Gigabyte EX58-UD4P Review
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959
Reviewed on: April 16, 2009
With the latest Core i7 processors from Intel, people are seeking more variety in motherboards. Companies have begun to release new motherboards, while others still are hard to find in circulation. Inherently, the Tylersburg chipset can support both Nvidia’s SLI and ATI’s CrossFire, so for people looking to jump on the i7 bandwagon, the main things to look for are how well built and placed the components on the motherboard are, as well as how stable the board operates from user experience; also many people go with who offers the best warranty. Many of you are into overclocking, so you'll look for the board with good heatsinks, and find out from word of mouth if it can clock well.
Gigabyte is a company that primarily produces motherboards for Intel and AMD processors, but also makes video cards, notebooks, HTPCs, desktops, and other computer components. The company is based in Taiwan, and was founded in 1986 as a research team. Gigabyte has turned into a top-tier motherboard company, and employer of over 8,500 people. The company strives for the best, and has even won the Taiwan Excellence Award 11 years in a row; they also claim that at least one in ten computers contain a Gigabyte motherboard, a staggering number considering how many motherboard companies are out in the world. Now that we are familiarized with the company, let us take a peek at the third motherboard in a line of five - the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P.
The box is a little larger than some motherboard boxes, but the first thing people will notice are the reflections across the whole package; the effect is inescapable during photography, and thus the effect is captured – although not nearly as good a reproduction as in real life, where it sparkles like a crystal. Many of the key features of this board are pictured on the front, Core i7 support, the Dynamic Energy Saver suite, 2 oz. copper layers in the circuit board that aid electrical and heat conduction, DualBIOS in the event that one fails, Ultra TPM security device for protecting data, and QPI speeds of up to 6.4GT/s. The back of the box dissects the circuit board, going into detail about the layers, emphasizing their 2 oz. copper inner layers (other motherboards generally only have 1oz inner layers), and 50,000 hour lifespan Japanese solid capacitors. More Ultra TPM chip information is presented, listing a 2048 bit key, and the DualBIOS protection where if the primary fails, a secondary BIOS recovers it. Hosts of overclocking tools are implemented on the motherboard such as OC-ALERT LED, TMP-ALERT LED, OV-ALERT LED, all three of which light up to warn if the overclock, temperature, or voltage settings are possibly dangerous. Also included is the Precision OV IC, which allows for finer steppings of voltage control. Also a point of interest that is listed on the rear are the power saving capabilities of the motherboard. The 6-Gear power phase switching with 12 power phases supporting VRD11.1 design, combined with 2oz copper inner layer give the board its higher efficiency. In fine print near the bottom, it is stated that the motherboard does contain lead.
The top is merely a scaled down truncated version of the front, as is the bottom minus the barcode stickers with model information. The 2oz blue corner covers the lower corner of the box, and so is featured on three sides, the other three are without it. The rest is basically the same, and used to keep any side from being empty.
Here again, the sides all have similar images and wording, save the other side having a small pink box with over a dozen different languages on the basic features: 3-way SLI/Crossfire, energy saving design, Core i7, and SATA 3Gb/s with RAID. The Ultra Durable 3 badge is stamped on each side, as are the Core i7 badges.
Many packets of cables, manuals, and dongles clutter the top of the opened box. There should be no problem getting this motherboard running; the motherboard lies hidden underneath the clutter, which blocks the view. The board is protected by the antistatic bag, and lays on a thin piece of foam.
With everything unpacked, let's take a better look at all of those accessories!
The kit consists of four SATA cables, two of which have a 90 degree connector, two SLI bridges for SLI and Tri-SLI, I/O panel with color-coded appliqué, flat ribbon IDE and Floppy cables, and an eSATA expansion slot with external power Molex to SATA, and SATA cables to finish the deal. The kit is not as grand as some other motherboards, but still fairly complete. Crossfire connectors are not included since they usually ship with the video cards, where as SLI connectors always ship with the motherboards. Three manuals are included, one for setting up and using the Ultra TPM, the User Guide, and Installation guide. Also included is a disk with drivers and programs, as well as two case badges for Gigabyte and Dolby.
The motherboard's I/O panel is color coded, thanks to an adhesive sticker; the plate has vents near the PS/2 ports, and punch-outs for the LAN port (or ports for the higher model motherboards). Some vendors have added foam or coatings to the backside, but it is not a big loss to go without.
The eSATA slot powers the external drives through a four-pin Molex connector, which is then converted into two SATA power connectors via a split cable. The two black SATA cables, which have the regular L-shape on one end and eSATA I-shape on the other, are used to hook up the drives.
This motherboard supports 2- and 3-way SLI and thus it comes with a regular SLI adapter and a Tri-SLI adapter. Four SATA cables are included in the package as well, two of which have a 90 degree connector on one end, useful in crowded cases where it can be difficult to connect to the SATA ports. The cables also come with latches.
The kit is enough to get most users going, and the eSATA addition is nice. Rounded or sleeved ribbon cables would have been a better alternative for the IDE and Floppy cables. Enough accessories, let's check the board out!
Finally, the motherboard itself is up to bat. Gigabyte for a long time has been known to make stable motherboards that usually look like Crayola helped with the design. This design is absent of many of the colors that used to grace the older boards, and in my opinion is nearly perfect here minus the few oddballs like the Orange Dream popsicle slots. Had they been a color that didn’t stick out so badly, this board would look spectacular. This board is much more serious looking, however. The five heat sinks dotted along the motherboard should also help in overclocking, especially the chipset, which can make or break high overclock attempts. The rear of the motherboard is standard, the CPU socket with back plate, but the North and South bridges also have them, and use screws with springs rather than the old pushpin method. This will definitely help temperatures out, and the back plates help keep the motherboard from bending under the pressure created by the screws.
The Northbridge heat sink is screwed in, and uses springs to even out pressure - keeping the heat sink level and with plenty more pressure than the old pushpin method. A Gigabyte faceplate covers both the Northbridge and power regulation heat sinks. A heat pipe snakes through from the power regulation all the way to the Southbridge.
The pushpins are saved for the cooler-running power regulation circuits. The top two heat sinks, as well as a small one by the Northbridge, both use pushpins - and could possibly benefit some from being screwed in, but manufacturing costs would increase; the heat released does not justify this measure however, since it runs cool already.
The I/O panel offers a variety of support, especially with the eight USB, single Gigabit LAN, a Clear CMOS button for easy CMOS reset, PS/2 ports, IEEE 1394, and SPDIF ports. A CMOS jumper, along with the CMOS battery, reside between the SATA and Southbridge heat sink, and below are Southbridge voltage indicator LEDs.
The two DualBIOS chips lay in the bottom corner of the motherboard, near the front of the expansion slots. Adjacent to them is the Ultra TPM encryption chip. Beneath the Southbridge lies the Gigabyte SATA II chip, which adds another two SATA ports and an IDE port to the motherboard.
The expansion slots consist of two PCI slots, and five PCI Express Slots. Two of the PCI-E slots are x16, the lower orange is really only wired for x8, and the top orange is an open-ended x4. The single x1 slot is a tight fit near the heatsinks and heat pipe, so usage would be limited, but it is still nice to have another slot. The open-ended x4 slot is a nice detail to see here, because it means that any card can be installed here, even a 16x card, a folders joy since in the past people would have to manually cut the end of the slot to allow a full-sized card here. Mixed with the fact that the board is built on the PCI-E 2.0 standard and the bandwidth doubles, making the x8 slot perform similarly to an x16 on the older PCI-E1.1 boards.
The front panel connection area is nicely laid out with print on the circuit board directing users to the appropriate color-coded pins for the given connections. The positive pin is also marked on each connection. Eight SATA ports are featured on this board, the white port for Gigabyte SATA (which also brings the IDE support) with RAID 0/1 and JBOD, the other six from the Southbridge with options of RAID 0/1/5/10.
The motherboard has two USB and two FireWire connections to allow for either an expansion slot or front panel device; a cap protects the IEEE 1394 pins. The yellow is reminiscent of the older Gigabyte boards, but is small so it does not skew the overall scheme by much. Above the orange slot is the TSB43AB23 chip which provides the IEEE 1394. For users who test boards outside of cases, or do not have power switches, as in overclocking competitions and just general testing, the fact that there are power and reset buttons on-board are very nice. Both are located on the top right corner near the RAM slots, with the two buttons being dissimilar in that a nice LED button is used for the power, with a small standard electronics button for the reset. Two rows of LEDs – the shorter of which is for frequency, while the longer is for the power phase – wedge between and above the buttons for user indication.
With the motherboard eye candy over, let's plug it in and see what the driver disk has on it.
The motherboard package came with a driver disk, which, once loaded up, is a page that is easy on the eyes; it also provides everything a user could want. Xpress Install allows users to easily install drivers like the Gigabyte SATA driver; also included in the drivers are the Dynamic Energy Saver program for power saving capabilities, and a browser update to make the default search provider Google.
Users can also individually install the drivers by clicking Install Single Items, with all of the same options that are listed under the Xpress Install tab, and execution is as simple as clicking the golden Install button to the right of desired file. Application software contains two tabs, the first used to install Gigabyte Utilities. These files range from BIOS tweaks for changing the boot up screen to BIOS updating applications. Networking tools are included, consisting of the Q-Share program, which is used similarly to shared space on Vista, and the Gigabyte Online Manager, which is a web-based computer access application, somewhat similar to Remote Desktop. Overclocking tools such as the DMI Viewer for viewing detailed information about the system, and EasyTune 6 for tweaking motherboard/video card settings in Windows are present. The last three applications are for recovery and updating; Time Repair is similar to Windows Restore points, where the program backs up and restores system data. Gigabyte Smart Backup is used with RAID, and can be used to monitor the array. Update Manager aides in updating these files.
The second tab, Install Application Software, is for installing third party programs that can be beneficial to have. The programs available include Norton Internet Security, Kaspersky Anti-Virus, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Realtek Ethernet Diagnostic Utility, WinZip, and Corel MediaOne. I can think of a good use for all but possibly the first.
Next is the Technical Manuals page with three tabs, first being the Application Guides. This contains guides to many of the included apps from Gigabyte, and also the Realtek Ethernet Diagnostic Utility software. The second tab, Driver Disk Contents, lists many different things included on the disk, all of which are organized by type.
The last tab, User’s Manual, is merely a quick installation manual, guiding users on how to install components, and get it running. It is not specific to this motherboard either, just a general guideline on installing a motherboard and compatible components.
The Contact page has the address, phone, fax, and website of Gigabyte. The System page contains some basic information about the system, the results can be saved to an HTML page and printed or e-mailed, however the e-mail function caused BSODs on my system.
The guides accessible on this disk are comprehensive and include images for examples; the Dynamic Energy Saver manual, seen here, shows how to set the program up. The quick install guide is only three pages long, and is fine for beginners since it is better than nothing, but it is only a quick guide. So, users attempting their first build should not solely rely on this guide, and should probably know how to install a CPU and other tasks beforehand anyway.
The included software from Gigabyte, such as the EasyTune 6 and Dynamic Energy Saver would not function on my machine. The Energy Saver claimed it needed to be updated, even when it was the latest version, while the EasyTune software would instantly crash. Other scenarios would cause blue screens. Unfortunately, this seems to be a problem with these programs on certain X58 setups. The Dynamic Energy Saver program here is run on an X48 Gigabyte board for visual purposes. When the program is disabled, it is dark. Clicking the Dynamic Energy Saver logo on the right causes it to come to life with blues and greens all over. A switch in the lower right corner enables CPU Throttling, the CPU Voltage Levels adjust how much energy is saved as well, with level one being the least and three the most, but possibly compromising performance quality. In the past the program has worked flawlessly, but cannot be tested on this machine.
To the BIOS!
Entering into the Award BIOS, the general pages are available. MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) contains the overclocking/settings aspect; voltages, speed, timings, all of them are here. With Core i7, there is no more front side bus; the Quick Path Interconnect connects everything. Replacing the reference front side bus is the BCLK frequency, which is just a number that some of the other settings base themselves off of. For example, the CPU speed of an i7 920 is derived from the CPU multiplier called Clock Ratio, multiplied by the BCLK. Likewise the memory multiplier called System Memory Multiplier, times the BCLK, derives the memory speed. Some manufacturers forget to double the rate, since DDR memory (Double Data Rate) is running at double the rate. Gigabyte, however, does not make this mistake and displays the true frequency of the memory. This page will be dedicated to the overclocking BIOS features, while the next will have the general setup pages.
After tweaking the frequencies, the task of setting the memory timings comes around, with channel specific tweaks available. The major settings (CAS, tRCD, tRP, tRAS, and Command Rate) are on the same page, with even more complex sub-timings in the Advanced DRAM Features. XMP is a competing technology to Nvidia’s EPP, and allows preloaded profiles of the memory to fill in the settings for users by the Advanced DRAM Features page, but only if the technology is supported. QPI and DDR3 voltage are also displayed in the MB Intelligent Tweaker and Advanced DRAM Features pages, along with memory multiplier and timing settings based on SPD. All settings are applicable to all three of the memory channels.
Voltage control is saved for the bottom, with the basic being immediately available, and more hardcore settings grouped by type in the Advanced Voltage Control tab. Many voltage settings are available in the advanced page, eight for the memory alone with six for Data and Address voltages for the three channels, and also DRAM memory voltage, and DRAM Termination voltage. CPU voltage options include Load-Line Calibration – which combats the vdroop effect, CPU vcore for changing the reference voltage to either run more efficient and cooler, or hotter and more stable when overclocking. QPI/VTT voltage is also needed for high speed memory functioning, and aids the integrated memory controller; it is suggested to keep this within 0.5v of the memory voltage. CPU PLL voltage is for the clock generator, and generally helps in overclocking to bump it up a notch or so.
Now that we know how to overclock it through the many basic settings and a plethora of advanced settings, it's time to finish learning the rest of the BIOS setup.
Continuing on from the last page, we now go to the tweaks for everything non-overclocking related in the BIOS. Luckily, Gigabyte arranged it so that the overclocking was the first page, and the rest are all optional and convenience settings, as well as health monitoring.
Standard CMOS Features is for time and drive management primarily. Advanced BIOS Features control boot hierarchy, as well as other key boot information. Hard drive SMART health system is also enabled here.
Integrated Peripherals is used to setup SATA/USB settings, audio, LAN, etc. RAID options are also here, as are USB keyboard and mouse support. Power management has options for anything relating to powering and turning on the computer, including powering on by keyboard/mouse, turning on at a set time, and power modes.
PC Health has the basic voltage information for the CPU, memory, and 5v rail as well as a few temperatures for the CPU, Northbridge, and system. Motherboard fan header speeds are also displayed in RPM. Temperature and fan failure warnings can be enabled or disabled here, and CPU fan speed can also be tweaked some.
Users can save up to eight different CMOS setups, as well as to an external source. The motherboard can also load the different profiles, as well as its own successful boot record and files. This is a very handy feature for normal users and overclockers alike, especially the addition of the file capabilities.
The Ultra TPM chip is enabled on the last page labeled Security Chip Configuration. It is suggested to use this feature with password in BIOS, because intruders could easily enter the BIOS and disable it if they wanted. This is combined with the included software, and the key can be stored and copied onto a USB drive for ease of access.
Let's take a better look at all of the features.
|Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor in the LGA 1366 package
(Go to CPU Support List for the latest CPU support )
L3 cache varies with CPU
|4.8GT/s / 6.4GT/s|
|North Bridge: Intel® X58 Express Chipset
South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R
6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory (Note 1)
Dual/3 channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 2100+/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
Realtek ALC889A codec
High Definition Audio
Support for Dolby® Home Theater (Note 2)
Support for S/PDIF In/Out
Support for CD In
||1 x Realtek 8111D chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)|
||2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2) (Note 3)
1 x PCI Express x8 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1) (Note 4)
(The PCIEX16_1, PCIE16_2 and PCIEX8_1 slots support 2-Way/3-Way NVIDIA SLI/ATI CrossFireX technology and conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
1 x PCI Express x4 slot
1 x PCI Express x1 slot
2 x PCI slots
||T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (1 on the back panel, 2 via the IEEE 1394a brackets connected to the internal IEEE 1394a headers)
|USB||Integrated in the South Bridge
Up to 12 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
|1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
3 x system fan headers
1 x power fan header
1 x North Bridge fan header
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x CD In connector
1 x S/PDIF In header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
2 x IEEE 1394a headers
1 x power LED header
1 x chassis intrusion header
1 x power switch
1 x reset switch
Back Panel Connectors
|1 x PS/2 keyboard port
1 x PS/2 mouse port
1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
1 x IEEE 1394a port
1 x clearing CMOS switch
8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x RJ-45 ports
6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
|iTE IT8720 chip|
System voltage detection
CPU/System/North Bridge temperature detection
CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
CPU overheating warning
CPU/System/Power fan fail warning
CPU/System fan speed control
2 x 8 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Support for @BIOS
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Virtual Dual BIOS
Support for Download Center
Support for Xpress Install
Support for Xpress Recovery2
Support for EasyTune (Note 6)
Support for Dynamic Energy Saver Advanced
Support for Time Repair
Support for Q-Share
Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Support for Microsoft® Windows Vista/XP
ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
- Ultra Durable 3 Technology with copper cooled quality for lower working temperature
- Supports the newest Intel® Core™ i7 processors in socket LGA1366 with QPI 6.4 GT/s
- Revolution energy saving design with DES Advanced featuring hardware based Dynamic 6-Gear switching
- Supports 3 channel DDR3 2100+ memory
- Scalable ability to both 3 way CrossFireX and 3 way SLI support for ultimate graphics performance
- Advanced 12+2+2 power phase design with VRD 11.1 support
- Built-in TPM chip with 2048bits encryption to highest level digital data protection
- Unique hardware control IC to provide more precision voltage control
- 100% 50,000 hour lifespan Japanese solid capacitors design
- Professed onboard LED allow user to easily catch on PC status
- Patented DualBIOS with dual hardware BIOS protection
- Features high speed Gigabit Ethernet connection
- Supports Dolby Home Theater audio to create a stunning surround sound listening experience
- Power/reset/Clr CMOS onboard button for easily operation on the workbench
- Blu-ray playback outputs supported by high quality 106dB SNR ALC889A HD audio
All information courtesy of Gigabyte@http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Spec.aspx?ClassValue=Motherboard&ProductID=2985&ProductName=GA-EX58-UD4P
To find out how much the 2 oz. copper layer helps electric signaling, and to see how the board compares to other competitors, I will be assaulting this board with a ton of tests - both scientific and graphics based. All chipsets are x58 of course, since no other chipsets have been released for the i7 line yet. All testing is done on the board with all defaults minus a few small tweaks to the processor and memory, including disabling Turbo Mode, and setting voltages. For overclocking the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P, I will push for a realistic overclock that should be attainable for most people, leaving some headroom available with further tweaking. The CPU is cooled by the stock heat sink; to keep temperatures good, a lower multiplier was used.
Testing Setup i7:
- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 150x20
- Motherboard: Gigabyte EX58-UD4P
- Memory: Mushkin 3x2GB DDR3 12800 MHz 9-9-9-24 1.55v
- Video Card: NVIDIA GTX260 Core 216
- Power Supply: Mushkin 800watt Modular Power supply
- Hard Drive: 1 x Western Digital 1TB SATA
- Opticals: LG DVD-RW
- OS: Windows Vista x64 Ultimate Edition SP1
- Processor: Intel Core i7 920 200x17 1.25 volts
- System Memory: Mushkin 3x 2GB 9-9-8-24 1600 MHz 1.6 volts
Overclocking the Gigabyte board to 200 BCLK was very easy. Leaving everything on auto except for CPU and Memory voltage allowed the system to operate stably. Using a custom cooler at the last minute, I was able to raise the CPU multiplier and bring it to 4GHz, but the CPU was not fully stable. 3.8GHz was, however, and thus this board can take users far if the cooler and chip are up to par. A few minor tweaks and it was running smoothly. Anything further required a little more tweaking, but for 200 BCLK and passive Northbridge cooling there is nothing to whine about here.
- Scientific & Data:
- SPECviewperf 10
- PCMark Vantage Professional
- Sandra XII
- ScienceMark 2.02
- Cinebench 10
- HD Tune 2.55
- Far Cry 2
- Crysis Warhead
- Call of Duty World At War
- Dead Space
- Fallout 3
- Left 4 Dead
- 3DMark 06 Professional
- 3DMark Vantage
The first part of our testing regimen 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:
- Resolution: 2750x2048
- Quality: 500
- Limit Memory Use: 512MB
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 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files and test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.
The Apophysis results are on par with the rest of the group. When overclocked, it takes 7 minutes less time to render the OCC flame image. WinRAR is a mixed bunch with the Gigabyte board floating around in the group; while overclocked, it wins all tests.
SPECviewperf 10 is a benchmark designed to test OpenGL performance. I will be using the multi-threaded tests to measure performance when run in this mode. The tests used for comparison are listed below. The default multi-threaded tests were chosen to be able to compare across platforms. In these tests, higher scores equate to better performance. Since the E8400 is a dual-core CPU, results will only be shown in the two thread test.
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
Higher is Better
PCMark Vantage is used to measure complete system performance. We will be running a series of tests to gauge performance of each individual board to see which board, if any, rises above the others.
All of the 2x SPECview 10 tests show the Gigabyte board to be around the mid-range, while in 4x the board is lowest on Catia, average in Maya, and superior in PROE. PCMark Vantage brings the board in the lower average, until overclocked, which propels it into the lead.
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 areas of the motherboards.
Cache and Memory
Power Management Efficiency
The Gigabyte board cleaned up here on all memory and CPU-related testing in Sandra 2009. It did pretty well on the hard drive tests, performing in the middle of the pack on the Power Management Efficiency test, but the Dynamic Energy Saver program would not operate - otherwise the results would have likely been different.
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's CPU and OpenGL capabilities using the software program CINEMA 4D. We will be using the default tests for this benchmark.
Higher is Better
HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.
Higher is Better
Lower is Better
ScienceMark has the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P pushing the pack further back when overclocked. Cinebench is a different story, with test one being around the median, and test two being the leader. HDTune results are not as great, but are still not terrible.
Far Cry 2:
"Featuring a new game engine named Dunia, this game looks to be another one to stress your video card. Built specially 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 50km2 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."
- Direct X 10
- Game settings to very high
- Vsync Off
Far Cry 2 shows that CPU speed is the main factor here, with all boards minus the MSI Platinum scoring the same, until the Gigabyte is overclocked.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the story line of the original Crysis. As Sergeant "Psycho" Sykes, you have a secret mission to accomplish on the far side of the Island. Along the way there are EMP blasts and aliens to contend with, as you hunt down the KPA chief. This game uses an enhanced version of the CryEngine 2.
- 2x Anti-Aliasing
Crysis Warhead flatlined here, with less than one frame difference in any test.
BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. Based on the building of a perfect Utopian society undersea gone horribly wrong, its inhabitants driven mad with the introduction of tonics and genetic modifications. Now Rapture is just a shadow of its former glory with little girls looting the dead of what little they have left, while being shadowed by guardians known as "Big Daddies". It is a demanding game that will make your hardware scream for mercy. This First Person Shooter allows for an infinite number of weapons and modifications to provide a unique experience each time it is played. The environment as well as the story line will wrap you up for hours on end.
- All settings to maximum
- V-Sync: Off
With the game BioShock, the Gigabyte board led the way in the lower resolutions, while coming in mid-range at the higher resolution 1920x1200.
Activision's Call of Duty World at War goes right back to the bread and butter of the franchise - WWII FPS action. In this rendition, you start off in the South Pacific and move through a series of missions that flip back and forth between the Russian front and the island hopping advance toward the Imperial Japanese homeland. Included is a mission on Peliliu Island, arguably one of the more difficult and costly battles in the Pacific theater. The gameplay in the single player mode is rather short, but the game makes up for this shortcoming in online gameplay. If you thought COD4 looked nice, this game is amazing with the graphics maxed out playing at a large resolution. This game just may be my reason to move to a 30 inch monitor. I will use Fraps to measure a section of gameplay in the Semper Fi map on Makin Island to compare performance of these video cards.
- All in-game settings to maximum
- FPS measured via Fraps
World at War was similar; the Gigabyte produced middle results again, while at the higher resolution it was in the bottom category. All frames are very playable though, and the game looks great.
In Dead Space, as part of the crew of the USG Kellion you are headed on a repair mission to repair a ship in distress. Things go from bad to worse as starting with the crash landing and seemingly silent and "Dead" ship, the USG Ishimuru. Offering a non-traditional over the shoulder viewing angle, the game gets right into the action as soon as the ventilation systems are activated. From there things get worse with the appearance of the Necromorphs. Survival now becomes a primary concern for the primary character Isaac Clarke. Survive and you may find the loved one that was aboard the Ishimuru.
- All in-game settings to maximum
The Gigabyte board produced above the crowd results here, leading the pack by margins past 20 frames per second. Overclocking didn’t really appear to help, oddly enough.
Fallout 3 takes place after the nuclear holocaust that nearly wipes out civilization and leaves the world an irradiated mess. The vault, or fallout shelter, you are born in is Vault 101, situated in the Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The premise of the game is that the Vault has been sealed for 200 years and now your father has opened the vault and escaped without a trace. The Overseer believes you are involved, so you must escape as well into the wasteland that was once our nation's capital. I find myself looking for landmarks since I am familiar with the streets of Washington DC.
- 4x Anti Aliasing
- 15x Anisotropic Filtering
- All other in-game settings to maximum
Again the EX8-UD4P managed to pull ahead of the pack on Fallout 3. The MSI Platinum is at the bottom, as it has been in most of the tests. The board appears to have some performance enhancements even at stock, or the 2 oz. copper layers helped more than I expected.
Left 4 Dead is a new release from Valve that leaves you as part of a group of survivors in a world where an infection has rapidly turned the populace into a zombie horde. You goal is to make it to a rescue point, all the while fighting what seems like overwhelming odds. Along the way there are safe houses where you can replenish your weapons and health. The movie 'I Am Legend' comes to mind to set the stage for this game. But unlike the movie, there are four characters and not just a lone gun and his faithful companion. The horde is not at all like the typical slow walking, foot shuffling zombie. These zombies are quick and work with the pack mentality. Your job: survival! Below are several screenshots to show some in-game action.
- 16x AF
- All other in game settings to maximum
Left 4 Dead shows the boards clumping together again, with the Gigabyte offering coming somewhere in the upper-mid range. Great frame rates for maxing the game out.
3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest is begun. 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.
- SM2.0 Graphics Tests: GT1- Return to Proxycon, GT2- Firefly Forest
- CPU Tests: Cpu1- Red Valley, CPU2- Red Valley
- HDR/SM3.0 Graphics Tests: HDR1- Canyon Flight, HDR2- Deep Freeze
3Dmark 06 comes out with the Gigabyte fighting for top place in all three resolutions, and pushing a little further when overclocked.
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.
- All default settings in each preset level
- Entry 1024x768
- Performance 1280x1024
- High 1680x1050
- Extreme 1920x1200
Performance in Vantage is nearly the same all across the board. Performance is the only setting which showed much difference, while the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P pulled ahead by a few points in Entry and Extreme.
Overall, it was a joy working with the EX58-UD4P. Overclocking was simple, but it also has the capacity to get complex for hardcore users. This board is third behind the top of the line EX58-EXTREME, which is aimed for the top of the line market, but this board still puts up great numbers. The only real con is that it only has one LAN port, but the next two models do have dual LAN, so I won't grudge this board. Otherwise the two orange ports are kind of funny, but it is not hard to move on past that. The screw mounted Northbridge and Southbridge show great attention to thermal and overclocking qualities, as do the back plates. The PCI Express slots are configured in a more efficient way in which users of triple-card setups will appreciate that the lanes are split x16 x8 x8, allowing cards to run closer to their full potential rather than being starved of bandwidth. Otherwise, in regular SLI and CrossFire or other two-slotted variants (Quad-SLI or Quad Crossfire) the lanes are x16 x16. Unfortunately, the bundled software for overclocking and power management were inoperable, or else the board may have excelled more. Performance-wise this board met or exceeded the competition. Overclocking on this motherboard was a walk in the park, and temperatures exceeded my expectations. Settings in the BIOS were plentiful, but even when left on Auto, the board performed very well. All of the LEDs on the board are good tools for diagnostics, but when running just look cool. The color scheme of this board is vastly improved over prior models from Gigabyte, and only needs a few minor tweaks to look fantastic.
- Open ended PCI Express x4 slot allowing for any card
- Three PCI Express x16 slots for triple graphics card configurations
- Comprehensive driver disk and manuals
- eSATA ready with all accessories included
- Great overclocker 200+ BCLK
- Runs cool
- Plenty of debug LEDs
- Orange slots
- Software is currently buggy