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Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 LGA1366 Motherboard Review

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
LGA1366 Motherboard Review



Manufacturer's Part Number: GA-X58A-UD7
Price: $370CDN+ Price Comparison
Manufacturer's Product Page: Giga-Byte Technology Co., Ltd.
Warranty: 3 year limited warranty

At this year's Computex we had the privilege of taking an early look at Gigabyte's X58A motherboard lineup. Even though all of the models were very early samples, it was obvious that these second generation X58 motherboards would bring a lot to the table. People were so impressed with these new models that the EX58A-EXTREME was actually one of 25 products shown off at Computex 2009 that was selected for the Best Choice Award.

After being long delayed due to a problem with Marvell's SATA 6Gb/s controller, the EX58A-EXTREME eventually became the X58A-UD7 that we are reviewing today. This is the Cream of the Crop, the best and most expensive motherboard in Gigabyte's entire motherboard roster.

With many motherboards it's hard to know what to talk about, but with this one, where do we start? First, this model utilizes Gigabyte's brand new 24-phase power design, which should not only allow for superior extreme overclocking, but higher reliability, lower temperatures, and better energy efficiency as well. Secondly, thanks to the aforementioned Marvell controller, this motherboard support the new SATA 6Gb/s interface. Mostly important though, like all X58A motherboards, the X58A-UD7 supports USB 3.0, which is absolutely going to be one of the most important new technologies of 2010.

Befitting its high-end roots, this is one of the few Intel X58-based motherboards with four mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, which are capable of x16/x16, x16/x8/x8 and x8/x8/x8/x8 configurations. Officially, this motherboard 'only' supports 3-way CrossFireX and 3-way SLI, but with single-slot cards Quad CrossFireX is definitely do-able as well. Oddly enough, perhaps the best part of this motherboard is the software. As you will see in the coming pages, Gigabyte have created some interesting new utilities to help manage your system, secure your data, and even lower power consumption, all with a bluetooth-enabled mobile phone.

This is a review that you won't want to miss, if only to see how well USB 3.0 performs compared to USB 2.0.

 
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MAC

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Specifications

Specifications





As a necessary companion to the Core i7 processors, Intel released the X58 Tylersburg northbridge, now known as the IO Hub (IOH). This reclassification has occurred because of the fact that the memory controller has been integrated into the processor itself. As a result, the IO Hub is now solely responsible for implementing PCI Express lanes and linking to the I/O Controller Hub (ICH) southbridge. Since the front side bus is no more, the X58 communicates with the processor via the new high-speed QuickPath Interface (QPI), and it is connected to the southbridge (ICH) via the traditional Direct Media Interface (DMI). The southbridge is the venerable ICH10R found on all P45 Express motherboards, and it supports six SATA II ports, AHCI, and Matrix RAID technology.

The X58 features 36 PCI-Express 2.0 lanes, which signifies that it supports two proper PCI-E x16 slots. However, depending on the motherboard manufacturer's design, those 36 PCI-E 2.0 lanes can also be utilized in a triple PCI-E x16 (x16/x8/x8) and/or quad PCI-E x16 (x8/x8/x8/x8) configuration. Naturally all X58 motherboards have full CrossFireX support, but some motherboards such as the GA-X58A-UD7 that we are testing today have been certified for NVIDIA SLI as well, which is a must-have feature for many enthusiasts.

Officially, Intel's specifications list DDR3-1066 as the highest supported memory speed on the Bloomfield/X58 platform. However, all motherboard manufacturers have marketed their models as DDR3-1600 capable, and Gigabyte have certified the X58A-UD7 for DDR3-2100 and above.


X58 IOH on the left, ICH10R Southbridge on the right - Click on image to enlarge

Now that we have examined some of the specifications inherent to the new platform, let's see what kind of motherboard Gigabyte have built around this new chipset:


 

MAC

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Joined
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Features

Features




With the relocation of the memory controller from the northbridge to the CPU the performance differences between two competing X58 motherboards are now going to be infinitesimally small. This is a phenomenon that we have observed on the AMD side since they made the switch to an integrated memory controller, and it is undoubtedly going to apply to the Intel Core i7 platform. As a result, manufacturer-specific features and overclocking capabilities are going to be the deciding factors when choosing between two similarly-priced X58 motherboards. As mentioned previously, the X58A-UD7 is the most high-end model in Gigabyte's entire motherboard roster, therefore we fully expect it to be a technological Swiss Army knife.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the included features:
<table align="center" bgcolor="#666666" cellpadding="5" cellspacing="1" width="90%"><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>24-Phase Power Design</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features1.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Along with the P55-UD6, this is among the very first motherboard with a 24-phase power design. This VRM has been designed to deliver fast transient response times ensuring superior power delivery during full load scenarios. Also, by spreading the load across all 24 power phases, the overall heat ouput is reduced and reliability is increased.
</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Dynamic Energy Saver 2</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />As the follow-up to D.E.S Advanced, GIGABYTE's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 incorporates a host of intelligent features that use a proprietary hardware and software design to considerably enhance PC system energy efficiency, Reduce power consumption and deliver optimized auto-phase-switching for the CPU, Memory, Chipset, VGA, HDD, and fans with a simple click of button.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Ultra Durable 3</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features3.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Like all Gigabyte motherboards, this model features the Ultra Durable 3 design. As with Ultra Durable 2, this signifies that the motherboard was designed with high quality and energy efficient components, namely Low RDS(on) MOSFETs, ferrite core chokes, and long-lasting solid capacitors. However, it also features a 2 ounce copper PCB delivering lower system temperature, improved energy efficiency and enhanced overclocking stability.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>EasyTune6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features4.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />EasyTune6 was one of the very first of the second generation manufacturer-provided utilities, which is to say utilities that actually worked as to should. Gigabyte redesigned EasyTune6 from the ground up to make it easier than ever to manage, monitor, and tweak your hardware and system settings.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>USB 3.0 Support</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features6.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The GIGABYTE X58A series motherboards support the brand new SuperSpeed USB 3.0 standard, which makes possible made possible transfer rates of up to 5.0 Gb/s, which is an almost 10x improvement over USB 2.0. Additionally, USB 3.0 is backwards compatible with USB 2.0 which that assures that users can still use those countless USB 2.0 devices.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>SATA 6 Gbps Support</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features5.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />Yet another feature of GIGABYTE X58A series motherboards is support for SATA 6Gbps, courtesy of two Marvel SE9128 controllers. As it's name suggests, SATA 6Gbps delivers twice the data transfer rates of SATA 2 (3 Gbps). When used in RAID 0 (Stripe) mode, GIGABYTE X58A series motherboards offer even faster data transfer rates of up to 4x the speed of current SATA interfaces.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>3x USB Power Boost</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features7.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />GIGABYTE X58A series motherboards feature a 3x USB power boost, which is to say that they deliver three times more power to the USB ports as standard ports (500mA vs 1500mA). Not only does this ensure greater USB device compatibility, but extra power for those USB devices.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>eSATA/USB Combo</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features8.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />eSATA/USB combo ports provides significant convenience by supporting eSATA and USB devices in one port, and requires no additional power source when connecting eSATA/USB combo devices through the applicable cable.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features9.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard now features the new GIGABYTE Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2, a fusion thermal solution that combines GIGABYTE's proprietary screen cooling technology, external heat sink and liquid cooling with a chipset water block.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>3-Way CrossFireX & 3-Way SLI</b></center><img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features10.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />This model supports 3-Way CrossFireX and 3-Way SLI, which is a capability that enthusiasts demand in a high-end Intel X58 motherboard. In order to support SLI, motherboards must first be certified by NVIDIA, and Gigabyte have wisely chosen to do so with all of their X58 models.</td></tr>
<tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>DualBIOS</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features12.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Providing bullet-proof BIOS protection, the X58A-UD7 has 2 physical BIOS ROMs which permit instant recovery from BIOS damage or failure due to viruses or improper BIOS updating.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>XHD (eXtreme HardDrive)</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features13.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Improving system performance is made easy with the quick and easy GIGABYTE eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D). GIGABYTE eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D) provides a user-friendly way to boost hard drive performance through RAID-0 by adding another hard drive.</td></tr>
<tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Visible Overclocking Reminder</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features19.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The OC-Alert LED indicates the degree to which to your CPU is overclocked, ranging from low to high, which might be useful for novice users who likely should not be overclocking to begin with.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Overvoltage & Temperature Alert LEDs</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features14.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />The 4 sets of OV-Alert LEDs indicate the overvoltage level of the CPU, Memory, North Bridge and South Bridge to prevent component damage. This model is also outfitted with 2 sets of Temperature Alert LEDs. These LEDs serve to inform users about the current temperature level of the CPU and Northbridge, which should be a useful novelty feature for novice users.</td></tr><tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Debug LED</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features15.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />This motherboard features an embedded post code debug LED display, which indicates if a malfunction is occurring and allow users to quickly identify the source of the problem. Secondly, it indicates system power status, preventing potential hardware damage due to improper installation/removal of components while the systems is still in a power-on state (S0, S1, S3, S4, S5).</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Hardware Overvoltage Control ICs</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features16.jpg" style="float: right; margin: 4px 0 0 5px;" />Catering to the enthusiast crowd, the X58A series features hardware overvoltage control ICs which allow for linear real-time voltage control options for the CPU, memory, and northbridge. In addition, these ICs also allow for extremely accurate control, allowing overclockers to perfectly adjust voltages in precise 20mV increments.</td></tr>
<tr><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>Smart 6</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features17.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />GIGABYTE Smart 6 offers a combination of 6 new software utilities that provide superior PC system management. Smart 6 allows you to speed up system performance, reduce boot-up time, manage a secure platform and recover previous system settings easily with a click of the mouse button.</td><td align="justify" valign="top" bgcolor="#ececec" width="50%"><center><b>AutoGreen</b></center>
<img src="http://images.hardwarecanucks.com/image/mac/reviews/gigabyte/X58AUD7/features18.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 4px 5px 0 0;" />AutoGreen technology can automatically save power when you are away from your computer by putting the system into a low power state when it doesn't sense your bluetooth-enabled cell phone in the vicinity.</td></tr></table>


As you can see, Gigabyte have integrated some interesting new features on this motherboard. The 24-phase power design is very impressive, and should definitely come in handy with the upcoming six-core Westmere 32nm processors. The new software suite has some worthwhile new capabilities that will definitely appeal to those who want total control over every aspect of their system. The potential to have a mobile phone interact and manage the system is definitely an industry first and it's some very promising technology. Now we have to find out whether all these features work as they should, and whether they actually improve the general computing experience.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
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Package & Accessories

Package & Accessories



Now that we have taken a quick look at some the X58A-UD7's unique features, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the included accessories. At $360CDN+ this is a high-end motherboard, so we expect to be impressed by the presentation and included goodies. Let's check it out:



Click on image to enlarge

Here we have the unmistakably Gigabyte packaging. Although the Ultra Durable 3 logo has dominated all recent Gigabyte motherboard boxes, one of the X58A-UD7's main marketing points is obviously the new 24-phase power design, and this is quite evident on the box. Nevertheless, we are glad that they kept the novelty cutout in the lower right corner, simulating the 2 oz copper inner layer that is the distinguishing feature of the Ultra Durable 3 design. It is hard to tell by the photos, but this is a sizeable package, measuring a full 12.5 inches tall, 14.5 inches wide, and a 5.5 inches thick.


Click on image to enlarge

Once you open the packaging you are greeted with an inner box with a handle, which itself contains two seperate section. The top half contains the motherboard which is battle-clad in a protective plastic enclosure, so you definitely don’t have to worry about this motherboard getting damaged while in transit.


Click on image to enlarge

The bottom box contains the accessories, the numerous instruction manuals, and the installation CD. Here is a break down of the included items:

  • Floppy Cable
  • IDE Cable
  • 4 SATA Cables
  • 2-port eSATA PCI Expansion Bracket (with accompanying eSATA cables)
  • 2-Way SLI bridge connector
  • 3-Way SLI bridge connector
  • SLI bridge retention bracket
  • I/O Panel
  • Manuals & Installation guides
  • Installation CD
  • Gigabyte & Dolby stickers




Click on image to enlarge

As we have come to expect from Gigabyte, the bundled cables are of a high quality. In particular, we like the fact that two of the cables come with handy 90 degree connectors, and all the connectors have a clip that ensures that they remain securely fastened to your hardware. We do think that it is time for Gigabyte to ditch the yellow though, it's time to adopt blue cables! The eSATA bracket further enhances this motherboard's already impressive connectivity options, and comes with a very handy external molex connection, which could be used to power external radiator fans for a water cooling system or simply a hard drive. Gigabyte have included a 2-way SLI and 3-Way SLI bridge connector, as well a retention bracket to hold the bridges in place.



Click on image to enlarge

Last but not least is the Hybrid Silent-Pipe module. This is an additional heatsink unit that attaches to the water-block northbridge cooler in order to maximize air cooling. You obviously aren't obligated to install it though, since the stock cooling system is more capable of dissipating the X58's heat output with a little secondary airflow.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
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A Closer Look at the X58A-UD7

A Closer Look at the X58A-UD7


Without further ado, here is the X58A-UD7 in all its glory:


At first glance, the overall layout is quite positive. The 8-pin CPU power connector, 24-pin ATX power connector, power-on button, floppy connector, SATA ports, USB and FireWire headers are located on the edge of the motherboard, which is both convenient and functional. Ideally the IDE connector would also be on the edge, but there simply isn't any room left. While the four physical PCI-E x16 slots are a welcome addition, we would have liked to see greater spacing between them so that four dual-slot graphics cards could be used on this motherboard. When it comes to the overall theme, it is business as usual for this Gigabyte model, with the now widely recognized blue and white colour scheme.


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Without question the centerpiece of this motherboard is Gigabyte's new 24-phase power design. While 24-phases may be overkill on a motherboard like the P55-UD6, it is definitely welcome on this motherboard since highly overclockable six-core Westmere chips are right around the corner. The benefit of having this advanced PWM is that the load gets spread across many MOSFETs, resulting in lower temperatures and potentially greater reliability as well.

A new design element to all X58A motherboards is the sleek black LOTES socket mechanism, which matches the chrome black cooling system.


Click on image to enlarge

The aluminium finned MOSFET heatsinks are attached to the northbridge cooler via a thick heatpipe. There is also another hidden flat heatpipe connecting the northbridge cooler to the impressive southbridge heatsink, but we'll take a look at that later. Under the MOSFET heatsinks are a newer generation of MOSFET ICs, which run cooler and have a much lower profile.


Click on image to enlarge

The baby blue & white memory slots have the same spacing as we have seen on all other six slot motherboards, which is to say that you will not want to use any memory modules with abnormally thick heatspreaders. Gigabyte have outfitted this model with a three-phase power design for the memory, which should ensure stable voltages to the DDR3 modules. We can also see the perfectly located 24-pin ATX power connector

Next we have one of the impressive five system fan headers, the backlit onboard power button, and the reset switch. Lastly, we have the twelve phase LEDs, which illuminates according to how many power phases are in use, and the five frequency/overclock LEDs.



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As you can see, Gigabyte have really outfitted this motherboard with an impressive variety of LEDs for every critical component. There are overvoltage LEDs, overclock LEDs, temperature indicator LEDs, and phase LEDs.



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Here we get a good look at the large southbridge cooler, which is held down by push-pins, and the ten 90-degree SATA ports. The six blue SATA 3Gb/s ports come from the ICH10R southbridge and support RAID 0/1/5/10. The Marvell 9128 controller feeds the rightmost white SATA ports, which are SATA 6Gb/s capable and support RAID 0/1. The other two white ports are controlled by Gigabyte's proprietary SATA2 RAID chip, they operate at 3Gb/s and support JBOD and RAID 0/1.

We obviously removed the entire cooling system to expose the chips other the southbridge, so click here if you want to see what the cooling system looks like off of the motherboard.


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Gigabyte have outfitted this model with a handy debug LED and colour-coded front panel header. A Gigabyte trademark, the X58A-UD7 features two physical BIOS chips ensuring instant recovery in the case of an improper BIOS update or a nasty virus.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the X58A-UD7 pt.2

A Closer Look at the X58A-UD7 pt.2




Click on image to enlarge

The X58A-UD7 is one of the few X58 motherboards with four physical PCI-E 2.0 x16 slots, however since it lacks a PCI-Express bridge chip like the NVIDIA NF200, all the slots do not run at x16 speeds. Instead, Gigabyte have relied on the little rectangular switches to split the 32 PCI-E 2.0 lanes to the four PCI-E x16 slots.

In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and third PCI-E x16 slots will operate at the full x16 speed (x16/x16). When three graphics cards are installed, the top x16 slot will be running at x16, while the third and fourth slots will operate at x8 (x16/x8/x8). If four graphics cards are installed, all four PCI-E x16 slots will operate at x8 (x8/x8/x8/x8). Officially, Gigabyte lists this motherboard as supporting up to 3-way CrossFireX and 3-way SLI, but you could indeed run Quad CrossFireX with four single-slot Radeon HD 3850 or HD 4850 graphics cards.

We are more than a little disappointed that the PCI-E layout doesn't allow for the use of four dual-slot graphics cards, especially since all that would have required is for the northbridge cooler to be downsized a bit.



Click on image to enlarge

The X58 IOH chipset has been outfitted with its own three phase power design (you can spot the third sealed ferrite choke between the two heatpipes), and the VTT MOSFETs have been given their own little heatsink.

Speaking of the northbridge, Gigabyte are still basically using the same "high-end" cooler that they unveiled with the EP45T-Extreme, and we aren't really a fan of it. Although it looks robust and it works acceptably at cooling the X58 chipset, it features a totally inept design. As you can see, the only thing connecting the bottom layer to the top layer are fins. Now fins are designed to dissipate heat, not transfer it. There is very little contact area between the two layers. This makes water cooling pointless, since very little of the heat load is actually being transfered to top layer. A better design would be to allow users to manually install the water block directly to the bottom layer, and to have a proper fin assembly for the majority who use air cooling.



Click on image to enlarge

When we said "proper fin assembly", we didn't really mean this. The Hybrid Silent-Pipe module might look impressive, but the amount of heat that gets transferred to it really isn't all that significant since the northbridge cooler itself is not really properly designed to transfer maximum towards the top layer that this huge heatsink module attaches to.


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Starting clockwise from top-left, we have the ITE IT8720F chip is an I/O controller which is responsible for hardware monitoring along with fan speed management and it supplies the legacy floppy support and PS/2 ports. Next is one of the two Realtek 8111D Gigabit LAN PCI-Express controllers. The JMicron JMB362 supplies the two eSATA/USB Combo ports on the rear I/O panel. Last but certainly not least is the NEC D720200, which is a USB 3.0 controller that supplies the two USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel.

Not pictured if the venerable Realtek ALC889A, an eight-channel High Definition audio codec.


On the rear I/O panel, there are the PS/2 ports, optical and coaxial S/PDIF connectors, clear CMOS button, two types of FireWire ports, two yellow USB 2.0 ports, two USB 2.0/eSATA Combo ports, two Gigabit LAN ports, two black USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks


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On the back on the motherboard we can spot the large chrome black metal backplate behind the CPU socket area. This is a design feature specified by Intel to ensure that heavy cooling solutions would not bend and potentially damage the PCB or even the CPU socket itself.

As you can see, there are a number of naked MOSFET ICs on the back of the motherboard, supplying both the processor and the X58 chipset. While the IOH cooler is held in place with metal mounting bracket and screws, the southbridge and MOSFET coolers still utilize evil plastic push-pins.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation



In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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With the little water block on top of the northbridge heatsink assembly, the overall height of chipset cooler is fairly high. While we encountered no issues with our Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme, installing a wider heatsink might be problematic. Adding the Hybrid Silent-Pipe module doesn't create any additional clearance issues with respect to the CPU socket area.


Click on image to enlarge

As is nearly always the case when dealing with a six slot memory layout, tall memory heatspreaders, and a large CPU cooler, there are clearances issues with the first memory slot. When installed in the traditional North-South orientation, our Thermalright Ultra-120 eXtreme CPU cooler did prevent the installation of a memory module with tall heatspreaders in the first memory slot, but only when we used Thermalright's 120MM fan holder. If we removed the fan shroud, we could install a DDR3 module in the first memory slot but the clearance between the module and the fan was microscopic. Installing the fan on the other side of the heatsink is obviously an alternative, but at the expense of blowing the hot air inside of your case.


Click on image to enlarge

When we rotated the cooler to the East-West orientation things got a little more tricky, as they always do. As you can see, in this orientation the CPU cooler overhangs the first memory slot and comes very close to the second slot. Close enough that we couldn't properly install our memory module in the second memory slot. You will need to use memory modules with heatspreaders no taller than 5CM if you plan to install your CPU cooler in this orientation.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a nice gap between the memory clips and the back of the graphics card, so there are no problems there.

While the 24-pin ATX power connector is ideally placed, the 8-pin CPU power connector can be somewhat difficult to access as your fingers are jammed in between the heatpipe and the back of an I/O module. Those with larger hands/fingers will find the procedure particularly problematic.


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If you install the Hybrid Silent-Pipe module you will lose access to one of the PCI-E x1 slots, but the other one is still open. It will not accept expansion cards over 3 inches long though.


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What if you're a Folder and you want to make use of the fourth PCI-E x16 slot? Well you definitely can, but you will lose access to the IDE and floppy connectors, the debug LED display, and all the USB and FireWire headers at the bottom of the motherboard. More importantly though, if you install a dual-slot graphics card in the fourth PCI-E x16 slot, it will overhang the motherboard, so keep that in mind if you have a shorter case.


The ten 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed.


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There is really nothing on the back of the motherboard that would give us cause for concern regarding clearance issues with an aftermarket CPU cooler mounting bracket. There are a few surface-mounted devices (SMDs) near the bracket, but the reference LGA1366 backplate causes enough elevation to clear them.
 

MAC

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Messages
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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown




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This motherboard has its own personalized full screen logo, which you will swifly want to disable to reduce the boot time.




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The initial selection screen should be broadly familiar to anyone who has used an Award-based motherboard in the past, and it conveniently lists the GIGABYTE-specific MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section as the first menu. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time.

When you open the M.I.T. section you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: CPU & memory multiplier, BLCK, UCLK, QPI Link, PCI-E, etc. Most notably we have access to numerous multipliers for the QPI Link, Uncore, and system memory.



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The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu, which is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, the number of cores, multi-threading, C1E, C-state level, Thermal Monitor, Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST), etc.

The Advanced Clock Control sub-menu permits adjustment of the BLCK and PCI-E frequencies. The clock drive and clock skews settings are also present, and set fairly high by default. You should be able to lower them both to 700mV / 700mv for just about any overclock.


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In the main M.I.T page, you will need to set the DRAM Timing to Expert to be able to manually set all the memory timings. However, if that's not enough for your liking, the Advanced DRAM Features sub-menu should make your day:





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As its name suggests, the Advanced DRAM Features section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, enter the memory and QPI (VTT/Uncore) voltages, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.


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When you scroll to the bottom of the page you are presented with four basic voltages, however when you enter the Advanced Voltage Control sub-menu you get whole range of system voltages.


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The Standard CMOS Features section displays all the connected storage devices some basic system memory information, and of course the date and time.


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The Integrated Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (RAID & SATA 6Gb/s controllers, audio, USB 2.0, USB 3.0, FireWire, eSATA, GbE LAN, etc).


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The Power Management Setup section contains the power management settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes, it also allows you to enable/disable the new EuP standard.

As on most motherboards, the PC Health Status section is a slight disappointment since there is insufficient voltages and temperatures readouts. On a motherboard of this caliber there is no reason not to have all vital voltages available for scrutiny in the bios.


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This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash utility which is accessed via the F8 key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is now a simple and quick procedure. We have never experienced an issue with this well implemented tool, and it has certainly made the flashing process a little less stressful.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Included Software

Included Software


Now that we have the motherboard unpacked and installed, it is time to take a look at some of the numerous software utilities that Gigabyte have bundled with the X58A-UD7.


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Here we have the familiar setup screens for the included software CD. It contains all the drivers and the unique Gigabyte utilities that you will need to get your system up & running. Obviously, we still recommend that you visit Gigabyte's website to get the very latest BIOS, drivers, and software revisions. Having said that, the SmartTPM software can only be found on the CD, it's not available for download online.


EasyTune6

EasyTune6 is a system management utility that displays system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to overclock from within Windows. Anyone familiar with past EasyTune iterations knows that although this utility has always contained a fair bit of functionality, its ease of use left much to be desired. Thankfully Gigabyte went back to the drawing board and created a brand new EasyTune version from scratch. Let's check it out.


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The CPU and Memory tabs provide basic component information and are somewhat reminiscent of the widely used CPU-Z utility.


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The Tuner section is really the only one that's important. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick the Quick Boost level that best suits your needs/courage, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved.

If you click on Easy or Advanced mode, three additional tabs appear: frequency, ratio, voltage. The Frequency tab allows you to tweak the BCLK, memory, and PCI-E frequencies.


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Within the Tuner section, the Ratio tab allows you to independently set the multiplier on every individual CPU core, even the 'virtual' logical cores...which is unnecessary to be honest.

The Voltage tab is arguably the most important one since it allows complete control over every voltage option that is found in the BIOS. This is a great tool to fine tune an overclock.


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The Graphics tab can be used to manipulate your graphics card’s core/memory/shader clock speeds. Unlike past versions of ET6, this section no longer allows you to control the GPU fan, nor monitor the GPU temperature.

The Smart tab gives you access to the CPU Intelligent Accelerator (C.I.A) 2 and Smart Fan functions. The CPU Intelligent Accelerator was designed to automatically overclock the CPU according to system load and user-selected level. As the name suggests, Smart Fan feature gives users finely-tuned control over the CPU fan speed.


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Lastly, we have HW Monitor which is the only part of EasyTune6 that disappoints us. Despite providing us with ten voltage tweaking options in the Tuner tab, the HW Monitor only displays two system voltages and three voltage rails. This is a high-end motherboard and comprehensive voltage monitoring should be standard.

Overall though, we do sincerely enjoy using EasyTune6. It was consistently one of the first pieces of software we installed after a fresh Windows installation, and it was definitely a huge help in finding this motherboard's overclocking limits. EasyTune 6 was arguably the first of the next-generation manufacturer-specific tweaking utilities, and with little tweaks here and there it remains a worthwhile application.


Dynamic Energy Saver 2

Now let's have a look at the brand new Dynamic Energy Saver (DES) 2 energy saving solution, which is one of Gigabyte’s most highly-publicized features.


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After first installing the DES2 software, we are greeted with a powered down control panel. This means all energy saving functions are turned off and disabled. Only when we click on the large logo to the right does the panel come to life and the power savings begin.

The software is pretty straightforward; we have our power savings meter in the top portion providing us with information about how much wattage was saved, a CPU Power meter showing real-time CPU power consumption, the power phase status displaying how many of the 24 CPU phases are being utilized, and a representation of which components are being manipulated by the DES2 software. Dynamic Energy Saver 2 works even when the system is overclocked, while other the other manufacturers solutions do not.


AutoGreen


In effect, the AutoGreen utility can help reduce energy consumption when you are away from your computer by putting the system into a low power state when it doesn't sense your bluetooth-enabled cell phone in the vicinity. Once again, since there is no bluetooth receiver included, we didn't get a chance to test out this feature.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



Smart 6


One of the keynote new technologies introduced by GIGABYTE at Computex was Smart 6, which is a collection of six user-friendly system management tools. In their own words, Smart 6 "allows you to speed up system performance, reduce boot-up time, manage a secure platform and recover previous system setting easily with a click of the mouse."


As you can see, Smart 6 has its own dock that allows quick access to the six SMART utilities.


Smart QuickBoot, as the name suggests, helps reduce boot-up time. This tool consists of BIOS QuickBoot and OS QuickBoot. BIOS Quick Boot allows your system bypass the time-consuming power-on self test (POST) procedure after three successful boots, if no changes are made to the BIOS or hardware configuration. The OS QuickBoot on the other hand makes the system go into an advanced S3 sleep mode upon exiting the operation system, and it permits a quick resume to full OS functionality.


Quick Boost provides quick and effortless overclocking for novice users. Just click on one of three overclocking presets and the program does the rest of the work for you. This is the same Quick Boost as found within Easy Tune 6.


Smart Recovery is kind of like Windows Restore/Apple Time Capsule function, where you can roll-back system settings to a previous working status. 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.


Now most GIGABYTE motherboards feature two physical BIOS ROMs, but with Smart DualBIOS this is the first time that important passwords and dates can be saved directly to the new 16MB BIOS chips (up from the previous 8MB). While this might seem like a security risk, the only way to access Smart DualBIOS is with a password. It is simply a secure way of storing the countless passwords that most people have nowadays.


Smart Recorder monitors and records system activities, such as when a system was turned on or off, and what data files were accessed or copied.


Smart TimeLock is a feature all kids will despise, as it allows parents the ability to schedule time limits for their children to use the PC. Parents can even make different usage time rules for weekdays and weekends.
 
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