In the world of high-performance, enthusiast computing, one is always looking for the best performance without any compromise. In the past, this arena has been dominated by the ‘Big 3′. This refers to ASUS, Gigabyte and MSI. There have been relative newcomers to the market that have shaken it up, such as EVGA, who has pushed the overall competition to new heights. As a result of this, we’ve seen motherboard manufacturers adding even more features into their boards in order to compete.
The question is, what constitutes the best board? In our opinion, the best board is a proper mixture of accessories, software utilities, board features (e.g. USB 3.0, extra PCIe slots, etc), overclockability, motherboard layout and price. Taking these parameters into consideration sounds fairly simple, but the issue in many cases is that companies choose to sacrifice one or more of these options in order to ‘out-do’ their competition in another category.
Today, we will be taking a look at Gigabyte’s GA-X79-UD7 motherboard. This board is considered to be their overclocking motherboard which is influenced by their X58-OC board, evidenced by the color and naming schemes. Gigabyte’s X79 lineup consists of four boards: the UD3, UD5, UD7 and the G1 Assassin 2. The UD7 is their ‘high-end’ board while the G1 Assassin 2 is their ?gaming? board which features the Qualcomm Atheros Bigfoot Networks Killer NIC for the ultimate in online gaming. Yes, that name is a mouthful. It stems from the fact that Bigfoot Networks uses an Atheros chip in their Killer NIC. Through a series of acquisitions, Qualcomm bought Atheros which later purchased Bigfoot Networks. An interesting series of events to say the least.
Getting back to the X79-UD7, we will cover all aspects of this board including how it lives up to being a Sandy Bridge-E motherboard as well as its overclocking abilities. First, we?ll want to take a look at the this board?s overall specifications and what kind of features it has.
Specifications (direct from Gigabyte)
Supported CPUs - Intel Core i7 3960X, Intel Core i7 3930K, Intel Core i7 3820
Chipset – Intel X79 Express Chipset
Form Factor – XL-ATX (32.4 cm x 25.3 cm) [slightly longer than a regular ATX motherboard]
Memory Support – 4 x 1.5v DIMM slots supporting up to 32GB of system memory
Mem Cont’d – Support for DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 and Intel XMP 2.0
Audio – Realtek ALC898 7.1 Channel HD Audio supporting Dolby Home Theater and S/PDIF Out
LAN – Intel GbE LAN (10/100/1000 Mbit) and Qualcomm Atheros Wireless N
Expansion Slots - 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2)
2 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2)
3 x PCI Express x1 slots
Multi-GPU Support - Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX?/NVIDIA SLI technology.
Storage – 2x SATA 6Gb/s SATA3 connectors and 4x SATA 3Gb/s SATA2 connectors running off of the Intel South Bridge chip. These are also complemented by two Marvell 88SE9172 controllers providing an additional 4 SATA 6Gb/s ports.
USB Ports – 2 USB 3.0 and 8 USB 2.0 ports on the back I/O panel of the motherboard accompanied by optional 6 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports via header on the board. The USB 3.0 ports are powered by two Fresco FL1009 ICs (Which we have never actually seen used on a motherboard before, we’re more familiar with Renesas (NEC), ASMedia and other large tech companies).
Power – One 24-pin ATX main power connector, Two 8-pin ATX 12V e="font-size: 8pt; "> CPU power connectors, 2 x PCIe power connectors in the form of SATA power connectors that power the GPUs directly.
16-Phase CPU power accompanied by 1 power phase per pair of DIMM slots.
BIOS – Dual BIOS, so in the event of a corrupted BIOS, it allows the user to recover utilizing the back up BIOS. The user may also easily switch between each BIOS via a button located on the back of the motherboard.
Board Design and Layout
Gigabyte has opted for an extremely clean look and feel in terms of the board design and layout. In contrast to the Intel reference board, this board only features 4 DIMM slots instead of the full capability of the X79 chipset, which is 8 DIMM slots. This decision has been made by many motherboard manufacturers because it generally allows for better memory overclocking. This claim will be evaluated in our overclocking section, but considering how many motherboard manufacturers have taken this route, it is likely true. However, it should be noted that ASUS did not go that route with their Rampage IV Extreme which also overclocks well. Some of Gigabyte’s other boards, such as the UD5, do feature 8 DIMM slots, although that board is intended to be a general use board without a focus on overclocking.
For a detailed look we invite you to take a look at our Microsoft PhotoSynth product gallery:
The placements of the CPU socket and DIMM slots are fairly standard for the X79 chipset, but Gigabyte has chosen to place the dual 8-pin power connectors and CPU fan header in just the right places. This means no funky configurations or having to get your hands into tight spaces to install this board into your chassis.
The heatsink that cools the Gigabyte X79-UD7 has a very low profile which doesn’t have any fans, unlike its competition from ASUS. This makes the board easy to work with when installing large coolers and graphics cards. The heatsink is a simple heatpipe that runs from the MOSFET cooler down to the South Bridge. Nothing fancy or obnoxious, and it gets the job done.
The placement of most of the connectors on the board is well done, as all the SATA ports are angled 90 degrees and the 24-pin power connector is close to the edge of the board. Gigabyte also placed all of the front panel headers on the bottom edge of the board so that they are easily hidden when using a chassis with decent cable management. They even placed one of the USB 3.0 headers near the 24-pin power connector since many chassis have their front panel USB 3.0 cables coming from the upper right hand corner of the motherboard. This means users with a USB 3.0 capable chassis won’t have to run the USB 3.0 cable across their motherboard. This is a little thing, but it’s the little things that matter.
When it came to the fan headers, Gigabyte was very thoughtful and put the connectors all over the board to accommodate users that have fans all over their case. Gigabyte put a total of 6 PWM fan connectors on the board including the one for the CPU. They put two towards the back of the board for the case fans that most people have in the back and top of their chassis as well as two at the bottom of the board and one in the front next to the USB 3.0 controller. All of these connectors are very strategically/well placed.
When it comes to the SATA ports, you will notice that there are two white ports, four black ports, and four grey ports. The white ports are SATA 6Gb/s on the Intel controller, the black ports are SATA 3Gb/s, and the grey ports are running off of the two Marvell controllers. Looking at the board, though, you will notice a suspicious gap where it looks like four more SATA ports belong. This is where the remaining four Intel SATA ports should be located, but Intel made a last second decision to disable the on-chip SAS controller. We already mentioned how unhappy we were with this decision in our X79 and 3960X review and we just wanted to remind our readers why there is a gap on their boards.
The GA-X79-UD7, like many other overclocking boards, features overclocking buttons and manual voltage reference points on the board for manual voltage readings. When it came to the buttons, we honestly founds them superfluous for our overclocking needs since we have the ability to do more refined overclocking in the BIOS. I am sure that there are overclockers out there that actually use these buttons, but these buttons are purely based on the user?s style of overclocking and these simply don’t fit our needs.
We were a little disappointed, though, that Gigabyte would make all of the buttons on this board large and easily accessible except probably the most important button to any overclocker… the Restart button. I cannot overestimate how many times I had to reach for that button when overclocking this board and it would have been nice if it was as big as the rest of the buttons around it.
However, we did enjoy using the manual voltage reference points and testing them with our multimeter as they gave the most accurate readings compared to the BIOS and Software. Also, because Gigabyte opted for a POSCAP design, this board’s VRM has lower temperatures when under full load and it also means that there is more room for larger coolers preventing any kind of obstruction. When using POSCAP, the motherboard manufacturers also don’t have to use as large of a cooling solution
which also makes working with such a board easier. In our findings, installing the Intel water cooling solution was very easy, even easier than on the Intel board because of the board’s layout and design.
Looking at the VRM design of this board you will notice that Gigabyte almost exclusively went with International Rectifier components. Their Digital PWM and their new VRM are both completely based on International Rectifier’s technologies, partlialy obtained through their acquisition of CHil. Gigabyte’s all-digital phases are designed to allow users to change frequencies and voltages on the fly through software as well as in BIOS.
Accessories and Packaging
The Gigabyte X79-UD7 is certainly not short on accessories when it comes down to having the right things included. With this board, the standard I/O backplate is included, as well as a quick start guide, full length manual, and obligatory driver CDs (one for the board and one for the QA network card). This leads us into the most impressive accessory, which is the Qualcomm Atheros wireless network card included on this board.
The wireless network card is a dual-purpose card because it enables both high-speed wireless N, and also enables Bluetooth connectivity. The box claims Bluetooth 4.0 compatibility, but we don’t have an iPhone to test it with, so we cannot say much about that. However, we do have a Bluetooth 3.0 device and tested it out with the UD7.
The Bluetooth/WiFi Module is easy to set up and very feature rich. It enables high-speed bluetooth connections between devices with flawless syncing. In our testing we were able to send an audio file from the host PC to our cell phone and then play that file off of the cell phone on the host computer’s speakers.
In regards to the Wi-Fi performance, the ping we got when testing our internet speeds remained the same, so the ability to game on this board over Wi-Fi should be just as good as gaming over wired internet assuming the user has an N capable router. We also tested our up stream and down stream speeds and found that using the WiFi we lost about 5Mbit/s down and nothing up when compared to the integrated Intel Gigabit LAN. With wired testing we were getting about 20 Mbit/s while with wireless we got about 15 Mbit/s noting that we had full signal strength and were but only a few feet from the Linksys E2000 Router.
The Wi-Fi sharing feature of the wireless card for the Gigabyte X79-UD7 is extremely feature rich and enables users to easily convert their wired or wireless desktop into a signal repeater for other devices. The ideal situation for use of this feature would be when the user has wired ports in their walls, but either has no Wi-Fi or their router?s wireless signal does not quite reach the area around the computer and the user has another device they want connected to Wi-Fi. This device is able to broadcast its own wireless network and would enable the user to get a decent wireless signal in the same room and even in the adjacent room. The maximum range of this wireless card’s WiFi sharing appeared to be around 30ft including walls, etc.
The Gigabyte X79-UD7 also comes with a front panel two port USB 3.0 accessory in the event that the user?s chassis does not have built-in USB 3.0 ports. This is a great accessory to include since to purchase one that would fit on a back panel would cost $25 or so, and we have not seen any for sale quite like this. This is meant to fit in what used to be called the (2.5") floppy bay. Gigabyte also included a back panel (where PCI slots are located) mounted eSATA bracket for connecting and powering external hard drives. They also included 6 SATA cables to allow the user to populate every native SATA port on the board.
Since this board is capable of SLI, CrossFire and Quad SLI/CrossFire, Gigabyte has provided 4 different bridges. One is a simple ribbon SLI bridge for two-way SLI. Another is a ribbon CrossFire bridge for two-way CrossFire. And the other two support three-way and Quad-SLI. Interestingly enough, Gigabyte did not provide any AMD compatible bridges beyond the single CrossFire bridge. This leaves us to assume that this board is primarily geared towards users with NVIDIA GPUs.
Software Utilities and BIOS
When it comes to software utilities, Gigabyte has never been one to limit the number included. This approach is very common among Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers and is especially common among the major motherboard vendors who see competitors release a new feature and immediately try to replicate it.
Gigabyte includes @BIOS which is a BIOS update utility that can also be found generally integrated in to most of their other utilities. This enables the computer to check Gigabyte’s servers for BIOS updates and easily update to the latest BIOS version for the board without the user mistakenly choosing the wrong one.
They also have a 3D Power Utility which allows the user to adjust voltages, frequencies, and power phase settings. Th
e user can adjust the load line calibration and overvoltage protections inside of the OS. In addition, the user can adjust the CPU PWM frequency, VTT PWM frequency, IMC PWM frequency as well as both banks of memory’s PWM frequencies. This utility also enables the user to enter the CPU phase control menu as well as the overcurrent and PWM thermal protections menus. Our opinion of the 3D Power utility is that it is simply too fragmented and sacrifices functionality for the sake of looking good. Overclockers do not care about fancy menus, they just want something that is quick, easy, and straightforward to use. A single, larger, page with all of these options would have been a much more useful utility than the current version. As a result, we found using the BIOS to be easier and faster.
The next utility that Gigabyte provides has many of the same qualities. With EasyTune 6, Gigabyte has essentially given the user the option to modify or monitor almost any setting that is in the BIOS by entering the advanced menu. The only problem is that the window size that Gigabyte has chosen for this menu is way too small to be effective. Gigabyte could easily solve this problem by simply allowing users to make the window bigger and overclock from the OS that way. The nice thing about EasyTune is that it enables the user to very easily and quickly get a 4.1, 4.3 or 4.5GHz OC. Which, honestly, is very convenient for most users looking for a stable overclock for daily use. However, professional and even amateur overclockers looking to push the limits of the CPU will without a doubt demand more than 4.5GHz.
Smart6, is a utility with multiple utilities built into it. These include Smart QuickBoot, Smart QuickBoost, Smart Recovery 2, Smart DualBIOS, Smart Recorder, and Smart Timelock. We found the Smart QuickBoot somewhat pointless since it is simply a checkbox to enable quick-boot or not. Smart QuickBoost is a cut down version of EasyTune 6 and Smart Recovery is Gigabyte’s own recovery utility, although Windows 7 already has fairly sufficient backup/recovery tools. The Smart DualBIOS and Smart Recorder (a monitoring utility) both serve a convenient purpose. The Smart TimeLock, though, seems like an odd utility to include with a high-end motherboard as it allows the user to lock their system from use during certain times. In all honesty, it probably should not be included unless someone specifically wants it. We found the Smart 6 utility to almost be pointless as it copies the role of other applications that Gigabyte or Microsoft already provide. Normally, we would applaud an application that combines multiple applications together, but it does not quite do that since it only includes six, which are not even full-featured.
The final utility that Gigabyte includes with this board is the TouchBIOS which enables the user to manipulate parts of the BIOS from the OS. While this concept is admittedly very interesting, the likelihood that anyone will actually use the touch part is extremely unlikely. This is a utility that has the potential to be very useful but requires far too many clicks/touches in order to be more useful than simply going through the BIOS. We would have liked to, again, see a larger window with more options immediately visible along with sub tabs and drop down menus in order to view options concurrently. TouchBIOS simply feels like it was done without actually taking the user into consideration. We admit, though, this utility looks very touch friendly and should be useful to the few people who would prefer to use a touch interface to manipulate their BIOS.
Gigabyte opted to go for a Dual BIOS approach with their X79 motherboards. This is not in reference to having two different BIOS chips and two different BIOS files. This actually refers to the fact that there are two different BIOS. Both BIOS fall under the UEFI (which enables mouse and clicking in the BIOS among other things). One is a 3D BIOS and one is just a standard BIOS. The cool thing about the 3D BIOS is that it is actually just as functional as the traditional BIOS, but for someone who has been using traditional BIOS for a over a decade it is hard to change. However, for those new to system building, this is a great addition as it enables the user to see exactly what components/parts of the board are being affected. Honestly, it’s a very innovative way of approaching BIOS design and is very user friendly to those unfamiliar with navigating a BIOS menu.
dard BIOS is very rich when it comes overclocking features; enabling the user to manually set almost every single parameter imaginable because of the digital PWM and VRM. As a result of this, many options are only to be used when doing extreme overclocks. Other things we also liked about the BIOS were the manual memory timing and voltage settings. We had never seen the ability to set each single DIMM slot’s timings or each bank of two DIMMs? voltage. This enables each bank of two DIMMs to run at different voltages if necessary and enables a more stable voltage to each DIMM since one VRM controls only two DIMMs instead of four or more.
Other than that, the BIOS had standard options relating to the storage and onboard device controllers. Overall, we found the BIOS easy to navigate. One tip we have for users is that they can manually enter numbers into the BIOS settings rather than using +/-. Although, in some instances +/- must be used in order to be able to modify the entered settings. Also, if the user wishes to reset a setting to ‘Auto’, they can simply enter the value 0 and hit enter. Performance and Benchmarks
In this section we will be directly comparing the performance of the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD7 against that of the Intel reference X79 board, the DX79SI. The configurations are exactly identical between both systems with the exception of one parameter, the motherboard.
Intel Core i7 3960X w/Intel reference water cooling
Kingston HyperX 1600MHz 16GB DDR3 and Corsair Vengeance 1866MHz 16GB DDR3 (for overclocking)
AMD Radeon 6950 with unlocked shaders (to 6970 shader count and clock speed)
Patriot Pyro 120GB SSD
Cooler Master UCP 1100W PSU
SiSoft Sandra 2012
In Sandra 2012, we see that the Gigabyte UD7 scored 184.62 GIPS and 131.80 GFLOPS in the Arithmetic test. Interestingly enough, we used the exact same settings (turbo enabled, etc.) as we did on our stock Intel motherboard when we did the Core i7 3960X review, and the Gigabyte board actually shows a 20% improvement over the Intel board in the Dhrystone test, handily beating the 990X and Core i72600K. The Intel board scored 150.28 GIPs and 119.45 GFLOPS.
In the Cryptography test, we saw similar results when comparing the Gigabyte board to the Intel board. With the Intel board we got 10.307 GB/s of Encryption/Decryption bandwidth, but with the X79-UD7 we got 12.531 GB/s indicating yet another 20% bump in performance. In the hashing bandwidth test, we saw a slight improvement over the Intel board, showing 1.593 GB/s comapred to the Intel board?s 1.477 GB/s.
In the Memory Bandwidth test, we were expecting to see the best results since this board is really tuned for memory performance, and we were not disappointed. Compared to the Intel board, the X79-UD7 gained about 10% in both the float and integer memory bandwidth tests, with the Gigabyte board coming in slightly over 40 GB/s while the Intel board came in around 37 GB/s on both tests.
In AIDA64, the results we got were similarly astonishing. We are not sure whether or not the Intel board was being held back or if the Gigabyte board is simply pushing the performance limits of the processor and RAM.
In the CPU Queen test, the results were almost identical, with the Intel board actually coming in just a fraction of a percent higher at 62196 vs 62121.
In the AES test, though, there was a large disparity between the two boards once again. Interestingly enough, the Gigabyte board at stock clocks actually scored similarly to the Intel board at an overclock of 4.8GHz. Looking at the raw stock scores, the X79-UD7 scored a 776677 vs 656612 on the Intel board. This once again represents a near 20% increase in performance even though the processor, memory, and accompanying settings are the same.
When it came to memory latency, the Gigabyte X79-UD7 once again outperformed the Intel board. The Intel board reported a latency of 53.5 ns while the UD7 reported 50.0 ns.
When it came to memory writes in AIDA64, the Gigabyte X79-UD7 was slightly faster th
an the Intel board, coming in at 17625 MB/s vs the Intel DX79SI which achieved 17085. We do not consider this much of a performance difference, but even so, the UD7 is the slight winner here.
In Cinebench, the pattern continued. We saw a decent performance increase from the GA-X79-UD7 when compared to the Intel DX79SI. The UD7 scored a 10.41 points compared to the DX79SI?s 9.68. Interestingly enough, Intel’s board came in slightly lower once again even though we were using the same hardware and only switched motherboards.
In PCMark 7, we saw a similar trend comparing the Intel board with the X79-UD7. The UD7 performed better, and with a sufficiently large margin to be a considerable victory. In this case, the UD7 beat out the DX79SI by about 7%. It should be once again noted that all the components and settings in the system remained the same, except for the motherboard.
With 3DMark 11, we did not expect to see much of a difference, since this test is mostly GPU related and we used the same graphics card for both motherboard tests. As expected, the graphics scores were very close but the physics (CPU) scores were where the differences were apparent. The GA-X79-UD7 scored a E9143 compared to a E9005 on the Intel DX79SI. However, this is a fairly minute difference, and is what we would normally expect the difference to be between a reference board and a high-end board. Here are our subsequent Performance and Extreme results as well (more GPU bound than CPU bound).
Video Encoding x264 HD
In the x264 HD benchmark, we once again found the X79-UD7 outperformed the Intel reference board by a fair margin. The UD7 got an FPS count of 176.5 on Pass 1 and 54.74 on Pass 2. The Intel board got an FPS count of 164.18 on Pass 1 and 50.48 on Pass 2. This works out to just below a 10% difference between the two boards again.
In BF3 we saw a variety of results as the Average frame rate of the Intel board was 78 while the Gigabyte X79-UD7 got 75.6 FPS. The DX79SI Intel board had a slightly higher minimum FPS of 62, compared to the UD7 which had a minimum frame rate of 60. Interestingly, the UD7 did have a higher maximum frame rate, although maximum frame rates are not as important as average and minimum frame rates when gaming. Power Consumption and Temperatures
We wanted to see whether or not the Gigabyte X79 UD7 board delivered more power to the CPU. We also wanted to observe the board?s power usage both under load and idle. Based on our tests, it is evident that the UD7 board does draw more power than the Intel DX79SI board. However, this is because the UD7 delivers more power to the CPU, specifically, 6 more watts to the CPU cores directly. Interestingly enough, the difference between the boards? power consumption when it came to the CPU was only 1w, yet the CPU cores gained 6w in power on the UD7. To us, this means that the Gigabyte board is more capable of delivering more power to the CPU cores using nearly the same amount of total power.
In terms of temperatures, we did not notice a significant difference between the CPU core temperatures. Unfortunately, during our testing, the Intel board would not report its temperatures to AIDA64, so we were unable to compare the motherboard temperatures against each other. In general, both boards were relatively quiet, cool, and did not cause us any overheating issues. There was a recent occurence of someone taking a UD3 motherboard to its absolute maximum capability and somehow burned out a MOSFET. This type of occurrence is extremely rare and we are surprised that it happened at all, considering the fact that the BIOS has so many thermal and current protections built in. If anything, the occurrence of someone burning their board was a combination of poor cooling (he wasn’t running any fans over the heatsinks) and a BIOS that failed to detect an overheating MOSFET. In this case, it was quite a catastrophic failure which was surprisingly all caught on video.
Cinebench at 4.6GHz (note 4.5G score is below that and the stock 10.41 below that)
We primarily focused on two aspects of the board’s overclocking, the CPU and the memory. We found that the Intel CPU does not function well when both the memory and CPU are pushed to their respective maximums, so the user is only able to really push the ability of one or the other. We were a little disappointed that we could not get the CPU to remain stable above an overclock of 4.6GHz regardless of the voltage we poured into it. We also attempted the same settings that we had run on the Intel board in our 3960X review, but could not get those to remain stable either. Interestingly enough, when we tried those settings, upon entering the OS we noticed that CPU-Z was giving us a slightly lower clockspeed. Upon review, we noticed that the multiplier had magically gone down by one and that it was now sitting at 4.7GHz rather than 4.8GHz due to the 36x instead of 37x multiplier. For 4.6GHz, we set the BIOS voltage for the CPU cores to 1.43v, which is reasonable, but seemed to be the maximum we could use and still enter the OS.
When it came to memory overclocking, this board did quite a good job. We were able to review multiple kits of RAM from Patriot, Kingston and Corsair and reach very stable overclocks. The best OC we achieved was using two 1600MHz kits and clocking them up to 2133MHz. This overclocked set of RAM actually outperformed the 2133MHz kit that we have in our lab. Furthermore, we were able to overclock the 2133MHz kit we have to 2400MHz+. We also have a 2400MHz kit that we tried to review, but up until recently the system simply refused to function with a 2400MHz kit installed. Once the F7 BIOS came out, the 2400MHz kit of Kingston HyperX RAM worked perfectly. With F8, it is just as stable, perhaps even more so. We did try overclocking the 2400MHz kit, but without any success. It must be kept in mind that 2400 MHz is already considered a fairly substantial overclock for the X79 chipset.
When it comes to the Gigabyte X79-UD7 we are uncertain about the value of the board. This board is fairly expensive at a price of $370. However, compared to competing X79 boards, the board is not that expensive. Furthermore, the UD7 has a stellar Qualcomm-Atheros wireless and Bluetooth card which put it ahead of the competition. Even though this board is not cheap, when considering all of its features and the fact that its ability to overclock is mediocre, the conclusion is that it is a board of mediocre value (not good or bad). Gigabyte is famous for adding accessories, cables, add-in cards, and additional software. Ignoring all the peripheral stuff, and focusing on the differentiating factors on-board that would add value, this board ends up neutral. The board gains some value from the software utilities, 5 year warranty, and additional hardware accessories, but loses value from the fact that the CPU overclock is worse than our cheaper Intel DX79SI "Siler" board.
We contacted Gigabyte regarding our overclocking results and were told that the Gigabyte X79-UD7 was primarily intended for easy overclocking rather than high overclocking. We found this interesting considering that this board was designed as the successor to the X58-OC and even has the orange "OC" on the southbridge heatsink. Gigabyte claimed that the UD3 is their most effective overclocking board, which we found strange considering that the UD3 is considered more of a budget board, unlike the UD7 high-end board.
The Gigabyte X79-UD7 board came to us with a pedigree of overclocking behind it. When we received this board we were expecting to reach new overclocks that had never been seen before. Perhaps we it was wrong to assume, but from our previous experiences with Gigabyte’s flagship motherboards we expected a lot. The issue is that this board is a mediocre overclocker, which is problematic considering the board’s primary purpose is to overclock like a high end motherboard.
Based on our memory overclocking findings, there is no doubt that this board can overclock memory well, but it is of limited value when the CPU cannot overclock past 4.6GHz. What really made us disappointed with this board was not the 4.6GHz overclock per se, but rather the fact that we were hoping to beat our own 4.86GHz overclock on the Intel reference DX79SI board and could not even come close. Using the same chip and same RAM we had a much harder time overclocking past 4.6GHz. It was so much more difficult that we scrapped all our attempts beyond 4.6GHz because the board simply would not run stably.
Our recommendation is that this is no doubt a much better board than the Intel X79 reference board in every single way except for CPU overclocking. If you don’t intend to do an extreme overclock beyond 4.6GHz and only wish to use this board for high-speed memory and daily use then we without a doubt recommend this board. But the simple truth is that this board does not live up to its overclocking name or heritage and because of that we cannot give this board any high praise. This board is well designed, but clearly still need some work in the overclocking arena and we really hope they would make a revision of this board.
In addition, we have confirmed that the Gigabyte X79-UD7 would be a limited run board which Gigabyte does not intend to manufacture anymore. While we certainly can see why they would do such a thing, it also really concerns us regarding the future of Gigabyte. Without a high-end flagship motherboard for the Intel Sandy Bridge-E enthusiast platform, then how can Gigabyte compete in the enthusiast market?
Upon some conversation with Gigabyte, they claim that their UD7 board is not their X79 flagship board but rather their G1 Assassin 2 gaming board is. Considering that they had almost the exact same line up last time, we’re a little hesitant to believe that the UD3, UD5 and UD7 naming scheme which Gigabyte has been using forever is suddenly incorrect. Afterall, it directly follows BMW’s naming scheme for their low, mid and high end as well… We’re just not sold on the fact that even though the Gigabyte X79-UD7 is gone that the G1 Assassin 2 is a competing board when you consider all of the enthusiast features on the UD7 vs the G1 Assassin 2.