Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 Review

gotdamojo06 - 2010-12-15 13:05:11 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: gotdamojo06   
Reviewed on: January 30, 2011
Price: $179.99

Introduction:

Are you looking to upgrade your current system? Maybe you are moving yourself away from an older socket, or maybe you are not very happy with your current motherboard.  Perhaps you just want USB 3.0.   Whatever your reasoning is for needing/wanting a new motherboard for your system, Gigabyte has a new motherboard out, the GA-X58-USB3. This motherboard is jam-packed with a bunch of features and hosts a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the rear IO panel. I am very curious to see exactly how well the new board from Gigabyte is going to compare to some of the other ones that we have tested, as well as to see how well it is going to be able to overclock my very stubborn i7 920 C0 processor.

Closer Look:

The packaging for the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 is quite busy as there are a bunch of logos and blurbs on it to give you information about the board and the features that it has to offer. In the top right hand corner of the package, you will find the Gigabyte logo printed, the top left hand corner shows a tag stating "Unlocked Performance". There is a large USB 3.0 Onboard Acceleration blurb in the left hand corner of the package letting you know that with this board you are going to be able to run USB 3.0 accessories. The GA-X58-USB3 has a USB On/Off Charge system for your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch, when your computer is on, or even when it is turned off or in sleep mode. You are going to also see a 3 Year Warranty logo in the direct center of the packaging and to the right of that, the packaging states that USB 3.0 offers you 10x speed over USB 2.0, as well as showing a USB Power 3x logo. As we keep looking at the front of the packaging, you see the Intel Core i7 and Core i7 Extreme logos and the Intel Chipset logo, to let you know which processors are supported. Right above the model name, X58-USB3, you will find that the board is one out of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 series, and it does have Windows 7 Support. Under the model number, the Ultra Durable 3 logo shows you that it has a 2oz Copper PCB, Japanese solid capacitors Lower RDS(on) MOSFET, and Ferrite Core Chokes. At the bottom of the packaging are the Smart 6, LGA 1366, CrossFireX, and SLI logos. When you look at the back of the package, additional details can be found regarding specifications and further clarifications of the technologies listed on the front. Once the packaging is opened, the accessories are laying on top of the inner packaging that holds the motherboard in place during shipment. The motherboard itself is wrapped up in an anti-static bag that is going to keep it protected from any static electricity that it may encounter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are quite a few accessories that are shipped with the motherboard: three different booklets, an Installation CD, two packages containing SATA cables, a back plate for the motherboard, a 2-way SLI bridge, and a Gigabyte case badge. The three booklets are the Installation guide, the Smart6 User Manual, and the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 user manual that is going to go over all of the features that the motherboard offers. The installation CD includes the Chipset, SATA, RAID, Network, and Audio drivers. You are also going to get Norton Internet Security and Adobe Acrobat Reader on the disc. Gigabyte has also included their EasyTune System Enhancement Utility, and G.O.M. (Gigabyte Online Management Utility) on the CD. Each package for the SATA cables includes two SATA cables - one of which has a single 90° connector on it. A 2-way SLI bridge is included among the accessories, as well as the GA-X58-USB3's back plate and a Gigabyte case badge sticker, which you can put on your case if you choose to.

 

 

 

Now that we know exactly how the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 is packaged and what comes with the board, it's time to take a closer look at the motherboard's layout and features. 

Closer Look:

Taking a first glance at the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3, you are first going to notice that the entire PCB is a nice bright blue color and is pretty open with a bunch of space available to installing different parts to the mainboard. The CPU area is pretty well open which is going to allow you to install a larger heatsink/fan setup to cool any processor that you may install in the board. The back of the board is pretty simple, you are going to see two back plates, the black one is the back plate for your CPU socket, keeping it in place and giving it some extra support for even a stock CPU cooler; the smaller gray one is for the stock North Bridge cooler that is installed on the board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first thing that I want to take a look at is the CPU socket; the GA-X58-USB3 uses the LGA1366 CPU socket. There are the four holes surrounding the CPU socket that are there to install a cooler to cool the processor, the stock CPU cooler that comes with the Core I7 processors uses the pushpin mounting system. The back panel for the motherboard is the next section that I want to take a look at. From left to right, you are going to get your PS2 Keyboard and Mouse ports, a Coaxial S/PDIF Out connector, four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports (blue colored connectors), two more USB 2.0 ports, a RJ-45 LAN port , and finally the onboard Audio outputs. The audio outputs from top left going down then from the top right going down are: Center/Subwoofer, Rear Speaker, Side Speaker, Line In, Line Out, and MIC In.

 

 

The Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 motherboard does have quite a large selection for PCI slots on the motherboard, in the image working your way from the top down, you are going to find two PCIe 1x, a PCIe 16x, a PCIe 1x, another PCIe 16x, a regular PCI slot,and a PCIe 16x slot. The chip sitting in front of your two PCIe 1x slots at the top is the Realtek RTL8111E controller which is going to control the RJ-45 LAN port on the motherboard. The iTE IT8720 chip sits in front of the PCI slot; this chip runs off of the South Bridge and controls your PS2 Keyboard and Mouse. There are six DDR3 DIMM slots installed on the X58-USB3 motherboard.  They are color coordinated, the blues being your even numbered slots, at the top starting at DDR3_2. This is going to allow you to install up to a total of six DDR3 sticks and run them in triple channel mode, with a maximum of 24GBs installed in the system.

 

 

Along the bottom edge of the motherboard are three USB connectors to install more external USB slots, these are only limited to your USB 2.0 or 1.1 slots. The one that is a white color is the special slot that is going to allow you to use the On/Off charge feature offered by the X58-USB3 motherboard that we will cover later in the review. The front panel header pins are also located along this edge that will allow the user to connect the power and reset buttons, the power LED, HDD LED, message LED, speaker, and chassis intrusion cables. Along the next edge of the boardis the SATA 2 connectors; there are six of them on the motherboard. All six of the SATA ports do support the SATA 3Gb/s standard and are controlled by the southbridge of the motherboard. The onboard SATA controller found in the South Bridge is going to give you support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10.

 

 

Last but not least are the North Bridge and the South Bridge on the motherboard.  The North Bridge is found closest to the CPU Socket and is covered with a large heatsink that says GIGABYTE on it - the North Bridge used on this motherboard is the Intel X58. There is a heat pipe coming out of the North Bridge's heatsink that goes directly into the heatsink installed over the voltage regulators, sitting below the back panel connectors. There is a smaller heatsink installed on top of the South Bridge that I have mentioned before, it is the Intel ICH10R.

 

 

Now that we have taken a look at the motherboard itself and highlighted the features, it's time to take a look at the software and drivers included with the GA-X58-USB3.

Closer Look:

CD Content:

The first thing that we need to do is put the Installation CD in the drive on your computer. Once you have your disk inserted, you are going to get a new window that automatically pops up for you, if it does not, just double click the CD logo in My Computer. Once you have this new window displayed on your computer, you can choose different options as far as what you are going to be able to install on your computer.  

The first screen you will see is the Chipset Drivers screen with the XPress Install screen showing - this is where you are going to find all of the different drivers for your fresh Windows install with your new motherboard. You can also go to the Install Single Items tab that is going to allow you to only install the drivers you wish to have on your computer. There is an Install All button located at the top of this screen; this is going to install all of the drivers listed on the page.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next screen that we are going to navigate to is going to be the Application Software screen, the first tab on this screen is the Install GIGABYTE Utilities tab. This is where to install all of the Gigabyte developed software such as G.O.M., Easy Tune 6, DMI Viewer, Face Wizard, @BIOS, Q-Share, and Update Manager. Your only option here is to install all of the applications individually by selecting the Install button by the name of the application. The next tab is the Install Application software tab,where third party software is found, such as Norton Internet Security, Acrobat Reader, Realtek Ethernet Diagnostic Utility, and FireFox. The third and final tab is the Install New Utilities tab. This screen is where the newest applications from Gigabyte are, such as Smart6, Dynamic Energy Saver 2, and Auto Green. Auto Green does require a Bluetooth dongle installed on your system so don't bother installing it if you do not have one.  

 

 

The final screens that you are going to find are the Technical Manuals screen with the tabs: Application Guides, Driver Disk Contents, and User's Manual. These tabs are going to be helpful if you need to find more information about a certain application such as Smart6 or EasyTune 6. They also provide a Contact screen with Gigabyte's address, telephone numbers, fax numbers, and their website URL. The system screen is where you are going to find a simple system information list with information such as the motherboard name, BIOS version, CPU name, Memory information (total installed), OS information and finally your CD version information.

 

 

 

USB 3 Host Controller Information

The first application that we are going to take another look at is the USB 2.0 Host Controller information - this application is the controller for your NEC Electronics USB 3.0 ports on the motherboard. There is not much of anything that you can do from this application except for view the Driver version and Firmware Version. The Driver Version that I have installed on my system is 1.0.18.0 and Firmware Version 3025.

 

@BIOS

The next application that was installed on my computer is the Gigabyte application, @BIOS. This application is quite useful if you are not very handy with flashing a motherboards BIOS and you need to update your current BIOS version. Here you are going to find the Flash Memory Type, the Flash Memory Size, the BIOS Sign on Message, and the BIOS Vendor. You are going to be able to update the BIOS from GIGABYTE server, Update BIOS from File, or Save Current BIOS to a File to ensure you have it saved on your computer if you are happy with the current version you are running before you do flash your BIOS. 

 

Face Wizard

Gigabyte's Face Wizard application is where you are going to be able to change the image that is displayed when you first boot up your PC for your BIOS messages, you can have just about any image that you wish to have. You can select a BIOS that you have saved on your computer or the one that you have currently installed on the motherboard. You are also able to load a different image, select the Auto button to flash your current BIOS file with the new image you have selected, you can also save it if you wish to lend your cool BIOS loading screen to your friends with the same motherboard. Selecting the red help button will give you all of the information about the buttons you will need to know. In the help prompt you are also going to find out that your image must be saved as either a BMP or PCX file format and can not be any larger than 640x480.

 

 

 

I decide to use the Overclockersclub background image that we use in our reviews as my new BIOS startup image, what I had to do was resize it down to 640x480 and save it under a BMP file type, there was some color loss and detail as it is also required to use a smaller image file.

 

 

DMI Viewer

The DMI Viewer application is a nifty little application that is going to allow you to view different pieces of vital information about your computer and the currently installed hardware, and it does give you very detailed information. When I select the Processor Information, I am going to get information such as the Socket Designation, Processor Type, Processor Family, Processor Manufacturer, Processor ID, Processor Version, Processor Voltage, External Clock, Max Speed, Current Speed, Processor Upgrade, and Processor Status. The processor is not the only thing that you are going to be able to take a look at.  

 

 

Dynamic Energy Saver 2

Dynamic Energy Saver 2 is a program that is going to help you to reduce the amount of power that your computer is going to consume when you do not necessarily need all of that power at your finger tips. When you first start it up, you are going to get a blacked out screen that lets you know how many watts your CPU is currently using. When you turn the system on, you are going to be able to go into your advanced settings which allows you to lower your BCLK up to -30%, change some of the voltage settings for your CPU, allow the application to lower the northbridge and southbridge voltages, turn your monitor off after a pre-determined time and lower the Core Clock, turn your HDDs off after a certain amount of time, lower your Memory clocks up to -30% (the same percentage as your CPU BCLK) as well as lower the voltages of the memory, finally you are able to use the Smart Fan feature that lowers any fans hooked up to the fan headers on the motherboard. At the bottom of the screen there is a Power Saving Level indicator that has three buttons labeled 1, 2, and 3. When level one is active, your Smart Fan and CPU power saving settings are enabled. Level two adds your graphics card and HDDs settings to your power savings, while level three is going to enable your Chipset and Memory power saving settings.

 

 

Closer Look:

 

Easy Tune 6:

Gigabyte's Easy Tune 6 software is the application that you are going to be given from Gigabyte to tweak your system's settings to get the most performance that you possibly can. The software is setup so that just about anyone who is familiar with overclocking should be able to jump in and get started and learn a few tricks. The CPU tab is setup very similar to the look of the main screen for CPU-Z: you are going to get your CPU clock settings, your motherboard model and BIOS version, as well as all of your CPU specific features such as L2 and L3 cache, manufacturing technology, core name, CPU name, and your voltages. The memory tab is once again very similar looking to the memory tab of CPU-Z, here you are going to be able to view the settings for all of the memory sticks you have installed in any of the six slots. You are going to be able to see the manufacturer, the module size, the maximum bandwidth, what type of memory it is, as well as a very handy Timings Table. The tuner screen is the first screen that shows up when you launch the software once it is installed on your computer.  There are three large circles in the center that have preset overclocked settings for your processor, they give you names for each of them in terms of what processor they are similar to. For the i7 920, preset one is named i7-920+, giving you a clock speed of 2.8 GHz with a BCLK of 140 MHz. Preset two is nicknamed i7-940+ with a clock speed of 3.0 GHz and a BCLK of 150 MHz, while preset three is named i7-965+ with a BCLK of 160MHz and a clock speed of 3.20 GHz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Tuner tab, if you click the Easy mode at the top of the screen, you are going to get a screen that shows you what your CPU is currently clocked at, your current BCLK, memory speeds, PCI-E, and PCI speeds are set at. You only have a slider next to the BCLK section to be able to adjust your CPU clock speed. At the top of the screen, are three tabs: Ratio, Voltage I, and Voltage II; however, they are currently locked under the easy mode. When you select the Advance mode you are going to be able to select into those other tabs. Under the advance mode and under the Frequency tab, you can change your BCLK setting, but now you get a slider for your Memory speeds as well as your PCIe settings. The ratio tab is where you are going to see all eight of the cores for the i7 920 listed with a slider allowing you to change your multiplier anywhere from 12x to 21x. The Voltage I tab is where you are going to be able to change your voltages for just about everything you can think of on the motherboard. You have access to your CPU PLL, QPI/Vtt Voltage, CPU Vcore, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Termination, Channels A to C Data VRef and Address VRef, PCIE, QPI PLL, IOH Core and ICH I/O. The Voltage II tab is where you are able to change the voltage for your ICH Core. When you have the settings how you want to keep them, you much click the blue Set button at the bottom of the screen. At the top of the screen, you are going to see a Set Profile Hot Keys... button, this is where you are going to be able to save a certain overclocking profile to your hard drive, then set a hot key combination to load that overclocking profile.  You are allowed to have four overclocking profiles active on your computer through the Easy Tune 6 software.

 

 

 

 

On the graphics tab, you are going to be able to overclock your graphics card.  There are three sliders on this screen: one being for the Core, one for the Memory, and a third for the Fan speed. Gigabyte also included a temperature display on this page so you know what your current graphics card temperature is. The Smart tab is where you are going to be able to set your smart fan settings, you can set it to disabled, automatic, or advanced. The advanced mode brings up two bars that show you what CPU temperatures are going to set what fan speeds and you can adjust them all if you wish to. the HW Monitor screen is where you are going to find some of your current voltage settings, your Alert settings, as well as your System and CPU temperatures.

 

 

 

Smart 6

The Gigabyte Smart 6 software suite is going to give you six different applications that are going to give you the ability to manage your system in a very user-friendly way. First up is the Smart QuickBoot, under this application you can set your computer to have a quicker BIOS boot and a quicker OS boot. The SMART QuickBoost application uses the three preset overclocking profiles that you get under Easy Tune 6: 2.80GHz, 3.0GHz, and 3.20GHz. Smart TimeLock is where different settings can be used of determining how much your computer is allowed to be on - maybe the computer is going to be set up for your children to access it and you want them to have limited access. You can set how many hours during the week the computer is allowed to be on as well as the weekend as a separate time frame. You can also set the time of day that your computer is allowed to be on for the weekday as well as for the weekend.

 

 

 

SMART Recovery is an application that is going to allow you to recover files that you may have deleted accidentally or thought that you needed to get rid of, but later down the line you found out that you needed them. The configuration is going to allow you to enable this feature, when it is enabled it will create an automatic backup of your system when your computer is first turned on,you can set the maximum percentage of disk space for each hard drive you have installed and that is being backed up from 15% to 50% of the total space allocated to backup storage. SMART DualBIOS is an application that is going to save up to 12 different passwords with a description and keep them locked away by a master password and keep them stored on your BIOS chip, you are also going to be able to set up different important reminders and have alerts popup on your screen when they are getting close.

 

 

 

SMART Recorder is the final application that is in the Smart 6 suite, this is an application that is going to allow you to monitor the activities in your system such as the time the computer was turned on/off or even when large data files were moved within the hard drive or copied to an external storage device.

 

 

Norton Internet Security

With your new motherboard, you get a 90 day trial version of Norton Internet Security, this application is going to monitor the websites that you visit while you are browsing the web letting you know if they are safe and should be trusted or if they should be avoided. You are also able to save website login information with Norton instead of keeping them saved inside Internet Explorer, FireFox, or what ever web browser you use. You are able to see on the home page what your CPU usage percentage is currently at as well as how much of it Norton is using. You can also scan your computer from this page, view your network settings and website settings. You can turn features on and off from this page as well such as: Insight Protection, Antivirus, Antispyware, SONAR Protection, Smart Firewall, Intrusion Prevention, Email Protection, Identity Safe, Browser Protection, Safe Surfing, and Download Intelligence.

 

Realtek - Ethernet Diagnostic Utility

Since the Gigabyte motherboard uses the Realtek RTL8111E chip to power the RJ-45 port onboard, you are equip with a Diagnostic utility that is going to give you insight into what you have going on with your network cable. You can view your MAC Address, IP Address, Connection name, Link Status, etc. from the General screen. From the Statistics screen you can see how many packets are being sent and received as well as your Throughput speeds in bps.

 

 

Cloud OC

The final application that the GA-X58-USB3 supports that I wanted to take a look at is the Cloud OC program from Gigabyte, this is a free overclocking application that facilitates PC overclocking though any web browsing capable devices such as a smart phone, iPad, iPhone, Netbooks, or notebook PC. All you need to do is install the application and get it up and going. The main screen that you come up to on your computer is going to be the Server settings screen, this is where you are able to set the way of connection, be it LAN/WLAN or Bluetooth PAN. You are going to get two different URLs to type into your browser that allow you a connection to your computer for remote overclocking. When you type in one of the URLs, you get the Gigabyte Cloud OC login page, click the button in the lower left hand corner of the screen and type your password and you will be in the system.

 

 

The first screen that you are going to see is the Tuner screen, this is where you are going to be able to change your BCLK, System DRAM, CPU Ratio, System PCI-E, CPU Vcore, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Termination, Channels A and B Data and Address VRef., QPI/Vtt Voltage, PCH Core, CPU PLL, and CPU VAXG Voltage.

 

 

The system Info tab is where you are going to be able to view your CPU Fan speed, Temperature, and VCore, the System Temperature, the System BCLK, DRAM Frequency, CPU Ratio, PCIE, PCI, and GFX Frequencies. Remote computer information is displayed at the bottom of the screen with the Machine name, user Name, OS Version, and what time the machine was booted up. The control tab is where you are going to be able to restart, power off, suspend, or hibernate your machine.

 

Closer Look:

 

The BIOS

If you are reading this review, then most likely you know exactly what the BIOS of your motherboard is used for; however, if you don't, then you are going to want to read this section pretty carefully as it does explain what each screen you may encounter is and what it does to your system. There are two main reasons for going into the BIOS, the first is to setup your computer to make sure you have your hard drives booting in the order you wish. The other main reason that someone may find themselves in the BIOS is to overclock their computer, as overclocking through the BIOS will give you the most stable overclock as opposed to overclocking through the operating system.

 

The first screen when navigating the BIOS is the BIOS Main Screen.  From here you are going to be able to navigate to the other screens where you can change any of the settings you may want to. At the bottom of the main screen is a list of functions that you can do such as press Esc to quit, F8 to enter Q-Flash, arrow keys to move around, F10 to save and exit, F11 to save CMOS to BIOS, and F12 to load CMOS to BIOS. The first menu that I want to take a look at is the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.). This screen is where you are going to go to begin overclocking your system. When you go in this screen, you are going to see more sub menus, as well as some current status of your system at the bottom of the screen such as your BIOS Version, the current BCLK, CPU Frequency, Memory Frequency, Total Memory Size, CPU Temperature, Vcore and DRAM Voltages. To see more detailed current status you are going to enter the first submenu called M.I.T. Current Status. When you select into the Advanced Frequency Settings menu, you are going to see the first section of where you are going to tweak settings to overclock different aspects of your system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first value that you can change is your CPU Clock Ratio (if it is unlocked, you are going to be able to raise it but if not you can only lower the multiplier). You are going to get a pop up when you press enter with the value selected, this is where you are going to be able to key in what value you wish to set, you can see it gives you 12 as a minimum and 21 as a maximum. There is a submenu here that you can go into called Advanced CPU Core Features, this is where you are going to enable or disable Intel Turbo Boost Tech, you are also going to be able to enable all four cores of the processor or select which core you wish to use if you only want one enabled. You can turn off the CPU Multi-Threading technology here as well if you wish to. CPU Enhanced Halt (C1E) is a seating that helps with saving power by lowering the CPU clock speed and voltages during the system halt state to help save power. C3/C6/C7 State Support is another power saving features that once again lowers your CPU clock and voltage settings when different system halt states are active to once again save power, but this feature is more advanced than C1E. CPU Thermal Monitor is the setting that you are going to either enable or disable that will monitor the CPU temperature and when the CPU is overheating, the CPU clock speeds and voltages will be reduced to protect the chip. CPU EIST Function is a setting that is going to control the Intel SpeedStep feature, which is going to lower your CPU clock speeds and voltages during lower CPU usage to reduce not only power but heat production. The final setting on this page is the BI-Directional PROCHOT; when this setting is enabled the CPU or chipset will be able to detect that overheating is occurring and will send a signal will be sent to lower the CPU performance to decrease heat production. If the setting is disabled, that will only allow the CPU to detect whether an overheating is occurring. Press the ESC button to back out of this submenu and get back to the Advanced Frequency Settings page. You are also going to be able to change your QPI Clock Ratio.   The options are Auto, x36, x44, x48, and Slow Mode as your choices. When you choose which one you want, the QPI Link Speed will automatically update on this screen to let you know what your new selection will adjust it to. The Uncore Clock Ratio is the next setting you are going to be able to change.  Your choices are from between Auto and x12 to x48. You are going to want to keep your Uncore Frequency around 2x of your memory speeds. The Base Clock, or BCLK as many people refer to it, is where you are going to get into the fun part of overclocking.  This multiplied by your multiplier is going to specify your CPU Frequency (ex. 133 x 20 = 2.66 GHz). You are going to be able to change the BCLK anywhere from 100MHz and 600MHz.

 

 

 

The System Memory Multiplier is the setting that you are going to change to get your memory speeds.  The options are Auto, 6x, 8x, 10x, 12x, 14x, 16x, and 18x. The Advanced Clock Control is for more seasoned overclockers and enables achievement of a stable overclock when you are looking to gain every last single MHz. The first setting is the CPU Clock Drive.  This setting allows adjustment of the amplitude of the CPU and Chipset Clock.  The settings available are 700mV, 800mV, 900mV, and 1000mV with 800mV being the default setting. The PCI Express Clock Drive allows the user to set the amplitude of the PCI Express and Chipset clock, with the same options as the CPU Clock Drive (however, 900mV being the default setting). You can set the CPU Clock Skew towards the bottom, which allows you to set the CPU clock prior to the Chipset clock. The IOH Clock Skew allows the user to set the North Bridge clock prior to the CPU clock. Both of these settings have values between 0ps and 750ps, in multiples of 50ps with a default of 0ps.

 

 

 

You can overclock your memory or set your memory settings by goiing back to the MIT screen and selecting the Advanced Memory Settings menu. The first option is the Extreme Memory Profile - this is an option you may choose to use to have the factory default timings and other settings loaded for you based on what kind of memory you have installed in your system.  If it is set to disabled, you set the settings manually. The System Memory Multiplier on this screen again, even though you can set it under the Advanced Frequency Settings screen.  As you can see, the options are all the same as the previous screen. The next setting on this screen is the Performance enhance.  There are three options here: Standard, which lets the system operate at its basic performance level; Turbo, which lets the system operate at good performance level; Extreme, which lets the system operate at its best performance level. The DRAM timing Selectable setting enables the user to adjust the memory settings at three levels: Auto, Quick, or Expert. Auto will lock the manual adjustments to be made, Quick will allow your basic memory timings, and Expert will unlock all of your timings to be changed. You can clock into Channel A/B/C Timing settings, which are where you are going to be able to adjust all of your RAM timings and the Channel A/B/C Turnaround settings, which provide access to the Turnaround settings.

 

 

 

By selecting the Advanced voltage Settings from the MIT screen, a screen appears that allows you to change all of the different voltage settings of your system. Default values for all settings on this page are Auto; directly to the left of all of the changeable values are what the default settings are. The first setting on this page is the Load-Line Calibration. This setting allows the user to compensate for the vdroop. The second setting is your CPU Vcore.  This is your CPU core voltage. Dynamic Vcore is only adjustable when your CPU Vcore is set to normal and allows you to add a little bit of Vcore to your stock CPU Vcore. You are going to get QPI/VTT, CPU PLL, PCIE, QPI LL, IOH Core, ICH I/O, ICH Core, DRAM Voltage, DRAM Termination, CH-A/B/C Data VRef, and CH-A/B/C Address VRef settings that you can control. Back on the Main MIT screen, the final menu is the Miscellaneous Settings.  Here you only have two settings that can be changed - Isochronous Support and Virtualization Technology. Isochronous Support will be able to determine whether to enable specific streams within the CPU and chipset.  The default setting is Enabled, with the only other option as disabled. Virtualization Technology will enable to disable Intel Virtualization Technology, which will allow a system to run multiple operating systems and applications in independent platforms.

 

 

 

The standard CMOS Features screen allows the user to change the date and time, as well as view the different hard drives and optical drives which may be installed. You are also going to see the Halt On option here. This setting is going to allow you to determine if the system will stop for any errors, no errors, or all errors except for a keyboard error. If you click into a hard drive you have installed in your system to manually set it, you are going to get the IDE Channel Slave option as well as the Access Mode settings. You will also see the Capacity of the drive as well as some other features of the drive listed such as the Cylinder, Head, Precomp, Landing Zone, and Sector. The advanced BIOS Features is where you are going to be able to set the Hard Disk Boot Priority, as well as the First, Second, and Third Boot Devices. On this screen you can enable or disable the Quick Boot feature, or set the Password Check. You can also change the HDD SMART Capabilities, limit CPUID Max to 3, No-Execute Memory Protect, Delay for HDD (in seconds), Full Screen Logo Show, Backup BIOS Image to HDD, as well as set which video card is going to get your Initial Display if you have more than one card installed.

 

 

 

The integrated Peripherals screen is where you are going to be able to enable or disable different features of the motherboard.  The Extreme Hard Drive setting is going to enable or disable function of the SATA controllers integrated in the Intel ICH10R chipset. ICH SATA Control Mode is where RAID selection in the BIOS can be dealt with. Other devices to enable or disable are the USB controllers on the board as well as the LAN controller. Clicking into the SMART LAN submenu shows the status of a LAN cable attached to the motherboard. Under the Power Management Setup menu, users can set different power functions such as how the computer is turned on - Power on by Mouse or Keyboard, which would allow the computer to be turned on by a random keyboard button press or mouse click. The PC Health Status screen displays the current Vcore, DRAM voltages, +3.3V, +5V and +12V status of your power supply, System Temperature, CPU Temperature, and MCH temperature. Your CPU Fans, System Fan2, Power Fan, and System Fan1 speeds are going to be listed on this page as well. You can also set your CPU Warning temperature.

 

 

 

Back on the Main BIOS screen, on the right hand side of the screen you are going to have listed your Load Fail-Safe Defaults, Load Optimized Defaults, Set Supervisor Password, Set User Password, Save & Exit Setup, and Exit without saving. Any one of these menus will pop up with a red popup asking you for an input if you wish to carry out the command you are attempting to select. For the passwords, you will get a text input box where you can set the password that you may want installed on the motherboard. The Supervisor password is what is going to be required to go into the BIOS and the User password will need to be typed in before the system can pass the POST screen.

 

 

 

 

Now that we know what the BIOS looks like and where all the settings are located, it's time to get to our testing setup, lineup of different benchmarks, and overclocking.

Specifications:

CPU

  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor in the LGA1366 package (Go to GIGABYTE’s website for the latest CPU support list.)
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU

QPI

4.8GT/s, 6.4GT/s

Chipset

  1. North Bridge: Intel® X58 Express Chipset
  2. South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R

Memory

  1. 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory
  2. Dual/3 channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest supported memory speeds and memory modules.)

Audio

  1. Realtek ALC892 codec
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby® Home Theater
  5. Support for S/PDIF In/Out
  6. Support for CD In

LAN

1 x Realtek RTL8111E chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

Expansion Slots

  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2) (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1)
  3. 3 x PCI Express x1 slots
  4. 1 x PCI slot

Multi-Graphics Technology

Support for ATI CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology
Technology (The PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots only.)

Storage Interface

South Bridge:

  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10

USB

Integrated in the South Bridge:

  1. Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 on the back panel, 6 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)

NEC chip:

  1. Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on the back panel

* USB 3.0 10x performance is a maximum theoretical value. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.

Internal I/O Connectors

  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  4. 1 x CPU fan header
  5. 3 x system fan headers
  6. 1 x power fan header
  7. 1 x North Bridge fan header
  8. 1 x front panel header
  9. 1 x front panel audio header
  10. 1 x CD In connector
  11. 1 x S/PDIF In header
  12. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  13. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  14. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper

Back Panel Connectors

  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  2. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  3. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  5. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  6. 1 x RJ-45 port
  7. 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/ Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)

I/O Controller

iTE IT8720 chip

H/W Monitoring

  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System/North Bridge temperature detection
  3. CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control

BIOS

  1. 2 x 16 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b

Form Factor

ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm

Unique Features

  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
  9. Support for Smart 6™
  10. Support for Auto Green
  11. Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
  12. Support for ON/OFF Charge
  13. Support for Q-Share

 

Features:

 

 

 

All information courtesy of Gigabyte @ http://gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=3571#ov

Testing:

Testing the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 motherboard will consist of running it at the baseline clock speeds to get an idea how it performs in stock trim and then it will be overclocked to see if putting the screws to my well worn DO stepping 920 will result in a higher clock speed than some of its contemporaries. To keep the results consistent and have a measure of repeatability, Intel's power savings and performance enchanting technologies will be disabled in the BIOS. The video card control panel settings will be left at the factory default settings with the exception of disabling PhysX for the 3DMark Vantage testing. How well is the new Gigabyte X58 motherboard going to do when its put to the ultimate test? There's only one way to find out!

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked Settings:

Overclocking in itself is always a time consuming process that takes patience and a lot of testing.  Add in a stubborn processor that does not clock very well, and you've got a recipe for a long night! Well overclocking on the GA-X58-USB3 motherboard is pretty much similar to overclocking on any other motherboard - go into your BIOS and begin moving up your bCLK until you are unstable, restart with higher voltages, you get the point. Well I was easily able to hit a maximum of 3.70 GHz with out going over 1.3 volts in the BIOS and 1.56 volts on the memory (when at 1480MHz). Going beyond 3.70 was quite a task, 3.8 was stable at 1.38125 volts and 1.56 volts on the memory (clocked to 1520MHz); however, anything past this point was not working out with the processor that I have, it wasn't a motherboard issue. So that's going to be a total of a 26% overclock over our baseline and a 42% overclock over stock speeds, not too bad.  Better speeds could have been had with a different chip.

 

Note: As I mentioned before, the i7 920 C0 stepping processor that I have is hitting a wall when the bCLK gets close to hitting anything near 200MHz. I decided to go out and grab an i7 950 and throw that in the motherboard to ensure that it was not the motherboard that was also limiting a chip from reaching 200+MHz on the bCLK. All I simply did was drop the chip in the GA-X58-USB3, go into the BIOS and change the bCLK to 201MHz and adjust the multiplier down to 15x which will give me 3015MHz for the clock speed. I had done this on the i7 920 as well; however, it would not pass the Windows loading screen.  

Maximum Clock Speeds:

Each CPU has been tested for its maximum stable clock speeds using Prime95. To gauge the maximum stability level, each processor had to be able to perform at least a one hour torture test without any errors.

 

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. Geekbench
  4. Office 2007
  5. POV Ray 3.7
  6. PCMark Vantage Professional
  7. Sandra XII
  8. ScienceMark 2.02
  9. Cinebench 10
  10. Cinebench 11.5
  11. HD Tune 3.50
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  3. Batman Arkham Asylum
  4. 3DMark 06 Professional
  5. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

The first part of our testing will be the system specific benchmarks.

 

Let's get started with Apophysis. This program is used primarily to render and generate fractal flame images. We will run this benchmark with the following settings:

 

 

The measurement used is time to render, in minutes, to complete.

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

WinRAR is a tool to archive and compress large files to a manageable size. We will use 100MB and 500MB files to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds. Additionally, I will use the built in benchmark as a comparison.

 

ZIP:

 

 

Lower is Better

 

 

RAR:

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Geekbench:

 

 

When it came down to the WinRar benchmark and the Apophysis, all of the numbers were pretty much even. The same was pretty true with the Geekbench results; however, the overclocked results for the GA-X58-USB3 were slightly lower due to the lower overclock.

Testing:

Office 2007 Excel Big Number Crunch: This test takes a 6.2MB Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and performs about 28,000 sets of calculations that represent many of the most commonly used calculations in Excel. The measure of this test is how long it takes to refresh the sheet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower Is Better

 

 

 

POV Ray 3.7: This program features a built in benchmark that renders an image using Ray Tracing. The latest versions offer support for SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) enabling the workload to be spread across the cores for a quicker completion.

 

 

Higher Is Better

 

PCMark Vantage x64 is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual CPU to see which CPU, if any, rises above the others.

 

 

 

In the Microsoft Office 2007 testing, all of the boards were just about in line with each other, which is very similar to the POV Ray 3.7 and PCMark Vantage results.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

 

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

 

 

Memory Latency

 

 

Cache and Memory

 

 

 

Physical Disks

 

 

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

 

The Sandra 2010 results were pretty much also all inline during the baseline speeds.  The only time that any of the scores were lower with the X58-USB3 board were during the overclocked testing, which is due to the CPU and memory not being clocked as high as other boards.

Testing:

ScienceMark tests real world performance instead of using synthetic benchmarks. For this test, we ran the benchmark suite and will use the overall score for comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

Higher is Better!

 

 

 

CineBench is useful for testing your system, CPU, and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.

 

 

Higher is Better

Cinebench 11.5

 

Higher is Better

 

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

Higher is Better

 

 

 

 

Lower is Better

 

Once again, you can see during the ScienceMark testing, the only time that the scores had any noticeable difference was during the overclocked testing when the X58-USB3 and Intel DX58SO boards were not able to get high CPU clocks, which is the same during the Cinebench 10 and 11.5 testing. The HDTune benchmarking was just about the same across the board.

Testing:

Far Cry 2:

Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built especially for Far Cry 2, this engine allows for real time effects and damage. This next generation First Person Shooter comes to us from Ubisoft surprisingly - not from Crytek. The game is set in a war-torn region of Africa where there is a non-existent central government and the chaos that surrounds this type of social environment. If you have seen the movie Blood Diamond, you know the setting. Ubisoft puts the main storyline of the game into focus with these statements: "Caught between two rival factions in war-torn Africa, you are sent to take out "The Jackal," a mysterious character who has rekindled the conflict between the warlords, jeopardizing thousands of lives. In order to fulfill your mission you will have to play the factions against each other, identify and exploit their weaknesses, and neutralize their superior numbers and firepower with surprise, subversion, cunning and, of course, brute force." In this version of the game, you don't have the beautiful water, but instead the beauty and harshness of the African continent to contend with. Most games give you a set area that can be played through, while Ubisoft has given the gamer the equivalent of 50km squared of the vast African continent to explore while in pursuit of your goals. The settings used are just a few steps below the maximum in-game settings and offer a good blend of performance vs. visual quality.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the results in the FarCry2 benchmark were again just about the same, the biggest difference was about 2 FPS.

Testing:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is the latest iteration of the venerable first-person shooter series, Call of Duty. Despite its long, successful pedigree, the game is not without substantial criticism and controversy, especially on the PC. Aside from the extremely short campaign and lack of innovation, the PC version's reception was also marred by its lack of support for user-run dedicated servers, which means no user-created maps, no mods, and no customized game modes. You're also limited to 18-player matches instead of the 64-player matches that were possible in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Despite all this, the game has been well received and the in-house IW 4.0 engine renders the maps in gorgeous detail, making it a perfect candidate for OCC benchmarking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 is another benchmark that is showing you that with very similar hardware installed, you are going to get very similar results and that CPU clock speeds are not going to change the FPS by much.

Testing:

Batman: Arkham Asylum is a new game that brings together two bitter foes, the Joker and Batman. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum, Gotham's home for the criminally insane. Your task is to rein the Joker back in and restore order. This game makes use of PhysX technology to create a rich environment for you to play your trade.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are going to see very similar results across the board in the Batman Arkham Asylum testing as well.

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is started. 3DMark06 presents a severe test for many of today's hardware components. Let's see how this setup fares. The settings we will use are listed below.

 

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the baseline testing of the 3DMark06 benchmarking suite, all the boards had very similar results; however, once you gave the CPU a boost in clock speeds, the scores did get a little bit better.  This is why the X58-USB3 and DX58SO scored lower.

Testing:

Featuring all-new game tests, this benchmark is for use with Vista based systems. "There are two all-new CPU tests that have been designed around a new 'Physics and Artificial Intelligence-related computation.' CPU test two offers support for physics related hardware." There are four preset levels that correspond to specific resolutions. 'Entry' is 1024x768 progressing to 'Extreme' at 1920x1200. Of course, each preset can be modified to arrange any number of user designed testing. For our testing, I will use the four presets at all default settings.

 Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3DMark Vantage scores once again show that similar hardware will yield very similar results.  As the CPU clocks got higher, the scores followed upward.

Conclusion: 

The Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 was a very simple board to setup and get working properly, especially with all of the software that was bundled with it. Not only do you get your typical overclocking software included on the Drivers CD, you also get Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver 2, Norton Internet Security, and Gigabyte Cloud OC. While Norton Internet Security is only a 30 day trial version of the software, you are able to get a feel for the software if you don't currently have anything protecting you while you are browsing the web.  You have the option to purchase if you like it. The Dynamic Energy Saver 2 helps minimize your computer's power consumption when you don't need all of the power that it can offer. Cloud OC is more of a gimmicky piece of software; however, it is still pretty cool.  It allows is remote overclocking, power down, restart, and monitoring of your system. Any device that is connected to the internet will be able to connect to the Cloud OC application and either overclock your computer or monitor its current state.

As ever more USB 3.0 devices become mainstream, it is easy to realize the requirement for onboard USB 3.0 on motherboards - such as the two ports on the rear I/O panel of the Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3.  USB 3.0 is backward compatible, with the trade-off being reduced performance. The X58-USB3 does also support multi-GPU configurations by either ATI or NVIDIA.  This provides not only the ability to be more powerful but also gives the diversity of being able to use which ever brand you may prefer or have on hand. When it came down to overclocking, the motherboard didn't really give me any problems getting up to 3.8GHz with the i7 920; however, that clock speed seems to be the maximum that my chip can reach as it is a C0 stepping. The BIOS was easily navigated - the different sub-menus kept similar items together appropriately; memory settings are all on a separate page from voltages, which are separate from the Chipset settings.

If you are looking to either upgrade your system to a LGA1366 setup or maybe you just want to get into a new motherboard, you may just want to check out the GA-X58-USB3 from Gigabyte.   While I was not able to hit the overclocking speeds I wished, I knew that my chip was not going to be able to do very well when it came to pushing it. The features alone on this board such as the USB 3.0, multi-GPU support, and the bundled software make it a good contender against the competition.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: