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Closer Look at Gigabyte G1.Sniper

The box with Gigabyte G1.Sniper is absolutely enormous! It is larger than anything I have seen over the past few years and maybe even the largest box ever. Once I saw this monster, I immediately started checking out the specs, because some Gigabyte’s flagship mainboards are designed in XL-ATX form-factor with extended length, which imposes certain additional limitations. However, my concerns turned out unnecessary, because it was indeed an ATX mainboard, which was simply packed this way. By the way, since this gaming board series from Gigabyte is called G1-Killer, the military theme starts right from the packaging, which is designed in a rusty-style with machine gun cartridge belts on it.

On the back of the box we see bullet holes, a photo of the mainboard inside and a brief description of some of its features.

The mainboard is bundled with the following accessories:

  • Four SATA cables with metal connector locks, two with L-shaped locks and another two with straight ones;
  • A flexible bridge for two-way SLI graphics configurations;
  • A hard bridge for three-way SLI graphics configurations;
  • Additional bracket with two USB 3.0 ports to go into the 3-inch bay of the system case;
  • I/O Shield for the back panel;
  • User manual;
  • A booklet with brief assembly instructions in 10 languages;
  • DVD disk with software and drivers;
  • “Dolby Home Theater” and “Gigabyte” logo stickers for the system case.

I would like to point out a very useful additional bracket with two USB 3.0 ports for the 3-inch bay of the system case. It will offer you very convenient access to this contemporary interface. However, all these are more or less standard components. Besides them, you will also get a large double-sided G1-Killer series poster and a set of case stickers with the series logos, bullets and bullet holes.

Now let’s take our Gigabyte G1.Sniper out of the box and take a real good look at it:

Had it been an ordinary mainboard, we would have started our story with the eight-phase voltage regulator circuitry. The number of active phases in this circuitry may change dynamically depending on the CPU utilization, which is displayed by a row of Phase LEDs. Although you have to install Dynamic Energy Saver utility for this technology to actually work. Processor voltage regulator is built with highly integrated components, where two MOSFETs and a control unit are combined into what is known as Driver MOSFET. However, I am pretty sure that the first thing to catch your eye on this mainboard was its uniquely designed cooling system, which components are all shaped in accordance with the military theme as weapons parts, even the ammo cartridge, i.e. the chipset South Bridge heatsink, is fully loaded. Just in case they did put a reminder on the packaging that all these parts are styled like weapon parts for aesthetic purposes only and cannot be used to assemble a real gun.

Everything looks very beautiful, the heatsink in the middle even has highlighting. However, in their attempt to create an unforgettable visual effect, the developers got carried away and forgot that the primary function of a heatsink is to dissipate heat efficiently. In fact, this cooling system has a few advantages over the one on Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC overclocker mainboard. First of all, all three heatsinks, and not just two, are tied together into a single cooling contour with heatpipes. Besides, all three heatsinks, and not just two, use secure screw-on retention. However, the heatsinks do not have to be huge, but they need sufficient effective heat-dissipating surface to be able to cool well, and that hasn’t been done properly. For example, I was pleased to discover that the barrel-shaped heatsink over the processor voltage regulator components was barely warm to the touch. However, as you can notice, the heatpipe between this heatsink and the next one over the chipset North Bridge doesn’t go beyond the middle of it.

I touched the part of the heatsink with ribbed profile, so it has large heat dissipating surface, but the heatpipe doesn’t go that far. At the same time the part of the heatsink shaped like a gun barrel with a sight turned out extremely hot, just like the rest of the cooling system. As a result, even in nominal more we had to use the same 80x80 mm fan that we normally use only during overclocking.

The chipset provides the board with six SATA 3 Gbps ports, an additional Marvell 88SE9182 controller delivers another two SATA 6 Gbps ports. Expansion cards can be installed into one PCI, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and three PCI Express 2.0 x16 slots. When there are two graphics cards in the system, the slots will work at their full speed. The second and the third slot share 16 PCI Express lanes that is why with three graphics cards the speed layout will change to x16/x8/x8.

If we do not take into account the unique over-the-top cooling system, there won’t be anything on that board that we haven’t yet seen on regular non-gaming ones. Gigabyte G1.Sniper differs from them due to Creative CA20K sound processor supporting X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX Advanced HD 5.0. It uses its own memory allocated by a 128 MB DDR chip right next to it and special Nichicon Muse capacitors also utilized in integrated sound amplifiers.

Besides, they replaced the regular network controller with Bigfoot Killer E2100 Gigabit network processor with 1 GB of proprietary DDR2 SDRAM. This controller takes network traffic processing off the CPU’s shoulders. And you wanted to configure your priorities, you would need to install Bigfoot Killer Network Manager utility first.

The mainboard back panel has the following ports and connectors:

  • Two PS/2 connectors for keyboard and mouse;
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF together with five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Creative CA20K2 sound processor;
  • O.C.Button for automatic system overclocking;
  • Six USB 2.0 ports (including a pair of eSATA/USB Combo ports), six more are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Renesas (NEC) D720200F1 controller and two VLI VL810 hubs, which also provided an additional internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • Two eSATA/USB Combo 3 Gbps ports implemented via additional JMicron JMB362 controller;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built around Gigabit Bigfoot Killer E2100 network processor).

The components layout shows that the board is covered with numerous LEDs, which have to be mentioned here. We have already pointed out a row of LEDs called the Phase LED, which shows the number of active phases in the processor voltage regulator circuitry, however, there are similar pairs of LEDs showing the utilization of the system memory or chipset North Bridge. A row of diodes called the Frequency LED will show the overclocking progress: the higher is the base clock, the more LEDs will light up. Overvoltage LED group will glow green, yellow or red to show the voltage of the CPU, memory, chipset North and South Bridge. Temperature LED will light up yellow when the CPU temperature is between 61 and 80°C and will switch to red if it goes beyond that. Finally, LAN LED will light up during POST if there are problems with the network controller.

So, the major features that really distinguish Gigabyte G1.Sniper from regular mainboards are Creative CA20K2 sound processor and Bigfoot Killer E2100 network processor.

 
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