Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD3R Review

RHKCommander959 - 2010-02-05 19:52:10 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: RHKCommander959   
Reviewed on: March 18, 2010
Price: $209.99

Introduction:

Gigabyte has upped up their old offerings for Intel LGA 1366 processors, such as the X58A-UD3P reviewed here by enhancing the old features and adding new features such as USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0. Compared to the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P that I reviewed several months ago, this board looks to be a good move by Gigabyte - a move in the right direction. Quality features at a more affordable price point, cutting edge technologies, and finally a unified color scheme. The board has four full length PCI Express slots and supports Tri-SLI and CrossFireX out of the box, it also supports Intel's latest six-core processors coming out now.

The new board enlists a mix of new technologies and proprietary standards that have been in service for years, and even a floppy drive port for the few people who use them still to update BIOS. With all of the features and cooling onboard, this should be a popular board for gamers, multimedia enthusiasts, workstations, and overclockers alike!

Closer Look:

The packaging is the same as it has been for a while, except that this box has 3 stamped all over the front! 333 Onboard Acceleration is Gigabyte's way of saying that the motherboard has USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, and 3x the USB power. The motherboard has twice the thickness of copper PCB than typical boards, helping reduce resistance. There is a Ultra Durable 3 logo on the bottom that in small print says the board has Japanese solid capacitors and Ferrite core Chokes. Signal quality should be pretty clean here. The back side explains with graphs how much faster USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 are, especially with RAID 0. Power efficiency is another strong point with the Gigabyte boards combining features from the Ultra Durable 3 moniker with Smart 6 and Dynamic Energy Saver 2.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sides of the box are clean, but not empty - the model is slapped in bold on each side, as are the Intel logos. The bottom continues the trend but also lists four features/benefits about the board, including Energy saving design with DES 2 technology, support for Intel Core i7 processors, four PCI-E 2.0 x16 graphics interface, and integrated SATA 6Gb/s. These four tidbits are then translated into Deutsch, Spanish, Standardized Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, French, Arabic, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Turkish, Polish, Persian, and Thai.

 

 

Opening the box reveals the driver CD, accessories, and manuals piled above the motherboard. removing these and the cardboard platform reveal the motherboard protected in a standard antistatic bag. The unified color scheme looks far better than the random rainbow colors of the old boards, a million fold better looking in my opinion.

 

 

Three manuals are included with the motherboard, one to aid in installation of the board, one for Smart 6 information and setup, and one user manual for the board in general. A driver disk is included to help load drivers for the motherboard. A small Gigabyte sticker is also included. Four bright yellow SATA cables are included with latching mechanisms, two have a 90 degree end as well. A wide flexible SLI connector and a solid PCB Tri-SLI bracket are included for the NVIDIA SLI setup users, and the I/O panel bracket has a sticker that color codes everything. An IDE cable stamped with the Gigabyte name is also included.

 

 

Time to dissect the accessories!

Closer Look:

The Gigabyte X58A-UD4R comes with three booklets - one user manual, one installation guidebook, and one Smart 6 user manual. The board also comes with SLI and Tri-SLI bridges as is standard with motherboards that support SLI technology - CrossFire connectors aren't necessary since they come with the ATI graphics cards. Also included are four SATA cables - two of which have a 90 degree connection on one side, all four have latches to keep the cables firmly connected. A blue IDE cable is also provided for connectivity support. Other than that, the I/O bracket, Gigabyte case badge, and driver disk are the only accessories included. The user manual is quality in feeling, and matches the motherboard box well with the artwork and imagery. The user manual is tailored to this motherboard - some manufacturers make a generic manual to apply to a broad spectrum of products while this one is for this specific board. The installation guidebook is cheaper but adequate - its intention is only to help get the board installed. The Smart 6 manual helps users use the management suite to best make use of the motherboard. This manual is of better quality than the installation guidebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Tri-SLI bridge is standard for Gigabyte - blue, solid, and lead free. Not much else can be said for it. The part number is GC-3SLI for any replacement needs. The SLI connector is similar to the design that has been employed for a long time with the ATI crowd - this bridge is long enough to skip a slot and aid a pair of cards in SLI with better air circulation since cards back to back have more airflow restriction.

 

 

The SATA cables are paired up - two have 90 degree ends and two have standard flat ends.  They all have latches to grab onto drives when installed, helping keep the cable from accidentally popping loose or damaging the port. The IDE cable is a standard ribbon cable with Gigabyte Technology stamped on it. The I/O bracket has a sticker placed upon it, labeling each port with color and text. Overall this looks like a standard accessory group for a board of this caliber.

 

 

Time to move onto the star of the show - the Gigabyte X58A-UD3R motherboard!

Closer Look:

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!

Closer Look:

With most motherboards, you can just insert the driver disk and go from there.  I attempted that but the disk used a mix of scripts in the executable that were full of glitches and caused the application to hang. Instead, I opted to get the software and latest drivers directly from the Gigabyte website. After a couple drivers and two programs, this computer was ready to go! The main drivers for the motherboard were the USB 3.0, SATA 3.0, audio, Ethernet, and chipset drivers. The software was Dynamic Energy Saver 2 and Easy Tune 6 for optimal efficiency and adjusting motherboard settings without going into BIOS. The files downloaded from the Gigabyte website were compressed files that extracted, browsing to these folders made driver and software installation very simple. Dynamic Energy Saver 2 was installed after accepting the terms and usage agreement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once installed, the program defaults to being off, with CPU power usage displayed. Clicking the big red button will make it green, or clicking the ON part. Once the application is enabled, it turns blue and lights up.  The ON-part lights up green and three levels of power saving are selectable. Some pistons bob back and forth as they would in an engine - displaying the board's phase switching. Both the current and total power usage are recorded and viewable at the top. Six icons at the bottom display which hardware devices are saving energy - in this case only the CPU was reported to be (although the NVIDIA GTX 260 was throttling speed and saving energy). The @ symbol at the bottom right attempts to check for software updates. Near the bottom left is a button that says advanced - clicking this brings up a more complicated screen for adjusting hardware for optimal efficiency. Memory and CPU speed can be adjusted, Chipset and memory voltage can be adjusted, Smart Fan enabled or disabled, CPU throttling and low power state settings can also be switched.

 

 

Easy Tune 6 sits in the task bar until being right-clicked and selecting show. The software installation is very simple as it was with Dynamic Energy Saver 2 - just clicking next and agreeing to the terms and usage agreement. Once installed, users are welcomed by the Tuner screen with three options - slightly overclocked i7, moderate overclock, and decent overclock (BCLK 140, 150,and 160 MHz respectively). The gains are graphically represented underneath the big buttons.

 

 

Clicking advanced gives users a plethora of motherboard settings similar to what is available in the BIOS. Frequency has BCLK, Memory, and PCI-E timings available for alteration. Ratio allows users to adjust the cores/threads individually.

 

 

 

Memory displays the SPD information of the memory installed by slot - similar again to the memory tab of CPU-Z. The primary memory timings and frequencies are displayed at the bottom, while general information is displayed at the top - size, max bandwidth, manufacturer, part number, error correction, registered, buffered, and so on. The graphics tab displays the current Core, Memory, and Shader speeds that the card is running at. Since the GTX 260 was idling the card ran at low speed to save energy. These values can be adjusted from Easy Tune 6 but fan speed cannot be.

 

 

The Smart tab has controls for Smart Fan operation - disabled, automatic, and user-defined. Users can define what temperatures should dictate certain fan speeds. Lastly, HW monitor displays information about the current operative voltages and fan speeds. An audible alert can also be enabled in case of emergency.

 

 

Time to go play with the BIOS!

Closer Look:

The BIOS is an essential tool for anyone looking to customize and optimize their computer - overclocking is heavily reliant on BIOS capabilities to unleash the hardware's true potential! The Award BIOS is stored on dual 16 Mbit flash chips - if one fails, the other kicks in to take over. The main boot screen looks just like the box artwork on the top - 333 Onboard Acceleration - USB 3.0, USB 3x power, and SATA 3.0 with Ultra Durable 3 underneath. In the bottom left corner is the 2x copper PCB moniker - indicating the denser PCB that this board features. The bottom has instructions on how to view the post screen, choose boot device, flash, or setup the BIOS. Once into the BIOS, we are greeted by the ever familiar blue screen with a menu that links to other pages. The first option selected is the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) - here are the voltage and clock speed options for overclocking the motherboard!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside the M.I.T., ratios or multipliers are readily available to set the CPU clock speed, QPI clock speed, and memory speed. BCLK control is disabled by default - enabling allows the BCLK to be manually adjusted for overclocking performance. The BIOS supports X.M.P. memory profiles - instantly loading the settings for the Mushkin memory that the test bed uses. Memory timings can be adjusted for each channel, with more advanced timing options also available. At the bottom are some basic voltages option - Load-line calibration is the first and helps combat the effects of Vdroop. CPU, QPI, IOH, and memory voltage are next - these are the main voltage settings that most overclock settings will need. Advanced options are also available at the very bottom.

 

 

The Advanced Voltage Control page breaks the categories into CPU, chipset, and memory. CPU voltage, QPI voltage, and CPU PLL voltage are adjustable along with load-line calibration settings and dynamic Vcore. Next the various chipset voltages are available - PCIE voltage, QPI PLL, IOH Core, ICH I/O, and ICH Core are all adjustable. DRAM voltage, termination voltage, and channel A/B/C Data and Address VRef are all adjustable as well and proves that the basic settings should be enough for most users while the advanced can handle the hardcore tweakers. The next category is the Standard CMOS Features - date, time, and drives can be viewed and adjusted here. Options are basic here as usual.

 

 

Round 2 of the BIOS adventure is coming up!

Closer Look:

Following the Standard CMOS Features page comes the Advanced BIOS Features page - boot options are adjustable here as are some hard disk settings such as boot priority, S.M.A.R.T. capability, and delay. The default display can also be set, as can the boot screen image being shown or the boot diagnostic screen instead. Next is the Integrated Peripherals page - more chipset/similar device options here including USB and SATA options. The eXtreme Hard Drive option supported by the board can be modified, the chipset SATA ports mode can be changed from IDE to RAID and so on, USB 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 can be disabled, USB keyboard, mouse, and storage devices can also be enabled or disabled. The onboard audio, IEEE 1394a ports, and LAN can also be enabled or disabled. eSATA can be enabled or disabled and the mode can be changed as can the Gigabtye SATA 2.0 ports and SATA 3.0 ports. All of the overclocking options were on the first page - the M.I.T.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the Power Management Setup page - sleep settings and wake up settings can be set here. The computer can post from the touch of a mouse or keyboard, alarm, ring, etc. Pushing the power button on the computer can have different effects when adjusted under the Soft-Off by PWR-BTTN option. Last is the PC Health Status page, which displays voltages and temperatures of components attached to the motherboard as well as fan RPM, and settings for warnings on fan failure or CPU overheating. Smart Fan control is also adjusted here.

 

 

Profiles can be backed up or loaded from BIOS with F11 and F12 keys - eight slots are provided, but if that's still not enough, the profile can also be saved to a USB memory device, hard drive, or floppy drive for use later. Profiles can be loaded from a memory device, or from a BIOS profile, or the settings from prior successful boots can be loaded if you forget to save settings and have to clear CMOS. A nice bit of features for overclocking and general use.

 

 

Time to read about the specifications and features of the Gigabyte X58A-UD3R.

Specifications:

CPU
Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor in the LGA1366 package (Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.) L3 cache varies with CPU
QPI
4.8GT/s, 6.4GT/s
Chipset
North Bridge: Intel® X58 Express Chipset
South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R
Memory
6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory
Dual/3 channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
Support for non-ECC memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
(Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest memory support list.)
Audio
Realtek ALC889 codec
High Definition Audio
2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
Support for Dolby® Home Theater
Support for S/PDIF In/Out
Support for CD In
LAN
1 x Realtek RTL8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2)
2 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1/PCIEX8_2) (The PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2, PCIEX8_1 and PCIEX8_2 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
1 x PCI slot
Multi-Graphics Technology
Support for 2-Way/3-Way ATI CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology
Storage Interface
    South Bridge:
  • 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0, SATA2_1, SATA2_2, SATA2_3, SATA2_4, SATA2_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
    Marvell 9128 chip:
  • 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3_6, GSATA3_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, and RAID 1
    GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
  • 1 x IDE connector supporting ATA-133/100/66/33 and up to 2 IDE devices
  • 2 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (GSATA2_8, GSATA2_9) supporting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
    JMicron JMB362 chip:
  • 2 x eSATA 3Gb/s connectors (eSATA/USB Combo) on the back panel sup- porting up to 2 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  • Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, and JBOD
    iTE IT8720 chip:
  • 1 x floppy disk drive connector supporting up to 1 floppy disk drive
USB
    Integrated in the South Bridge
  • Up to 10 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (6 on the back panel, including 2 eSATA/USB Combo, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
    NEC chip:
  • Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on the back panel
IEEE 1394
    T.I. TSB43AB23 chip
  • Up to 3 IEEE 1394a ports (2 on the back panel, 1 via the IEEE 1394a bracket connected to the internal IEEE 1394a header)
Internal I/O Connectors
1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector Connectors
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x floppy disk drive connector
1 x IDE connector
8 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
2 x SATA 6Gb/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
1 x IEEE 1394a header
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 clearing CMOS button
2 x IEEE 1394a ports
4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
2 x USB 3.0 ports
2 x eSATA/USB Combo connectors
1 x RJ-45 port
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
System voltage detection
CPU/North Bridge temperature detection
CPU/System/Power fan speed detection
CPU overheating warning
CPU fan fail warning
CPU/System fan speed control
BIOS
2 x 16 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
Support for @BIOS
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
Support for Download Center
Support for Xpress Install
Support for Xpress Recovery2
Support for EasyTune (Note 5)
Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
Support for Smart 6™
Support for Auto Green
Support for eXtreme Hard Drive
Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Operating System
Support for Microsoft® Windows® 7/Vista/XP
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm

 

Features:

 


All information courtesy of Gigabyte: http://www.gigabyte.us/Products/Motherboard/Products_Overview.aspx?ProductID=3277

Testing:

With the motherboard unpacked and installed into the test system, it is time to overclock and test it. For overclocking, I will aim to do a decent overclock, testing with Prime95 to look for stability and, upon verifying the Prime95 stability, I will then test it with some intensive graphical benchmarks, as well as number crunchers all covered in the OverclockersClub benchmark series. Throughout this process, I will be keeping an eye on how the board behaves and how warm it operates.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Motherboards:

 

Overclocking:

Overclocked settings:

Originally I had installed the stock Intel heatsink for testing this motherboard, but I quickly swapped the junk out for my water cooling system and very easily pushed the chip to 3.8 GHz (181 BCLKx21). My C0 i7 920 is a bit of a hog but I believe this board could manage more than 4200 MHz (200 BCLK x 21) with more tweaking of the settings in the BIOS. Quick and dirty but respectable. When I tried settings that the CPU didn't like, the board would recover from the improper settings with a self-reboot. The settings that didn't work are carried over and changeable, and the BIOS can save custom configurations for backup and use later. The motherboard also has a CMOS Clear button on the I/O panel so users who have their cases easily reachable can clear the CMOS on a hard locked system. The board reached 45 °C after long benching with the waterblock installed.  A Yate Loon fan tossed nearby the CPU socket dropped the temps down to 33 °C.

 

Benchmarks:

  1. Apophysis
  2. WinRAR
  3. PCMark Vantage Professional
  4. Sandra XII
  5. ScienceMark 2.02
  6. Cinebench 10
  7. HD Tune 2.55
  1. Far Cry 2
  2. Crysis Warhead
  3. BioShock
  4. Call of Duty: World At War
  5. Dead Space 
  6. Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II
  7. Left 4 Dead
  8. 3DMark 06 Professional
  9. 3DMark Vantage

Testing:

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:

 

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 to test the time needed to compress these files. Time will be measured in seconds.

 

ZIP:

 

 

RAR:

 

 

In all of the WinRAR testing, the Gigabyte board performed very strongly, with overclocking pushing it further.

Testing:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lower 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.

 

The X58A-UD3R was in the middle ground in both PCMark Vantage and the Excel testing.

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 areas of the motherboards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Processor Arithmetic

 

Multi-Core Efficiency

 

Memory Bandwidth

 

Memory Latency

 

Cache and Memory

 

Physical Disks

 

Power Management Efficiency

 

SiSoft Sandra had a few surprises - latency was good, as was bandwidth and the Cache and Memory results except the first Speed Factor, which was low. Physical Disks had good bandwidth but bad Random Access, comparatively. Overall, the Gigabyte did well.

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

 

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

Higher is Better

 

Lower is Better

 

The results across this suite of benchmarks shows that the GA-X58A-UD3R performs on par with the rest of the boards. Really, this is the expected outcome as at stock speeds there is not much that will distinguish one board from the other. This leaves the feature set as a determining factor in the purchasing decision.

Testing:

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 Far Cry 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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Cry 2 results are about average, and overclocking the CPU helped minimally.

Testing:

Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack situated in time with the storyline 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crysis Warhead results are bunched together well - a motherboard won't give much FPS gain at all - money would better be invested on a better graphics card if someone was looking to gain performance.

Testing:

BioShock is one of the creepier games you can play. 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 Daddys". 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 storyline, will wrap you up for hours on end.

 

Video Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprising is that BioShock continues the trend, as I have said before - motherboards shouldn't affect graphics performance much, if at all.

Testing:

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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trend continues with Call Of Duty - CPU overclocking does help somewhat though.

Testing:

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, starting with the crash landing of the 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.

Settings:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Space shows some deviation but nothing extreme - just a few low scorers. The Gigabyte board does average in these results.

Testing:

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.

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Fallout 3 has some major differences, however this benchmark can be erratic. The Gigabyte board stays above the low scorers; overclocking gained a couple frames.

Testing:

Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter 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. Your goal is to make it to a rescue point, all 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 zombies. These zombies are quick and work with pack mentality. You have but one job; survival!

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Deviation was minimal with Left 4 Dead, although the Gigabyte X58A-UD3R won all three resolutions stock and overclocked!

Testing:

3DMark06 is one of the benchmarks that always comes up when a bragging contest begins. 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.

 

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Performance was average again - 3DMark 06 shows that it was CPU hungry as the overclock gives a very decent boost in score.

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.

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Again, the results all look the same except for the random low score.  Overclocking helped at the Entry test.

Conclusion:

The Gigabyte X58A-UD3R was a beautiful motherboard that gave me no trouble at all. For the price it is being pushed at this is a great deal - especially with the USB 3.0 and SATA 3.0 support. SATA 3.0 should come in handy real soon with the advances that SSD drives are making, and the RAID-0 capabilities of this board in SATA 3.0 should mate well together. The ten SATA ports total should satisfy most users, but IDE and FDD both make a comeback to support the older technologies. Four full-length PCI Express slots allow users to install up to three video cards for Tri-SLI or CrossFireX so gamers and benchmarking/overclocking enthusiasts alike should enjoy this board!  The double-sized copper PCB, Japanese capacitors/Ferrite core chokes, and decent cooling make this board very stable.  When combined with the good looking color scheme of blue and white, the whole package is a winner!

The only con I could find was that the driver disk was hard to use due to glitches on the autorun executable and so I opted to download drivers from Gigabyte's website instead. Otherwise, everything worked like a charm, overclocking was smooth and easy, but had the ability to go in-depth for fine tuning and high overclocks. This is a great board and a bargain at the price they are offering it for online at the time of writing.

 

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