Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R ReviewRHKCommander959 - March 18, 2010
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With the Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R finally unpackaged and removed from the antistatic bag, we can finally get some shots of it and the features it has. This motherboard has a unified color scheme of blue tones and white - finally getting rid of all of the random orange-cream popsicle slots, green ports, and other various colors that use to be spewed all over their boards. This board is very nice looking and a quick glance shows that most of the connections are in intelligent places - front panel header next to the audio output (it can be a bit of a stretch for many cases however), 8-pin power connection at the top of the board, 24-pin power at the front, ten SATA ports angled at 90 degrees and, under them, 24-pin power connection with a 3-pin fan header stuck in between them. A floppy drive header is hidden at the bottom left - out of the way, I doubt many i7 users will use floppy drives so the placement makes sense - keep it out of the way! Six fan headers should keep most users without fan controllers happy as few cases have that many fans - one PWM header is for the CPU of course. Five heat sinks are attached to the board to cool all of the critical components, with four of them surrounding the CPU socket. All but the chipset heat sink use plastic pushpins to attach to the board. The Gigabyte board has four full length PCI Express x16 slots - although only two of them are wired for x16 (the first and third from the top), the other two are wired for x8. One PCI slot sits between a x16 and x8 slot - providing some support for the aging PCI interface. Two PCI Express x1 slots sit near the chipset cooling solution. With space constraints, one can only realistically use a PCI Express x1 card, while the board I reviewed a few months ago from Gigabyte had an open-ended x4 slot that could fit longer cards. The product box said 333 Onboard Acceleration meaning that this motherboard has SATA 3.0 (the white SATA ports), and USB 3.0 - both are new in the market and should keep this board up-to-date with some cutting edge technology. The board is busy with circuitry but looks fantastic and will hopefully deliver some great performance!
To start the close-up photography, the Gigabyte motherboard's cooling structures are going to be examined. The chipset heatsink has a badge attached with double sided tape, after my last Gigabyte review I removed this and added a fan for a more extreme overclocking experience while keeping the temperatures far cooler than passive airflow would allow - especially when water cooling, where the heatsinks miss out on the added airflow from a CPU heatsink fan. The heatsink is stout and shares a heat pipe with one of the two MOSFET coolers. The heatsink that shares the heat pipe with the chipset heatsink is 90 degrees opposite it across the socket. The heat pipe mounts high on this heatsink whereas it mounted low on the other - it looks as though this heatsink is meant to aid the chipset in cooling.
Unaided by heat pipes, the second MOSFET heatsink is built with very wide fin spacing around it, and should work fine passively - enough to get the job done decently. The Southbridge heatsink is also alone, mounting a fan to it would be a bit harder though due to how it is shaped and because video cards would be blocked in the upper three PCI Express slots.
The CPU socket area is fairly clean and open except for one side where two rows of capacitors come nearby - they sit low so heatsink installation should still be fine. Near the RAM slots are LED groups that display information such as phase level and activity.
On to the software!