High-end P67 Motherboards - A Sneak Preview


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. We held the ATX Gigabyte P67A-UD7 on one hand, with the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme which is an Extended ATX board on the other and they both felt quite similar in weight. A check with our electronic scale showed that the Gigabyte was in fact heavier 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). Like the other new Gigabyte boards this generation, the vendor has gone with a matte black PCB. Coupled with the gray, black and gold highlights on this UD7 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 mostly 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 are at the rear, with four coming as onboard headers.

Like the ASUS, 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.

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

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.

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 these premium boards. The UD7 also has 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.

Like the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme, VIA's USB hub controller is used to enable more USB 3.0 ports.

The many onboard controllers clustered behind the PCIe slots.

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 it would be a bit unfair to compare this Gigabyte board to the ASUS a page earlier, it is indeed pretty tame in terms of enthusiast features. Perhaps Gigabyte is saving them for a more extreme board. Of course one could make the argument that the ASUS Maximus IV Extreme is a tad excessive.

The lack of any UEFI BIOS on this board also contributes to this impression that Gigabyte is merely replicating its technologies from the previous generation and giving it a superficial facelift. While we have no doubts that the performance would be up to its usual standards, we have some doubt on whether this board has enough to persuade prospective buyers. Features-wise, there is plenty, 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. Well, 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 offering. All this is speculation at the moment, but come early next year, we'll find out how much of it is true.