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GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
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First announced back in April with the unveiling of GIGABYTE's Z97 motherboards, the newly baptised G1 Gaming Series not only dropped the previous 'G1-Killer' brand name but received a total image makeover as well. The company replaced the controversial but eye-catching lime green colour scheme with bullets, guns, and skulls galore, with a more subdued – and obviously much more common – black and red colour scheme. This isn’t exactly a controversial choice, since it merely puts GIGABYTE in-line with the aesthetics of the ASUS Republic of Gamers (RoG) and MSI Gaming motherboard series.

The GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI motherboard that we are reviewing today is arguably tied with the X99-SOC Force as the company's top-of-the-line LGA2011-3 model, but unless you fancy yourself a really world-class overclocker this Gaming G1 model has a lot more to offer. In fact, in our opinion it presents the best that GIGABYTE has to offer. With a retail price of about $345USD/$390CAD, the Gaming G1 WIFI is unquestionably a high-end motherboard, but it's been designed for those who truly know what they want.

Graphics performance is a highlight of this model thanks to the four physical PCI-E x16 slots making full use of the advanced PCI-E capabilities of the Haswell-E processors and thus supporting both 4-way SLI and 4-way CrossFire. But that's only the tip of iceberg when it comes to the gaming capabilities. There is a dedicated Creative Sound Core3D quad-core audio processor, which is a real differentiating factor when compared to the often mundane Realtek based onboard audio solutions found on most motherboards. Not only do you get advance gaming audio features, but GIGABYTE's implementation includes an excellent user-replaceable Burr Brown op-amp, high-end Nichicon Muse ES capacitors, a powerful headphone amplifier, and shielding and isolation to protect the audio portion of the motherboard from electrical interference.

Audiophiles will also be glad to know that there are two DAC-UP USB ports, which are special ports that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to minimize the signal noise that gets transferred to your external USB DAC. Not to be overlooked, there's also a gaming-oriented Killer E2201 LAN controller and its powerful Killer Network Manager utility.

Connectivity and features wise things continue to impress the longer you look. There are two M.2 connectors - one for storage and one for connectivity, one SATA Express 10Gb/s port, ten SATA 6Gb/s ports (counting the two on the SATAe port), eight USB 3.0 ports, two USB-DAC USB 2.0 ports, four USB 2.0/3.0 headers, one Intel-powered Gigabit LAN port and one Qualcomm Killer LAN port, a Thunderbolt 2.0 header, an Intel dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi module with Bluetooth v4.0, debug LED, a bunch of onboard buttons and switches, voltage read points, and a cool set of LEDs that you can literally make dance to the music via the new Ambient LED feature.

However, as we will always repeat, features and specs are great but they are of no relevance whatsoever if the motherboard is cramped, unstable, overclocks poorly, and has a wonky software package. Therefore, we are here to find out if GIGABYTE have managed to deliver a truly complete high-end package with the X99-Gaming G1.

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features



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Before we get up-close and personal in the upcoming pages with the intriguing X99-Gaming G1 WIFI through pictures and tests, here is quick and dirty rundown of this motherboard's specifications as per GIGABYTE's website just for reference purposes.

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As you would expect, this motherboard has quite a few noteworthy features, and we will be examining some of them in-depth in the coming pages, especially the intriguing Creative-sourced onboard audio and the overclocker-friendly voltage read points.
 

MAC

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Joined
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Messages
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Location
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The X99 Platform; Enthusiasts Rejoice

The X99 Platform; Enthusiasts Rejoice


One of the main critiques leveled at Intel’s X79 was its similarity to the old-as-the-hills X58. As a matter of fact, from a specifications standpoint, that’s exactly what it was: an X58 chipset with a new coat of paint in the form of PCI-E 3.0 support. Since it didn’t feature current technologies like native USB 3.0 and only had two SATA 6Gbps ports, motherboards required third party controllers to attain those functions, and support wasn’t the greatest especially for key features like RAID and high speed USB throughput. That caused a serious problem for a so-called enthusiast platform when Intel’s own Z87 incorporated those elements into boards that often cost hundreds less than their X79 cousins.

X99 changes this equation in a big way towards compatibility that many thought should have been incorporated into X79 in the first place. Nonetheless, we are now (finally!) going to see native support for USB 3.0, SATA Express, and Thunderbolt 2 on Intel’s enthusiast motherboards.

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Starting with the most obvious thing first: X99 chipsets will still use the LGA2011 socket but it has been updated for Haswell-E compatibility. This not only means new microcode but also support for the processors’ fine grain power distribution needs and higher current capability. In short, older LGA2011 boards will not be forwards compatible with these new processors, nor will this so-called LGA2011-v3 socket be backwards compatible with Ivy Bridge-E CPUs.

The X99 platform is of course headlined by the Haswell-E CPU which provides up to 40 PCI-E 3.0 lanes (the i7-5820K will only come with 28 lanes enabled) which can be distributed via up to three integrated slots. This means a x16 / x16 / x8 setup is possible as is a 5x8 setup via third party controllers should motherboard vendors decide to go that route. The processor also houses the quad channel DDR4 memory controller.

As with all Intel platforms, the PCH is where all the I/O fun happens and it is connected to the processor via a x4 DMI interface providing up to 4GB/s of aggregate upstream / downstream bandwidth. In this case the X99 supports up to 14 USB ports spread across six USB 3.0 and 8 USB 2.0 along with ten native SATA 6Gbps ports. Through the use of Intel’s refreshed architecture these can be paired with additional PCIe 2.0 lanes for SATA Express or 4x M.2 compatibility without needing to resort to a so-called “FlexIO” interface. Naturally, those lanes can also be used for additional controllers as well which typically provide Bluetooth, secondary LAN and WiFi features.

Past the obvious continuity of an integrated Intel LAN, all of the SATA 6Gbps ports are backstopped by Intel’s RST 13.1 infrastructure should a motherboard vendor choose to include it (most will be). Extreme Tuning Utility compatibility is also a requirement here whereas on Z97 it’s considered an optional feature.

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Since this is considered Intel’s high end platform, motherboard manufacturers are pulling out all the stops when it comes to board design. Take this GIGABYTE X99-Gaming G1 WIFI for example; it features a laundry list of must-have features for enthusiasts like 4-way SLI / Crossfire, two M.2 storage slots, a high-end audio solution, onboard WiFi/Bluetooth, etc.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the X99-Gaming G1 WIFI's features and specifications, it is time to examine the new packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the numerous bundled accessories. Let's check it out:

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Wow! This might be the first GIGABYTE motherboard packaging in years that doesn't put most of the emphasis on the "Ultra Durable" slogan. For their new Gaming G1 Series motherboards GIGABYTE have adopted the well-known logo that has thus far only been used to market their graphics cards, the mysterious metallic eye. There is a top flap that when open reveals a window revealing the motherboard in all its glory. The back of the box is plain by comparison, listing the specifications and highlighting a few of this product's unique features. As usual, you can find a ton of information regarding all of this model's specifications and interesting Gaming G1-specific features on the back.


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Once you open the box, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag and the bottom half contains the accessories, software and documentation, as you will see below.



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Right off the bat we were impressed with the accessories bundle thanks to the six braided SATA cables. It's a really nice touch, and the quality is reminiscent of the sleeving on high-quality power supply cables. Next up we have the antenna that works in conjunction with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v4.0. This is a 2T2R antenna which means that it has 2 transmitter (T) and 2 receiver (R) antennas, and thus should have excellent wireless signal sensitivity and transmission range.

GIGABYTE have also included a very intriguing 1 to 3 power cable. The idea here is that since very highly overclocked Haswell-E processors can draw a ton of current through the 8-pin CPU power connector - enough to trip up certain power supplies with wonky over-current protection (OCP) - this little adapter can split up the load across multiple rails.

Since this motherboard supports both 4-way SLI and 4-way CrossFire, GB have included a 4-way SLI connector, a 3-way-SLI connector, a 2-way SLI connector, and even a rare 2-way CrossFire connector. Kudos to Gigabyte for this all-encompassing approach.

Last but not least is the new rear I/O shield that looks special because it IS special. As part of the Ambient LED feature, this I/O panel is not only has an integrated light but along with the other LEDs found on the motherboard it is fully programmable via a utility that allows you to set the LEDs to pulse, blink or even react to the music you are listing to. Basically, it can give a pretty cool look to your system. Here is a YouTube video from Gigabyte showing off the effects.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
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A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI

A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI



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As we mentioned in the intro, although the X99-Gaming G1 WIFI is an attractive motherboard, the switch to the red & black colour scheme means that aesthetically it kind of gets lost among the crowd. If the logos were removed it might be hard for the un-initiated to tell this motherboard apart from some ASUS or MSI models.

As you may have noticed, this motherboard is a little bit wider than the standard ATX dimensions. It is 305mm tall by 259mm wide, and as a result is classified as an Extended ATX (E-ATX) form factor model. It should fit in any E-ATX cases compatible cases, which are usually of the larger variety. As a result of these expanded dimensions, GIGABYTE have managed to fit a huge assortment of expansions slots and headers, while maintaining a clean and user-friendly layout. We are pleased that the ATX power connector, the 8-pin CPU power connector, ten SATA ports, USB headers, and wide variety of buttons are all conveniently placed at the edge of the motherboard. Having said that, the CPU socket area is a little claustrophobic, which we will address below and in the Installation Section.


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The Gaming-G1 WIFI features an all-digital 8-phase CPU power design with International Rectifier's newest digital IR3580 PWM controller and eight IR3556M PowIRstage driver/MOSFETs. This is the first model that we have seen use high-quality Cooper Bussmann 60A rated sealed ferrite-core chokes, but the Nippon Chemi-Con "10K Durable Black" polymer capacitors have been around for a while.

Since it is caught between the memory slots and the various heatsinks, the CPU socket area is a little more cramped than we are used to seeing. Having said that, we don't envision any compatibility problems with any of the air or liquid CPU coolers on the market right now. Also, since the MOSFET and the "northbridge" heatsinks are fairly low profile, clearance is not really an issue there either. Though you will have to check out our Installation section for more information.

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Thanks to the quad-channel memory architecture of this flagship platform, this motherboard features eight DDR4 memory slots and supports up to 64GB of system memory, which is less than the 128GB of some competing models. GIGABYTE have validated the Gaming G1 for memory frequencies up to DDR4-3000, which is something that we will be testing in the Overclocking Section.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot, and next to is a handy Debug LED. The backlit onboard power button that GIGABYTE puts on many of their motherboards is present and accounted for. The onboard reset button and clear CMOS buttons are there too, and this positioning is slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button due to them being so close together, especially if you're trying to do so within the confines of a tight case.

GIGABYTE have implemented BIOS switches which allows users to first enable/disable the Dual BIOS feature and then choose which BIOS chip they are booting from. As a result, they can manually activate the backup BIOS or simply switch between an ‘every day’ and overclocked profile. One of the standout features on this model are the eight voltage measurement points, which are obviously indispensable for any serious overclocker.

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This little heatsink - that is located in the old school northbridge position - is really more of an aesthetic touch, since there is not much under it aside from a International Rectifier IR3553 driver/MOSFET combo and two sealed chokes.

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The large passive X99 chipset cooler is a hefty heatsink with two sizeable heatpipes that it shares with the MOSFET and 'northbridge' coolers. It features an integrated LED so it can look pretty striking...assuming you don't cover it up with graphics cards.

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This motherboard features an impressive ten SATA 6Gb/s ports, all of which are supplied by the X99 PCH. There are four AHCI ports, and six RAID ports that support RAID 0/1/5/10/JBOD plus Intel Rapid Storage Technology. The single SATA Express port is capable of 10Gb/s data transfer rates so its not performance limited. Having said that, you have to choose between the SATA Express port, the M.2 slot, or SATA ports 4/5. You can only use of one at a time and the others get automatically disabled. That's not a great choice to have to make. Furthermore, that storage-only M.2 slot is not a full-speed PCI-E 3.0 x4 implementation capable of up to 32Gbps (4GB/s). It seems to run off of two PCI-E 2.0 lanes from the X99 chipset, and thus only has bandwidth capabilities of up to 1GB/s.

The smaller M.2 Type 2 "E Key" slot is intended for connectivity modules (WLAN, Bluetooth, GPS, etc) and is already occupied by a top-notch Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 802.11ac 867Mbps module that also supports Bluetooth v4.0. It's a great proven component, so it is a nice addition for those who need it.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI pt.2

A Closer Look at the GIGABYTE GA-X99-Gaming G1 WIFI pt.2



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The lower-right corner is where you will find the user friendly colour-coded front panel header, three PWM system fan headers, two onboard temperature sensors, two USB 2.0 headers, two USB 3.0 headers, and even a Thunderbolt 2.0 header.

As we have come to expect, the DualBIOS feature is still present in the form of – you guessed it – two individual BIOS chips, ensuring instant recovery in the case of an improper BIOS update or a particularly nasty virus. As mentioned on the previous page, you can also use the bios switch to manually choose which BIOS chip to boot from, which can be handy for overclockers wishing to quickly alternative between two different bioses.

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Along with the EVGA X99 Classified, this is only the second X99 motherboard that we have reviewed that supports 4-way SLI and 4-way CrossFire. As a result, we think that it's fair to say that the X99-Gaming G1 WIFI makes full use of its four mechanical PCI-E x16 slots and the of enhanced PCI-Express capabilities of the Haswell-E processors. There is a little wizardry going on thanks to some clever NXP PCI-E switches that divvy up the CPU's PCI-E lanes, but that's to be expected on a motherboard with this much storage connectivity. The first and second PCI-E x16 slots both operate at x16 3.0, while the third and fourth PCI-E slots operate at x8 3.0. However, the first and fourth slots share bandwidth, so if they are both occupied they will both operate at x8 3.0. Confused yet? Basically, in a simple dual graphics card configuration, you will get full speed x16/x16 PCI-E 3.0 transfer rates. When three graphics cards are installed, the first and second card will run at x16 3.0, while the thirds operates at x8 3.0. When four graphics cards are installed, the slots will operate in PCI-E 3.0 x8/x8/x8/x8 configuration. The three PCI-E x1 slots are all of the x1 2.0 variety.

If you do decide to install a handful of graphics cards on this motherboard, make sure to utilize the auxiliary PCI-E power connector in order to ensure that the PCI-E slots get all the power that they require for power-hungry triple or quad graphics card configurations.


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The aforementioned Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 module is a dual-band 2.4/5GHz part that supports the 802.11a/b/g/n/ac standards, as well as Bluetooth v4.0. It is capable of Wi-Fi transfer speeds of up to 867Mb/s with most 802.11ac routers. As described in the accessories section, it comes with a capable 2T2R antenna that appears to have very strong wireless signal sensitivity and transmission range. We haven't yet made the leap to the 802.11ac standard, but our 802.11n connection was unwavering at 600Mb/s.


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Since it’s aimed at gamers, Gigabyte paid particular attention to the audio capabilities of this model. It has been outfitted with a proper hardware-based Creative Core3D CA0132 quad-core audio controller. This is a 6-channel (5.1) High Definition audio chip that not only promises top-notch audio quality but access to Creative's suite of excellent gaming-related features and software. Furthermore, thanks to dedicated hardware sound acceleration, you are offloading cycles from the processor while maintaining the best audio quality. This is a unique addition since the overwhelming majority of current high-end motherboards features a simple Realtek ALC1150 CODEC. Power filtering is done by a large bank of top-notch Nichicon MUSE ES solid polymer capacitors that features some of the largest caps that we've seen in quite a while on a motherboard.

GIGABYTE have outfitted this board with a dedicated Texas Instruments DRV632 headphone amplifier for the front panel audio, and it that can supposedly power 600 ohm headphones. As on many of their higher-end motherboard, GIGABYTE have selected a Burr Brown OPA2134 operational amplifier (op-amp). It's a proven part that is known for its pleasing warm audio output. The switch next to the op-amp is the gain control, which allows you to set the gain from the default 2.5X to 6X for the headphone/speaker out jack.

We are glad to see that the Creative processor has been covered with an electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield, and there is a clear PCB isolation line protecting the audio section from the rest of the motherboard. The LEDs on the underside of the motherboard glow through that isolation line - dubbed the audio guard light path - and are part of the previously discussed Ambient LED feature.


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From left to right, there are two USB 2.0 ports, a PS/2 combo port, a CPU overclocking button, a Fast Boot button, CMOS reset button, three USB 3.0 buttons, a special Q-Flash Plus USB 3.0 port, an Intel I218V powered gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, a Qualcomm Killer E2201 powered gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, five analog audio jacks and a digital optical S/PDIF output, and two SMA antenna leads.

Now you are probably wondering what the CPU overclocking and Fast Boot buttons actually do. Well they are actually quite self-explanatory. The CPU overclocking buttons engages one of the three overclocking profiles for your particular CPU model. It starts off with the most aggressive first - 4.3GHz in the case of our i7-5960X - and works its way down to a lesser profile if the overclock fails. All you have to do is press the button before powering up, and voila instant overclock. The Fast Boot button basically streamlines the bootup process, and starts loading the operating system immediately instead of waiting around to see if you want to access the BIOS. It makes entering the BIOS impossible, but that is easily fixed by just clicking it off.

The white Q-Flash Plus USB port allows you to update the board's BIOS without having the CPU or memory installed. It's a great feature to have if you somehow corrupt both BIOSes or if in the future you receive a processor that is not supported by an old BIOS and it refuses to boot without a new BIOS with the latest processor microcode.

The two yellow USB ports are the Dual DAC-UP USB ports, which are special ports that have been isolated from the rest of the motherboard in order to ensure noise-free power delivery to a USB Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC). This should make the audiophiles happy.

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On the rear of the motherboard is some covered CPU VRM components, a few small ICs, and some metal screws that hold in-place the heatsinks and the audio EMI cover.


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Lastly, on the rear of the motherboard we also get a good look at some of the LEDs that illuminate the PCB isolation line that surrounds the audio sub-system, and which are an integral part of the Ambient LED feature.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Location
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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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As mentioned in the previous section, this motherboard has a clean and clear CPU socket area. When installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow had no issues physically clearing the MOSFET heatsinks. We can say that we don't foresee any obstacles with even the largest of coolers.

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In the traditional North-South orientation, we surprisingly did not have any showstopping clearance issues when it came to the memory modules. Our cooler's fan clips didn't even make contact with the nearest memory module, which is a first among X99 motherboards. Those using a heatsink that is wider than 122mm or memory modules that are taller than 40mm will want to be careful, assuming a similar fan clip setup. Having said, as you can see in the last image, one of the memory module's was microns away from touching the MOSFET heatsink. You definitely don't want to install a memory kit with unusually thick heatspreaders.

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There is a pretty decent gap between the back of the graphics card and the memory slots, and the clip-less memory slots further help to prevent any clearance issues. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.

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This board will hold two, three or even four dual-slot graphics cards without issue.The cards overhang the motherboard, but the edge-mounted SATA connectors and various headers are still easily accessible. As on all motherboard, if you install a dual-slot expansion card in the bottom PCI-E x16 slot it will block the headers at the very bottom of the motherboards and make access difficult if not impossible.

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The ten right-angle SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed, as is the SATA Express port (and its two SATA ports).

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Once again, there is nothing too complicated with this installation, you just need to push the antenna leads into their respective Wi-Fi port.

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Like on all LGA2011 motherboards past and present, this model comes with its own CPU backplate, so there is really nothing to worry about back there.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown - Startup Guide & Dashboard Mode

BIOS Rundown


As we have recently come to expect from GIGABYTE, with a new generation of chipsets comes a new UEFI BIOS. Although heavily based on the then new BIOS introduced on the Z87 series models, this latest iteration has been polished, has received a new colour scheme, and heralds the arrival of the new Startup Guide.


Startup Guide

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Since UEFI was first implemented, motherboards makers have gone to great lengths to attempt to create a balance between a graphically-enticing GUI, a mouse-friendly layout, and enough options to keep the enthusiasts happy. Thus far, this has largely resulted in two separates BIOS modes, one dumbed down but pretty and another that makes marginal use of the mouse cursor but has all the options that we're used to seeing. It always like a compromise though, and was never particularly well executed. With this in mind, GIGABYTE have unveiled a third mode, the Startup Guide. This is a purely mouse-driven interface that features Windows 8-like tiles and is as simplified as possible.

When you boot into the BIOS for the first time you will be asked to choose a default system language among an impressive 19 possible choices. Subsequently, you are presented with 9 tiles representing various motherboard functions, such as enabling/disabling the Fast Boot option, selecting the boot device order, setting up a password, and even what BIOS mode should be the default every time you enter the BIOS. There is really not much here, but there isn't supposed to be. This is merely to give novice users a quick and easy way to access a few key settings.


Dashboard HD

If the Startup Guide doesn't cut it for you, and you want something with more options but that still puts an emphasis on graphical eye-candy, you will want to hit F2 on your keyboard or click on the little arrow to the left of the Boot Sequence tile. Doing so will bring you to the Dashboard Mode or Dashboard HD if you have a 1080p display...though it also worked on our 1680x1050 monitor.

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The Frequency tab of Performance section is where you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock 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 you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.

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The Memory tab is where you will find all the memory-related settings. 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 had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.

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The Voltage tab allows for tweaking of 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.

The Advanced Power Settings sub-menu is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We really liked the granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the CPU VRIN, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will see in the coming pages, in the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.

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The Miscellaneous tab is where you can select the data lane configuration for the PCI-E slots and look at two other settings you will never use. The Health Status section is somewhat impressive, at least when it comes to setting warnings. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.

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The new Home section allows users to create their own custom home page, adding the menus and options they tend to use most frequently, as well as displaying whatever mix of system information they want. It basically gives users a fast, up-front access to basic settings of their choosing.

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The Save & Exit menu is fairly self-explanatory, but it is also where you can save and load BIOS profiles, as well as access the built-in Q-Flash utility. The Preferences sub-menu holds a few of the security measures like the admin and user passwords, as well as allowing users to select which BIOS mode they want to boot into. There are also some customizations available such as the background wallpaper, the display resolution, and most importantly mouse speed, which is something that we had to play with since our mouse cursor was quite sluggish at default settings.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
BIOS Rundown - Classic Mode

BIOS Rundown - Classic Mode



The Dashboard Mode obviously does not have all the functionality of the Classic mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings. With that in mind, GIGABYTE have included the more conventional Classic Mode that we've seen on other recent GIGABYTE motherboards with UEFI BIOSes.

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In the UEFI BIOS, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section has been broken down into six main sub-menus. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time. First and foremost, we have M.I.T Current Status sub-menu which contains a convenient overview of all the system frequencies, memory sizes and timings.

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When you open the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu, you are greeted 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 you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.

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As its name suggests, the Advanced Memory Settings section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. 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 had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.

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The Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu is where you can fine tweak the new 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.

The Advanced Power Settings section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We really liked the granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the CPU VRIN, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will in the coming pages, with the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.

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Compared to past BIOSes, this one actually has a pretty good PC Health Status section since it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.

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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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The BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8 features and Boot Mode as well.

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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable some of the onboard devices, like the LAN controller, the PCB LEDs, or even the rear I/O panel LEDs. However, there is surprisingly little here since similar functionality has been integrated in various other sections, like the following Chipset section.

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The Chipset section is where you find all the SATA related options - such as settings devices to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode - as well as enabling/disabling the onboard audio controller.

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The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes. The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.

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This last screenshot is of 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.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Included Software

Included Software



APP Center


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The APP Center utility is a new centralized hub for all the in-house utilities that GIGABYTE bundles with their motherboards. It permanently resides in the notification area/icon tray in the right corner of your screen. Not only does it give you one location from which to open or even uninstall all motherboard-related pieces of software, but it also feature a Live Update feature that lets you know if the there's a new version of the software available.


EasyTune

The sleek EasyTune system management utility has been refocused towards its core functions of automatic overclocking and real-time tweaking of system frequencies, timings and voltages. As a result, EasyTune has been stripped of its monitoring and fan control duties, and that functionality has been transferred to the new System Information Viewer tool that can apparently handle these tasks with much lower latency. Having said that, when you launch EasyTune the new Hardware Monitor automatically pops open like a widget on the right side on the screen, and it shows you all the vital system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.

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As in previous versions, the Smart QuickBoost section is really the most interesting one. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick which one of the three Smart QuickBoost overclock presets that best suits your needs, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved. If you're more interested in seriously reducing power consumption, the Energy Saving preset with underclock the processor to 1200Mhz and tweak a bunch of settings to maximize efficiency. Of particular interest to us is the smart Auto Tuning functionality that will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, we preferred the presets over this supposedly intelligent OC'ing feature. Last but not least is the Advanced sub-menu that allows you to manualky set specific frequency, multiplier, voltage, and memory timing settings.

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The Advanced CPU OC section is where you can manually adjust each CPU core individually, as well as tinker with all the important system voltages. For the power energy aficionados, you can also elect to place a hard limit on the CPU power consumption.

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The Advanced DDR OC section of the EasyTune app is where you can set the memory multiplier, enable or disable your memory kit's XMP profile, or just tweak a wide range of primary and secondary memory timings. It is basically everything you could want from an on-the-fly system tweaking tool.

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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 knowledgeable overclockers might tweak, these are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use.


System Information Viewer

In order to make the utility more responsive, all the monitoring and fan control duties were stripped from EasyTune and transferred to a new application, the System Information Viewer. This might seem like a step backwards since usually the aim is to consolidate as many features as possibly into one program, but GIGABYTE claims that by doing this they have managed to greatly reduce the deferred procedure call (DPC) latencies that could interfere with EasyTune's primary functions, i.e. real-time tweaking and overclocking.

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The System Information tab is pretty straightforward, it really just shows some very basic information regarding the system clocks and a few details about the system's CPU, memory, and motherboard.

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In this new implementation, manual and automatic fan control options have been split into two separate tabs. Smart Fan Auto is where you find four standard fan speed presets, while Smart Fan Advanced is where you will find the auto-calibration feature and where you can manually fix fan speed or have it vary based on temperatures.

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The System Alerts tab is where you will find the Hardware Monitor, which display some basic system frequencies, a bunch of system voltages, system temperatures and fan speeds. We would like to see some additional voltage readouts, for the System Agent and Ring Bus for example. System Alerts, is as its name implies, is also where you can set system temperature or fan speed limits, and if those thresholds are crossed you will be alerted.
 

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