Articles: Mainboards
 

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PCB Design and Functionality

Unlike older Gigabyte mainboards and current lower-end models that are built on blue textolite, and unlike new dark Gigabyte mainboards using black textolite and components, the “G1-Killer” series products have been lightened up by some bright green color. Eight-phase processor voltage regulator uses highly integrated components, where two MOSFETs and a control unit are combined into what is known as Driver MOSFET. The number of active phases in the VRM circuitry may change dynamically depending on the CPU utilization. It is reflected by the row of diodes called the Phase LED. Although you will need to install Dynamic Energy Saver utility for the Phase LED indication to work correctly. The board is equipped with the new “Locked and Loaded” cooling system, which we have already criticized in our Gigabyte G1.Sniper review, because back then the developers got carried away with the looks and sacrificed the cooling efficiency in the process. That cooling system used large heatsinks with secure screw-on retention, but their effective cooling surface wasn’t large enough because of very few fins they had that is why they had hard time cooling the relatively hot Intel X58 Express and the LGA1366 processor VRM circuitry.

 

Since the processor voltage regulator circuitry on Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 is laid out differently, the cooling system includes one more heatsink (the top one on the photo above), which is the only one that looks like a real efficient cooling unit. It is still quite heavy and massive, is screwed on to the board, which allows it to smooth out abrupt temperature spikes, but at the same time it has prominent ribbed profile on its entire surface, which ensures effective heat transfer and dissipation. There is a cylindrical groove that goes along the entire heatsink right in the middle of it, which could theoretically allow placing a heatpipe in it. however, there is really no need for this additional heatpipe, because the heatsink does its job very well, just like the second heatsink over the processor VRM components, even though the latter is designed as a rifle barrel and therefore only half of it has fins. The heatpipe connects this heatsink with the central one, which in this case doesn’t cool anything directly. It serves purely aesthetical purposes and also functions as additional heat-dissipating surface. As a result, the cooling system that was barely coping with its task on the LGA1366 Gigabyte G1.Sniper board even with an additional fan, worked so impeccably well on the new Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 that it didn’t need any additional fans even during overclocking experiments.

I would like to particularly draw your attention to the importance of ensuring proper cooling for the processor voltage regulator components. Over the past few years insufficient cooling of the processor VRM circuitry caused at least two mainboards to fail in our tests during overclocking experiments. I could add that both of them were Gigabyte products, although I am sure that it is simply a coincidence. Any mainboard can overheat, if you don’t take proper precautions, but Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 simply didn’t need an additional fan at all, even during overclocking. The cooling system on Gigabyte G1Sniper 2 is the most efficient cooling system of all LGA1155 mainboards we have tested so far.

The mainboard is equipped with two PCI, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and two PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots that support AMD CrossFire and Nvidia SLI graphics configurations. A single graphics accelerator will work at full speed, but with two graphics cards installed, the slots will be twice as slow. I have to say that this is one of the first mainboards that supports third generation PCI Express stand, which should become popular as soon as new processors and graphics cards come out. Another important distinguishing feature of the new Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 is the integrated Creative CA20K sound processor supporting X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX Advanced HD 5.0 technologies. The integrated sound amplifier uses special high-quality Nichicon Muse capacitors, so this part of the board has additional screening on it. Moreover, there is a Bigfoot Killer E2100 Gigabit network processor instead of a traditional network controller. The chipset provides support for two 6 Gbps SATA ports (white connectors) and four 3 Gbps SATA ports (black connectors), from which only three are visible and the fourth exists as an eSATA/USB Combo on the back panel. The additional Marvell 88SE9172 controller delivers another two 6 Gbps SATA ports (gray connectors).

 The mainboard back panel offers the following:

  • PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Eight USB 2.0 ports of different colors but the same capacity including one eSATA/USB Combo port, six more are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • O.C.Button for automatic system overclocking;
  • HDMI video out;
  • eSATA/USB Combo 3 Gbps port implemented using one of the four Serial ATA 3 Gbps ports provided by the Intel Z68 Express chipset;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via EtronTech EJ168A controller, second controller like that provided an additional internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built around Gigabit Bigfoot Killer E2100 network controller);
  • Optical S/PDIF together with five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Creative CA20K2 sound processor.

The components layout shows that the board has five fan connectors. The rotation speed of the CPU fan depends on the processor temperature taken off the integrated thermal diode. For adjustment convenience, there is an individual thermal diode integrated next to each of the remaining four fan connectors. It is a rare feature these days, but the rotation speed of each fan may be adjusted automatically. All fan connectors are four-pin ones, but they allow adjusting the rotation speed of three-pin fans, too. Other mainboard features are quite standard for the products of this company. There is a special USB port for mobile devices charging marked “ON/OFF Charge”. The board is equipped with two BIOS chips, it uses very convenient color-coding for the front-panel connectors, the marking for all slots is put not only onto the PCB next to the slot, but also right inside the actual slot.

We summed up the technical specifications of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 2 mainboard in the following table:

I would like to add that this mainboard is a little larger than a regular ATX: it is 264 mm wide instead of 244 mm. However, it shouldn’t be a problem during system assembly, because in most cases it is the length that is critical, not the width.

 
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