12/03/2010 | 12:12 PM
It’s easy to find a name for a mainboard when you have only three or five models in a series. You name your basic model first, then add “Pro” for the midrange one, and “Elite” or “Extreme” for the flagship. But what if there are a dozen or more models in a single series?
Gigabyte has long found a solution to that problem. The company’s mainboards have simple and understandable names, falling into several categories. If you see the number 2 at the end of a Gigabyte mainboard’s name, for example “D2H”, then you have a basic microATX product. A basic full-size mainboard would have the number 3 in its name, like “USB3” or “UD3”. “UD4” or “UD5” would mean a midrange product whereas senior models would be called something like “UD7” or even “UD9”.
Following this logic, you can easily learn a lot of things about the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) mainboard from its name. Obviously, it is based on the Intel X58 Express chipset and is thus meant for LGA1366 processors. It is a new model as denoted by revision 2.0, and it is a basic model since it has “UD3” in its name. While these assumptions are all correct, you may be surprised at the rich capabilities and functionality of this mainboard. In fact, its price is the only entry-level thing about it!
Gigabyte’s same-series mainboards come in similar boxes, so this package design is already familiar to us from our Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0) review. We are going to use the latter model as a point of reference for the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0).
Besides the actual mainboard you also get the following accessories:
It used to be easy to tell an entry-level mainboard from its top-end counterpart as it would have fewer graphics card and memory slots and would not support multi-GPU technologies, but now we’d never think the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) is a basic model after taking a look at it.
The most notable difference from the senior model is the changed cooling system. This model has the same number of heatsinks on each of the hot components, but the heatsinks are not combined into a single system with heat pipes. There is only one heat pipe connecting two heatsinks here. Thus, the cooling system is simpler, yet effective enough for coping with its job even if you overclock the mainboard.
The rest of the differences have to be looked for. There is no POST indicator and no Power and Reset buttons. The CPU voltage regulator has fewer phases. There is only one rather than two network ports at the back but the mainboard’s back panel still looks exemplary, using all the space available for the different interfaces:
We have noted a few insignificant differences but the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) has almost the same set of basic features which impressed us so much in our review of the senior model. This mainboard supports all modern LGA1366 processors, including six-core ones, and offers the same number of memory and graphics card slots (the operation modes of those slots are the same, too). It has a lot of onboard controllers that provide IDE, SATA 3 Gbps, SATA 6 Gbps, USB 3.0 and FireWire interfaces.
The component layout chart also shows that the mainboard has a complex indication system which uses a number of multicolored LEDs to report the current voltages and temperatures of key components like the CPU, memory, and chipset. The rows of LEDs even indicate the number of active power phases while the bright-blue ones show how high the base clock rate is.
Thus, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) is but formally positioned as an entry-level product. It only differs from the senior model in extra features which have almost no effect on its functionality whereas the main set of capabilities has remained the same and is richer than you can find with many other mainboards.
We have described BIOSes of Gigabyte’s mainboards a number of times. The last time it was the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0) model. Gigabyte’s mainboards have one peculiarity. The company issues BIOS updates for an entire product series at once, so junior models do not differ from senior ones in terms of BIOS options. That’s why we will just offer you this table which lists the key BIOS features of the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0):
We can also show you snapshots of all BIOS screens including those that contain rarely used settings.
We carried out our tests on a testbed that included the following components:
We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7600) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version 126.96.36.1995, ATI Catalyst 10.9 graphics card driver.
Gigabyte’s GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0) and GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) mainboards are very much alike to each other. They have almost the same BIOS options and the same peculiarities. Particularly, each of them increases the base clock rate to 135 MHz in default mode.
This kind of overclocking doesn’t affect the mainboard’s stability, yet you can easily turn it off if you don’t like it. Just set the Base Clock Control option in the Advanced Frequency Settings of the mainboard’s BIOS to Enabled and the frequency will return to 133 MHz. We didn’t change that setting in our tests, though, but we utilized all the power-saving technologies and Intel Turbo Boost by enabling the C3/C6/C7 State Support option in the CPU-related BIOS screen.
We easily overclocked our CPU with this mainboard even though we had to use somewhat different voltages than with the senior model. Increasing the base clock rate from 133 to 177 MHz, we made our CPU work at 3.9 GHz.
The power-saving technologies were all active even at overclocking, lowering the frequency multiplier and voltage of the CPU when the latter was idle.
Thus, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) is just as good as its senior cousin at overclocking, too.
As usual, we are going to compare the mainboards speeds in two different modes: in nominal mode and during CPU and memory overclocking. 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. That is why we run a round of tests almost without interfering in any way with the default mainboard settings. In this case, however, we did enable “Intel Turbo Boost”. For comparison purposes we are going to use the results of Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0) mainboard tested earlier.
We used Cinebench 11.5. All tests were run five times and the average result of the five runs was taken for the performance charts.
We have been using Fritz Chess Benchmark utility for a long time already and it proved very illustrative. It generated repeated results, the performance in it is scales perfectly depending on the number of involved computational threads.
A small video in x264 HD Benchmark 3.0 is encoded in two passes and then the entire process is repeated four times. The average results of the second pass are displayed on the following diagram:
In the archiving test a 1 GB file is compressed using LZMA2 algorithms, while other compression settings remain at defaults.
Like in the data compression test, the faster 16 million of Pi digits are calculated, the better. This is the only benchmark where the number of processor cores doesn’t really matter, because it creates single-threaded load.
There are good and bad things about complex performance tests. However, 3D Mark Vantage has become extremely popular. The diagram below shows the results after three test runs:
Since we do not overclock graphics in our mainboard reviews, the next diagram shows only CPU test from the 3D Mark Vantage suite.
We use FC2 Benchmark Tool to go over Ranch Small map ten times in 1280x1024 resolution with medium and high image quality settings in DirectX 10.
Resident Evil 5 game also has a built-in performance test. Its peculiarity is that it can really take advantage of multi-core processor architecture. The tests were run in DirectX 10 in 1280x1024 resolution with medium image quality settings. The average of five test runs was taken for further analysis:
As expected, there is no big difference between the mainboards.
Let’s see what we have if the systems are overclocked by increasing their base clock rates.
We see identical results again, expectedly enough. The mainboards are both close to each other in their capabilities and achieve the same overclocking results, so they deliver the same performance.
We performed our power consumption measurements using 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 system up and wait until it stops accessing the hard disk. Then we use LinX to load the Intel Core i7-930 CPU. For a more illustrative picture there are graphs that show how the computer’s power consumption grows up depending on the number of active execution threads in LinX (both at the default and overclocked system settings). We performed the test in four modes: idle mode, single-thread load, four-thread and eight-thread load.
It is no wonder that the mainboards are close in terms of power consumption in default mode but we might have expected them to differ when overclocked because we used slightly different voltages. However, the difference is small even then. The overclocked mainboards consume about the same amount of power at any load.
As we have found out in this review of the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0), it has some differences from the senior model GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0), yet those differences are mostly insignificant. The lack of Power and Reset buttons doesn’t affect functionality at all because even enthusiasts who run mainboards on open testbeds do not always use them. Ordinary users won’t need such buttons at all. There is a BIOS reset button at the back panel which is a far more useful feature (even though we didn’t have to use it during our tests). Gigabyte’s mainboards have long been able to identify too high settings and can automatically boot up in safe mode. By the way, Gigabyte has corrected an annoying drawback of its mainboards: they used to reset their BIOS settings to their defaults and proceed to booting the OS up without telling the user a word about it. Now they issue a message to inform the user about the incident.
The Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) lacks a POST indicator but it is only useful in those rare cases when the mainboard is out of order. Mainboards usually work normally after all, so this feature is but rarely called for.
A mainboard based on the rather hot Intel X58 Express chipset should have an efficient cooling system. While being simpler than on the senior model, the cooling system of the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) is still quite sufficient. There is the same number of heatsinks on the same components, but they are just not combined into a single system with heat pipes. There is one heat pipe left, connecting two heatsinks. The mainboard is cooled properly both in default and overclocked mode.
There are three more points where the two mainboard models differ. First, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) has fewer phases in the CPU voltage regulator. However, this didn’t prevent it from overclocking our CPU to its maximum, consuming the same amount of power as the senior model at that. Second, it has only one network controller as opposed to the senior model’s two. Two network controllers may be necessary for some complex network configurations, which is not a common scenario for a home computer. Besides, you can always buy an add-on network card for that purpose. Otherwise, the two models have the same accessories, BIOS options, and functionality (which is enhanced by means of numerous onboard controllers and includes modern interfaces USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps). Each has a practical PCB design and an exemplary back panel with a lot of connectors.
The third important point of difference is that the junior model is much cheaper. Its price is just a little higher than $200, which is very inexpensive for an LGA1366 product. While you can easily find a cheaper mainboard based on the Intel X58 Express, it can hardly be that functional.
We liked the senior model Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD5 (rev. 2.0) but we must confess the junior Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) wins our sympathies now. It is inexpensive and but formally positioned as an entry-level product because it is actually just as good as the senior model and surpasses products from other manufacturers. Despite the UD3R suffix in its name, it is not alike to ordinary entry-level mainboards which are limited in some respects. Thanks to its broad functionality, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) will make a good foundation for a high-performance modern computer.
We are proud to award Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R (rev. 2.0) mainboard our Recommended Buy title: