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The X58 Motherboards You Can Afford
By Vincent Chang - 15 Aug 2010,12:02pm

Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R

Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R

Just like how the ASUS P6X58D-E is a lesser version of the P6X58D Premium, the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R shares much of the same DNA as the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7. Of course, some of those features are scaled down or removed for the more reasonably priced UD3R. For instance, the water block option has been removed from the UD3R, along with the Hybrid Silent-pipe 2, the optional heatsink which takes up one expansion slot. There's also only has a single heat pipe connecting two of the heatsinks surrounding the CPU socket. On the UD7, one gets an interconnected arrangement of heatsinks, with heatpipes linking all of them.

Generally, the layout and arrangement of the onboard components remain similar, but there's a bit more room on the UD3R, since features like dual Gigabit Ethernet controllers have been reduced to just one. Gigabyte however has not sacrificed any storage options going from the UD7 to the UD3R. One still gets floppy and IDE connectors, the six SATA 3Gbps ports from the Southbridge, two more SATA 3Gbps ports from another controller, two eSATA/USB combo ports, and finally, the two SATA 6Gbps ports from the Marvell controller.

Surprisingly, there are no onboard power or reset buttons, so you'll have to fall back to the good old front panel headers. Obviously, Gigabyte believes that the intended users of this model will have this board installed in a chassis, with no reason to boot up the board on an open-air system.

A very familiar layout and design from Gigabyte for its more mainstream take on the Intel X58. There's still no ditching the IDE connector however, while Gigabyte has again supplemented the SATA ports with even more.

Gigabyte has included two USB/SATA combo ports along with the blue USB 3.0 ports. There are the usual connectors you'll find on motherboards nowadays, like optical/coaxial S/PDIF outputs and one of the larger Clear CMOS buttons we have seen.

Yup, it's not a Gigabyte motherboard if it's not chock-ful of SATA goodness. Here, we have the six 'blue' SATA 3.0Gbps ports from the ICH10R Southbridge, two white ones that support SATA 6Gbps from the Marvell controller and two other similarly white colored SATA 3.0Gbps ports from another storage controller. And we haven't gone into the eSATA and IDE options.

At least Gigabyte hasn't gone with the eight DIMM slots configuration that we have seen on some of its other extreme X58 boards that take up even more PCB space and add to the price tag.

And here's the IDE connector along with USB headers. There are no onboard power and reset buttons, so one has to rely on the front panel headers here.

The Gigabyte branded 'SATA2' chip that adds two more SATA ports and the support for IDE devices.

Gigabyte is also not shy to add expansion slots and there are technically seven slots here. One of the PCIe x1 slots is rather close to the heatsink, which probably means you can only install a short add-on card there. Meanwhile, this board supports up to 3-way SLI/CrossFireX despite the four PCIe x16 slots.

These storage connectors make for quite a crowded board, and with four PCIe 2.0 x16 slots thrown in, it's even more of a squeeze. While there are four slots, this board only has the bandwidth to support up to 3-way SLI/CrossFireX and the space constraints also make it impossible to fit four dual-slot graphics cards anyway.

Like the UD7, the UD3R 'suffers' from its overwhelming number of features. For instance, the first PCIe x1 slot is unusable for longer expansion cards due to its proximity to the heatsink. While we have complained about Gigabyte's layout before, the manufacturer has got it mostly right on this board and if you discount the PCIe x1 issue highlighted, there's really nothing too serious that we could spot.

The usual heatsinks and heatpipes surrounding the CPU socket.

Apart from the main hardware features, Gigabyte has quite set of handy hardware frills like 3x USB power boost that delivers more power through a USB port for greater convenience and compatibility to power various devices effortlessly. Complimenting this feature is On/Off Charge feature that ensures adequate standby power to charge various devices such as an iPhone or iPad even if your PC is shut down. For the OC enthusiasts, Gigabyte has also incorporated other safety touches like LEDs to visually indicate if the voltages used are in safe level, whether the OC is low or high, and if the temperatures of the CPU and chipset are reasonable. These are the OV-Alert LED, OC-Alert LED and TMP-Alert LED. All of these features aren't unique to the UD3R variant but are also prevalent in most other new Gigabyte boards.

Gigabyte is also differentiating itself from the competition in its level of software utilities provided. From easy installation, to easy overclocking and even power management, Gigabyte has most of its bases well covered. However real-time overclocking tools are what they've been lacking considering ASUS had it TurboV utility available since 2008 for this purpose. Well, Gigabyte has just trumped ASUS in quite an unorthodox but commendable move in this department with Cloud OC - real-time internet based overclocking made a reality. While the idea of overclocking via the internet seems absurd at first, not when you consider that you can now interface with the system while its busy benchmarking, even in full screen. The utility works only in Windows Vista and Windows 7 to set up a virtual server to interface with the motherboard directly. Think of it as a real-time overclocking interface, only this time, you can access this control on any internet capable with a browser. Cloud OC gives access to overclock on-the-fly, monitor vital system status, and even remotely shut down, restart or hibernate your system. While trying this feature in a wireless LAN environment, we found that that settings applied on the Cloud OC utility were almost instantaneous - give and take a second of delay at most.

Currently Cloud OC utility works with any Gigabyte Intel X58, P55 or H55 chipset based motherboards and the utility is a free download. Complimenting Cloud OC, is Hotkey OC, which allows users to save various OC profiles and activate them via shortcut keys even while the system is busy benchmarking in real-time. Overall, this combination of Cloud OC and Hotkey OC are far more useful and practical solutions that can be applied across many motherboard models rather than the high-end ASUS TurboV Remote feature that's very confined to a particular motherboard model and is expensive as well. Cost aside, all of these functions are applicable only to a niche group of people, but it's good to see how Gigabyte has progressed traditional overclocking functions in this new decade.

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