Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

In my personal opinion, Gigabyte mainboards shouldn’t have given up their traditional blue-and-white color scheme. Now the boards look very dark and solemn. However, the color is not really that important after all. It is the features and functionality that matter.

The board supports all contemporary LGA 2011 processors, which are powered via eight-phase voltage regulator built from high-quality electronic components. Of course, we shouldn’t forget about the new digital technology – 3D Power, which allows flexibly adjusting the processor and memory power. There are four memory DIMM slots with quad-channel access that can accommodate up to 32 GB of RAM. Besides two SATA 6 Gbps ports and four SATA 3 Gbps ports delivered by the mainboard chipset, there are two additional Marvell 88SE9172 controllers providing another four SATA 6 Gbps ports. The third controller like that is responsible for two eSATA ports on the back panel. The chipset SATA 6 Gbps connectors are white, SATA 3 Gbps – black, SATA 6 Gbps provided by onboard controllers – gray. The drives can be connected very quickly and easily, there is even no need to consult the manual, because everything is very intuitive and clear.

Although Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 mainboard is an entry-level product, it features four PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots and therefore allows building 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI graphics configurations. Besides that, there are two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and one PCI slot for expansion cards. Although this mainboard has a lot of different slots and connectors, it still fits into the ATX standard dimensions of 305 x 244 mm. However, it is important to keep in mind that very large CPU coolers may interfere with the graphics card installed into the slot next to the CPU.

The backpanel has the following ports and connectors:

  • PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Eight USB 2.0 ports, six more are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • Coaxial and optical S/PDIF and six analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 audio codec;
  • Two eSATA 6 Gbps ports implemented via Marvell 88SE9172 controller. Two other controllers like that provide support for four additional internal SATA 6 Gbps ports;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Fresco FL1009 controller, second controller like that provides an additional internal pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built around Gigabit Intel 82579V network controller).

As usual, a quality layout will give you a better idea of the components location on the mainboard PCB:

There are five fan connectors, three of which are four-pin ones. Two four-pin system fan connectors are capable of slowing down even the three-pin fans. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no way to adjust the rotation speed of the fans plugged into the two three-pin connectors. Besides, Gigabyte mainboards lost their ability to adjust the rotation speed of the three-pin processor fan. All other features of Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 mainboard are quite standard for Gigabyte products. There is a special USB 2.0 port for charging mobile devices called “ON/OFF Charge”. The board has two BIOS chips, uses convenient color-coding for the ports and connectors on the front panel, all marking is made not only on the textolite, but also directly inside the actual slot.

I believe it is pretty clear what we meant when we said that Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 mainboard was superior to some of the higher-end models in features and functionality. Far not every entry-level board can boast four PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots. For example, Asus Rampage IV Formula also has four of those, but you will have to purchase a bridge for 4-Way NVIDIA SLI configurations separately, while here it is already included with the accessories. There are three Marvell 88SE9172 controllers that translate into four onboard SATA 6 Gbps and two eSATA 6 Gbps ports; two Fresco FL1009 controllers support USB 3.0. I believe some time ago this mainboard would be ranked at least as UD5, but today it is only UD3. However, I personally would call it a least “Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3+”.

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