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GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 Z87 Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

  • Supports 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors
  • GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ 5 Plus Technology
  • All IR digital power design
  • GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™
  • GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio technology
  • Exclusive Upgradable OP-AMP
  • Onboard Creative Sound Core3D™ quad-core audio processor
  • Built-in Front Audio Headphone Amplifier
  • Audio Noise Guard with LED path lighting
  • 15µ gold plated CPU socket
  • 4-way Graphics Support
  • Durable black solid capacitors
  • GIGABYTE On/Off Charge™ 2 for USB devices
  • Dual LAN with high ESD Protection
  • Extreme Heatsink design with 9 system fan connectors
  • GIGABYTE Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Card

Motherboard Layout

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The G1.Sniper 5 motherboard features the standard black base board with flourescent green accents common to GIGABYTE's Sniper product line. The board's E-ATX form factor works to its advantage, allowing for plenty of space around all integrated components. In addition to the specialized cooling apparatus for the onboard power components and chipset, GIGABYTE includes an exchangable OP-AMP module for customizing the board's audio fidelity.

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The back of the board is mostly clear of fragile components. The space surrounding the back of the CPU socket is completely free of components, minimizing the risk of damaging onboard components with the CPU back plate.

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GIGABYTE integrated the following ports in the G1.Sniper 5's rear panel: a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, six USB 3.0 ports connected to the integrated Renesas hubs, two USB 2.0 ports, an Intel GigE NIC and a Qualcomm Killer NIC port, 2 HDMI video ports, a DisplayPort video port, an RCA audio output port, an optical S/PDIF audio output port, and 5 analogue audio ports. Note that all rear panel USB 3.0 ports are tied to the Z87 chipset's USB 3.0 device lanes through Renesas hub chips integrated into the board's PCB.

The board supports 5.1 sound output through the analogue audio ports with the upper left, upper right, and mid-right ports used for 5.1 speaker outputs.  The mid-left port is used for microphone input and the lowere right port is for 2-channel speaker or headphone output.  Note that sound sourced through all rear panel analogue output ports is processed through the user removable OP-AMP.

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The G1.Sniper 5 motherboard has a total of seven device ports integrated into its design - four PCI-Express x16 slots and three PCI-Express x1 slots. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x16 bandwidth in the primary and secondary slots, and x8 bandwidth in the third and forth orange colored slots. Note that the secondary PCI-Express x16 slot is forced to x4 speed mode when a card is placed in the tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot.

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GIGABYTE designed the audio subsystem on a separate PCB to ensure audio clarity and fidelity. The SoundBlaster chipset is covered by a gold heat sink located in the upper left corner of the board. To the right of the audio chipset is the OP-AMP port, allowing for switching of the board's OP-AMP chip for customizing the audio experience. Along the outside of the forth PCI-Express x16 slot are the front panel audio header, two system fan headers, and the on board USB 2.0 headers. Note that the OP-AMP port is used for devices connected to the rear panel audio ports only. For devices connected to the front panel audio ports, GIGABYTE integrated a dedicated amplifier separate from the base audio system's changeable OP-AMP. This integrated amplifier chip is capable of driving audio loads of up to 600 ohms per GIGABYTE specs.

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Along the lower left of the forth PCI-Express x16 slot are the on board USB 2.0 headers, a system fan header, and a USB 3.0 header tied to one of the integrated Renesas hubs.

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One of the on board USB 3.0 headers, the front panel header, the CMOS clear jumper, and two system fan headers are located in the lower left corner of the board. The USB 3.0 header is tied to the Z87 chipset's USB 3.0 device lanes through a Renesas hub chip integrated into the board's PCB. Note that the front panel header is multi-colored for easy identification of pin assignments.

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The Intel Z87 Express chipset's cooler is a large, low profile aluminum heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is black with green and chrome accents and the Sniper logo in the lower right corner of the sink. The heat sink acts as a termination point for the heat pipe cooler attached to the PCI-Express bridge chip heat sink. The LED power header for the heat sink is located to its upper left. Note that the eyes of the skull logo glow green when the board is powered on. GIGABYTE chose to place the CMOS battery in between the chipset heat sink and the SATA ports. This allows for easy access to the battery in most cases while also locating it in unobtrusive location.

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The 10 on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports are located just below the chipset cooler. The six Intel Z87-controlled ports are to the right of the port block (black colored ports) with the four Marvell-controlled ports to the left (gray-colored ports). To the right of the SATA ports is an SATA power port used to provide extra power to the PCI-Express bus when multiple video cards are seated in the board. Simply connect it to a SATA power connector from your PSU.

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The on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the lower right quadrant of the board, just below the CPU socket. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in like colored slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3000MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. Just below the memory slots are the Intel Z87 chipset controlled USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, the Dual BIOS switch (SB), and the active BIOS switch (BIOS_SW).  The active BIOS switch is used to switch between the primary and backup BIOS.  With the switch set to the 1 position (default), the main BIOS is active.  In the 2 position, the backup BIOS is activated.  The Dual BIOS Switch is set to enabled (the 1 position) by default.  Dual BIOS is disabled with the switch in the 2 position.

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To the lower right of the DIMM slots are the the 2-digit diagnostic LED, voltage measurement points, the power, reset, and BIOS reset buttons, and two fan headers. The diagnostic LED can be used in conjunction with the table provided in the user manual to identify and troubleshoot board boot-related issues. The voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.

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To the upper right of the DIMM slots are two fan headers for the CPU fan and for a fan header powered water pump. The header labeled CPU_OPT was added for use with water cooling systems to power or monitor the system's integrated pump. Notice that the VRM heat sink contain integrated 3/8" barbs for water cooling the CPU power circuitry.

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The CPU socket is surrounded on three sides by heat sinks. The heat sinks to the top and right of the socket cool the CPU power circuitry, while the heat sink to the left of the socket cools the PCI-Express bridg chip. The heat sink to the left of the socket is connected to the Z87 chipset cooler through a heat pipe cooling system, but is not integrated into the VRM heat pipe. The heat sinks and power circuitry are located far enough back so as to not interfere with cooler surface interfacing to the CPU surface. GIGABYTE designed the G1.Sniper 5 with 16 total power phases to ensure board stability under any operating conditions.

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The CPU VRM heat sink is a low profile aluminum cooler with multiple integrated cooling methods for optimal cooling of this power circuitry. The heat sink itself is designed with integrated cooling fins for passive cooling via the case air flow. Additionally, GIGABYTE designed the sink with an integrated 40mm fan for active cooling of the heat sink as well as 3/8" water barbs as the upper left and lower right corners of the heat sink for integration into an existing water cooling loop. The heat sink features a black, green, and chrome coloration with the Ultra Durable branding.

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To the upper left of the CPU VRM heat sink is a system fan header. Notice that GIGABYTE caps the water barbs integrated into the VRM heat sink so that the copper pipe acts as a passive heat pipe mechanism when not filled with fluid.

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The on-board 8-pin ATX12V power connector as well the VRM heat sink's fan header are located to the upper right of the CPU socket, just under the rear panel assembly.

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With power applied to the board, you can really start to see the effort GIGABYTE put into making the G1.Sniper 5 into a desirable product. Not only did they illuminate the separation zone between the main and audio PCBs, but the eyes of the chipset skull logo glow. GIGABYTE even designed the board with under-board ground effects for that added wow-factor. Additionally, all LEDs and illumination effects are green colored to match the Sniper line signature coloration.

January 3, 2014 | 04:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Hey guys, thanks for the great reviews. They are really helpful, much appreciated.

I'm relatively new to pc gaming but I am addicted. It is vastly superior to consoles and I will never go back. I started with a gaming laptop in 2011 and I am ready to upgrade to a monster Desktop.

I have been researching all year and I know CES is around the corner and I will wait until after for some news BUT I'm tired of waiting. I am planning on placing an order month.

I want to build a MONEY IS NO OBJECT gaming rig based on the Z87 platform with the Nvidia 780 Ti classified card. I was hopeing for a 6GB card but again I'm tired of waiting.

The trouble I'm having is deciding on the motherboard.
What is the BEST motherboard out there for gaming.

Features I would like:

Good on board audio
Upgraded NIC on board for low latency (I'm a BF4 fenatic)
Good overclocking

Maximus extreme, Formula, Gigabyte Sniper or Msi Gaming???

Thank you.

January 3, 2014 | 05:58 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

The Sniper may offer you the best mix of features since it has the upgradable OP-AMP so you can customize the audio experience and the integrated Killer NIC allowing for network traffic tweaking.  However, any of the board's mentioned would give you a good gaming experience.

Make sure to pair the board with a good CPU and a strong PSU as well.

Good luck...

January 5, 2014 | 02:41 AM - Posted by ArcRendition

Morry,

This is a fantastic review Morry! Objective and extraordinarily detailed. As with Ryan, Josh and and Allyn, I have an immense amount of respect for your journalistic integrity, professionalism and the top-tier reviews you publish. You're handwork does not go unnoticed. I just wanted to articulate my appreciate for your devotion to PCper and it's audience. not only you but the top-tier reviews you publish.

Question:
I've been eyeing parts and so far I'm rather interested in the feature set of the ROG Hero motherboard. What do you think of Asus's "entry-level" ROG board? Would you suggest anything else at the ~$200 price level? So far I haven't found anything with such a rich feature set and great software suite.

- Stewart Graham

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