Riding in the wake of the slew of X79 motherboard launches, Gigabyte held a local seminar on 16th November 2011 to showcase their X79 offerings up close to the media. The boards on show were the G1.Assassin 2, GA-X79-UD7, GA-X79-UD5 and GA-X79-UD3. Earlier on, we've already shared detailed photographs of these motherboards. Now, we had a chance to inspect them first-hands, but more importantly, to listen to Mr. Hunter Lee, Product Manager from Gigabyte Technology to understand their motherboard positioning and to hear what new features they've incorporated in their latest motherboard line-up.
The G1.Assassin 2 is from Gigabyte's G1-Killer series (from which we've previewed its predecessor, G1.Assassin early this year). The other three boards belong to the X79 UD (Ultrable Durable 3) series and the top of the line board is the X79-UD7. The X79-UD7 looks like it's dressed in the orange flight suit of an X-Wing pilot from the Rebel Forces in Star Wars. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the Gigabyte GA-X58A-OC motherboard for which the UD7 is modeled after. This is because the UD7 is positioned as their OC-class motherboard in the X79 series. To support this further, the board sports only 4 DIMM slots, ideal for overclockers and power users who want to push their rigs to the highest performance levels. Lee said that installing four identical memory modules into four DIMM slots is the sweet spot for memory configuration in a quad-channel memory architecture. Any more installed memory modules above this optimal configuration may result in memory timing issues and will slow down the system.
On the other hand, the X79-UD5 is the only board to sport 8 DIMM slots and its target audience are power users who need to perform memory intensive computing tasks like video authoring and other intensive content creation workloads. The X79-UD3 has the most muted color scheme of the series with its dark and sombre tones. It has the same number of DIMM slots as the X79-UD7, multi-GPU support as well as USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps interfaces. All the boards have distinct color schemes and they feature crenellated heatsinks to cool the chipset and power regulation components.
The exciting new features of the X79 motherboards can be succinctly summed up in three digits, 3 2 4. First off, Gigabyte claims to be the first manufacturer to feature three digital power controllers on its boards. The controllers regulate power to the processor as well as the memory modules which are divided in Zone A and B respectively. Gigabyte has specifically introduced new digital PWM (pulse width modulation) controllers to limit and control current in the circuitry that powers the processor and its memory modules. To top this act, Gigabyte has implemented its Gigabyte 3D Power Utility that facilitates adjustment of the 3 dimensions that control power which are voltage, phase and frequency. This utility is free for download from Gigabyte and it is compatible with Windows operating systems.
The second part of their marketing spiel involves touting their dual UEFI BIOS and their nifty 3D BIOS utility. Gigabyte first introduced its DualBIOS technology as a failsafe mechanism against BIOS corruption and now their technology has been updated to feature the 3D BIOS. According to Lee, Gigabyte's new UEFI BIOS has been written from ground up and features '3D' visuals of the motherboard for a more illustrative and user-friendly implementation of UEFI BIOS. The 3D BIOS utility works smoothly with the an attached USB mouse, but if the mouse is not attached, the utility automatically switches to the traditional UEFI BIOS interface which is keyboard driven. Lee said that the complexity of building this new BIOS utility contributed in part to the slight delay to the availability of their X79 offerings.
The final highlighted feature to top things off is the launch of their Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi add-on card with a PCIe x1 interface. It is bundled with the G1.Assassin 2, X79-UD7 and X79-UD5. This card provides both Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth connectivity to the system. One application that makes use the system's Bluetooth and/or WiFi connectivity is Gigabyte's Cloud OC application. It allows power users to tweak their systems over the air using this application. Gigabyte is also in the process of launching its exclusive Cloud OC on the Apple App Store. It will also release another two exclusive iOS applications titled 'Picture Viewer' and 'Cloud BIOS' respectively.
We are pleased to have seen Gigabyte's X79 offerings up close and we feel that they have attempted to streamline the user experience of overclockers and power users with the new features they have introduced. Though we are not sure how well their target audience will take to the new look-and-feel of Gigabyte's implementation of UEFI BIOS. From a certain perspective, it feels like Gigabyte is trying to 'mollycoddle' them and make their overclocking and system tweaking experience more graphical and user friendly. Does this spell of a dumbing down of a hardcore user's experience or is this the path to take for all users regardless of their specific needs? Alas, there is no hard and fast answer for this conundrum but who doesn't like to be pampered once in a while?