In the world of high-performance, enthusiast computing, one is always looking for the best performance without any compromise. In the past, this arena has been dominated by the 'Big 3'. This refers to ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI. There have been relative newcomers to the market that have shaken it up, such as EVGA, who has pushed the overall competition to new heights. As a result of this, we've seen motherboard manufacturers adding even more features into their boards in order to compete.
The question is, what constitutes the best board? In our opinion, the best board is a proper mixture of accessories, software utilities, board features (e.g. USB 3.0, extra PCIe slots, etc), overclockability, motherboard layout and price. Taking these parameters into consideration sounds fairly simple, but the issue in many cases is that companies choose to sacrifice one or more of these options in order to 'out-do' their competition in another category.
Today, we will be taking a look at Gigabyte's GA-X79-UD7
motherboard. This board is considered to be their overclocking motherboard which is influenced by their X58-OC board, evidenced by the color and naming schemes. Gigabyte's X79 lineup consists of four boards: the UD3, UD5, UD7 and the G1 Assassin 2. The UD7 is their 'high-end' board while the G1 Assassin 2 is their ‘gaming’ board which features the Qualcomm Atheros Bigfoot Networks Killer NIC
for the ultimate in online gaming. Yes, that name is a mouthful. It stems from the fact that Bigfoot Networks uses an Atheros chip in their Killer NIC. Through a series of acquisitions, Qualcomm bought Atheros which later purchased Bigfoot Networks. An interesting series of events to say the least.
Getting back to the X79-UD7, we will cover all aspects of this board including how it lives up to being a Sandy Bridge-E motherboard as well as its overclocking abilities. First, we’ll want to take a look at the this board’s overall specifications and what kind of features it has.Specifications (direct from Gigabyte)
Supported CPUs - Intel Core i7 3960X, Intel Core i7 3930K, Intel Core i7 3820Chipset - Intel X79 Express ChipsetForm Factor - XL-ATX (32.4 cm x 25.3 cm) [slightly longer than a regular ATX motherboard]Memory Support - 4 x 1.5v DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of system memory Mem Cont'd - Support for DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 and Intel XMP 2.0Audio - Realtek ALC898 7.1 Channel HD Audio supporting Dolby Home Theater and S/PDIF OutLAN - Intel GbE LAN (10/100/1000 Mbit) and Qualcomm Atheros Wireless N Expansion Slots - 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2) 2 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2) 3 x PCI Express x1 slotsMulti-GPU Support - Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology.Storage - 2x SATA 6Gb/s SATA3 connectors and 4x SATA 3Gb/s SATA2 connectors running off of the Intel South Bridge chip. These are also complemented by two Marvell 88SE9172 controllers providing an additional 4 SATA 6Gb/s ports.USB Ports - 2 USB 3.0 and 8 USB 2.0 ports on the back I/O panel of the motherboard accompanied by optional 6 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports via header on the board. The USB 3.0 ports are powered by two Fresco FL1009 ICs (Which we have never actually seen used on a motherboard before, we're more familiar with Renesas (NEC), ASMedia and other large tech companies).Power - One 24-pin ATX main power connector, Two 8-pin ATX 12V CPU power connectors, 2 x PCIe power connectors in the form of SATA power connectors that power the GPUs directly.16-Phase CPU power accompanied by 1 power phase per pair of DIMM slots.BIOS - Dual BIOS, so in the event of a corrupted BIOS, it allows the user to recover utilizing the back up BIOS. The user may also easily switch between each BIOS via a button located on the back of the motherboard.
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