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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 Z87 Motherboard Review

AkG

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Gigabyte’s Sniper series has received its fair share of press over the years and in many ways it epitomizes the PC gaming crowd's needs With its instantly recognizable black and green colour scheme and gaming inspired embellishments (like ammo-shaped heatsinks) these boards have quickly gained the attention and admiration of gamers. The latest is the G1.Sniper 5, an enthusiast level LGA1150 Z87 board destined for the already-cluttered Haswell market.

While the military inspired design may be one of the more in-your-face aspects of the G1.Sniper lineup, there’s more to these motherboards than what first meets the eye. Every one of them boasts a wide variety of interesting features and aspects that have been cleverly designed for overclockers and everyday gamers alike.

GIGABYTE received their fair share of critique about the original Sniper’s design with seemed to only appeal to a very narrow segment of gamers who wanted the “meanest” looking motherboard at the nearest LAN party. This newest iteration tones things down by a fair bit by removing some of the more controversial add-ons and replacing them with more a tasteful, neutral design.

Some may not like this new direction but the G1.Sniper series was never really about its looks; rather, the features these boards offered was above reproach. In this regard,the Sniper 5 has all the usual features such as high end audio abilities, wireless abilities, dual networking ports, ten SATA ports, dual front USB 3.0 header and even a 16 phase all-digital VRM. Unlike most ‘gaming’ orientated motherboards GIGABYTE has gone well beyond the call of duty by including Intel and Killer NIC options alongside a high end Core 3D audio chipset with an op-amp socket and even boosted the number of SATA 6Gb/s ports to ten via a discrete Marvell controller.

In order to take advantage of the advanced PWN design, GIGABYTE has implemented a user friendly BIOS as well as software features that will take the hassle out of overclocking and let gamers quickly get optimal performance from their new system. This has been approached via two distinct BIOS setups called Classic and Dashboard with the latter being almost completely customizable.

While GIGABYTE’s G1.Sniper 5 may be have a long list of features, it certainly isn’t targeted towards the mainstream. Indeed, with a price of nearly $400, this happens to be one of the most expensive Haswell-based motherboards available. It competes directly against luminaries like ASUS’ Z87 Deluxe, EVGA’s Classified and MSI’s awesome MPower MAX. Will an extremely complete list of features allow the Sniper 5 to pull away from these well-regarded alternatives? Let’s find out.

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AkG

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G1.Sniper 5 Specifications and Features

G1.Sniper 5 Specifications and Features



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AkG

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


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The GIGABYTE G1 series has always known for its eye catching packaging and the Sniper 5 is no exception. However, unlike some previous models which heavily played up the ‘gaming’ aspect with firearm motifs, the G1.Sniper 5 goes off in a more mature direction with subtle touches. Just note that the box is massive and weighs a ton so expect higher shipping charges in some instances.

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The Sniper 5 is housed in its own cardboard container with a plastic lid with the accessories located in small cardboard trays below it.

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The accessory list which accompanies the G1.Sniper 5 is certainly above average and you do get a rather nice selection of parts. In grand total there’s: an IO shield, six ix SATA 6Gbps data cables, a USB 3.0 front adapter bracket with two USB 3.0 / 2.0 ports, a ribbon style 2-way SLI Bridge cable, a ribbon style 2-way CrossFire cable, a PCB style 3-way SLI bridge cable, a PCB style 4-way SLI bridge cable, an additional op-amp for the onboard audio with IC extractor, a GIGABYTE sticker, PCIe x1 WiFI + Bluetooth adapter, a single bi-pole antenna for the WiFI card, a User Manual, quick installation guide, and two driver and utilities DVDs.

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This certainly is impressive list of accessories but there are two minor disappointments. Firstly, the front USB 3.0 adapter is rather flimsy and shouldn’t be included on such a high caliber motherboard.

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APCIe x1 combination Bluetooth 4.0 / 802.11N wireless daughter card has been included which uses an Atheros AR5B22 mPCIE module and is easily upgradeable. While it is lacking in 802.11AC abilities, this Bluetooth 4.0 and 300Mbit 802.11N wireless network controller is both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz capable which place it head and shoulders over the typical 802.11N 2.4GHz capabilities bundled with many other motherboards.

Unfortunately, GIGABYTE did stumble a bit when designing this unit’s antenna array. Instead of two magnetic based antennas it is equipped with a single di-pole module which combines both antennas into one package. We would have preferred to see two independently adjustable antennas which would have made fine-tuning the wireless array much easier. Again though, this is an extremely minor point which likely won’t noticeably affect the wireless performance in most situations.

While we have to commend GIGABYTE for going with PCI-E WiFi adapter instead of the usual mPCI-e, rear I/O space robbing option and its dual band 2.4GHz / 5.0GHz is certainly a great change from the ordinary. However, it is only compatible with the older 300MBits/s 802.11N standard instead of the newer 850+Mbit/s 802.11AC link we have been seeing more of lately. Typically, this wouldn’t be a bad option but it has been paired with a single bi-pole antenna. This runs contrary to the trends we have been seeing with other similarly equipped competing models since two to three antennas will run into less interference and better throughput.
 
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AkG

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Included Software

Included Software


“Killer” NPU Software Stack

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The first software application is for the included Qualcomm Atheros ‘Killer’ E2205 network processing unit or NPU. GIGABYTE’s has decided to use the stock version which ships with any Killer NPU equipped motherboard so it hasn’t been modified or enhanced in any way. With that being said, it is quite complete but only by digging through countless sub-menus will you ever hope to get the most from this rather expensive network controller. Unfortunately, if network customization isn’t within your comfort zone, it is very doubtful this particular feature would allow for any noticeable improvements of Intel-based solutions.


Sound Blaster Pro Studio

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As is becoming the norm on today’s higher end motherboards, GIGABYTE has included Creative’s Core3D audio chipset and its associated controller software. As with the Qualcomm NPU software, this is the standard SoundBlaster Pro Studio application which any Core3D equipped motherboard comes with. It is very complete, boasts features like a full-band equalizer, noise reduction capabilities, and allows for the tweaking of individual channel volume levels.

Creative’s unique Scout Mode has also been rolled into this iteration. This enhances the soundstage for improved positional auditory cues in games. While it cannot exactly transform a sows ear into a silk purse, if you do use it in conjunction with a pair of good headphones it has the capability to provide a noticeable advantage that you would not normally get from ‘onboard’ sound solutions.


GIGABYTE App Center

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Instead of a one size fits all approach the new App Center is actually a launching pad for GIGABYTE’s disparate catalog of programs (or at least most of them), is fully customizable and permanently resides in Windows’ notification area / system tray. The only exception to this was the GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher program which allows for real time overclocking which just wouldn’t allow its icon to be ported into the App Center’s quick launch toolbar. Otherwise, for quick and painless navigation, this is one of the better examples out there.


@BIOS, USB Blocker, EZ Setup, Live Update & On/Off Charge

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The @BIOS program is a fairly standard windows based BIOS flashing tool which allows for saving the active BIOS to a file, updating via a saved file or connecting to GIGABYTE’s servers so the BIOS can be flashed to the latest version available. While Windows based BIOS flashing has come a long way, using the ultra-easy Q-Flash on startup does diminish the usefulness of this program, especially when you consider the fact that it does increase the chances of a bad BIOS flash and you still will have to reboot the system for any changes to take effect. However, if you want simple, easy to use Windows-based utility this is about as good an option as we have seen recently.

The USB Blocker program is an interesting addition, albeit one that is fundamentally flawed. It allows anyone with administrator rights the ability to pick and choose what types of USB devices can be seen by the OS. For example, if the G1.Sniper 5 is used at a LAN party and you don’t want any random stranger plugging in a USB flash drive and downloading a virus to the system, USB Blocker tell the OS to ignore any attached USB storage devices. Unfortunately since it is a software-based solution we just can’t put much faith in it. Such high level blocks are very easy to circumvent and only BIOS-level options can be considered even remotely secure.

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EZ Setup gives users a simple way to quickly and easily switch between IDE, RAID and AHCI disk modes from within Windows without having to modify or re-install the OS. This however is only a small part of what it can accomplish since EZ Setup can allow for quick and painless implementation of some of Intel’s latest technologies. In addition to being able to setup and modify Smart Response Technology – aka hybrid SSD+HDD setup – , you can also quickly turn on Rapid Start which allows a system to go from Hibernation mode to fully useable in mere seconds.

As an added bonus Intel’s Smart Connect feature can also be controlled which can bring a system out of sleep and update your social media information (e.g. download email, refresh your Facebook page, etc.) at set intervals. While none of these options are critical or even of interest to most consumers, GIGABYTE has made implementing them painless.

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The Live Update program basically pings GIGABYTEs servers and checks for updates. It does this automatically when App Center is loaded but you will have to press on its icon before you can install any found updates. As an added bonus you can choose which updates to install and it is certainly not an all or nothing affair.

ON/OFF Charge 2 allows you to quickly configure how the specially marked USB 2.0 header ports on the motherboard act. If necessary, they can be set to provide three times the USB-IF power standards so that highly demanding electronic devices are charged as fast as they would be if they were plugged in to an AC charger. It can even can do this when the system is in sleep or powered down. This software also allows you to turn these specially marked USB 2 ports into power only ports and not allow the device to sync with the system.
 
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AkG

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Software (Smart Recovery / EasyTune)

Software (Smart Recovery / EasyTune)



Smart Recovery 2

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Now in its second generation, Smart Recovery 2 has been greatly improved over the previous version and while still not up to Acronis True Image levels it is well above average for a free shadow copy program.

For anyone who has never used Smart Recovery, Smart Recovery 2 is kind of like Windows Restore / Apple Time Capsule functionality, where you can roll-back system settings or files to a previous implementation. Users can select just about any day, week, or month to roll back from, without having had to manually tell the program to create a backup flag. The first time you run it, it will scan and make a backup of your entire system and then – unlike the original Smart Recovery – check every hour for any modifications and backup just the files that have been changed.

Unfortunately, Smart Recovery 2 only saves the hourly backups for 48 hours before consolidation occurs, only saves the daily backup for a week and weekly backups for everything older than a month. This should however cover off most basic needs but most will find its abilities lacking compared to Acronis True Image. On the positive side, this program is free and can now save to a Network Attached Storage device as well as backup external drives. Overall it is much more refined than most ‘free’ programs of its kind that ship with motherboards.


EasyTune

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The most important application in the GIGABYTE App Center is the EasyTune utility. This is the heart and soul of GIGABYTE’s software suite and will be the most used program of the bunch. When you open it up you will be greeted with a simple and clean interface.

Along the left side of the screen are the six main sections of the EasyTune program: System Information, Smart Quick Boost, Smart Fan, System Alerts, 3D Power, and Hardware Monitor. The Monitor runs along the bottom and gives a well tailored overview of voltages and other important system information.

The majority of the real estate is given over to dealing with the features and abilities of whichever option is chosen, but the default screen on start-up is System Information. As the name suggests this page is somewhat similar to the Hardware Monitor section but gives a broader – but slightly less detailed – rundown of the system’s hardware.

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Smart Quick Boost section is where you will spend the majority of your time as it contains all the major overclocking features of EasyTune. These options are broken into two broad categories: automatic and manual overclocking.

The automatic options are Light, Medium and Extreme but there is a fourth aptly labeled ‘Energy Saving’ which deals with under-clocking rather than overclocking. This is actually a pretty novel idea for anyone that has excess system resources that only need to be used in certain instances.

Unfortunately GIGABYTE has seen fit to remove the more advanced AutoTune abilities from EasyTune. This is disappointing as it was a more advanced software overclocking option which didn’t rely upon heavy handed preconfigured options. Rather, it tested and retested consecutively higher settings to find the best fit for your particular CPU. On the positive side, these preconfigured options may be rather heavy handed and even crude, but they should be more than adequate for novice users who do not care about the how or why of overclocking and simply want to get more performance from their CPU.

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The manual overclocking abilities are accessed via EasyTune’s advanced tab and contain the basic options you will need for moderate overclocking. For simplicity’s sake, a reboot needs to be performed for the settings to take effect.

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Much like MSI’s ‘Fan Tuner’, ASRock’s FAN-Tastic Tuning, or ASUS’s “Fan Xpert 2”, GIGABYTE’s SmartFan not only comes with several fan profiles (Silent, Standard, and Extreme) but also allows for customized fan profiles.

Even though the G1.Sniper 5 may not use the same super I/O controller as those other companies, the SmartFan’s ‘Calibrate’ option does allow for built-in fan testing to highly tune the ‘default’ fan profile of any fan attached. It does this by slowly reducing the voltage until it receives a zero RPM reading and then it creates a fan profile from this point to a full 12 volts. In testing we found it very competent in this regard but still preferred ‘Advanced’ manual fan profiles of our own creation.

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System Alert, as its name implies, allows you to set custom rules based on system temperature or fan speed, and if those thresholds are crossed, you will be alerted. It also allows for changing the default 3 second scan interval to reduce resource overhead. While GIGABYTE could have included voltage warnings this is a great little feature to have. Though much like the Killer NIC software, you will only get as much out of the System Alert options as the amount of time you are willing to invest in creating custom alerts.

The last option of the EasyTune program is the 3D Power section. This inclusion is another thing that distinguishes this version of EasyTune from previous iterations as it used to be a separate application. The 3D Power utility has the same capabilities as the 3D Power section in the BIOS, and there is a lot of functionality here. Having said that, while PWM frequency, Load-Line Calibration (LLC), and phase control are all things that elite overclockers might tweak, they are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown (Dashboard mode)

BIOS Rundown (Dashboard mode)


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As mentioned in the Z87X-UD5H review, GIGABYTE has revamped their UEFI BIOS for Z87-based motherboards. In previous models GIGABYTE offered two distinct BIOS modes: 3D mode and Advanced Mode. Gone is the simple 3D Mode that presented a mouse-friendly graphical user interface (GUI) for basic tasks as it has now been superseded by the entirely new Dashboard Mode, while the Advanced Mode remains fundamentally unchanged but renamed to Classic Mode.

To switch between these modes you can either press F2 on your keyboard or select the desired mode in the shortcuts menu. There is a Resolution Toggle mode that takes advantage of HD screen resolutions to display additional real-time CPU/Memory/System status information on either side of the interface. Regrettably, this option only works if you use the on-board ports and Intel’s integrated GPU. No matter what card or PCI-E slot we used it refused to use ‘HD’ mode with anything other than the 4770Ks GPU. We assume this issue will be fixed in future BIOS revisions.

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As you will see above, the Dashboard Mode offers a much more aesthetically pleasing interface and great usability thanks to the fact that it is nearly entirely customizable by the user. In fact GIGABYTE included not only an editable ‘Favorites’ list but four tabs on the Home page whose functionality is completely up to you. Needless to say you can also rename them.

With this being said some consumers – especially those used to GIGABYTE’s older BIOS implementations – may find the more utilitarian Classic mode to be faster than the Dashboard interface. However, with a bit of time and effort the newer version will win most over though in all likelihood you will want to immediately change the mouse cursor speed as its default is rather high and unwieldy.

The Performance section’s Frequency tab is loaded with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier. The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio can be set as well. In Classic Mode you would find these features under the Advanced Frequencies Settings page of the MIT section.

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The Memory tab houses the memory-related settings. Here you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory voltage, and obviously tweak the memory timings via a separate sub-page. Each memory channel has its own section, within which can be altered via primary and secondary timings. In Classic Mode these features are found in the Advanced Memory Settings of the MIT section.

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The Voltage tab is where you can fine tweak the primary and secondary system voltages and it has been broken up into four sub-pages: 3D Power Control, CPU Core Voltage Control, Chipset Voltage Control, and DRAM Voltage Control. In the older classic BIOS these options can be found under the Advanced Voltage Settings page of the MIT section.

Of these four tabs you will spend most of your time in the well-designed 3D Power Control and CPU Core Voltage control sections – or what is called the Advanced Power and CPU Core Voltage pages in Classic Mode. In these sections you can fine-tune all the various voltages related to overclocking and the Load-Line calibration. We do wish GIGABYTE had included even more options since this section is not as capable as MSI’s DigitALL power options. GIGABYTE seems to have avoided fully harnessing the IR3563 chip’s abilities and by choosing to forego more comprehensive drop down boxes with additional options. As it stands the G1.Sniper 5’s capabilities here are well above average for a gaming-orientated motherboard but may leave some overclocking enthusiasts craving even more. On the positive side the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.

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We are not sure why GIGABYTE felt the need to once again dedicate entire subsection pages to either one (DRAM) – or two (Chipset) voltage controls but they have indeed done just that.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown (Dashboard mode), pg.2

BIOS Rundown (Dashboard mode) Cont'd


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Compared to past BIOSes, the Dashboard version actually has a pretty good status section, and in fact it has three subsections: PC Health Status, CPU Status and Memory Status.

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The Miscellaneous tab is where you can select that data lane configuration for the PCI-E slots and Legacy Benchmark Enhancement. This is the same in either Dashboard or Classic mode.

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As the name suggests, the System section reveals some very basic information about each component and is basically the same as System Information page in Classic Mode. The System page on the other hand has some features which are not exactly found in the Classic Mode. For example here you can find which page the BIOS should load on entry, the background wallpaper to use (including downloadable options) as well as user and administrator passwords, though the latter can be found in the Classic Mode’s BIOS features page

In either Classic or Dashboard mode the BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8 features, choose the Boot Mode, and enable/disable some Intel-specific features like CPU Virtualization.

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The Peripherals section in both the Dashboard and Classic Modes is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (FireWire, GbE LAN, audio codec, USB 3.0, RAID, etc). This is also where you set SATA devices to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode for each port, as well as configure the various SATA and Super IO features.

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The Power Management section contains the relevant settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes.

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The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area. The Q-Flash Utility which is accessed via the F12 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is a simple and quick procedure. Remember that your USB flash drive must be formatted in the FAT16/32 file system in order to be supported by Q-Flash, otherwise the utility won't allow you to update the BIOS or save the existing BIOS to a flash drive.
 
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AkG

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BIOS Rundown (Classic mode)

BIOS Rundown (Classic mode)


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Not everyone – especially advanced users – are going to be overly enamoured with the very pretty yet still basic Dashboard Mode. Unlike Microsoft, Gigabyte understands that new is not always better and has included a Classic Mode which grants consumers the choice of using either a modern or classic interface.

The Classic Mode is a more conventional UEFI BIOS and is similar to those we have seen on previous GIGABYTE motherboards. This BIOS has been broken down into six main sections: MIT, System Information, BIOS Features, Peripherals, Power Management, and Save & Exit.

The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section has also been broken down into six main sub-menus. These are where enthusiasts should expect to spend most of their time while in the classic BIOS mode. This main MIT landing page also gives a brief overview of the major system frequencies, memory sizes and timings. For a more detailed perspective, the MIT current status page is where you should head.

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When the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu is opened, you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier.

As expected the Advanced CPU Core settings sub-sub-menu option on the Advanced Frequency Settings page is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific options like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST). This is also where the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio can be modified.

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GIGABYTE’s Advanced Memory Settings section is self explanatory. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory voltage, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It has just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.

As with most UEFI BIOS layouts, the Advanced Memory Settings subsection also contains an Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu. This separate page is where you can fine tune the digital VRM or simply adjust the primary and secondary system voltages. We wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. As it is you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are.

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The Advanced Power Settings section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a control over all elements of the VRM. Though once again we do wish they had included even more granular control over LLC (Load-Line Calibration) for the CPU.

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The PC Health Status section is fairly good as it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures while the BIOS-based fan control has also improved. However, we found the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does feature a little bit richer fan PWM functionality. The System Information section displays the motherboard model name, BIOS version, allows users to set the BIOS language and set an administrator password.

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Boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, selection of Windows 8 features and Boot Mode modifications can all be addressed within the BIOS features section.

The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (FireWire, GbE LAN, audio codec, USB 3.0, RAID, etc). This is also where SATA devices can be set to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode. The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the various power-saving sleep modes.

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The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident but you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the G1.Sniper 5 p.1

A Closer Look at the G1.Sniper 5


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Above is a general layout of the E-ATX form factored GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 with labels of the key parts.

Just like with previous Sniper models, GIGABYTE has kept the same black and green color scheme, but this iteration has had the aggressive aesthetics toned way, way down. In fact, besides a small glowing skull on the Z87 chipset heatsink, this looks like any other high end motherboard. Simply put it is easily the most elegant and sophisticated Sniper model GIGABYTE has ever produced and from an aesthetics point of view has more in common with GIGABYTE’s UD series than previous gaming boards.

As we have come to expect from GIGABYTE’s Sniper line the overall layout is very well thought out with most of the buttons, connectors, and ports easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. Even on just a cursory glance it is rather obvious that GIGABYTE was very serious about making the G1.Sniper 5 one of the most capable and complete motherboards available today.

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As with most enthusiast grade motherboards, the cooling system on the G1.Sniper 5 consists of a two piece setup: two actively cooled heatsinks for the VRMs and two passive heatsinks for the Z87 chipset and PLX chipset. By taking a page from the competition, GIGABYTE has included both air and water cooling options for the primary heatsink.

One concern some will likely have is noise created by the 40mm cooling fan but since the VRM operates at relatively low temperatures so it never runs up to noticeable speeds. The 3/8” barbs do offer a tempting alternative as the fan’s bearing ages but, at least initially, they won’t be needed unless you’re an absolutely water cooling nut.

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This motherboard features GIGABYTEs ‘Ultra Durable 5 Plus’ technology and has an all-digital sixteen phase power design consisting of IR3550 PowerIRstage ICs, sealed ferrite-core chokes, and Nippon Chemi-Con 10K ‘Black’ solid electrolytic capacitors.

As the name suggests the 10K ‘Black’ caps are rated for 10,000 hours of use instead of the typical 3K-5K. More precisely, GIGABYTE has made use of an eight phase International Rectifier IR3563B voltage regulator chip, with an International Rectifier IR3599 phase multiplier attached to each phase to boost the count from eight to sixteen. Attached to each of these phases is an IR35530M IC which combines high side and low side MOSFETs as well as the driver IC into one package. By increasing the number of virtual phases from eight to sixteen GIGABYTE has been able to further reduce the stress on each individual phase which will in turn keep all the VRMs running cooler while still providing consistently stable and clean voltage to the CPU.

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The four DDR3 memory slots are fed by a digital 2-phase power design which uses an International Rectifier IR3570 with IR3598 phase doubler and Rensas MOSFETS instead of IR35530M’s. It does however support overclocked memory frequencies of DDR3-3200 – or 1600MHz, though it will take a highly binned set of RAM sticks and a great CPU to reach such lofty overclocking levels.

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One of the main things which separates this motherboard from other Z87 models is the inclusion of a PLX PEX8747 hub with a maximum of 48 PCI-E 3.0 lanes. In this iteration, it utilizes the Haswell architecture’s existing PCI-E bandwidth to provide the Sniper 5 with 32 native Gen3 lanes. These can be either used in a dual x16, x16 / x8 / x8 or quad x8 configurations making GIGABYTE’s gamer-oriented board one of the few Z87 platforms with native quad GPU compatibility.

Since GIGABYTE has included this additional chipset, it also required a separate VRM. In this instance it is a Richtek RT8120 with Renses MOSFETs single phase design.

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For gaming enthusiasts there is a good amount of space between the two main PCIe x16 slots and the two secondary mechanical x8, PCI-E slots. With that being said, a fourth dual slot GPU will overhang some of the secondary headers running along the bottom edge of the board. This really is not a large issue, and should only impact the very, very few who opt for quad video card setups.

The only real disappointment we have with this layout and design is that none of the x16 slots can act as a PLX override slot, meaning the processor’s native switching has been removed from the equation. This means that single video card users will have a slightly lower performance compared to non-PLX enabled motherboards, as the added latency of the PLX switch will add to system overhead and slightly impede video performance.
 
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AkG

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A Closer Look at the G1.Sniper 5, pg.2

A Closer Look at the G1.Sniper 5, pg.2


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Flipping the board over we see the VRM and chipset coolers are held by screws with springs that give appropriate tension but there is no additional support. Also of interest are the numerous white LEDs. These have been strategically placed to allow light to filter up through the PCB and create the green “racing stripe” on the Sniper 5’s topside. This is more of a fringe benefit to the ‘racing stripe’ as it also isolates the audio components from the rest of the board and helps reduce interference.

Before we continue we would like to point out one feature of the G1.Sniper 5 that is not so noticeable: the 8 layer PCB with two copper layers. It may not sound like much, but the addition of two extra layers does make the G1.Sniper 5 more robust and also helps with heat dissipation.

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Along the top edge near the RAM slots and the gold plated CPU socket, GIGABYTE has included two 4-pin PWM capable CPU fan headers. The additional fan header will be of great interest to consumers running either dual fan cooling solutions since they can be precisely controlled via the BIOS without the need for fan splitter cables.

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The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot with GIGABYTE deciding for forego the slightly less convenient right-angle type, and the onboard power button has moved up to the far-right corner of the motherboard. The onboard reset button and clear CMOS buttons are there too, which is slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button with them all being so close together.

One of the unexpected standout features of this model is definitely the seven voltage measurement points, which are obviously indispensable for any overclocker. We do wish that GIGABYTE had included actual headers instead of simple pads after seeing what MSI MPower MAX offered with its easy-use headers.

Just to the right of the 24-pin ATX power connector is the integrated LED diagnostic display which makes troubleshooting startup issues a lot easier.

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To the left of the main power connector is the first of two internal front-panel USB 3.0 headers, which can be used to supply up to two USB 3.0 ports each. To the right of this USB 3.0 header is the dual BIOS switch which enables or disabled the dual BIOS function of the G1.Sniper 5. Next to this DIP switch a toggle which selects the active BIOS. Position 1 tells the motherboard to boot from the main BIOS and when in position 2 it will use the backup BIOS.

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To provide all these additional USB 3.0 ports – Intel Z87 only natively supports six USB 3.0 ports – GIGABYTE has included a pair of Renesas D720202 USB 3 hub chipsets.

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As with some other GIGABYTE motherboards, the G1.Sniper 5 comes equipped with an OC-PEG port. This is a SATA power connector that can be used to ensure that the PCI-E slots get all the power that they require for particularly power hungry CrossFire or SLI configurations.

To the left of the OC-PEG are the ten SATA 6Gb/s ports. The rightmost six black ports are controlled via the Intel Z87 chipset while the four leftmost (grey) are linked to a Marvell 88SE9230 controller. The Marvell controller does support TRIM functions but we strongly recommend using the Intel Z87 if you intend to use a SATA SSD for your Operating System or run a RAID setup.
 
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