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Old 17-02-2011, 08:34 PM   #1
sin0822
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GIGABYTE G1 Assassin Physical Review*** In depth!

GIGABYTE G1 Assassin Physical Review


On Valentine’s Day I arrived home from work to a great surprise, the GIGABYTE G1 Assassin board had finally arrived from GB HQ in Taiwan, sorry it took so long to get something up, but I do(or have to) celebrate Valentine’s day. Now, before I opened the package, I made a promise to look at this board from a gamer’s perspective and not an overclockers, something that is extremely hard to do. Many times as I went over the feature set, and I tried to figure out a few very important questions:

Why are there 5 audio amplifiers?
How many ICs do you need to integrate the new 20K2 Creative Audio Processor?
Why are there so many LEDs, 4 auxiliary temp sensors, and 5 controllable fan ports?
Why are there two hardware monitoring chips?
What is a Marvell SE9182(not SE9128)?
A new NEC USB 3.0 controller with 4 USB 3.0 ports instead of 2?
How do you make a NIC bypass windows networking and physically take control of the situation?
LEDs in the heatsink?


Once you have taken a thorough look at the board you begin to realize how well GIGABYTE designed this new motherboard, you really begin to realize how much engineering and time went into planning and building this ultimate gaming motherboard. GIGABYTE has taken a year’s work of sampling the gaming world and built a motherboard especially for gamers. They didn’t go about this by picking one gamer; no, the gaming world is too big. Instead they asked publicly what gamers would want in a motherboard(like on Facebook), and today I will show you what a year of planning, engineering, and testing has led to, possibly one of the world best gaming motherboards.
One thing that also should be mentioned is that GIGABYTE worked hand in hand with BIGFOOT Networks and CREATIVE Labs to incorporate the newest audio and LAN capabilities into probably one of the most extreme gaming motherboards.


Many motherboard makers are stuck at a point wondering who buys our motherboards? Who are these system builders and why are they buying our boards over the competition. Aside from large corporations such as Dell, your mind automatically goes to amateur systems engineers, those who determine which motherboards are the best for their final computer. Now over the past several years we have seen a trend where motherboards are bought by not only the general public who want to save a few bucks, but they are also purchased by enthusiasts like ourselves, those who don’t necessarily care about how cheap something is, but how well it suits our needs. GIGABYTE has done just that, they have focused in on two of the most important (for me at least) market segments that many other manufacturers overlook, Gamers and Overclockers. While I am the latter (OCer) there are many Gamers who can benefit from the way I do reviews, in the end a motherboard is a motherboard and you need to know how it works and what it specifically offers to make the right buying decision. Today we will take an in depth look into the new G1 series of gaming boards, featuring the GIGABYTE G1 Assassin. This review is a physical review, it will have nothing to do with BIOS/Operation/Performance, and it will solely show you what the board has to offer and how it works. Performance review will follow shortly.

Follow me as I take a look at this motherboard as an amateur systems engineer would, looking for what makes this motherboard stand out and what it offers that could benefit my needs.

Unboxing/ Accessories:


Honestly, the box is huge, but then again this motherboard is huge, its XL-ATX form factor is why.

The box is very well designed, sticking to a gaming theme.


The up-close of the back will help you read about many of this board’s features.

Open up the box and this is what you get, a nice window into the heart of your new system.


Here you see that stickers and poster are included among other things. The poster is double sided in case you want a different theme. Again this is exactly what I would want included if I were a gamer; case stickers are popular among case modders.

Here is the hung poster.


Back to accessories, a few things I want to point out. GIGABYTE is finally giving us black SATA cables!!! There is also a CrossFireX bridge along with the SLI and 3-Way SLI bridges. GIGABYTE also includes front panel with OC button as well as the usual driver disc and manuals.


Something very new for GIGABYTE is the OC button, GIGABYTE is one of the last remaining motherboard manufacturers to actually manufacture their own motherboards, it is pretty hard for them to produce a separate OC board, but they have provided gamers with a button, which has its own special connector. You can also see that we have an eSATA/USB dual plug as well as a USB 3.0 connector!

Layout:

As many of you know GIGABYTE has taken a turn for the better by incorporating a black matte PCB, this black addition to the PCB doesn’t allow the copper traces to bleed through like many other “black” motherboards. All we have here is an actually smooth, non-reflective, and well-fitting PCB. Now this motherboard not only has more LEDs than I can count on my fingers and toes, it also has 5 dedicated 4-pin controllable fan ports, and 4 auxiliary temperature sensors. Even for OCers the temperature of the motherboard areas is potentially useful.

Here is my graphical depiction for you guys, it’s a very busy board and we haven’t even gotten to the interesting stuff yet! :


Of course you cannot see the temperature sensors, but those are all in prime locations to give the user great information of how air is flowing throughout the case and over the board. I have to say this is the first GIGABYTE board I have owned with 5 controllable fan headers, 4 auxiliary temp sensors, and this many L.E.D.s. I got to say bravo, because this is what gamers really like; the ability to turn off the LEDs are there, and you know more can never hurt in the fan header and temp sensor region.
Moving on the physical layout of the board lets first begin with the back panel.


I am not going to lie, the back panel is a bit less than I thought it would be. We have great USB 3.0 connectivity, 4 ports(Blue), and then 4 more ports of USB 2.0. PS2 is there, which I personally like as an Overclocker (so i can turn off USB controllers/BIOS backup flash), but I guess if you are a gamer and have multiple USB devices and have secondary KB/M then it might be useful, I know it is pretty useful to me as an overclocker. I should point out that this is not a dedicated OC board, so there is no clear CMOS button on this back panel. A few great things I really, really, really need to point out because it caught my eye almost at the end of the photo-shoot.


Notice that the USB and RJ-45 LAN port combination looks much different than the second set of USB 2.0(black USB) ports. That is because while the single pair of USB 2.0 ports is made by Foxconn, GIGABYTE chose to use the higher quality UDE parts for the LAN, they also used Lottes for the USB 3.0 ports, and Lottes for the audio ports, keeping quality at its highest. The problem in most modern electrical systems these days is not necessarily the chips processing the data, but more their physical implementation. For instance GPUs use traces that make contact with pads inside the PCI-E slot, the weakest link in terms of power and even many times performance is the quality of this contact. There just isn’t enough contact to power modern day GPUs and that is why we see extra power connectors, as well as modders adding more power inputs. For a gamer it can relate into the reason why so many high speed data cables need to be kept short.

GIGABYTE advertises 2oz PCB for a very important reason, more copper you have the easier it is for electrons to travel (lower impedance) and this theoretically leads to better performance of the electrical subsystem. Things such as the connectors being high quality really show how dedicated GIGABYTE is to this board's LAN, Audio, and USB subsystems.
In the picture above you can also see the dual 8pin CPU power connector as well, something only seen on the best of the best boards out there. Other than the X58A-UD9 there is no current board in the X58 GIGABYTE line (other than upcoming OC Board *fingers crossed) that will have this extra connector to further enhance the ability for more electricity to flow.

Above we see GIGABYTE and the well tested Lottes CPU socket which is usually preferred for sub-zero overclocks on X58 and P55 platforms.


For the gamers out there, you hear about phases when talking about a motherboard’s power delivery, and the CPU, RAM, IOH, and even parts of the CPU have their own Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) each with a certain amount of phases. The traditional way to count phases is by counting the number of chokes (inductors). Now almost all boards use inductors that are square and black instead of the traditional open/wound coil. You can see 16 of them around the heatsinks around the CPU, 4 to the top of the socket in the picture above. I will go more in depth about the VRMs this board has to offer in a little bit. I would like to note that the CPU socket area is pretty much standard and will accommodate even the largest coolers.


There is a nice amount of room between the socket and the RAM slots. As you can see these slots follow the green/black color theme of the motherboard. At that white balance and saturation I think the camera perfectly picked up on the slot’s green color.


This board has an ATX-XL form factor, which is reserved for some of the most extreme boards out there. I have a dual CPU server motherboard(old) that isn’t even this long. One huge benefit to this board’s length is that spacing the PCI-E slots is much easier. On this board you can pop in two triple slotted GPUs and have them both run at 16x,16x. The slots use the very easy snap in, and press to release method for locking in the GPUs; it makes life much easier when trying to remove your GPU. In this picture you can also see both 4- Pin molex connector housings for extra PCI-E power at either end of the PCI-E slots. The first and last both have one right next to them, and you just plug and play. Also notice that there is a PCI slot and two PCI-E 1x slots, even though this board already has some of the best Audio and LAN you could ever want you might want to use these ports for extras(I can't really think of anything other than some advanced multiple output network cards and RAID cards). That is kind of the point of this board, its already got everything a gamer would ever need!


Now here is where the connectivity comes into play, we have in black 6 SATA3GB/s connectors; they are very fast and will provide the best performance for your SATA Revision II (3GB/s) HDDs or SSDs. Not to be confused with SATA6GB/s (SATA revision III), which should only be used with SATA6GB/s SSDs.


I took separate pictures of the connectors so that you can click and zoom in, on the left we have the external front panel audio connectors, as well as the Molex power for PCI-E, and a fan header. On the picture on the right (from left to right) we have two USB 3.0 external connectors, and two USB 2.0 connectors, as well as all your front panel case connectors as well as another fan connector.


On the left we have the OC front panel connector for the OC button. This has never been on a GIGABYTE board before, it’s brand new. On the right you have the power connector for the LEDs inside the main heatsink.




We have it with and without heatsink. There was once a company geared towards gamers called DFI. They built some of the most gorgeous motherboards, they had the best color schemes. Sadly DFI went out of business a few years ago. GIGABYTE didn’t copy DFI’s color scheme because their color scheme always had neon parts, and was just a bit too flashy. GIGABYTE has modestly brought back a really great color scheme. Green and black is really a staple for gamers and video games. The addition of the gun-part shaped heatsinks is a nice touch. It is a very nice change from GIGABYTE’s blue theme, and a nicer change from other manufacturers red and black, but it comes down to personal decision.
Let’s move on to power delivery.

Power Delivery:

Power delivery has turned out to be one of the most exciting subjects there is for normal motherboards. Of course for this board the most exciting are the Audio and LAN capabilities, but for right now we will focus on how every microchip gets its power. Obviously you cannot just plug straight 12v power from your power supply into the traces for the processor; the 12v voltage first needs to go to some capacitors (reduce ripple/fluctuation), then the power theoretically goes into MOSFETs (which will perform a DC/DC conversion), and then the power goes through chokes or inductors (to clean up the noise), and finally through another set of capacitors (to further reduce ripple/fluctuation).

(if you are not even going to try to understand what I am writing about in this section, just skip down the next one, its about how the Audio and LAN work, its is much easier to understand for those not technically astute, even though the next few paragraphs are beginner-intermediate for motherboard technology)

The whole deal with power delivery is that you have a 12v(and 3.3v and 5v) power supply, and the processor only uses 1.2-1.6v(stock-overclocked) with something like 80-200 amps(current stock-overclocked). Your power supply provides voltage at 12v and some number for amperage, 1000watt power supplies put out about 100amps. So how does 12v and 100amps relate to 1.2-1.6v and 200 amps? The deal is that wattage=voltage x amperage(P=IV in physics) so you can reduce voltage and increase amperage and that way you can produce lower voltages with much more amperage than before. There are other considerations such as the number of phases and how each phase is designed. Traditionally you have two MOSFETs (high side MOSFET and low side MOSFET) and one driver chip and one choke per phase. Now we have a technology called DrMOS, it’s not a doctor it’s something much better than that; it’s an on-die shrink of both MOSFETs and driver chip into one. This reduces signal loss from the driver to the MOSFETs, and further makes it easier to cool down the phases as well as opening room on the motherboard. Now there is one thing I have totally skipped over and that is because I want to start off this section with it, it’s the Pulse Width Modulator (PWM), it’s the “commander” of the phase array. The PWM controls switching frequency as well as regulates DC/DC conversion factors, implements LLC, error checking, and many more features that are needed to control the VRM(voltage regulator module) and ensure its safety. The PWM sends out a signal to each driver chip, and that signal tells the driver how much voltage to spit out and how fast among other things.

The PWM:


Above we have a small tiny integrated circuit called the Intersil ISl6336G, this little chip is certified for VRD 11.1(Intel standard for VRM design), and it’s natively a 6 channel/phase PWM. The board increases the phase count by adding extra phases on each channel. What this does is reduce the amount of time each phase needs to be on, there by spreading the load evenly among all the phases as well as reduce temperature and increasing efficiency. This PWM also uses a second general purpose I/O(GPIO) chip to regulate the load line equation which is basically the equation on how much voltage and in what style to deliver it to the processor.


The iTE IT8275E is a GPIO which holds the information for the PWM on how to regulate the vcore for the processor, it also accommodates phase switching. Phase switching is a big deal, because honestly you only need 6 of the phases on this board to overclock up to 4.5 GHz. The funny thing is that GIGABYTE uses the highest quality driver MOSFETs, and then adds them onto the board like no one’s business. Other manufacturers are not so kind or lavish. So why does GIGABYTE go out of the way to give you 16 phases when you only need 6? Because they know that when those phases are under strain their life is shortened, no matter their quality. By adding phases and then switching them in pairs of 8, or even down to as little at 2 at a time you can greatly reduce the lifespan on the motherboard.

The DrMOS


If the PWM is the commander and the GPIO is the gunnery sergeant, then the driver MOSFETs are the soldiers. The drivers inside the Vishay SiC769CD are trigger fingers of the soldiers and when the (PWM) sends the signal to attack the triggers are pulled (drivers) “command” the MOSFETs to change 12-5v to 1.2-1.6v. Halting the analogy right there let me say a few things about these driver MOSFETs.

These driver MOSFETs can switch at up to 1MHz, they can output 35amps continuously, and reach 90% or higher efficiency with more than a single phase in action. These are some of the best DrMOS out there. They are a staple of GIGABYTE X58 boards since 2010(X58A rev 2.0). These bad boys do all the work, and they produce all the heat as well, so that is why you have heatsinks on the board around the CPU socket, to cool down these bad boys.


While there are 12 of the DrMOS on the top-side of the motherboard, there are 4 on the underside. Right next to them are 4 low RDS (on) MOSFETs which are half of the VRM for the uncore part of the processors power supply. Yes there are two different power supplies for the processor, because there are two parts of the processor, the core and uncore. There you have it, that is what makes a VRM; the PWM, the drivers, the MOSFETs, and finally all the voltage tweakers (capacitors, inductors and resistors).
Lets move on to the Uncore power.

The UNCORE VRM:


The commander of the VRM is the PWM, like discussed earlier, here we have the Intersil ISL6312 in red, a 4 phase buck PWM with integrated drivers. That means there is no reason for DrMOS because the drivers are already integrated into the PWM. This also means that adding phases more than needed can be much more complex. These integrated driver PWMs are very common for the smaller VRMs like for RAM and the X58 IOH. We also will see integrated drivers and MOSFETs with PWM in a second. In blue we see the second pair of Low RDS (on) MOSFETs which are very common on today’s motherboards. They are much better than normal MOSFETs also found sparingly around the board to do large voltage reductions.

The IOH VRM:

You cannot really see the PWM, it is in red like before, but it is a bit different. It’s a 2 phase buck PWM, the ISL 6322G with integrated drivers again. Its only two phases because the X58 IOH(chipset) only requires a small amount of power.

The RAM VRM:

Above in red in another ISL6322G two phase PWM with integrated drivers for the RAM. In the blue is the rest of the VRM, far away from its PWM. RAM also requires very little voltage, in fact a large portion of the power for DDR3 comes from the UNCORE part of the processor.

Peripheral VRMs

Now while you might think that the audio and LAN integrated onto this board might get power the same way the SATA ports get power, you would be right, except for the fact that these specialty chips need very clean and specific voltages to operate correctly. GIGABYTE has added and addition 3 separate VRMs. Two for the LAN and a single one for the Audio, instead of powering with a low dropout regulator like you see on other parts of the board.


In the center there is a tiny Intersil isl8014IRZ which is a single phase PWM with integrated drivers and MOSFETs. These bad boys output 4amps and don’t even require a heatsink. For the best audio and LAN you need clean and efficient power.

Usually at this point we start going over the IOH and then ICH, but we are going to start with the LAN capabilities and then goto the Audio and then follow on through. Close to the end i will talk about the New SATA6G and USB 3.0 controllers.

LAN Capabilities:

The LAN capabilities on this board are phenomenal. Now as we all know lag is a terrible issue, and in online gaming to be fair, if you are lagging and someone else is not, the whole game doesn’t stop, just you do, and then you die. I have experienced it in the past, and it basically turned me off to playing online games. The approach here is to lower ping time and empty out traffic by totally bypassing it because let’s face it, most of today’s games are meant to be played online.


Games such as the Call of Duty and Battlefield series all have very short to non-existent single player modes; the real fun comes when you hit the internet. Now you might have the fastest internet in the world, but let’s face it, Ethernet controllers have a lot to do with how fast your computer can process the data from the net. Windows has its whole brigade of stuff that can jam up your network. BIGFOOT Networks has been a provider of high quality Gaming Network Cards from quite a while. Well with the introduction of the G1 killer series, the GIGABYTE G1 Killer boards are the world’s first to come equipped with native BIGFOOT network Processing Unit.
Let’s take a closer look:

In ORANGE we have the brain of the whole systems, the BIGFOOT Networks Killer E2100. This is one of the most advanced processors to hit the gaming market. Under the hood it is a Freestyle technologies Power QUICC II Pro/e300c3 core built on Power architecture that operates up to 400MHz. It not only has a built in DDR2 controller, it also has 16kb instruction cache and 16kb data cache. Its Gigabit Ethernet NIC is directly connected to the PCI-E 1x bus to figure out what it needs to do as quickly as possible. This processor is very efficient at optimizing LAN processing. It has special DNA rerouting features which can bypass the windows integrated network. It is also IEEE 1588 rev 2.0 time-synchronization enable it to work with extremely high precision network applications. I will talk more about it once I test it.

Next in RED we have two Samsung 512MB DDR2 chips, for a total of 1GB on-board DDR2 RAM just dedicated to the BIGFOOT Network Processing Unit (NPU).

In BLUE we have a Spansion 110nm page mode 64Mbit 8MB flash chip, this allows for driver and BIOS updates to the BIGFOOT NPU.


Above is the Marvell 88E1118R-NNC2 PHY Alaska Ultra Gigabit Ethernet transceiver. This physical layer device (PHY) is what allows up to 1000BASE-T applications. Basically the datasheet I found said that the Marvell 88E111 does this

“that connects directly to a Media Access Controller (MAC)/switch port. These devices use advanced mixed signal processing to perform equalization, echo and cross-talk cancellation, data recovery, and error correction at a Gigabit per second (GBPS) data rate.”-Marvell

There is VERY limited information about this individual chip, as it is the same for the other Marvell product on this board; they are both very brand new. What I believe this chip does is further extend the ability of NPU to actually get rid of all network traffic and reroute your game traffic efficiently through your router/network. Think of it like this, the BIGFOOT NPU/NIC is a normal human body and the Marvell PHY is a suite that makes it super human, its extra hardware for the already hardware capable NPU/NIC. This PHY allows most of the functions that the BIGFOOT NIC/NPU does to be done more effectively.

The Audio: Creative Sounder Blaster (20K2) with X-Fi Extreme Fidelity and EAX Advanced HD 5.0

The GIGABYTE G1 Assassin is the world’s only gaming motherboard to feature the new Creative Sound Blaster Processor 20K2 along with X-Fi and EAX. This package is great for gamers who don’t want to purchase an extra sound card to experience the greatest sound quality. As many know a sound card can take up a lot of space on a PCB for a PCI-E slot. So how does GIGABYTE fit this technology on this motherboard? It took a lot of engineering and hard work to get this audio system along with the Big Foot LAN into this motherboard. GIGABYTE has ensured that every stage of the process be equipped properly so that you do not lose audio quality at any point.
First off we have already looked at the power delivery VRM for the sound, because you need the best in every stage of the process to deliver great performance.


As you can see above all those components contribute to making the sound experience really enjoyable. Let’s start out with the big bad processor, the hot tamale, the Creative 20K2 audio processor.
(#1/Pink) We have the Creative CA20K2-2AG HF. It is a digital audio processor based on the 20K2 architecture. It features OpenAL 3d Audio, X-Fi Extreme, CMOS-3D, X-Fi Crystallizer, a RISC processor.
Most importantly it has a 24-bit Digital Audio I/O, 8 audio inputs and 8 audio output, up to 128 channels, and even up to 384 KHz sample rate! This audio processor is a beast.


(#2/purple) We need to focus on why there is a DDR module built into this board. Adding memory for devices other than the CPU on a motherboard is a really great thing, but it costs money. The reason for adding this 128MB Hynix DDR SDRAM is so that the creative processor doesn’t eat up any of the other components resources. They have built a self-sustaining sub-system, with its own VRM and even its own RAM and processor.

(#3/Red) Now a few things that an audio buff or anyone looking deeply into how these processors work is that they process digital audio, such as on your computer. Any buff knows that analog audio is a much more real sound. Analog sound is continuous, while digital is in bits and pieces. So audio sounds better in analog and is processed faster and better in digital. The chip marked by number 3 and outlined in red in the second picture is the Wolfson 96 KHz 4 channel I/P MUX 24-bit delta sigma analog to digital converter (ADC). It helps digitize home surround sound in Hi-Fi.

(#4/baby blue) This IC is a Texas Instruments LC245A Optical bus transceiver, with 3-state outputs. The optical S/PDIF output on the back panel comes from here, S/PDIF is actually a digital output, unlike the other outputs on this board, and there is not only the optical port, but also two coaxial S/PDIF outputs.

(#5/orange) This little chip is another analog to digital converter (ADC), the AKM 53588ET, actually made by Asahi Kasei Microsystems (AKM), it is a 96KHz 24-bit ADC, just like the Wolfson ADC. Most probably for the front panel header inputs.

#6s and #7 Audio Amplifiers!
Now you are probably wondering why there are 4 number 6 and 1 number 7.
The #6s are STMicroelectronics C4558 Dual high Speed Low-Noise Operational Amplifiers, which can drive up to 200 Ω loads. One these is actually hooked up to the line out in the front, the other three are as follows: Center/Subwoofer, Rear left/Right, and side surround left/right.

The #7 is New Japan Radio 4556A high current high output dual operational amplifier, the #7 is connected to the line out in the rear of the board. This bad boy is capable of driving 150 Ω loads.
Together #6 and #7 combine to cover every output. They are as important as the Audio processor, this means that every audio output on the back panel and front panel has high quality, high driving load amplifiers for the best sound possible. They provide crisp audio playback like you have never heard come out of a computer. Of course your headphone or speaker system has to be just as good.


#8 is not outlined anywhere because its much closer to the output ports, and for good reason. First we have gone over all the analog to digital converters, well what about converting all that digital into crisp clean analog for our headphones and speaker? Well this chip does all that. The Cirrus Logic CS4382ACOZ is an 8 channel 24-bit Digital to Analog (DAC) which can output 114dB along 8 channels at 192 KHz. This chip is on the output end of a great line of technology. Variants of this specific chip are the bottlenecks of any sounds card, because while the processor can processes at any rate and produce sound are high frequencies, if this chip can’t do it then the system can’t. You are well equipped here. The Cirrus Logic unit is below:






Here we have some really amazing capacitors. Specially designed for audio appliances you have to have these to. The green are 33uF 16v Nichicon MUSE ES series and the orange on the right are Nichicon 33uF 16v MW series which are much smaller in size. They are Bi-Polarized Electrolytic capacitor specially designed and constructed for audio equipment. Every channel’s audio has to go through these high quality capacitors before reaching your ears; this is almost the last line of electronic perfection. They provide the maximum resolution of sound for professional gamers. This is how GIGABYTE does motherboards, down to the detail, and even more than expected.
Here is a quick and dirty diagram of how the flow of data goes, hopefully if you read through everything this will help you tie everything together(or confuse you more):

Now we can start where we left off at the IOH

The X58 IOH:


Natively the X58 IOH provides 36 lanes for the PCI-E bandwidth. Not only do video cards operate off these lanes, but so does the integrated USB3, SATA6G controller, as well as many other peripherals. A brief history of the X58 chipset will reveal that there are three revisions of the chipset, the most recently being revision B3/13, before this revision the main one that hit markets was B2/12, it seems that revision B1/11 was never released to the public. Older boards that have rev12/B2 chipsets seem to have a hard time reaching high base clock frequencies, but base clock is only partially dependent on the chipset. The processors IMC and QPI drive strength have a lot to do with how high you can get the base clock (blck). Any board that is capable of 220blck is a winner, and after that most boards require you to enable QPI Slow Mode. There is a theoretical QPI block speed of 8.8ghz. To get around this base clock blocker, motherboard manufactures have implemented QPI Slow Mode. Normally the lowest multiplier available for QPI Link Speed is 36x, but with Slow Mode enabled it will take the QPI link speed of Bloomfield down to 24x, and on Gulftown 32x; like most functions that control the processor, this lower end multiplier limit is commanded by non-other than Intel. You also need high PCI-E frequency to break through base clock barriers, and this board will boot with 130 PCI-E frequency off the bat, it used to be a mod needed on the EX58 series, but gigabyte did it for you. While you can boot at 130mhz usually PCI-E video cards will not take this kind of torture and will not post, yes with a PCI card or low end PCI-E card you should be able to get up there, I am able to with my GT220.

PCI-E:


Here are some very interesting ICs that make the whole motherboard work. Clock generators generate a clock speed such as the base clock, which the processor uses to create the frequency. We will start in order, number 1 is the clock generator for the PCI-E express devices the ICS9DB403DGLF which provides a 100mhz clock, the standard clock. Number 2 is the ICS9LPRS914HKLF which provides the 133mhz clock for the CPU’s base clock(BLCK).

Number 3 is a bit more complicated, it’s one of the eight(8) PCI-E multiplexer(MUX)/demultiplexer(DEMUX).A multiplexer is able to take multiple signals and output one and a DEMUX does the opposite, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. A multiplexer and demultiplexer is able to allow a single device that needs one lane of PCI-E connectivity connect to that single PCI-E lane. We call these types of devices PCI-E switches. When a device such as an SATA controller or a GPU for instance wants to connect to the PCI-E lanes it needs a MUX/DEMUX to help it do so. Without a DEMUX/MUX all your devices would share all the PCI-E lanes all at the same time, creating huge problems.

Now we have 8 switches, and they are connected to two different PCI-E busses. On bus is from the X58 IOH and it was 36 lanes, these lanes are connected to all the PCI-E ports as well as the Marvell SATA6G control and the NEC USB 3.0 controller. There are 4 switches for those.


Then there are 4 more switches for the ICH (ICH10R) south bridge, two control the PCI-E 1x slots and the other two are connected to the LAN and the Audio devices. Above we have the ICH named the ICH10R. This is the traditional Southbridge and it controls the SATA3GB/s ports as well as the USB 2.0, the PCI port, BIOSes, and the hardware monitoring Super I/O chips.

Brand NEW ICs on the board:

There are many new ICs on this board that have not been released on any boards yet. They are probabaly going to first hit the market with the G1 Killer boards. I will have numbers for you all in the upcoming week. I am going to go over the new Winbond monitoring chip that is only new to GB, then I am going to talk about the new SATA6G chip and the USb 3.0 chip, so stay tuned.


Above is the trust iTE IT8720F Super I/O chip, which has pleased GIGABYTE X58 users for years and years with some of the most precise software voltage measurements I have ever seen. The iTE chip also provides us both the PS2 keyboard and mouse ports on the back panel. It also has support for I believe a single temperature sensor as well as a single smart fan controller (CPU).
Well GIGABYTE has further stepped up the game, by bringing in a second Super I/O chip the Winbond W83l789NG which is also a Super I/O HW monitoring chip. This chip allows for the 3 extra temperature sensors and the 4 extra controllable fan connectors. For those of you who have been asking, here you go!

Marvell SE9182 yes 9182 NOT 9128.

The Marvell SE9128 is a very famous SATA6GB/s controller. It was the only SATA6G controller available with RAID capabilities until the Intel PCH P67 chipset arrived. Well it seems Marvell is at it again, with a brand new SATA6G controller, this time without any BIOS chip! This is a pretty big deal, if they were able to get away without BIOS, or integrated it, who knows how much they improved performance upon the 88SE9128. I will test it out within the next few days to get to the bottom of it! Oh yea by the way instead of using just one PCI-E 1x lane, this bad boy can use 2x PCI-1X lanes!

USB 3.0 from Renesas NEC D720200AF1

Just because Intel doesn’t provide a chipset with native USB 3.0 doesn’t mean the rest of us have to suffer, so GIGABYTE has incorporated a NEC USB 3.0 chip. NEC/Renesas make the most widely available USB 3.0 controller, yet this one is not exactly released yet.


I believe it has a native 4 USB 3.0 ports, because we have two VLI hubs that double the number of ports, and we have the ability to hook up 8 USB 3.0 devices, what a chip. Of course that single chip can’t provide 8 USB 3.0 ports, but two high quality VLI810 hubs can take native 4 channels and turn them into 8.


Dual BIOS
We have dual 16Mbit BIOS chips, which are extremely capable. We also have BIOS with 3TB+ HDD capability.


The importance of dual BIOS is huge, because before companies started doing this, flashing your BIOS was a life and death situation, now it’s like child’s play…. Almost.

The heatsink.


Before I take a look at the heatsink, I think it might be beneficial for you guys to take a look at this:



While not everyone who buys this board might be gamers that like to shoot, many of you can appreciate the styling.
First let’s take a look at the main heatsink. It is the same material as the P67 board, but with much more design and custom molding. As you can see below, they even got L.E.D.s into the main heatsink. They are green and pretty bright. They add a little of that bling that comes with a board this featured.



I figure I can just show you a bunch of pictures so you can get a feel for what it looks like





Now when we turn it over we can see that they use thermal poste for the IOH, and thermal tape for everything else.


Let’s move over to something more specialized. This heatsink is held down onto the 2oz PCB board by 12 metal screws and springs with washers. That is very typical of the new GIGABYTE heatsink design, and honestly it’s a must. GIGABYTE has 12 screws for the main heatsink, and then for a minor heatsink for the Low RDS (on) MOSFETs for the uncore power; we have a very small heatsink, carried over from the X58 boards.

To finish off this section, let me show you the most awesome warning I have ever read:

I think this board is one of a gamers biggest weapons personally.

Conclusion:

When you research to purchase computer hardware, you have to choose what you want based on what you know. You should consider features, dimensions, compatibility, features once again, looks are very important if you have an open windowed case as many enthusiasts and gamers do. This board has everything and more, I am still surprised GIGABYTE added a second H/W monitor. I am even more surprised by the attention to detail and quality, from the power delivery of the LAN and Audio to the delivery of the final signal to the wires. I just hope you have good enough headphones/speakers and a fast enough internet connection to keep up. Honestly I have an X58A-UD5, it has about 20% of the features this motherboard has, and no doubt in my mind when I move my processor from my UD5 to this premium gaming motherboard that it will never go back unless a nice 990X hops in its place. This motherboard makes my processor look puny in comparison; a really nice combo would be this motherboard and a 990X hexacore processor.

Now there are a few things I should mention that I just found out today:

#1 these motherboards will be available online at Newegg and Microcenter only in the beginning, until they filter through to resellers.

#2 the G1 Assassin (this board) and the G1 Sniper will be released at the end of February. The G1 Guerrilla will be released in March.

#3 MSRP of these boards are as follows in USD$:

G1 Assassin: $529
G1 Sniper: $449
G1 Guerrilla: $349

#4 GIGABYTE will be at PAX EAST this year (gaming convention?) and they are giving away a free system with this motherboard included. There will also be many high-end gaming systems built on this technology for those at PAX EAST to try out and game on.


Now that you know the MSRP you are asking yourself what makes up the cost, and the answer to that question is that this is almost like the UD9 just without NF200 and with $200 worth of features, considering with GIGABYTE you pay for quality this board is really for Xtreme/Professional Gamers this isn’t meant to be an OC board, even though it should OC like a charm, we will find out. I hope you enjoyed being an amateur systems engineer with me today. Here I wanted to educate the general population on the hardware features and everything hardware about this board and I had about 3-4 days to do it (keep up with the crowd, which beat me to it by 4 hours and 2 days). If you find an error in my review, PLEASE PM ME! I always answer my PMs.

Also a huge thanks to those at GIGABYTE and their partners CREATIVE Labs and BIGFOOT Networks for making this review possible, none of this would be possible without you!
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Old 17-02-2011, 11:28 PM   #2
scottath
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WOW - what a review......
That just took me a good 35min to read through - so there had to be a tonne of effort put into that review - much appreciated.
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Old 23-02-2011, 07:08 PM   #3
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Nice thanks for the detailed review
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Old 01-03-2011, 11:39 PM   #4
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nicely done
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Old 04-03-2011, 05:51 AM   #5
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thanks! i got my 990x in today so we are going to see some nice benches coming from this board. I did initial testing with my i7 930 and this board is excellent at 3d benchmarks. I will post up a performance review shortly, probably by the end of the weekend!
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