Articles: Mainboards

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Design and Features

As opposed to the uniformly dark and somewhat gloomy mainboards from Gigabyte’s basic product series, the G1.Sniper 5 looks livelier thanks to the refreshing bright-green elements:

The cooling system looks most impressive. There are two heatsinks installed on the hot components of the digital CPU voltage regulator, connected with a heat pipe. Using the fittings on the pipe's ends, you can connect it to a liquid cooling system. If the CPU has a passive cooler, the voltage regulator can be cooled by an additional 40mm fan whose speed is regulated by the mainboard automatically. Every heatsink is securely fastened with screws. As opposed to many other mainboards where the central heatsink only serves to enlarge the total heat dissipation area, it is necessary here to cool a PLX PEX 8747 switch which adds more PCIe 3.0 lanes. The switch gets quite hot at work, so the central heatsink is connected to the chipset one with a heat pipe. Thanks to the additional PCIe 3.0 lanes, the mainboard allows two graphics cards to work in full-speed PCIe mode. Overall, you can install up to four graphics cards on it and run them in 4-way, 3-way or 2-way CrossFireX or SLI mode. Besides that, there are three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots for expansion cards.

The mainboard is a standard 305 mm long but its width is increased to 264 mm to provide room for more additional components. In the top right corner of the mainboard, there is a large highlighted Power button and small Reset and Clear CMOS buttons. Next to them, there is a line of voltage check points. Below is a POST code indicator. The mainboard carries two BIOS chips and two BIOS switches, one of which selects a DualBIOS operation mode (the second BIOS chip serves either as a backup or as an independent BIOS copy). The second BIOS switch selects a particular BIOS chip as is indicated by the nearby LEDs.

The Intel Z87 chipset provides six 6 Gbit/s ports and a Marvell 88SE9230 controller adds four more. The latter chip supports HyperDuo technology that helps accelerate conventional hard disks by using an SSD as their cache. Thus, the mainboard offers a total of ten SATA 6 Gbit/s ports. Thanks to two Renesas uPD720210 splitters, the number of USB 3.0 ports is ten, too. There are six USB 3.0 connectors on the back panel and four ports are implemented as two onboard headers, one of which has a cap to prevent dust accumulation and another is red rather than blue. The red header provides two USB 3.0 ports with increased current so that you could recharge your mobile gadgets faster, and even when your computer is turned off. By the way, the back-panel video outputs are covered with protective caps too, although you can't see them in the photo below.

The mainboard's back panel offers the following:

  • Two USB 2.0 connectors
  • PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse
  • Six USB 3.0 connectors (blue) based on the Intel Z87 chipset and two Renesas uPD720210 splitters (there are also two onboard headers for four more USB 3.0 ports)
  • Two HDMI connectors and one DisplayPort
  • Two LAN connectors (the network adapters are based on Gigabit Ethernet controllers Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 and Intel WGI217V)
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF outputs as well as five analog audio outputs based on the integrated 8-channel Creative Sound Core 3D audio processor

The Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 network processor supports user-defined network traffic prioritization. It is somewhat unusual that the audio connectors lack conventional color coding because they are gold-plated, just like all of the video connectors. The CPU socket pins are gold-plated, too. The mainboard uses high-quality solid-state capacitors, featuring Nichicon MUSE ES and MW capacitors in its audio subsystem. The audio section is insulated from the rest of the mainboard’s components to minimize interference. This can be easily seen on the PCB – the insulation line is highlighted with green LEDs.

The Creative Sound Core 3D audio processor supports a lot of sound processing technologies including SBX Pro Studio, Scout Mode, EAX ADVANCED HD 5.0, Creative ALchemy, VoiceFX and SBX Surround. Besides other measures devised to ensure high audio quality, the mainboard provides the unique opportunity to replace the operating amplifier. You don’t get this opportunity with many discrete audio cards even. So, the bundled Gigabyte OP-AMP Upgrade Kit includes an additional opamp and a tool for taking one out. The resulting difference in sound can be heard in the demo video. Gigabyte also plans to release a separate OP-AMP Premium Upgrade Kit with three opamps.

Gigabyte’s mainboards with Intel’s 8 series chipsets feature a set of technologies known as Ultra Durable 5 Plus. Ultra Cool is a reference to the new design of the heatsinks which ensure efficient cooling for key mainboard components. Depending on the particular model, it can be passive, active or liquid cooling. Ultra Performance refers to the use of PWM controllers and PowIRstage regulators from International Rectifier in the mainboard’s digital voltage regulator. Ultra Safe means the exclusive DualBIOS technology whereas Ultra USB3+ refers to the ten USB 3.0 ports available on the mainboard. Besides the mentioned four Ultra technologies, Ultra Durable 5 Plus includes a lot of other features such as long-lasting solid-state capacitors, short circuit and electrostatic discharge protection, double-thickness copper interconnects, and resistance to high humidity.

The neatly drawn layout chart shows nine fan connectors, seven of which are of the 4-pin variety. These seven, including the two CPU fan connectors, can regulate both 3- and 4-pin fans whereas the two 3-pin fan connectors do not support speed regulation. The two CPU fan connectors are going to come in handy when you’ve got a CPU cooler with two fans or a liquid cooling system (so that you could connect its fan and pump). The ability to regulate 3-pin fans is a unique feature of Gigabyte mainboards (except that ASRock products also have an additional 3-pin connector with speed regulation).

The G1.Sniper 5 has broad latches on the graphics slots and single-sided latches on the memory slots. The decorative insert on the chipset heatsink is highlighted but it is going to be covered by a large graphics card. That's good since the G1-Killer series logo doesn’t look cool when molded in plastic.

You can see the specifications of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 in the summary table.

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