Articles: Mainboards

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Design and Features

Not only the packaging but the mainboard itself features the distinct G1-Killer series design. The gloomy black is complemented with the gentle green, endowing the mainboard with quite a beautiful appearance. The only slip the designers have made with the G1.Sniper 3 is the decorative golden skull on the chipset heatsink. It would be appropriate on a cheap plastic toy gun but not on a flagship mainboard.

We don’t have any complaints about the heatsink itself, though. The cooling system consists of as many as four: the two auxiliary heatsinks on the hot components of the 12-phase digital power system are connected with heat pipes to each other as well as to the central and chipset heatsinks. Every one of them is securely fastened with screws. As opposed to most mainboards we’ve tested recently, the central heatsink isn’t just some kind of decoration. It is mounted on a PCI Express 3.0 switch PLX PEX 8747.

We can remind you that the Intel Z77 Express allows to split up the 16 PCI Express lanes available from the CPU in three ways: 1) give them all to a single graphics card, 2) divide them in two equal halves, and 3) additionally split up one of the halves to have one x8 slot and two x4 slots.

The 5-port switch PLX PEX 8747 can manage 48 PCI Express 3.0 lanes. The G1.Sniper 3 uses it to have the same flexibility in managing PCI Express lanes over four slots as provided by LGA2011 mainboards based on the Intel X79 Express chipset.

It must be noted that, unlike similar controllers we’ve seen before, the PLX PEX 8747 is manufactured on 40nm technology and typically consumes a mere 8 watts.

Besides the four PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, the mainboard’s expansion options include two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, one PCI slot and one mSATA connector which can be used for an appropriate solid state drive. If you do install such an SSD, one of the four SATA 3 Gbit/s ports provided by the Intel Z77 Express chipset will become unavailable as is indicated by the red warning label. The chipset also provides two SATA 6 Gbit/s ports whereas the remaining four SATA 6 Gbit/s ports are based on two additional Marvell 88SE9172 controllers. The mainboard also uses a VIA VT6308P controller to implement the IEEE1394 (FireWire) interface which is available as onboard headers rather than back-panel connectors.

The mainboard back panel has the following ports and connectors on it:

  • Universal PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort video Outs;
  • Six USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Intel Z77 Express and two VIA VL810 hubs. Two pairs of internal pin-connectors provide support for additional two USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports;
  • Two local network ports (network adapters are built around Gigabit Intel 82579V and Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 network controllers);
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Creative CA0132 audio processor.

A large number of video outputs are usually considered a good thing for a mainboard to have, but not for a top-end mainboard. The G1.Sniper 3 is obviously intended to be used with one or even many discrete graphics cards as is indicated by the additional PCI Express controller as well as the graphics card connectors included into its box. We don’t think many people will buy this gaming mainboard and limit its capabilities by using the CPU-integrated graphics. The video outputs will hardly be ever really needed. They just occupy the back-panel space that might have been used in some better way. While the lack of eSATA isn't crucial because a mounting bracket with two eSATA ports is included into the box, a FireWire bracket is optional and was missing in our case. We'd also like to have more USB ports at the back panel.

Additionally the mainboard offers Power, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons, a POST indicator, and voltage control points. Like many other Gigabyte mainboards, the G1.Sniper 3 has two BIOS chips but the active chip is now selected by the user by means of a switch. The active BIOS chip is marked by a LED. One more feature of this mainboard is Ultra Durable 4 technology.

Ultra Durable 4 means a lot of special features such as thicker copper interconnects, high-quality components, and protection against overheating, overvoltage and electrostatic discharge. New in Ultra Durable 4, the PCB has a closer fiber weave, making it much more difficult for moisture to penetrate into the mainboard.

We summed up all the technical characteristics of this mainboard in the following table:

So, if it were not for the silly skull on the chipset heatsink and the too many video outputs at the back panel, the G1.Sniper 3 would be just perfect in its design. However, you should keep it in mind that its form-factor is E-ATX. It is 264 millimeters wide, or 20 millimeters wider than an ATX mainboard.

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