|Name||Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-X79-UD5|
|At a glance:||Socket LGA2011, X79 chipset for Sandy Bridge-E,E-ATX form factor,WiFi/Bluetooth 4.0 adaptor,Too many features to list|
|Summary:||At the very least, it offers some aggressive competition to the current flock of Asus X79 boards.|
To complement the new Sandy Bridge-E processors, Gigabyte has released a full line up of X79 motherboards with its usual UD3, UD5 and UD7 variants plus a top-shelf G1.Assassin2 model.
The GA-X79-UD5 we recieved for testing this month has a huge E-ATX (Extended ATX) form factor. Although it’s only 20mm wider than a standard ATX board, it might be a bit of a squeeze for some mid-sized cases (our Fractal ARC Midi Tower handled it fine). Ostensibly this is to accommodate the extra DIMM slots – of which there are eight, for Sandy Bridge-E’s quad-channel memory design.
The feature list for the UD5 is certainly extensive. Along with eight DIMM slots, you get three PCI-E x16 slots with full CrossfireX and SLI support for running up to 3 video cards in parallel at x16/x16/x8 bandwidth, all of which conform to the PCI Express 3.0 standard. There are also two PCI-E x1 slots for other addon cards and even a PCI slot for legacy devices.
For hard drive connections, the Intel X79 chipset is limited to two SATA 6Gb/s and four SATA 3Gb/s connectors. However, this board also sports two Marvell 88SE9172 chips which add another four SATA 6GB/s connectors for a total of six high-speed SATA 6Gb/s HDD connectors. RAID 0 and 1 are both supported here, plus the X79 chipset also supports RAID 5 and 10 so storage nuts will find plenty of options to house their terabytes of data.
Speaking of high-speed connections, the UD5 has four USB 3.0 connectors – two ports on the back panel plus two internal headers. These headers can be connected to the USB 3.0 ports present on many modern PC cases – if your case doesn’t have these, then Gigabyte has thrown in a 3.5” connector bay with two USB 3.0 ports for quick and easy front panel access. This is all in addition to 14 USB 2.0 connectors (eight on the back panel, six via internal headers).
Another very cool feature included which you usually only get with high-end boards is a PCI-E WiFi adaptor which also packs Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity (good for pairing with devices such as the iPhone 4S), and comes with two antennas on cables for flexible placement.
When setting up your newly installed motherboard, you’re greeted with Gigabyte’s new UEFI BIOS with a full colour graphical interface and mouse navigation. There are overclocking options aplenty – you can even switch between two BIOS revisions with their DualBIOS system if you’re a serious tweaker.
Supplied along with the UD5’s drivers is Gigabyte’s full range of apps, ranging from voltage/fan control to overclocking utilities, temperature monitoring and antivirus software. There is also a full power control utility so you can crank everything up for maximum speed, or tone it all down for maximum efficiency (or anything in between).
Overall I found the GA-X79-UD5 to be a top quality board, typical of Gigabyte’s middle to top-end range. It offers a lot more features than other basic X79 boards, without costing a whole lot extra.