Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of Gigabyte
PC gaming is alive and well and hardware vendors are working to create unique features in their product lines to entice this niche audience. Gigabyte has always had a soft spot for gamers who want the best components for their LAN rigs so they can own their friends in any game genre they choose to play. Gigabyte has broadened their product line to include performance gaming mice, keyboards, and PC cases. They also have a line of "G1-Killer" motherboards that Gigabyte claims is designed with 3D gaming in mind. One of their latest boards in the G1-Killer series is the G1.Sniper M3, and just happen to have a sample that we are reviewing today.
Courtesy of Gigabyte
The G1.Sniper M3 was designed into a micro ATX form factor that sports Intel's latest Z77 Express chipset and supports the third generation of Intel's LGA 1155 "Ivy Bridge" processors. It is challenging to pack enough performance features and overclocking options onto a micro ATX footprint, but Gigabyte's G1.Sniper M3 has broken the code in this department. This $180 board includes a digital power phase design with auto voltage compensation, dual UEFI BIOS, and an onboard Creative Sound Core3D quad-core audio processor for rich, high-definition audio.
An overview of Thunderbolt Technology
The promise of Thunderbolt connectivity has been around for a couple of years now. Today, Thunderbolt is finally finding its way to the PC platform in the form of motherboards from ASUS and MSI. First unveiled as "Light Peak" at the Intel Developer Forum in 2009, the technology started out as a way to connect multiple devices to a system over a fiber optic cable (hence the 'light' in the name), though the final products have changed the implementation slightly.
The first prototype implementations actually used a USB-style connection and interface. It further required fiber optic cables. When it was renamed to Thunderbolt and then released in conjunction with a new lineup of Apple MacBook laptops, not only did the physical interface move to a mini-DisplayPort connection but the cable was made to use copper rather than fiber. Without diving too far into the reasons and benefits of either direction, the fact is that the copper cables allow for modest power transfer and are much cheaper than fiber optic variants would be.
Thunderbolt's base technology remains the same, however. It is a transfer standard that allows for 10 Gbps of bandwidth for each channel (bi-directional) and concurrently supports both data and display connections. The actual interface for the data path is based on PCI Express and connected devices actually appear to Windows as if they are internally connected to the system which can offer some interesting benefits – and headaches – for hardware developers. The display connection uses the DisplayPort standard and can be used along with the data connection without affecting bandwidth levels or performance.
For current Intel processor implementations, the Thunderbolt connection is supported by a separate controller chip on the motherboard (or a riser card) – and some routing is required for correct usage. The Thunderbolt controller does not actually include a graphics controller, so it must be fed an output from another graphics processor, obviously in this case directly from the Ivy Bridge / Sandy Bridge processors. In theory, these could be from other controllers, but with the ubiquitous nature of integrated processor graphics on IVB and SNB processors, this is going to be the implementation going forward according to motherboard and system designers.
Subject: Motherboards | June 25, 2012 - 04:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Z77, Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H, gigabyte, Ivy Bridge
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H is one of the less expensive of the Z77 boards on the market today, offering quite a few features for its $150 price point. A pair of PCIe 3.0 ports can handle single 16x or dual 8x speeds and there are two other PCIe 2.0 ports and even a legacy PCI port. For storage you get a pair of SATA 6Gbps and a pair of eSATA as well, with four SATA2 ports to take up the slack and 8 USB 3.0 ports will help peripherals and removable storage hit great transfer speeds. [H]ard|OCP took an i7-3770K up to a stable 4.741GHz with great ease thanks to the Gigabyte Easy Tune 6 suite but they did have some problems with their mouse while changing settings in the UEFI. You should read about the quirks they ran into during testing, but if you are looking for a low cost overclocking board you could do much worse than the Z77X-UD3H.
"The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H represents a more budget oriented offering within Gigabyte’s lineup. "Budget" doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and "expensive" doesn’t necessarily mean good when it comes to motherboards. The question is, "How does Gigabyte’s Z77X-UD3H stack up against so many great budget boards already out there?"
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- EVGA SR-X Classified @ OC3D
- Gigabyte Z77-D3H and Z77X-UD5H Reviewed @ Madshrimps
- EVGA Z77 FTW Motherboard Review @ Ninjalane
- EVGA Z77 FTW Motherboard Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- ECS Z77H2-A2X Ultimate Golden Edition Extreme @ Phoronix
- BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 @ Tweaktown
- Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H Motherboard Review @ HCW
- Asus P8Z77-V LX @ eTeknix
- SUS Maximus V Gene Intel Z77 Express LGA 1155 @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 @ OC3D
- Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3: Gaming LGA 1155 Mainboard for Multi-GPU Graphics Configurations
- BIOS Option Of The Week - CPU Differential Amplitude @ TechARP
- Zotac Fusion Mini-ITX Motherboard (Fusion-B-U) @ TechwareLabs
- MD A75 Motherboard Roundup @ Neoseeker
Subject: Motherboards | June 12, 2012 - 06:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: sandy bridge-e, Ivy Bridge, asrock, Fatal1ty X79 Champion, Z77 Extreme9
There is an ASRock two-fer over at Legion Hardware, with the $400 Fatal1ty X79 Champion for SandyBridge-E and the $350 Z77 Extreme9 for IvyBridge. As you can tell by the prices, ASRock has come far from its roots as a less expensive choice for value conscious buyers and is now ready to compete with the established companies like ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI. The X79 Champion carries a lot of extras, the Marvell SE9230 adds SATA 6Gbps ports and the SE9172 adds eSATA, as well you get USB 3.0 support from a TI TUSB7340 chip but all that comes at a cost, only a pair of full 16x PCI 3.0 ports. The Z77 Extreme9 also features extras in the form of the PLX PEX 8747 PCIe 3.0 chip which allows dual GPUs at 16x or quad at 8x, an ASMedia ASM1061 6Gbps for extra SATA 6Gbps and a a wireless and Bluetooth module.
"Overall we have been impressed by Asrock’s high-end offerings, as they really are top notch products. Asrock has continued to step up their game over the last few years and today we would have no problem purchasing one of their products over something from Asus or Gigabyte for example. The Fatal1ty X79 Champion and Z77 Extreme9 are more examples of why Asrock motherboards are worth checking out."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- ASRock Z77 Extreme9 Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- ASRock Z77 Extreme6 Motherboard @ TechwareLabs
- Two LGA 1155 Mainboards from ASRock Reviewed: ASRock Z77 Extreme4 and ASRock Z77 Extreme6 @ X-bit Labs
- Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe: New Look of the LGA 1155 Platform @ X-bit Labs
- Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H @ Kitguru
- Thunderbolt on Windows Part 2: Intel's DZ77RE-K75 & ASUS' P8Z77-V Premium @ AnandTech
- ASUS's AMD AM3+ Motherboards to get Intel Thunderbolt support? @ VR-Zone
- Asrock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional-M Socket 1155 Motherboard @ Pro-Clockers
- ASRock X79 Fatal1ty Champion Motherboard @ Hardware Secrets
- Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H WiFi Intel Z77 Express LGA 1155 @ techPowerUp
- Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H Socket 1155 Motherboard @ Pro-Clockers
- ASUS P8Z77-M Pro Micro-ATX Motherboard Review @ Hi Tech Legion
- Biostar TZ77XE4 (Z77) Motherboard Review @ eTeknix
- Cedar Trail Platform: Intel D2500HN and Intel DN2800MT Mainboards @ X-bit Labs
- BIOS Option Of The Week - CPU Hardware Prefetch @ TechARP
Subject: Motherboards | June 6, 2012 - 08:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zeus, wolverine, power phase, motherboard, dual gpu, concept, computex, asus
ASUS has a history of showing off crazy high-end concept motherboards that are not likely to come to market but may help influence future motherboard products by getting the creative sparks of innovation flowing in engineers’ minds.
At this year’s Computex 2012, Asus showed off two concept motherboards that it is calling Zeus and Wolverine. While Zeus tackles Thunderbolt and integrated GPUs, Wolverine approaches the problem of getting clean power to the CPU by pushing the limits of the number of power phases that can be integrated into ATX-sized motherboards.
You will notice on the Zeus motherboard that the bottom of the board holds a bank of two 8 pin and two six pin power connectors. The two eight pin connectors are labeled VGA 1 and VGA 2 while the two six pin connectors are labeled VGA 3 and VGA 4 respectively. At first this seems like a regular X79 chipset (socket 2011) based motherboard with giant heatsinks for overclockers. After doing a double take (at least I did), you will notice that the board has no PCI-E connectors!
Instead, the board has a large heatsink, and under that heatsink are two GPUs in CrossFire configuration. Tech Power Up believes that the GPUs being used are two AMD 7800 “Pitcairn” series mobile graphics cards in CrossFire configuration. While the desktop variants are fairly low power, they would need active cooling or a larger heatsink, which I think is what lead them to consider that ASUS may be using mobile-class cards. Reportedly, ASUS did not create this board to suggest GPU integration, but to show off dual Thunderbolt ports on an X79 motherboard.
Connectivity on the board includes a socket 2011 CPU, eight DDR3 DIMM slots, ten SATA connectors, (and on the rear IO panel) a WiFi radio, eight USB 3.0 ports, two Thunderbolt ports, Gigabit LAN, 7.1 channel analog audio output, optical audio output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, and two eSATA ports.
As far as the dual GPU integration goes, however... I don’t expect we’ll be seeing a move in the industry like this any time soon, at least not on high-end Enthusiast boards (though I could see an argument for small form factor (SFF) budget gaming systems from OEMs). Dedicated graphics card technology moves at such a rapid pace compared to motherboards that it is just not feasible to market a feature like this to enthusiasts. While they may keep the same motherboard for years, those same users will likely upgrade their graphics cards at least once to stay current. Further, with the cost of these high-end motherboards already approaching exorbitant, adding integrated GPUs that don’t mesh well with the purpose of a high end system pushes the cost higher and demand to a point that these boards just don’t seem realistic.
While Zeus was more of a powerhouse with a twist (albeit one that isn’t really feasible to market), the other motherboard – Wolverine – is a “because we can” board but one that could have an impact on the industry today. ASUS has taken its Digi+ digital power to the extreme by packing as many power phases as it could into an ATX form factor motherboard. In total, they managed to place 40 power phases onto the PCB – notice how the CPU socket had to be shifted to the right to make room!
Other features on the board include eight SATA connectors, four DIMM slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, LGA 1155 socket, and three PCI 3.0 x1 slots. On the rear the board features four USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, a WiFi radio, Gigabit LAN, BIOS buttons, optical audio output, 7.1 channel analog audio output, and what looks like two eSATA ports.
Granted, I’m not suggesting that we will be seeing motherboards coming out with 40+ power phases anytime soon. I can see this influencing future designs, however. Even heavy overclockers (water and air cooling levels) don’t really /need/ 40 power phases but we could start seeing vendors put out boards with half of that and still have it be a big improvement.
What do you think of the two new ASUS concept motherboards? You can see more images of the boards over at AnandTech's gallery. Do you think they are on the right track? If not what areas do you think motherboard manufacturers need to improve?
Subject: Motherboards | June 6, 2012 - 06:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z77, msi, motherboard, mini-itx, Intel, htpc, computex
MSI is showing off a lot of motherboards at Computex 2012. One in particular that stuck out to me was a mini ITX motherboard that sported Ivy Bridge compatibility, four SATA ports (2 which are SATA 6Gbps), and PCI-E 3.0 compliant making it perfect for an high performance HTPC build. The motherboard in question is the MSI Z77IA-E53 and as the name suggests it is based around Intel’s Z77 chipset.
The mini-ITX form factor motherboard sports MSI’s ClickBIOS II UEFI BIOS and its OC Genie II technology as well as THX TruStudio Pro audio. Other features include an LGA 1155 socket for Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge (Core i7, i5, i3, Pentium or Celeron) processors, two DDR3 DIMM slots (up to 16GB of 2800MHz), and a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot at the very bottom of the motherboard.
On the back of the board, the Z77IA-E53 features HDMI and VGA video outputs, two USB 3.0 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, an eSATA port, Gigabit LAN, PS/2 port, optical audio outpu, three 3.5mm jacks for analog audio output, and WiFi and Bluetooth radios.
Unfortunately, there is no word yet on pricing or availability.
Subject: Motherboards | June 5, 2012 - 08:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: X79S-UP5 WiFi, x79, socket 2011, Intel, gigabyte, computex
Although Ivy Bridge is the new hotness, socket 2011 is still the company’s top-end enthusiast and workstation platform. And to to be forgotten, Gigabyte dedicated some space at its Computex booth to show off a new high-end X79 socket 2011 motherboard. The Gigabyte GA-X79S-UP5 WiFi is a EATX motherboard with a 2011 socket that is surrounded by heatpipes and VRM heatsinks (we recently reviewed the X79-UD5) The board further supports eight DDR3 DIMM slots, eight SAS connectors, six SATA ports, four PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (up to 3 way SLI/CrossFireX), one PCI-E 3.0 x1 slot, and one legacy PCI slot at the bottom of the motherboard. It also has internal connectors for front panel audio, SPDIF, Firewire (1394), TPM, one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 headers, and four fan headers (one of which is for the CPU).
Integrated Gigabyte technology includes the company’s all-digital and “3D Power,” dual UEFI BIOSes, 8 phase VRM, Gigabyte Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi card, 110dB SNR (signal-to-noise ration) HD audio, and 3X USB power and On/Off Charge to charge iPads and tablets even when the computer is powered down. Quad channel memory and socket 2011 processors give CAD engineers, video editors, and other 3D modelers the most performance possible out of a single socket workstation system.
Rear IO for the X79S-UP5 WiFi board includes a PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, a firewire port, UEFI BIOS reset and overclock profile buttons, four USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA ports, a USB/eSATA combo port, Gigabit LAN, optical audio output, and five analog audio outputs.
In short, this is a motherboard that Gigabyte has packed to the brim with features for enthusiasts. Below you will find several high-resolution images of the new socket 2011 motherboard. If your internet connection is ready, dive right in!
Gigabyte GA-X79S-UP5 WiFi Motherboard Images
Even considering my bias of my favorite color being blue, the board looks really nice, especially the heatsink designs which really make the board stand out.
CPU socket area:
Here we can see the 2011 socket, VRMs, and DDR3 DIMM slots.
More photos after the break!
Subject: General Tech, Motherboards | June 5, 2012 - 08:04 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: thunderbolt, motherboard, gigabyte, ga-z77x-up5 th, computex
Intel’s 10Gbps copper-based Thunderbolt technology is big at this year’s Computex show, and Gigabyte was not shy about showing off their Thunderbolt hardware. Not to be outdone by the Intel booth, Gigabyte had on display a Thunderbolt motherboard and no less than 13 pieces of Thunderbolt hardware!
The motherboard in question is Gigabyte’s GA-Z77X-UP5 TH which is an ATX form factor board that supports Intel Ivy Bridge processors, dual UEFI BIOS technology, SLI and CrossFireX multi-GPU setups, four DDR3 DIMM slots, six SATA 6Gbps ports, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots, and a single legacy PCI slot. It also, of course, features a Thunderbolt port.
The list of Thunderbolt-enabled peripherals was impressive – they only seemed to be missing Thunderbolt docks. The full list of devices is available in the table below, but Gigabyte had the Apple Thunderbolt display, several Thunderbolt external hard drives, a Thunderbolt SSD, Thunderbolt-equipped RAIDed NAS boxes from several vendors, and the active Thunderbolt cables themselves (from Sumitomo Electric).
|Blackmagic design||UltraStudio 3D||Video editing|
|Blackmagic design||Intensity Extreme||Video editing|
|LaCie||eSATA Hub Thunderbolt||Hub|
|Promise Technology, Inc||Pegasus R6||Storage|
|Seagate||GoFlex ThunderBolt Adapter||HDD Adapter|
|Seagate||GoFlex Desk ThunderBolt Adapter||HDD Adapter|
|Sonnos||Sonnet ECHO ExpressCard||ExpressCard|
|Sumitomo Electric||Thunderbolt Cable||Cable|
|Western Digital||My Book Thunderbolt Drive||Storage|
Although Thunderbolt is going to be a niche connection (mostly due to expense of cables and components vs the “good enough” and much cheaper USB 3.0 standard) for the foreseeable future, Computex 2012 is trying its best to drive home the idea that Thunderbolt is not going away. There are definitely more Thunderbolt devices than I had originally predicted to show up at the show in Taipei.
Subject: Motherboards | June 5, 2012 - 06:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: trinity, msi, htpc, fm2, computex, amd
Located at Booth L0810 in Nangang Hall 4F, MSI is showing off a tong of new hardware. One of the interesting displays is a wall of new motherboards based on AMD’s desktop Trinity APUs. Using the company’s Hybrid Digital Power design, the FM2 socket-based motherboards come in three sizes: EATX, ATX, and mini-ITX to meet various project needs.
MSI's Trinity display at Computex 2012. Source: MSI
The smallest of the bunch is the MSI A85IA-E53 motherboard, which is designed for HTPC use. Based on AMD’s A75 chipset, the mini-ITX board features an AMD FM2 socket in the middle, with two DDR3 DIMM slots (a maximum of 16GB of memory) below, a single PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot to the left, and four SATA 6Gbps ports to the right of the FM2 socket.
Rear IO on the board includes a combo PS/2 port, optical audio (TOSLink) output, VGA and HDMI video outputs, three eSATA ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit LAN port, and analog audio out via three 3.5mm jacks. The motherboard also features integrated WiFi and Bluetooth radios. Built with the company’s military class III components, the A85IA-E53 comes packed with the ClickBIOS II, OC Genie II, and support for HD7000 series graphics cards.
MSI has two mid-sized ATX form factor motherboards with the the MSI A55M-P33 (F2) and MSI A85MA-35. The former is intended for traditional desktop use cases while the latter is rather shallow in depth and is meant to be used in living room HTPCs.
MSI A55M-P33 (F2)
The MSI A55M-P33 (F2) is the company’s budget desktop motherboard. It supports OC Genie II and ClickBIOS II technologies as well as AMD Dual Graphics which allows the pairing of a Trinity APU integrated graphics card and discrete AMD GPU. In adition to the FM2 socket, the board features two DDR3 DIMM slots (maximum of 16GB of 1866MHz memory), four SATA 3Gbps ports, one PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, one PCI-E 2.0 x1 slot, and one legacy PCI slot.
This motherboard is actually based on the AMD A55 chipset which explains the lack of 6Gbps ports and USB 3.0 support. The company describes the board as the “value choice” for those upgrading to a new Trinity-based system. Rear IO on the A55M-P33 (F2) includes eight USB 2.0 ports, six 3.5mm jacks for analog audio output, Gigabit Ethernet, and DVI and VGA display outputs.
The second ATX motherboard is the MSI A85MA-E35. This motherboard has been designed wider and shallower than traditional desktop ATX boards so that it can fit into slim HTPC cases (that usually have more room longways than height-wise as they need to be able to fit into AV racks and other short spaces). It is essentially the mATX A85IA-E53’s big brother as it takes the AMD A75 chipset and takes advantage of the larger PCB area to add additional functionality. The motherboard features MSI’s OC Genie II and ClickBIOS II technology and AMD’s Dual Graphics support for pairing a dedicated GPU with the Trinity APU’s graphics portion.
The board is rather spaced out as the PCB is stretched out to keep things as shallow as possible. It does feature two DDR3 DIMM slots (maximum of 16GB 1866MHz RAM), the AMD FM2 processor socket, one PCI-E 2.0 x16 slot, two PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and one legacy PCI slot. The only motheboard component with a heatsink attached is the southbridge, which is powering six SATA ports, at least four of which are 6Gbps (MSI only lists four 6Gbps ports in the documentation, seen above and to the right of the board [TechPowerUp indicates that all six are 6Gbps, however]). Rear IO includes four USB 3.0 ports, six analog audio out jacks, Gigabit LAN, and what is likely a PS/2 port and optical audio output.
Finally, the FM2 motherboard to rule them all (or at least the company’s AMD lineup) is the MSI A85XA-G65. The board comes packed with MSI technology including Military Class III components, OC Genie II, ClickBIOS II, Hybrid Design Power, THX TruStuio Pro, AMD Dual Graphics (APU+discrete card), AMD CrossFire, NVIDIA SLI, and AMD Eyefinity.
In other words, MSI has bolted just about everything it could to this board. They confidently labeled the motherboard as the board for enthusiasts to use to push Trinity overclocks as far as possible. The first thing I noticed about the image (seen below) of the A85XA-G65 was the massive heatsinks on the VRMs and southbridge – did I mention they were huge? In addition to the well-cooled VRMs, the motherboard features four DDR3 DIMM slots (max of 32GB 1866MHz RAM), two PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, three PCI-E 2.0 x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots towards the bottom of the board. To the right is the southbridge (with relatively large heatsink) powering eight SATA 6Gbps ports.
The A85XA-G65 supports DisplayPort, DVI, HDMI, and VGA video outputs. Beyond that, rear IO includes a combo PS/2 port, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit LAN, six 3.5mm jacks for multi-channel analog audio outputs, and an optical audio output. If you want to push desktop Trinity to the max, this board definitely seems like a good place to start.
MSI has definitely come out in full force with a slew of AMD Trinity motherboards. The HTPC ones, and the mini-ITX one in particular, interest me. The beastly A85XA-G65 is also pretty neat for overclocking potential. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more Computex 2012 coverage! What do you guys want to see from the show? You can see a few more photos after the break.
Introduction and Features
Courtesy of ASUS
ASUS continues to optimize their hardware for the overclocking and PC gaming crowds, but they are also catering to a niche audience looking for ultra stable and durable PC components. ASUS's Sabertooth X79 motherboard is their one of their latest products to bear the TUF series label and sport customized hardware and thermal components as well as a desert camo color scheme to complete the military look. This $329 motherboard comes with a five-year warranty, digital power management system, rugged chokes, solid capacitors, and MOSFETs that have been certified through third party, military-grade testing.
Courtesy of ASUS
The Sabertooth X79 also comes with a host of other features to improve SSD caching and give users quad GPU support for CrossfireX and SLI graphics card configurations. This board also includes a unique UEFI BIOS and natively supports 2TB hard drives with 64-bit operating systems. The USB BIOS "Flashback" feature also helps new users update their motherboard BIOS without entering the BIOS. ASUS states that users can use any USB storage device with the latest BIOS, push the BIOS button located on the back I/O panel for three seconds, and the board will automatically update the BIOS using standby power. Very cool!
Courtesy of ASUS
The back I/O panel on the Sabertooth X79 is no slouch either as it gives users a healthy amount of USB 2.0, USB 3.0, and eSATA 6GB/s ports for greater performance and expandability options. They also added a small fan over the back I/O panel as part of their "TUF Thermal Armor" feature that will help cool and exhaust heat from ther motherboard out the back of the chassis. Let's move on to the rest of the Saberbooth X79's features where we will get our first out-of-the-box look at this motherboard.
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