking
Overclocking is what you are her to read about so let?s talk about that now. For starters the X58A-UD9 is not only setup as an overclocker?s board but it is designed to generate some simply amazing benchmark numbers. To do that, as we have covered, GB has redesigned the CPU power regulation, added in extra power to the board for more stability and also tuned the BIOS very well for both stock and overclocked performance. But most of this is aimed at the serious, hard core overclocker. You know the guy with cascade phase change cooling and the empty LN tank in the garage. That does not mean you are not going to get something out of it, it just means the average or mainstream overclocker might never push the board to its limits. I fact you are more likely to have a component fail before you have the board fail. For us the failure was a combination of CPU heat and memory spec. With our simple cooling system [Corsair H-70 Water cooling] we just could not get enough voltage into the CPU to get things stable over 168MHz BCLK. At least not in the limited time we had with the board. We are almost certain that with more tinkering and more advanced cooling this number will change dramatically. Still getting to 168 x 26 [4.368GHz] was fairly simple and considering that we had HT [Hyper-Threading] Turbo, and all of the peripherals enabled that is a pretty good stable OC.

Click to view validation page

EasyTune 6
EasyTune is not my favorite overclocking software. It is still fairly complete and very functional though. My issues are more about the flow of the application as well as its look; it is one of the more complete software based overclocking tools I have used though.

The first couple of tabs just reproduce the same information you can get from CPUz. It is not until you get to the third tab that things get interesting. This is the tuner tab and it is very interesting indeed.

When you first click on the tuner tab you are greeted with the options for the easy boost. This is just another name for auto overclocking, but it gives you degrees to work with. For our 980X we had options for 3.5GHz, 3.75GHz and 4GHz all with the click of a button.

But the fun does not stop there; if you are not one to use preset clocks but do not want to muck around with the voltages or sub settings there is an easy mode for you that just lets you adjust the main settings [BCLK etc.]

Under the controls found using the advanced tab you get a fairly amazing amount of flexibility including being able to adjust the RAM speed, which is something missing from most overclocking software.

The rest of the tabs go back to the rather boring side of things. You get smart fan controls and a rather limited temp and voltage monitoring page.

All in all not a bad piece of software but one that could be seriously trimmed down and with a couple of hours be given a face lift to look a little nicer?

Test System and Build Comments
As we have mentioned the X58A-UD9 is huge! This thing would not sit on my test bench properly. I had to rig the bench to allow the board to hang over the end and not make use of the add-in board support frame. It also pushed the SSD that normally sits beside the board off and onto the counter top. It was a little funny to see to be honest. The initial installation was every bit as awkward as the board was sitting on the test bench. We installed from our usual USB thumb drive, or at least we were going to. For some reason [an incompatibility with our KVM] while using the USB capability of our KVM we could not boot from any USB device. A quick call to Gigabyte found the issue in the KVM and with the USB keyboard and mouse plugged directly in the board was off like a shot. From there the install went great, we had no issues with the software install and we were ready to dive into our testing suite.

Processor: Intel Core i7 980X
Mainboard GIGABYTE X58A-UD9 [Supplied by Gigabyte]
Memory: 6GB Corsair DominatorGT CMT6GX3M3A2000C8 [Supplied by Corsair]
Hard Disk: Corsair Force SSD F-120 120GB SSD [Supplied by KCorsair]
Seagate Barracuda XT 2TB SATA 3.0 HDD [Supplied by Seagate]
Seagate BlackArmor PS-110 [Supplied by Seagate]
Graphics Card
: ASUS EAH5870 V2 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Edition [Supplied by ASUS]
Cooling: Corsair H-70 Water cooler [Supplied by Corsair]
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Drivers: Intel INF 9.1.1.1015, Catalyst 10.8

Performance – Subsystems
Motherboard performance is not simply a measure of how fast you can overclock or indeed how many FPS it will get you in your favorite game. We feel that it is a combination of the subsystems combined with how well it handles your CPU, RAM and add-in boards.  As such we cover performance of these items in our testing.

Memory
Memory performance is very important in a motherboard. This is even truer now that most CPUs have an internal memory controller. These are usually less affected by the actual speed of the memory as they are any issues in latency, skew and tracing on the board. For the most part Asus has this area firmly in hand. They typically can outperform the competition in terms of stock and overclocked memory performance. For our testing we use Sisoft Sandra and Everest Memory test.

Sisoft?s SANDRA test shows us that the X58A-UD9 is slightly faster in terms of aggregate memory bandwidth. This could help out with tests like HyperPi, Lightwave 3D, and Even PCMark and AutoGK. It is one of the foundations for good board performance.


Stock Memory Speed


Overclocked CPU

Everest shows us the same performance level as SANDRA, but can go into more detail. The unfortunate side here is that because the test is single threaded it causes the turbo mode to kick in and show a CPU OC when there really is not one.

Drive Performance
The ability of a motherboard to pull data from your disk drive is another important aspect of system performance.  With the introduction of the SSD the performance gulf between different boards with the same chipset dropped. Now when we do see a difference it is measured in 1-2 MB/s. The same thing is now showing up in SATA 3.0 and USB 3.0 testing. The reason we keep this test in place is to identify boards that have a serious issue with HDD performance. Usually these are correctable with a simple BIOS adjustment.

Well, remember how we said that memory performance is one of the foundations of good system performance? Well one of the other ones is HDD [or SSD] performance. Here we see performance that is a little behind the curve. This could come back to haunt us on tests like AutoGK, Lightwave and also HyperPi. As the dip in HDD performance is more than the lead in memory performance we expect to see the X58A-UD9 have a bit of trouble with these later on.


Stock HDD Speeds


Overclocked CPU


Stock USB 3.0 Speed


Overclocked CPU USB 3.0 Speeds

Everest again fleshes out the details for us and shows that our problem could be when the drive needs to read from the "middle" of the drive for data. This is probably a problem with the drive controller drivers and the trim firmware on the SSD we are using. So this could be corrected with a driver or even an OS update in the near future.

Audio
Although many may argue, the audio sub-system on a motherboard is an important part of performance and overall purchaser satisfaction. If the audio system is garbage you are not going to get decent sound for gaming, video or anything. Additionally a poor audio CODEC [COmpression/DECompression] can cause performance issues as the CPU, Memory and other system components try to deal with the signals and data being sent from that part. Drivers also play an important role here.

The audio quality of the X58A-UD9 is pretty good. It is provided by a Realtek ALC889 audio CODEC which offers up to 8 channels of HD quality audio. We did not note an performance loss with this enabled and during our gaming testing were happy with the quality of the sound, even using headphones.

Performance Testing: Overview
At BSN we break out testing into two parts Synthetic and Real-World. Each has an important part in the overall review process. With Synthetic testing you have an easily repeatable performance measure than anyone can use against the same hardware configuration. But Synthetic testing cannot hope to provide a completely accurate picture of performance. These testing suites do not have the capacity to take multiple factors into account. On the opposite side are the real-world tests. They are duplicates of how a system [or part] will perform in actual use. However as they take into account the dynamic nature of real-world use they are hard to duplicate. As such our testing will always be an average of three runs on each test. The results shown here will be that average.  We feel this combination offers the best overall picture of performance and how well the product will perform for the consumer when they get it home and installed in a system.

Synthetic Applications
Each of our synthetic tests cover a different aspect of system performance. Taken as a whole they provide a very broad overview of how well each board or product we have in the lab will perform for you once you get it home.

PCMark Vantage
PCMark Vantage is a suite of tests that covers the most complete range of system task possible. It is true that it cannot hope to cover every possible activity but it does an excellent job of covering the majority and providing the end user with a good idea of how well a system can complete common tasks.

The X58A-UD9 did an excellent job of pushing through all of the tests in the PCMark Vantage suite. We are fairly confident that this is probably due to this suite of tests not being terribly HDD dependent.

HyperPi 0.99b
HyperPi is an application that is capable of running multiple instances of SuperPi XS 1.3 on a system. It allows you to select the number of instances you wish to run as well as the length you want to calculate the number Pi out to [up to 32 million places]. For our testing we run one instance per core both physical and logical. On something like the i7 870 this is a total of eight 32M instances which puts a healthy strain on the CPU, memory and dive. It is also a good indication of how well the mainboard can handle the large amounts of data being passed back and forth.

As HyperPi is very memory and CPU dependent the X58A-UD9 was able to plow through the 12 instanced of SuperPi 32M running. This shows that the board can handle the overhead generated by that type of work load and keep on going.

Cinebench R11.5
Cinebench is a synthetic render test developed by Maxon. Maxon is the maker of Cinema 4D, one of the industry standards in 3D animation. This test covers CPU based rendering as well as how your GPU/system is able to handle OpenGL instructions. Cinebench is capable of testing rendering against a single CPU core as well as spreading the rendering task across all available cores. For our testing we used the R-11.5 64-bit version.

Although the margins here are not large the UD9 still came out ahead in both the CPU test and the OpenGL test. Again, as with most synthetics, the solid memory performance more than likely came into play here.

Performance: Applications [Real World]

AutoGK 2.55
AutoGK is our choice for transcoding testing. It is a compilation of commonly used tools for transcoding combined into an easy to use application. At its core is virtual dub for the actual transcoding but it provides much more than that. AutoGK is a good test of a system as it stresses the system drives, memory and the CPU. Although it is not fully Multi-Core compliant it does stagger the rendering load across multiple cores in turn. In our testing we take a 2 hour movie and transcode it to DivX Avi at 100% quality.

And the slow HDD performance finally catches up to us in AutoGK. As transcoding is something that touches almost every major component but needs to eventually write data to the HDD and then check it any issues with HDD performance will hider your progress.

LightWave 3D x64
Lightwave 3D is a full 3D animation software suite from Newtek. This is an industry standard 3D Animation and rendering software from Newtek.  Our rendering tests with LightWave 9.6 have changed. I have always been a fan of the Classic Camera and the multi-pass PLD anti-aliasing that it offered. However, what I did not know was that this type of camera model was only capable of about 75-80% CPU utilization. This makes it very inefficient [as I am sure you guessed] so we made the shift to the newer perspective camera and are using its much better [100% CPU utilization] threaded engine as well as a newer and more efficient form of anti-aliasing. Along with this new camera model we get ray tracing and some other nice features. We have also leapt from the 1080p resolutions we used before and are now setup with a 35mm 4K resolution of 4096 x 3072; this should give the CPU a nice workout. To show off the vast difference in performance between the two we ran both and show you the render times here. This also shows what you can do when your application is truly written for a multi-threaded CPU.

Once again the slower than expected HDD performance comes back to haunt us as we see slower times in Lightwave 3D than we would like. Here we see that even the solid memory performance shown was not enough to compensate for the HDD performance lag. For those of you that think 4 seconds is not that big of a deal; well consider the pin ball project, it is 800 frames long. If you multiple 4 by 800 you get 3200 that is 3200 seconds, that is 53 extra minutes at 800 frames. Which at 28 frames per second full motion video is a clip of only about 28 seconds; nothing like needing an extra hour to finish a 30 second clip.

Performance: Gaming

3DMark Vantage
3D Mark Vantage is a DirectX 10 benchmark suite from Futuremark. This suite of tests allows you to get a broad overview of how well your system can handle the basic tasks of today?s gaming. Included in the test are Physics [using the PhysX libraries for GPU and CPU] DX10 Shader tests DX9 Shader tests as well as AI computations. Now since the majority of this is not dynamic it cannot hope to provide a completely accurate picture of gaming performance but it does a very good job despite that limitation. 3D Mark is also used a ?bragging rights? test. The person with the best number wins; we are not sure what they really win, but we are assured they do actually win.

Here we had a very interesting result. At stock speeds the UD9 out runs the other board in our group but when overclocked, for some reason the slower clocked board is out in front in total 3DMarks. We, also will be looking at what you can do with 3DMark Vantage on this board with a few GPUs stuff into the PCIe slots in a future article.  So we will most certainly be back to take a look at the X58A-UD9 and this benchmark.

Gaming
Gaming is a very real-world test. We do not use benchmarking scripts but actually play the games though a pre-planned level and record the frame rates using FRAPS. This allows up to see exactly how the CPU benefits [or hinders] performance. We have moved to a new format and will now be bringing you a game of each of the three common Direct X Levels. This should give a broader idea of CPU performance across multiple gaming APIs.

Call of Duty 6: Modern Warfare 2 [DX9]
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is a fast paced first person shooter style game. It covers the gamut of modern ?low intensity? and covert style combat that is actually going on in today?s world. Yes the plot line is farfetched but some of the actual types of missions are not far from the mark. As it is a console port it is limited to DX9 for its engine. However due to the massive ?bar fight? AI it can be a good test for a CPU. Settings are shown below:

Ok what to say here; well the X58A-UD9 does a great job with Modern Warfare2. The problem is that at 80+ frames per second minimum you would never know it. After all most LCD panels cannot even display more than 60 FPS [although 120Hz and even 240Hz panels are becoming more common]and the human eye cannot truly see more than about 32 FPS; so while we can call a winner, you would never know it to look at them.

FarCry 2 [DX10]
FarCry 2 is a large "sandbox" style game that does not have any real levels. It is all mission based but allows for a great deal of free movement in the environment. You take the role of a mercenary sent to kill "The Jackal" a dangerous gun runner. Unfortunately you are overcome by your malaria and end up serving as an errand boy for a local thug. Settings are show below:

FarCry 2 is another one that is over the average human eye range. Even the slowest subject was at 43 FPS. Still for the sake of "calling a winner" the UD9 was not it, it was a very small number of FPS behind the leader. Still, it would serve very well to play FarCry 2 if that is your game.

Battlefield Bad Company 2 [DX11]
This title from EA also is our first DirectX 11 First Person Shooter. It is a game that is heavily multi-player oriented, but also has a short single player game. In that game you take the part of a World War II commando infiltrating a small island to recover a Japanese defector. Settings are show below.

This is another one of those times when overclocking does not do you any good. The X58-UD9 at stock speed is the leader here with 48 frames per second minimum while the 4.3GHz OC drops back to 47. These results really push home the reality that the CPU, Memory and Motherboard can often have little to no effect on your gaming performance.

Gaming recap
Not much to talk about here; the X58A-UD9 is a competent gaming platform. We saw no indications that you would have any issues using it for gaming. Of course we have barely scratched the surface of possibility with this board. The potential for gaming is pretty big with support for four nVidia GPUs chugging along here. We will be publishing the results of that testing very soon though and you might be surprised what we found out.

Power and Heat
Every piece of computer hardware draws power and generates heat [ok, ok, maybe not the case?]. This is not a problem at all, the problem comes when the draw and heat is too much. If you are pulling too much power you are often generating too much heat. This excess will lead to a shortened life span of not only the component in question but other pieces of the system. It also can cause errors, as nine-times out of ten if you are seeing odd or excessive power draw you are getting dirty power to your components. Many current motherboards have systems in place to reduce the power when there is less of a demand for it. How well these systems function are what we are looking at here for power draw.  For heat we are looking at how well the cooling system on the board can maintain stable temperatures. Of course the fact that we test in an open air environment is not always the best method for testing this. Still we can give you an idea of how well it will do at keeping the chipset and other components cool under pressure.

For power draw from the wall the X58A-UD9 was not too bad. It kept things pretty well under control. Of course once we kicked in the overclock it looks like all 24 phases were pulling the juice in and eager to supply it to the board even if it was not working very hard.

For Heat generation things were not bad either. This was very promising as we were not able to use the SilentPipe II cooler. We imagine that if we could mod that or find a Molex plug that would fit better our temps would be even lower.

Value
Value is a subjective thing – what might be a good deal to one person is outrageous to the next. When looking at any product in terms of value it is important to look at the price, the quality and then the performance of that product. With the X58A-UD9 the quality is evident by the components used on the board, the detail evident by being able to make the massive amount of subcomponents work properly and also the design work that went into it. When we add in the observed performance, the potential performance and the market to which it is presented to then even the price of $599.99 is not that bad. If you are looking to get a board that can deliver ridiculous benchmark numbers then you are going to be looking to spend some money to get it. The price tag on the UD9 is not going to deter you. On the other hand if you are looking to build a system to browse the web, then $600 is ridiculous. After all you can probably get two systems for that price if your performance needs are so low.

Support
Gigabyte?s support [both technical and FAQ?s found on their site] has come a long way since we first started dealing with them many years ago. As they have worked to become an enthusiast product, they have also worked to become a company that can support that type of customer.

Conclusion
The Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD9 is an impressive product. As we told you from the beginning the design is audacious. To build a board this size and with the components and purpose in mind takes some serious guts. You are going into this knowing that the market space for this product is small. Still Gigabyte did not flinch. The built it and built it well. They have covered all the bases too, PS/2, PATA, even a floppy drive port is there for you to use. To say we are impressed is something of an understatement here. It is true that I would personally have liked to see less on the board making it more of a pure overclocker?s product, but I have to hand it to Gigabyte for making everything on the board work. The design of the traces must have taken some real thought while the BIOS tuning had to have also been a challenge. This is before we have really cracked open the throttle on the X58A-UD9. We hope to be able to test this board under some more stressful circumstances and do have some very interesting test results from our Multi-GPU testing that we will be sharing with you soon. For now, we can recommend this board to the high-end [very high-end] gamer or overclocker. It will cost you some money, but we can say it will be worth it in the end.

For its bold design, stability and performance potential we are happy to give the X58A-UD9 our Editor?s Choice Award for the Enthusiast market space.