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Mainboards for LGA 2011

It looks like everything is ready for the launch of Sandy Bridge-E and Waimea Bay platform. For example, mainboard manufacturers proudly displayed their products for the new Intel processors. And these were not just some dummy boards, but the actual operational products.


Of course, we must begin our mainboards tour from Intel products. Core i7-3960X overclocking was performed on their own Intel DX79SI mainboard. Here it is:

Eight DDR3 DIMM slots for four-channel memory on both sides of the processor socket and three PCI Express x16 slots for the graphics cards (working as x15, x16 and x18 respectively) – this is a typical LGA 2011 solution. The unique thing about this mainboard is that the processor voltage regulator circuitry is split in two parts and is placed on the opposite sides of the LGA 2011 processor socket. Moreover, the board has only two SATA-600 and two SATA-300 ports and a pretty boring back panel.

There are only six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit network ports, sound and one IEEE1394 port. And do you know why that is so? The thing is that they removed SAS support from the chipset the very last minute, otherwise the chipset functionality would have been much richer. However, since the chipset functionality has changed, Intel had to get rid of several ports, but they didn’t put anything else into the free spots after that.

Intel DX79SI mainboard has several indisputably great features. Intel has finally decided to be good to overclockers, that is why the board not only boasts a functionally rich BIOS, but is also equipped with a POST controller, Power On and Resent buttons on the board and a Clear CMOS button on the back panel.

But Intel wasn’t the only one with the boards for the new LGA 2011 platform ready. MSI and Gigabyte also didn’t waste any time. Since the LGA 2011 platform is targeted primarily for computer enthusiasts and Intel has no plans so far to launch any low-cost CPU models for it, it seems like we won’t see any inexpensive mainboards for LGA 2011 as well. At least, the mainboards showcased at Gigabyte and MSI booths are far from being budget products, even though they both offer more as well as less expensive solutions.


Let’s take a quick look at the models available from these two mainboard makers. Let’s start with Gigabyte GA-X79-UD7:

The board is designed in an eye-catching overclocking-friendly color scheme (the legendary GA-X58A-OC uses the same exact colors). It features a special 20-channel overclocking-friendly VRM, which is specifically designed for overclocking needs. In other words, it is a great choice for the biggest enthusiasts. The mainboard has special buttons for “on the fly” CPU overclocking, seven 4-pin fan connectors and other overclocking-related features, such as voltage contact spots. In other words, this is a product fit for enthusiasts.

Here comes the new mainstream model – Gigabyte GA-X79-UD5:

This is a common work horse with a 12-phase voltage regulator circuitry and 3-way SLI and Crossfire support. By the way, note that the following is true for most LGA 2011 mainboards: the first two PCIe slots, which the processor is responsible for, will support PCI Express 3.0, while the third slot connected to the Intel X79 chipset lanes will be able to work only as PCI Express 2.0. Both Gigabyte mainboards boast an impressive number of SATA ports. In this particular case there are as many as 14 of them.

One of the memory makers, the Kingston Company, had 64 GB of system memory working perfectly fine in a Gigabyte GA-X79-UD5 mainboard like that.

Kingston is planning on offering a corresponding 64 GB HyperX memory kit of eight 8 GB modules by the time LGA 2011 is ready to launch.

And this is another board – Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3:

This seems to be the simplest Gigabyte mainboards for the new Sandy Bridge-E processors. This board even has only four DDR3 DIMM slots – one per each channel. Its voltage regulator circuitry has only 8 phases. Nevertheless, there are four PCI Express x16 slots like on UD7, and twelve SATA ports.

Gigabyte will also continue to offer users their gaming products from the G1.Killer series designed to support LGA 2011 processors. Here is G1.Assassin 2 mainboard:

Honestly, if we disregard the black-and-green color scheme, it will seem very similar to an inexpensive UD3 board. There are only four memory slots and the voltage regulator circuitry has 8 phases. However, this design was created because Gigabyte engineers ran out of PCB space for the gaming features such as Creative sound and network built with a Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 controller. So, they had to sacrifice a few things.

However the most interesting feature of the showcased Gigabyte's LGA 2011 mainboards is their decision to finally use UEFI instead of their old-school text BIOS. This is what the new interface will look like:

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