Intel P67 Shootout - The Top Guns


Gigabyte P67A-UD7

Gigabyte P67A-UD7

After unleashing the most expensive motherboard on the world with its UD9, which we reviewed here, Gigabyte has the UD7 in store for its P67 generation. No bets on whether there will be a P67 based UD9 in the future, but the Gigabyte P67A-UD7 is a sure thing. And it is a heavy board too. A check with our electronic scale showed that the normal-sized ATX Gigabyte board was in fact heavier than the Extended ATX ASUS Maximus IV Extreme by 100g. That's likely due to Gigabyte's well-known Ultra Durable 3 feature, which doubles the amount of copper in the PCB (and increases its weight). For those who care about these things, this Gigabyte has a 8-layer PCB, which is identical to the ASUS. 

Like the other Gigabyte boards this generation, the vendor has gone with a matte black PCB. Coupled with the gray, black and gold highlights on this board, it reminds us of audio cards with their gold plated connectors and such.

Looks aside, its enthusiast billing means that it gets the full spectrum of Gigabyte's proprietary technologies, which are too numerous to list here and should already be familiar to enthusiasts. The board supports a decent number of SATA ports, with both eSATA and FireWire retained despite the entry of USB 3.0. Gigabyte has the same number of USB 3.0 ports in total as the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme with 10. The difference is in the configuration, as the UD7 comes with only six at the rear, while four more are available via onboard headers.

Like many high-end boards, Gigabyte has gone with the NF200 controller for its 2/3-way multi-GPU configuration. Overall, there are four PCIe slots for your graphics cards but only two PCIe 2.0 x16 slots have the full 16 lanes, while the other two have 8 lanes each. These two 'x8' PCIe x16 slots each share bandwidth with one of two proper x16 slots, so installing any card in these slots will reduce the lanes on the corresponding x16 slots to x8. Hence, 3-way would end up being x16/x8/x8 and that is effectively the maximum number of cards you can install.

Black gold and heavy. That's our initial impression of Gigabyte's top P67 board currently, the UD7.

A very familiar sight, with six USB 3.0 ports at the rear and up to 10 when you include front-panel USB 3.0 headers. Dual Gigabit LAN, eSATA and FireWire ports are also found. We could have done with a Clear CMOS button here though.

The SATA ports can be a bit confusing over which ones are SATA 6Gbps and which are SATA 3Gbps. That's due to the fact that Gigabyte has labeled its SATA 6Gbps ports from the extra Marvell in black too. So, the four SATA ports here on the right (white and black) are SATA 6Gbps while the other four SATA (all black) are all SATA 3Gbps from the Intel chipset.

Nothing unusual here, with the black motif extending to the DIMM slots. One minor problem with black DIMM slots is that it's difficult to see the slots in proper once the board is installed within a casing in lower lighting conditions. A common scenario is if you need to re-sit the memory or troubleshoot it. This is a minor quibble though.

A close look reveals the power, reset and Clear CMOS switches. The layout seems a bit haphazard though it's not the first time we have seen such a design from Gigabyte.

USB 2.0 ports are now relegated to front-panel header status on the UD7. There's also a LED segment for debugging purposes.

Gigabyte's logo looks extremely nice here in gold on the chipset heatink. On its right is the Marvell storage controller.

There are only two proper PCIe x16 slots here with the full 16 lanes, with Gigabyte recommending that users choose the first PCIe x16 slot for a single card for optimal performance. The other PCIe x16 slots actually have 8 lanes of bandwidth. Installing a 3-way configuration will result in an x16/x8/x8 setup.

As we have seen earlier, VIA's USB hub controller is used to enable more USB 3.0 ports.

The many onboard controllers clustered behind the PCIe slots, including familiar names like Realtek (LAN and audio) and NEC (USB 3.0).

Gigabyte has a 24-phase power design to deliver stable power to the processor, which sounds similar to their existing designs.

The impression we get from this board is that there isn't anything new compared to its existing P55 boards. With the exception of having more SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 ports, that is. The layout does seem much improved, though that's more from the removal of older interfaces like IDE and floppy freeing up more PCB space. While some boards are clearly designed for the overclocking enthusiast in mind, like the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme, the Gigabyte UD7 comes across as more targeted for power users in general who require the features, stability and hopefully performance. Perhaps Gigabyte is saving its best for a more extreme board.

Superficially, it would seem that Gigabyte has not implemented any UEFI BIOS on this board, which contributes to the impression that Gigabyte is merely replicating its technologies from the previous generation and updating to the new chipset. However, as we have explained previously, Gigabyte has decided to go with the tried and tested 'old-school' interface familiar to its users, but it's a Hybrid EFI (that supports 3TB disks) underneath all that. It just lacks some of the spiffy new interface enhancements that are possible with the new breed of UEFI BIOS.

Features-wise, there is plenty to chew on, but there doesn't seem anything particularly new this time round. Perhaps Gigabyte already debuted most of its utilities and features in the previous generation and has little more to add this time round. For all we know, the less fancy approach by Gigabyte could also mean it has concentrated on delivering what matters most, which may mean a more competitive performance. With a retail price of $509, this Gigabyte board will need to show something substantial to justify its price tag. We'll find out soon in the benchmarks.