Z68 Motherboard Roundup Part 2gotdamojo06 -
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While the lower classification boards do well in their own right, Gigabyte has targeted their G1 series of motherboards right at the large contingent of FPS gamers. One would think PC gaming is dead, but the fact that motherboard and video card companies keep bringing these flashy targeted products to fruition means that the myths most likely are not true. The G1 Assassin was the first of these boards to see the light of day taking care of the X58 segment along with the G1 Sniper. Now the G1 Sniper 2 is following suit with its rich feature set and good looks, add in some features for the gamer and it just gets better. The packaging has a military theme to it in the current desert warfare camouflage that we see everywhere these days. The front panel has the G1 Killer logo, Creative X-FI, and Killer E2100 logos. Along the bottom features include readiness for PCIe and Intel 22nm IvyBridge processors. The back panel illustrates just about every single feature of the G1.Sniper 2 motherboard. The "Super" features include Super "Speed" with the Bigfoot Networks E2100 with 1 GB of DDR memory on board, SATA 6Gbps, and USB 3.0. Super Hearing features the inclusion of Creatives top of the line audio processor, the 20K2 that supports EAX AHD 5.0, copper shielding around the audio components, built in headphone amp, and Nichicon Audio capacitors. Super Shield comes in the form of heat pipe based board cooling solution. Super Sight includes support for 2Way SLI and CrossfireX multi GPU video setups, with future support for PCIe 3.0. The rest of the Z68 features include Smart Response technology, Intel Quick Sync, and Switchable graphics. The back panel goes into detail on each of these features.
Inside the camouflage theme continues. Opening the package further, shows the G1.Sniper 2 is well packaged and a window shows off the board. Underneath the board is the box containing the accessory bundle that is by all standards fairly substantial.
The bundle of accessories includes all of the documentation, a driver and software disk, a pack of stickers, and a poster. The hardware piece of the bundle includes a front bay device with USB 3.0 connectivity and an OC button to overclock the system on the fly, the IO shield, SLI bridge connection, SATA cables, and the screws to mount the bay device.
Finally we get to the motherboard to see just what Gigabyte has to offer. The G1.Sniper 2 is built around the Intel Z68 chipset for use with Intel Second Generation Core series Socket 1155 Sandy Bridge processors including the Intel Core i7 2600K. This board supports Intel's upcoming 22nm Ivy Bridge processors and PCIe 3.0 connectivity. The feature set is outstanding and is a point of distinction in this crowded segment. The black PCB and green accents allow it to stand out from the crowd. The unique "Locked and Loaded" heat sink package spans the entire board and has a chipset heat sink that fits the gaming look. The back side of the PCB is uneventful with the Foxconn socket back plate and the screws that hold the heat sink package in place. This board is built with Gigabytes Ultra Durable 3 technology, that uses dual 2oz copper layers for added cooling and improved temperature stability, 50% lower impedance, and improved overclocking margins.
I/O connectivity is there and should allow a large percentage of the peripherals to get connected on the back end of the chassis. From the left is a P/S2 port that can be used with either a keyboard or mouse, two of the seven USB 2.0 ports, the CPU OC button for a quick boost on the fly, two more USB 2.0 ports over the top of an HDMI port that supports up to a 1920x1200 resolution, a USB 2.0 and eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, 2 more USB 2.0 ports, the RJ-45 GB LAN port connected to the E2100 Bigfoot Killer Nic, and last the Audio jacks connected to the Creative X-Fi based sound solution. Expansion capabilities include a pair of 1x PCIe slots, a pair of PCI 2.0 slots and two PCIe 16x slots that run at 16x with a single card installed and 8x each when in SLI or CrossfireX mode.
In front of the expansion slots, are the added features that make this board attractive to gamers, like the Creative X-Fi sound and the Bigfoot E2100 Killer Nic. Up front are the copper shielded Nichicon MUSE ES and and MW series Bi Polarized audio capacitors for Each channel. Inside the ring of capacitors, is the amp for the front panel headphone connection that is able to drive 150 ohm loads. Creative's upscale CA20K2-2AG HF audio processor is used and support Dolby DTS and Digital Live. Next to the Audio Processor is 64MB Xram. The Bigfoot E2100 Killer Nic is used and has 1GB of DDR2 memory, along with a dedicated NPU to help offload the network traffic from the CPU to allow it to perform other tasks.
Along the bottom of the PCB, there is plenty of added connectivity. From the left are the front panel audio header, SPDI/f output, a fan header, three front panel USB headers(One of which supports On/Off Charge), Serial port, TPM port, front panel connections, OC button header, and a fan header to round out the bottom of the PCB. Pretty well loaded, but there are no power, reset buttons, or a Debug LED usually seen on the bottom of the board. Just above the front panel header, are the pair of BIOS chips that are parts of Gigabyte's Dual BIOS feature that uses two physical ROM chips that act to recover from a corrupted BIOS. During my overclocking trial with this board, I had the opportunity to watch this in action and found it recovered well.
Much like just about all of the motherboards in use today, the SATA connectivity package falls to the lower right hand side of the PCB. There are a total of 7 SATA ports, Two SATA 3GB/s(Black) handled by the Intel Z68 chipset, Two SATA 6GB/s ports(White) controlled by the Chipset, a single eSATA port through the Intel chipset, and a pair of SATA 6GB/s ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip. RAID 0/1 is supported on the Marvell device and RAID 0/1/5/10 is supported by the Intel controlled ports. Above the top SATA port is the USB 3.0 header. The orientation of this header will not cause interference issues with a video card, as it sits above the level of the top 16x PCIe port. Further up is the 24 pin ATX power connection, a fan header, and the four 1.5v DDR3 Dimm slots. The G1.Sniper 2 supports DDR3 memory in capacities up to 32GB at speeds of DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 with or without XMP profiles. Next to the top of the right hand Dimm slot, are a series of phase LED's that show the how many Power phases are in action at any given time.
Across the top of the board there is not a lot to speak about. The large heat sink over the VRM circuit dominates the view, while over to the right hand side are the 8 pin auxiliary CPU power connection and a pair of fan headers. Each of the five fan headers are "Smart Fan" headers that each have their own individual thermal sensors and can be controlled through the BIOS or within Easy Tune 6.
The socket area is a little crowded, with the large volume of surface mount components and the heat sink package. Gigabytes G1.Sniper 2 is built to use Intel's Second Generation Core processors in the LGA socket 1155 package. A 12 phase power circuit is used and is part of Gigabytes Ultra Durable 3 design. Ferrite core chokes, Solid capacitors, and Low RDS on Mosfets complete the package.
The heat sink package on the G1.Sniper 2 is fully able to handle the load of the components hiding underneath each of them. They are part of the Locked and Loaded design that mimics the look of a rifle barrel housing on some of today's weapons used by the military. The sink over the P67 PCH looks like a magazine with a bullet showing at the top, falling in line with the "Loaded" part of the design element. Gigabyte was careful to avoid any impropriety with a warning on the bottom of the clip that it is not real. Around the socket, the rest of the package is functional and completes the look. The main sink has a series of green LED lights for added effect.
With the G1.Sniper 2 you get a full featured board that has a distinct target market and does not miss the mark. It has features that the target market uses integrated into the PCB, freeing up the space normally used by these product to be used with a pair of high end video cards. Lets see how well it performs by comparison.