|Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 Motherboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Motherboards|
|Written by Olin Coles|
|Friday, 26 February 2010|
Page 17 of 17
Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 Conclusion
Although our rating and final score are made to be as objective as possible, please be advised that every author perceives these factors differently at various points in time. While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusion, as it represents our product rating for the sample received which may differ from retail versions.
Benchmark Reviews begins our conclusion with a short summary for each of the areas that we rate. The first is performance, which considers how effective the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 X58-Express SATA-6G motherboard performs in operation against direct competitor products. Graded on a scale of 1.0 to 10, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 receives a score of 9.25 when compared against the other products in its related category. CPU benchmark performance was usually higher than first-generation X58 motherboards, even with the exact same settings applied. DDR3 system memory bandwidth was above-average for the X58A-UD7, but overall system performance was slightly better than others. The Marvell SE9128 SATA 6Gb/s controller performed extremely well, and was certainly better than Intel's ICH10 controller, but firmware and driver updates will keep Marvell motherboard solutions closely approximate to each other. SuperSpeed USB-3.0 functionality is made possible by the NEC D720200F1 chip, although the market has yet to respond with storage devices optimized for the new specification.
Performance is further enhanced by utilizing SLI/Triple-SLI and CrossFireX/TriFire video card sets for high-performance graphics. Overclockers can use either quick or expert settings to reach their optimal clock speeds, and BIOS options are superior to others we've tested lately. Only socket LGA1366 X58-Express motherboards support Intel's Extreme Edition (EE) Core-i7 processors, and according to Intel's roadmap the future code-named "Gulftown" six-core Westmere chip will be included with support on the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard. At the time of this writing firmware version F5 already includes Gulftown processor support, along with numerous system memory enhancements. Version F6 firmware is already available to further improve memory compatibility.
Contrary to previous motherboard products they've offered, Gigabyte has really toned-down the color effects on their X58A-UD7. A blue mainboard hosts baby-blue and white plastic components with dark-nickel plating on heat-pipe rods. Overall the motherboard looks a lot more serious than past iterations, which means that hardware enthusiasts can begin to take Gigabyte more seriously as well. The colors used for expansion card slots are matched to bus speed and type, and the power phase and onboard LEDs give just as much for user feedback as they do for captivating looks.
Much like their original X58-Express motherboard series, Gigabyte has achieved near-perfect component layout on their GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard. It would be great to have more space between PCI-Express slots, but you'll need an extended-ATX form factor to accomplish that. Motherboard construction is outstanding, and Gigabyte has truly established themselves as a potential industry leader for mainboard manufacture. All of the SATA ports are turned sideways, which allows full access to them even with large video cards installed. Six DDR3 memory module banks are located far enough away from the socket for better access to them and unrestricted cooling for the processor. The low-profile chipset coolers surrounding the processor will ensure that aftermarket CPU coolers are not obstructed, plus the Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 module can be attached onto the X58 Northbridge heatsink for improved chipset cooling. Alternatively, the X58 Northbridge can also be added into a liquid-cooling circuit for maximum cooling performance and a more stable system overclock.
In terms of functionality the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 offers everything that previous X58-Express motherboards delivered, plus it adds third-generation SATA 6Gb/s and SuperSpeed USB-3.0 support. The Marvell-SE9128 chip used on the GA-X58A-UD7 is presently the only SATA 6Gb/s controller to offer RAID functionality, giving Gigabyte an edge over other manufacturers that choose the Marvell SE9123 chip, but also excels in single-drive performance as our test results have shown. Eight-channel high-definition audio and dual-Gigabit Ethernet adapters compliment the platform, along with 24GB total DDR3 memory capacity. Intel's X58-Express chipset receives 32 total PCI-Express link lanes, but when you consider that the SATA6G and SuperSpeed USB 3.0 take up to six PCI-E lanes there's only one place to borrow them from: graphics. With the Marvell and NEC controllers enabled in a single card configuration there are still sixteen link-lanes remaining for PCI-Express graphics bandwidth, which is more than enough, but a dual-card set would be reduced to 16+8 since these controllers require the remainder. For most gamers, this isn't going to make a difference because they're using only one or two video cards anyway, but triple-card sets may experience a small performance penalty.
As of late-February 2010 online retailers such as NewEgg sold the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard for $349.99, with others listed in our price comparison tool. The premium price tag places a lot of responsibility on the X58A-UD7, and the asking price is considerably higher than the other two Gigabyte-X58A motherboard options. After some comparison it appears that the X58A-UD7 is identical to the X58A-UD5 and X58A-UD3R in terms of mainboard and functionality, but differences in chipset cooling or additional network adapter set them apart. Lacking the Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 module and X58 waterblock option, an otherwise identical GA-X58A-UD5 sells for only $289.99 and seems worth the money. A scaled-down GA-X58A-UD3R is also available for $209.99, but the limited chipset cooling and single NIC might relegate this motherboard to entry-level enthusiasts and gamers.
In conclusion, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 demonstrated that it can deliver great overall system performance compared to the original X58-Express platform while also adding updated SuperSpeed USB-3.0 and SATA-III 6.0Gb/s functionality. Of course, X58-Express isn't the chipset platform for everyone, and only the serious hardware overclockers and high-power gamers should apply so that features like triple-graphic cards and high-precision overclocks can be enjoyed. The Advanced 24+2+2 Power Phase design with VRD 11.1 support is a welcome addition over the previous X58-series for all of us concerned about wasting electricity at idle, although this feature is now standard in nearly every Gigabyte motherboard of late. Casual gamers and mainstream computer users would be better suited with the high-capable Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD6 motherboard we recently tested, which both offer outstanding performance and value for the Intel P55-Express platform. However, if you're one of the elite few who use an Intel Extreme Edition processor or multiple video cards, then the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 would go nicely with a Crucial RealSSD-C300 SATA-III 6Gbps SSD. If 64-bit Windows-7 is your Operating System of choice, there are several 12GB DDR3-1600 memory kits that will deliver exceptional performance for the density.
Novice and enthusiast overclockers will feel right at home with the well-documented and detailed BIOS options offered on the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7. Initial BIOS firmware was not very friendly to several memory kits, but otherwise the F (and now F6) firmware tested in this article was bullet-proof and worked great for eight different sets of memory. Eight total SATA ports will ensure that no drive is left behind (a popular initiative for my SSD collection), but the SATA-III 6Gbps interface will only benefit compatible modern drives that can reach or exceed the SATA-3GB/s threshold. SuperSpeed 3.0 is really the only functional leap over the others, as SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External Storage Products are actually selling. The full depth of proprietary product features adds value to the asking price when you add them up, especially TPM encryption security and the Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2 module or X58 waterblock. Considering the improved real-world performance against existing USB-2.0/SATA-3G X58-Express solutions, enthusiasts can count on top-level system performance with the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7 motherboard.
+ Only X58 Motherboard with SATA-6G RAID Support
- Very expensive 'enthusiast' motherboard solution
Final Score: 9.0 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
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