12/01/2013 | 08:58 PM
Besides ordinary mainboards, Gigabyte has been producing specialized models for overclockers and gamers for the last few years. So when you see a huge product package that looks like a rusty ammo box with bullet marks, you should know it is a G1-Killer series mainboard from Gigabyte. Gigabyte’s regular products feature a blue color scheme whereas overclocker-targeted models are aggressively orange. Gaming mainboards from Gigabyte are mostly colored a camouflage green. Well, the packaging, logos and colors are just exterior markings whereas the fundamental distinguishing feature of the G1-Killer series is their hardware and software components from Creative Technology and Bigfoot Networks. The former company is quite a well-known one while the latter had become so prominent that it was purchased by Qualcomm Atheros to keep on developing its projects under a new signboard.
You may have read our review of the LGA1366 mainboard Gigabyte G1.Sniper which was based on the Intel X58 Express chipset. Then, the G1-Killer series was expanded with the G1.Sniper 2 (LGA1155, Intel Z68 Express) and G1.Sniper 3 (LGA1155, Intel Z77 Express). The number 4 has negative associations in the East, which must be the reason why the next model in the series, based on the Intel Z87 chipset and designed for LGA1150 processors, is named Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5. In our today’s review we will take a look at its features and capabilities, noting where it differs from its predecessors and similar LGA1150 models from other brands. We’ll test it at its default settings, overclock it and measure its power consumption and performance.
The G1.Sniper 5 product box is large and robust, yet it is now quite a conventional cardboard package instead of the rusty ammo box.
You can find a large picture of the mainboard on the back of the packaging with key features indicated as in the illustration below.
Although the box has no flap, the mainboard is additionally packed into a transparent plastic case inside. Below it, there are its numerous accessories:
We are already familiar with the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth kit bundled with Gigabyte's top-end mainboards except that the antenna is different here. The kit includes a PCIe x1 card Gigabyte GC-WB300D which is based on a mini PCIe card Atheros AR5B22. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n at data-transfer speeds up to 300 Mbps over 2.4 and 5 GHz frequency bands and also provides Bluetooth compatibility (4.0, 3.0+HS or 2.1+EDR). The purpose of most of the accessories is clear but you may wonder what the Gigabyte OP-AMP Upgrade Kit does. We will talk about it in the next section of our review.
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:
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.
We talked about the impressive capabilities of Gigabyte’s new UEFI DualBIOS in our review of the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H mainboard. Any BIOS page or section can be used as the start BIOS screen while the list of shortcuts you can see on the right or after a right button click provides a way to quickly access frequently used sections and options. The display resolution and background are customizable. The six Home section pages let you compile frequently used options as is convenient for you. The BIOS of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 has the same interface except that the blue color scheme of Gigabyte's regular products is replaced with the green color of the G1-Killer series.
It is important that you can easily switch back to the classic BIOS interface and even use it as the default one. Of course, doing this deprives you of the customization opportunities, but some users just don't need them. The classic interface contains all BIOS options and is static, so you are not distracted by anything that's moving or changing in the screen. And since we already told you about the new UEFI DualBIOS in our previous review, we want to remind you about Gigabyte's classic BIOS now.
When you press the F2 key to switch to the classic mode, you conveniently find yourself in the M.I.T. section (Mainboard Intelligent Tweaker) which contains all of the fine-tuning and overclocking parameters available. The start screen only shows a list of subsections and some basic system info.
Next goes the informational M.I.T. Current Status subsection where you can check out your current system parameters.
The Advanced Frequency Settings subsection is about clock rates and frequency multipliers. You can check out the results of your changes right here whereas the new options, CPU Upgrade and Performance Upgrade, will help you overclock your CPU and whole computer automatically.
CPU-related technologies, power-saving modes and frequency multiplier settings belong to the Advanced CPU Core Settings. This subsection contains the new K OC option for energy-efficient (i.e. without volt-modding) overclocking of K-indexed CPUs which come with an unlocked frequency multiplier.
The Advanced Memory Settings subsection is where you can specify your memory subsystem parameters. The new option called Memory Overclocking Profiles is designed for automatic memory overclocking. With one mouse click you can switch between memory profiles that vary in frequency, timings and voltage.
The numerous memory timings can be set up on individual pages.
The Advanced Voltage Settings are distributed among several BIOS pages. The Advanced Power Settings page is about the new digital power system. Now you can choose an operation mode for the CPU voltage regulator, flexibly counteract the CPU voltage drop at high loads, and specify some other options.
The CPU Core Voltage Control page lets you specify voltage on different CPU subunits. You can leave the CPU voltage at its default value, fix it at a certain level or add an offset value to the default one.
There are individual pages for changing chipset and memory voltages. The Chipset Voltage Control page contains the PCH Core and PCH IO options whereas the DRAM Voltage Control page only contains one option, DRAM Voltage. The downside of grouping BIOS options into numerous subsections and individual pages is that you have to spend quite a lot of time to access a particular parameter.
The PC Health Status subsection reports current voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. The speed of the two CPU fans and three of the system fans is set up individually. The fourth and fifth system fans are set up together. You can choose one of the two predefined fan regulation modes (Normal or Silent) or set everything up manually. As is typical of Gigabyte mainboards, CPU fans can be regulated even via 3-pin connection. Five of the system fans can do that, too, but the two 3-pin fan connectors are not regulated or monitored at all.
The last subsection, Miscellaneous Settings, used to appear in the M.I.T. section or be empty or disappear altogether from Gigabyte’s BIOS. Now it is used to choose an operation mode for the PCI Express slots and improve performance in old benchmarks like 3DMark01.
The System Information section is similar to the former Standard CMOS Features section. It reports basic system info and lets you change the BIOS language and adjust system date and time.
In the BIOS Features section you can specify the boot device order, disable the startup picture, control other parameters and technologies (e.g. virtualization), and enable security passwords.
The Peripherals section allows you to control peripheral devices and onboard controllers. You can enable chipset-specific technologies here such as Intel Rapid Start and Intel Smart Connect.
The Power Management section contains a typical selection of power-related options.
The Save & Exit section is where you can apply your changes or load default BIOS settings. You can also manage BIOS profiles from here. The mainboard stores up to eight BIOS profiles which can be given descriptive names. The profiles can be saved to external disks or loaded from them. A unique feature of Gigabyte mainboards, the current BIOS settings are saved after the mainboard starts up successfully - even the total number of successful starts is recorded. Thus, you can get back to a working BIOS profile even though you have not explicitly saved it.
There are a few hotkeys available in the BIOS interface. Pressing F9 outputs system information while the integrated firmware update tool Q-Flash is evoked by pressing F8 (or choosing the corresponding menu option).
Except for the lack of the new customization opportunities, the classic BIOS from Gigabyte contains the same setup options as the new Dashboard interface, so you can easily use it to fine-tune and overclock your computer. The choice of the interface depends only on your aesthetic preferences.
Like many other mainboard makers, Gigabyte regularly revises its exclusive software bundle, adding new and removing old utilities. Gigabyte mainboards with Intel's 8 series chipsets come with an updated bundle, too. You can download the individual utilities separately but you have to install the APP Center application to launch and update them. Unfortunately, Gigabyte utilities still do not ask you for the installation path but always install somewhere on the system disk. APP Center appears as a gears icon in the bottom right of the screen (it is the leftmost icon in the picture).
The APP Center shell is installed together with the Live Update utility by default. As you install more Gigabyte utilities, they will fill the list that opens on your clicking the APP Center icon.
The gear icon in the top right of the program window opens its settings. You can choose the interface language and color, specify the update period, allow APP Center to start with the OS. The program interface is green by default for the G1-Killer series but you can choose orange (as for overclocker-friendly models) or blue (as for ordinary mainboards). The application launch icon for APP Center is created only on the Windows 8 start screen by default. So if you've closed the utility and work in the Desktop mode, you'll have to switch to the Start Screen mode to restart it.
EasyTune goes first on the list of utilities available via APP Center. It is a familiar name but we were quite unprepared to see the huge new program window – 1600x900 pixels. The start screen reports system information (frequencies, memory, mainboard and CPU). In the bottom part there is a panel with information about the current clock rates, voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. The gigantic program window still turns out to be not large enough to avoid scrolling, though.
We’d prefer a more compact representation of information. The huge window with small islands of useful data doesn't look user-friendly at all. Unfortunately, it is impossible to change its size. EasyTune won't launch at all if your display resolution is lower than 1280x720 pixels.
The EasyTune settings only let you choose whether to apply your overclocking and fan speed adjustments after restarting.
EasyTune’s Smart Quick Boost window lets you overclock the CPU to predefined levels or switch it to a power-saving mode.
If you choose Advanced, you will be able to set up clock rates, frequency multipliers and voltages manually. This screen contains scrollbars too, which is quite nonsensical for such a huge program window.
The Smart Fan window is where you can calibrate your fans and choose a regulation mode for them.
In the Advanced mode you can set up the mainboard’s seven 4-pin fan connectors individually. Like in the BIOS, the last two system fans are regulated together. You can move the key values in the chart with your mouse and switch between the fans using the dots above the chart. We couldn’t switch to the RPM Fixed Mode tab, though.
The System Alerts screen allows you to specify temperature and fan speed thresholds and set up their update rate. Permissible voltage ranges cannot be specified so the voltages can be as high or low as you want.
The 3D Power screen duplicates some of the Advanced Voltage Settings from the mainboard's BIOS. However, after we had set the CPU Phase Control option at Balanced, EasyTune showed it as Extreme Performance. It is not clear if the program gets the value wrong or the BIOS option just doesn’t work.
Clicking on the Hardware Monitor icon opens a fanciful diagram with data about voltages, temperatures and fan speeds. The numerous colored lines form a chaotic picture which is hard to read for specific values.
That’s the end of EasyTune’s functionality. The following utility, @BIOS, didn't change for years, but now has been revised to offer more capabilities. Its purpose is to automatically update the mainboard's firmware by downloading it from an appropriate server. It can also use an already downloaded file and lets you save the current firmware version before updating. The new option Face-Wizard can be used to change the picture which is shown each time the mainboard starts up.
The USB Blocker tool can block certain types of USB-compatible devices. When you start the program for the first time and change its settings, you have to enter a password.
The EZ Setup utility offers a quick way to specify an operation mode for your disks and enable such technologies as Intel Smart Response, Intel Rapid Start, Intel Smart Connect and Gigabyte eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D.). Everything is done automatically, so you don't have to change any BIOS options yourself.
The ON/OFF Charge 2 utility lets you quickly recharge iOS or Android-based gadgets if you connect them to two special USB ports, which feature increased current and work even when the computer is turned off.
Using the Smart Recovery 2 utility, you can create a disk image and later restore the whole disk partition or specific files out of it.
The last utility offered by APP Center is Live Update. Despite its obvious simplicity, it took us some time to understand how to use it. There was a message prompting us to choose required updates but we could not select them even after we restarted the utility or the OS. Moreover, Live Update doesn’t recognize that some utilities are already installed. For example, our chipset driver is version 22.214.171.1247 and the network driver is version 18.3 but APP Center doesn’t see that and suggests that we install them.
Since we couldn’t select particular items, we had to click Update and download all of them. However, the Live Update utility refused to do that, saying that we had to select necessary updates first.
Recalling our experience of playing quests, we did some pixel-hunting and found that the updates could indeed be selected by checking checkboxes in front of their names. The problem is that the checkboxes are barely visible.
We saw the new interface of Gigabyte’s exclusive utilities for the first time when we were preparing the Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3H review. We didn’t open them twice then, though. For our today’s review we had to check them out with all their downsides. The interface is new indeed while the functionality has been extended. The overall impression is, however, spoiled by the important EasyTune utility and by Live Update with their awful GUI solutions.
We performed all our tests on a testbed built with the following components:
We used Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.2, Build 9200) operating system, Intel Chipset Device Software driver package version 126.96.36.1997, AMD Catalyst 13.4 graphics card driver.
As usual, we had no problems assembling and starting up our test configuration. The G1.Sniper 5 is designed in the E-ATX form-factor but has a standard length, so it is going to fit easily into ATX computer cases, save for the most compact ones. We then updated the BIOS to the latest version available. When starting up, the mainboard shows a picture with reminders about the active hotkeys.
You can enter the BIOS interface by pressing Del. The F9 key will show you a window with system information (you can open the same window by pressing F9 in the BIOS). F12 shows a menu for choosing a boot device. The End key will launch the integrated firmware update tool Q-Flash. We don’t see the Tab key in the list although it is traditionally used to remove the startup picture. This option is available in the BIOS Interface but there’s no point in enabling it: after transitioning to the UEFI BIOS, Gigabyte mainboards have ceased to output any data about the POST procedure. It is hardly a downside because today's mainboards start up very fast. To make the process even faster, you can enable Fast Boot in the BIOS.
Haswell-based CPUs have a number of downsides, but they should be given credit for consuming less power than their predecessors when idle. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen a mainboard to enable this advantage by default. With every LGA1150 mainboard, you have to manually turn on each CPU power-saving technology for that. Gigabyte’s mainboards have such options on the BIOS page called Advanced CPU Core Settings. By the way, if an option is set to Auto, it doesn’t mean the corresponding technology will work.
One of the downsides of Haswell-based CPUs is that their high-precision integrated regulator sets voltage too high as soon as you try to tweak it. That's why the automatic overclocking features available in Gigabyte's BIOS (CPU Upgrade and Performance Upgrade) aren't practical for overclocking a little and cannot be used for overclocking much. Instead, you can enable the K OC option for safe and energy-efficient overclocking. It works like the MultiCore Enhancement or Enhanced Turbo options on mainboards from other brands, but is better. The mentioned options increase the CPU frequency multiplier at high loads to the maximum level which is normally permitted by the Intel Turbo Boost technology for single-threaded loads only. For our Intel Core i5-4670K processor it means that the clock rate is increased to 3.8 GHz at any load instead of dynamically changing from 3.6 to 3.8 GHz. The K OC option from Gigabyte increases the frequency multiplier by x2 at any load. As a result, the CPU will be clocked at 3.8 GHz at high loads, at 3.9 (instead of 3.7) GHz when three of its cores are in use, and at 4.0 GHz when only one or two CPU cores are in use.
We recommend the same method – increasing the clock rate without changing CPU voltage – to overclock any processor, especially the Haswell, which has the above-mentioned problem with its integrated voltage regulator. It is easy to overclock this way on Gigabyte mainboards. You only have to set the CPU Vcore and CPU Vcore Offset options at Normal in their BIOS, so that the voltages remained at their defaults and were not increased by the mainboard automatically. Then you just step up the frequency multiplier, looking for the highest clock rate your CPU is stable at. Our CPU was stable at 4.3 GHz, which is quite high for a Haswell.
Energy efficient overclocking is only possible if you don’t increase voltage. It will ensure higher performance and, despite the increased power consumption, you can expect long-term savings due to the reduced amount of energy spent for each computation. Energy efficient overclocking is going to be environment-friendly as we showed in our Power Consumption of Overclocked CPUs review. However, when we test mainboards, we want to check them out under different conditions and loads, so we choose what overclocking method ensures the highest results. Higher clock rates and voltages mean harsher test conditions and it is under such conditions that we can better see any flaws or problems in mainboard design. That’s why we overclock our CPU to 4.5 GHz in our mainboard reviews, fixing the voltage at 1.150 volts and using the XMP settings for our memory modules.
When we overclock by fixing the CPU voltage at a certain level, some of the power-saving technologies get disabled. The CPU's frequency multiplier is lowered at low loads but its voltage always remains high. Anyway, we stick to this overclocking for the duration of our tests, especially as it doesn't affect the computer's idle power draw much.
In our ASUS Z87-Deluxe review we focused on the CPU’s cache memory frequency. When the Intel Core i5-4670K works in its standard mode, its cache memory frequency varies dynamically in a range of 800 MHz to 3.8 GHz. The same is true for the ASUS Z87-Deluxe, but when the CPU was overclocked, its cache memory frequency got fixed at 3.8 GHz whereas on other mainboards it would vary in sync with the CPU clock rate from 800 MHz in idle mode to 4.5 GHz at high loads.
The G1.Sniper 5 turns out to have peculiarities of its own in this respect. When the CPU is overclocked to 4.5 GHz, its cache memory frequency varies in a range of 2200 at low loads to 4000 MHz at high loads. Moreover, when the CPU works in its standard operation mode, the range is 1400 to 3800 MHz.
It must be noted, however, that the cache memory frequency doesn’t affect performance much in most cases. For example, the recently tested Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3H performed quite fast, enjoying an advantage over its opponents at overclocked settings, i.e. when the CPU had a lower cache memory frequency than on the other mainboards. Let’s see what the G1.Sniper 5 can offer in terms of performance.
We usually benchmark mainboards in two test modes: at the default settings and with the CPU and memory overclocked. The first mode is interesting because it shows how well the mainboards work with their default settings. It is a known fact that most users do not fine-tune their systems, they simply choose the optimal BIOS settings and do nothing else. But this time it was needed to correct some settings for all motherboards, excepting the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 and Gigabyte GA-Z87-D3H which works as specified by Intel by default. For the ASUS Z87-K we had to manually set the CPU turbo multipliers to prevent frequency drops at high loads. For the ASRock Z87 Extreme4 we had to disable Power Saving Mode. For the MSI Z87-G43 we disabled Enhanced Turbo, and for the ASUS Z87-Deluxe and Intel DZ87KLT-75K we manually increased the CPU power limits.
The results are sorted in the order of descending performance.
We run the CPU test of Cinebench 11.5 five times and calculate the average result.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark for a long time already and it proves very illustrative. It generates repeatable results and its performance scales perfectly depending on the number of computing threads.
x264 FHD Benchmark v1.0.1 (64 bit) helps us test video transcoding performance. The original version of the benchmark with the version r2106 coder could make use of AVX instructions but we use version r2334 to enable the new AVX2 instruction set available on Haswell CPUs. The results are the average of five runs of the benchmark.
We benchmark performance in Adobe Photoshop CS6 using our custom test that is based on the Retouch Artists Photoshop Speed Test and consists of typical processing of four 24-megapixel images captured with a digital camera.
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using the WinRAR archiver with maximum compression level.
The recently released PCMark 8 suite allows us to benchmark overall system performance and the disk subsystem in particular. It can also help measure the battery life of a mobile device. We use the “Home” test package that includes typical home applications: web browsing, creating and editing of documents, simple games, photo editing, video chat.
The next diagram shows the results of the CPU tests from 3DMark Fire Strike. They are obtained in a special physics test that emulates the behavior of a complex gaming system with numerous objects:
The benchmark integrated into Hitman Absolution is very convenient. It can be launched directly from the game, from the game launcher and even from the command prompt. We use the maximum quality settings from the “Ultra” profile and a pretty high display resolution.
Batman: Arkham City also reacts eagerly to any changes in the CPU clock rate, and it uses DirectX 11. We run the integrated benchmark five times at the “Very High” visual quality settings and then calculate the average result.
As you can see, the G1.Sniper 5 configuration takes last place in Adobe Photoshop CS6 and PCMark 8, yet it is not too far behind even compared to the leader ASRock Z87 Extreme4. It is in the games (Hitman Absolution and Batman: Arkham City) that we see the largest gap, but the overall level of performance of the new mainboard from Gigabyte is quite acceptable.
Now let’s see what performance can be expected from our configurations with their CPU and memory overclocked. We reached the same overclocking results with all these mainboards: a CPU clock rate of 4.5 GHz and a memory clock rate of 2133 MHz with timings of 9-11-11-31-2N. The only exception was the Intel DZ87KLT-75K as it set the timings at 9-11-11-31-1N.
The overall picture has changed. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 has got closer to its opponents in PCMark 8 and Batman: Arkham City. In the rest of the applications, it is about as fast as the other tested mainboards.
We perform our power consumption measurements with an Extech Power Analyzer 380803. This device is connected before the PSU and measures the power draw of the entire system (without the monitor), including the power loss that occurs in the PSU itself. In the idle mode we start the computer up and wait until it stops accessing the system drive. The mainboards are sorted in alphabetic order. The results of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 are colored differently for the sake of readability.
We feel ashamed now that we criticized the ASUS Z87-Deluxe for its higher power consumption in comparison with similar mainboards. The PLX PEX 8747 switch built into the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 provides performance benefits for multi-GPU configurations but does that at the expense of high power draw.
For all their downsides, Haswell-based CPUs should be given credit for requiring less power in idle mode in comparison with their LGA1155 counterparts. Unfortunately, we can’t see that when the mainboards work at their default settings, so we have an additional test mode called Eco. It means the same default settings but we manually switch all options referring to Intel’s power-saving technologies from Auto to Enabled in the mainboards’ BIOSes. This helps improve the results, lowering the power consumption of our configurations considerably.
We want to remind you that we install an AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics card into our test configurations. If we instead used the CPU-integrated graphics core, the overall power draw would be lower than 30 watts (perhaps not with the G1.Sniper 5, though). Haswell-based CPUs are indeed very economical when idle, so it is a shame that the mainboards do not ensure this advantage by default. You have to correct some BIOS options for that.
For power consumption tests under high load we run the LinX utility, which is a graphics shell for Intel’s Linpack benchmark and supports AVX instructions. It is heavier on the CPU than ordinary applications, yet it is just an application nonetheless. It is quite possible that there are some other programs that can be just as heavy. That’s why we stick to using LinX for the purpose of checking the computer out for stability and when measuring its power consumption.
The numbers are high, but they are close to the highest power consumption possible at all. To measure the power draw of our configurations in typical applications, we used the Fritz benchmark. It doesn’t really matter which exactly application you use for that purpose. Any ordinary program that can run on all four CPU cores will produce the same or comparable results. So it turns out that we shouldn’t worry about the high power draw under the AVX-using LinX. The typical power consumption is about 100 watts whereas the most economical mainboards need even less.
By the way, you have to count in the graphics card’s power draw to calculate the overall system consumption. We use CPU loads in our power consumption tests, but if we load the AMD Radeon HD 7970, the total power draw will be close to 250 watts at default settings and even higher at overclocking.
Now let’s see how much power our configurations need when overclocked.
We don’t have a special Eco mode for the overclocked configurations because we always use as many power-saving technologies as possible while overclocking. Instead, we show you a summary diagram with the power consumption of each mainboard at different settings. The results are paradoxical. The overclocked systems (working at increased CPU voltage) need as much power as in the Eco mode and less than at the default settings. It just proves once again how important it is to enable all power-saving technologies if you want your computer to be energy efficient.
The overclocked systems need much more power at high loads compared to themselves at the default settings. The high frequencies and increased voltages show up then.
The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 needs much more power than the others in idle mode, but the gap narrows at high loads and when the mainboards are overclocked. We can also remind you that LGA1155 mainboards with PLX PEX 8747 bridge have a typical power draw of over 80 watts when idle. LGA2011 mainboards with comparable PCIe sharing capabilities need even more power. Although we tested LGA2011 products quite a long time ago and our testbed configuration has changed since then, we are absolutely sure that the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5, although more voracious than regular LGA1150 mainboards, is more economical than older products with comparable functionality.
There are no ideal mainboards, so the question is whether the particular model’s highs outweigh its lows. Gigabyte’s G1.Sniper 5 has few downsides and most of them are not serious. Like other Gigabyte mainboards, it doesn’t report any POST procedure data when starting up, but that's hardly a problem. Its idle power draw is rather high, which is typical of LGA1150 mainboards from any brand. The Live Update and EasyTune utilities have awful user interfaces, but we hope that their developers will do something about that eventually. That's in fact all the downsides we can find about this mainboard.
As for the advantages, they are too numerous to be listed in a single paragraph. To mention but a few, the G1.Sniper 5 offers a lot of USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbit/s ports, an increased number of PCIe lanes, a discrete Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card, and two integrated network adapters (one of which is based on Intel's newest Gigabit Ethernet controller and another supports bandwidth prioritization thanks to the Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 chip). The mainboard carries a POST code indicator, nine fan connectors (two for CPU fans), Power/Reset/Clear CMOS buttons and two BIOS chips with two BIOS switches. It has a customizable UEFI DualBIOS that can be used with the classic BIOS interface. Its audio subsystem is based on a 4-channel audio processor Creative Sound Core3D and allows you to replace its opamps for sound customization. Featuring premium capacitors, a headphone amplifier, gold-plated connectors and EMI insulation, it ensures high sound quality.
The mainboard also features Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 5 Plus technologies, heatsinks with an additional fan and support for liquid cooling systems, voltage check points, and handy latches of graphics and memory slots.
Gigabyte’s LGA1150 mainboards are overall a very good series of products as they have no problems at their default settings and let you easily overclock CPUs. You should consider them if you plan to switch to a Haswell processor. The G1.Sniper 5 is a special product, though. Its PLX PEX 8747 switch ensures speed benefits for multi-GPU configurations but at the expense of increased power consumption. Obviously, it wouldn't be rational to use this mainboard with only one graphics card. You should also note that it is E-ATX, being 2 cm wider than ATX mainboards, which may make a difference for certain computer cases.
Being as good as other LGA1150 mainboards from Gigabyte, the G1.Sniper 5 offers huge functionality. It is quite expensive but you know what you pay for. If you can fully use all of its features, it won't disappoint you.