Gigabyte recently invited us over to to their US office in Los Angeles to come check out their latest offerings for Intel's upcoming Z87 chipset which is designed for their four generation of their core processors. As many of you well know, Intel is launching their fourth generation core processors this year in June at Computex in Taipei. They will likely be showing off many different designs using this new processor as well as performance figures.
Gigabyte, being one of the leading motherboard manufacturers in the world has spent quite a bit of time preparing for this new processor and motherboard chipset and they have created what we believe to be a very solid lineup. While they have indicated to us that their lineup still has some more models on the way, this will be the majority of their offerings for the Z87 chipset.
Gigabyte's Z87 lineup can be split into four categories, Overclocking, Gaming, Thunderbolt and Mainstream.
When it comes to their overclocking boards, there are really two of the same board with one board being designed to be a pure overclock board and the other to be an overclocking board with all of the features that a high-end user would expect to have, like QCA 802.11ac Wi-Fi. The fully-featured OC board is known as the the Z87X-OC Force while the pure overclocking board is known as just the Z87X-OC.
Below, you can see the Z87X-OC Force board with it's GPU brace, actively cooled heatsinks, quad PCIe slots and 10 SATA ports.
As you can see, this is the Force board since the OC ignition button is not located on the back of the board like it is on the standard OC board. For the most part, these two boards are very similar and will look the same to most people until they really start looking at the SATA ports and onboard buttons.
After the OC series, Gigabyte showed us their gaming series G1.Sniper boards with the G1.Sniper 5. Gigabyte went pretty crazy on this board, packing in as many features as they could including Quad-SLI, Killer E2200 networking, an isloated section of the board for audio with OP-AMPs. Other than that, this board has lots of gold inside of the components, like the socket, headphone jacks, and in the 24-pin power connector. All of this is designed to reduce corrosion and to improve the life and performance of the board.
As you look at this board, you can see the line drawn to isolate the layers of PCB from the rest of the board to reduce the noise generated by power and signals from other parts of the board. You can also see the small black chip located next to those two capacitors, which is where the OP-AMP is located.
These are some of the AMPs that can be installed inside of the socket of the G1.Sniper board to modify the type of amplification the user experiences as a result of switching chips.
There will also be an M-ATX version of the G1.Sniper known as the M5, this board will incorporate many of the same features as the G1.Sniper 5, but in a smaller package and with obviously less PCIe slots than the ATX version.
In addition to those flagship boards that Gigabyte showed us, they also showed us some more of their mainstream ATX boards and their mini-ITX board as well.
Note that this board has VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort, and for some odd reason it also has eSATA, something that I thought nobody used anymore. Apparently I was wrong.
Next, we have the GA-Z87X-UD5H, a board that's supposed to be the highest of all the mainstream boards which explains the gold-ish tones.
Next, we have the GA-Z87N-WIFI which is gigabyte's Mini-ITX board with built-in Wi-Fi. Do note that this board has four SATA ports, two DDR3 RAM slots and a PCIe x16 slot for a graphics card. While the VRM and cooling solutions appear to be barebones, there isn't much room for anything else on these boards.
Next, we took a look at one of Gigabyte's Thunerbolt boards, the GA-Z87X-UD5 TH which looks to simply be a dual Thunderbolt version of the UD5 board that we showed you earlier. As you can see in the top of the picture, there are indeed two Mini DisplayPort connectors that enable the dual Thunderbolt connectivity.
Finally, Gigabyte topped it off with an overclocking demonstration of the GA-Z87X-OC board on LN2 (liquid nitrogen) and we saw some impressive results. Admittedly, it wasn't that long a period of time, but it was still a pretty nice thing to see a short LN2 demo with a production board as well as an actual demonstration of the motherboard's new BIOS and hotkey features.
Gigabyte has also opted to kill their horrendous Windows applications and decided to go for a much cleaner looking suite which enables easier use of the applications in a neater manner with more responsiveness and effectiveness. It runs minimized most of the time, until you need it and stays self-contained even when in use.
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