GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 2 Sandy Bridge Motherboard Review

GIGABYE took a different approach with the G1.Sniper 2. This board is a lean, mean, fighting machine. Designed to be a champion, the board leverages key technologies, such as integrated Bigfoot Killer NIC and Creative X-Fi audio, that enable it to adeptly take out its more feature-rich brethren.

Introduction

GIGABYTE is one of the few computer component manufacturers that has been able to consistently better itself with each new product iteration. It started securely rooted in the consumer space, with some of the most stable stock products on the market but only lack-luster overclocking abilities. Fast-forward to 2011 and GIGABYTE not only has maintained its reputation for stability, but has become a force to be reckoned with in the enthusiast and overclocking space. The company leverages its design prowess and quality consciousness to bring to market higher performance products with each new product generation. This continues to be true with its latest Intel LGA1155 boards.

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The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 2 board uses the Intel Z68 chipset to offer support for the listed technologies: the Intel LGA1155 Core i3, i5, and i7 processor lines; DDR3 memory operating in Dual Channel memory mode up to 1333MHz officially; and either NVIDIA SLI or ATI CrossFireX graphics mode using matched video cards. GIGABYTE integrated the following device list in to the G1.Sniper 2's design: 3 SATA II 3Gb/s ports, 1 eSATA 3Gb/s port, and 2 SATA III 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 capable) on the Intel Z68 controller; 2 SATA III 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0 and 1 capable) on the Marvel SE9172 controller; 14 USB 2.0 capable ports (8 in rear panel, and 3 onboard header supporting 2 ports each); 4 USB 3.0 capable ports (2 in rear panel, and 1 onboard header supporting 2 ports each); 1 Bigfoot Killer Ethernet port in the rear panel; Creative X-Fi 8-channel HD audio codec with integrated S/PDIF optical output port; Integrated chipset graphics support with HDMI output port in the rear panel; CPU overlocking button in the rear panel; 5.25" front access control panel with Quick Boost CPU overclocking button, a hybrid USB 2.0/eSATA port, and 2 x USB 3.0 ports; and a PS/2 keyboard / mouse port in the rear panel.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Mainboard Specification List:

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Packaging

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GIGABYTE chose what appears to be a game inspired mercenary type artistic flare with the box. The box itself looks like a weathered tan colored ammo box from the front, with the board name and supported technologies clearly marked, in addition to a 3 year warranty sticker and the G1-Killer series logo in the lower right corner. The following accessories are bundled in with board: locking connector SATA drive cables; a 2-way NVIDIA SLI connector; an HDMI to DVI video adapter; the 5.25" front access control panel; the rear panel shield; military themed appliqu├ęs for your case; and the normal complement of manuals and drivers discs. The 5.25" front access control panel contains the Quick Boost CPU overclocking button, a hybrid USB 2.0/eSATA port, and 2 x USB 3.0 ports. The Quick Boost CPU overclocking button forces an instant jump in the CPU multiplier setting when enabled. In the case of the Intel Core i5-2500K processor used for testing, the multiplier was forced to 41x no matter what its previous setting was.

Board Layout

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The G1.Sniper 2 features a sleek design, with obvious forethought put in to the layout and overall look and feel. There is adequate room around each of the PCI-Express x16 slots for even the largest cards, with an accessible PCI-Express x1 slot even with the primary PCI-Express x16 slot in use. The heat sinks covering the normal board hotspots have weapon inspired features. The Intel Z68 chipset cooler is fashioned like an assault rifle magazine with a round exposed, while the heat sinks surrounding the CPU socket are inspired by pistol and rifle barrel designs. The revision number is silk-screened to the upper left corner of the board, with a version 1.0 used in testing. The board serial number is located on a white sticker along the outside edge of the ATX power connector. In addition, the serial and version numbers can be found on a white sticker on the outside cover of the box. In designing the board's power regulation circuitry, GIGABYTE used a combination of high quality polymer solid-electrolyte capacitors and Ferrite core chokes on the G1.Sniper 2.

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The G1.Sniper 2's CPU socket area is free of unnecessary obstructions on all sides, with the large heat sinks used for cooling the power regulation circuitry far enough back so as to not be a hindrance. The CPU cooler is held-fast using the standard LGA1155 style mechanism. To the direct left of the socket is a power header for the heat sink imbedded LEDs. The 8-pin ATX12V power connector, the FAN1 header, and the CPU_FAN header are located to the upper right of the CPU socket.

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The on-board DDR3 memory slots are located directly below the CPU socket area, arranged in a bi-colored 2-by-2 configuration. Dual Channel memory mode becomes active with matching modules populating the same colored slots across sets. The green colored slots are considered the primary memory slots. The 24-pin ATX power connector, FAN4 header, and USB 3.0 header are located to the lower left of the memory slots.

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The Intel Z68 Express chipset sits below the two onboard PCI-Express x16 slots, covered by a large low profile heat sink in the shape of a rifle magazine. The on-board SATA ports are located directly below the chipset cooler, with the Intel Z68 ports being the 2 white colored ports, rated at 6 GB/s, and the 3 black colored ports, rated at 3 GB/s. The Marvel controlled SATA III 6GB/s ports are the grey colored SATA ports. To the lower right of the chipset cooler are the FAN4 and USB 3.0 headers. The FAN3 header, Quick Boost overclocking header, CMOS reset jumper, and front panel header are located to the lower left of the chipset cooler along the left edge of the board. A cable from the 5.25" front panel connects to the Quick Boost overclocking header in order to enable the Quick Boost button located in the panel. To the left and above the chipset heat sink are the trusted module port, and the serial and USB 2.0 headers.

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The G1.Sniper 2 features a total of 6 device ports: 2 PCI-Express x16 slots, 2 PCI-Express x1 slots, and 2 PCI slots. The USB 2.0, FAN2, S/PDIF output, and front panel audio headers are located along the outer edge of PCI slot 2. The CMOS battery is located to the lower left of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot.

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GIGABYTE chose to integrate the following ports in to the G1.Sniper 2's rear panel assembly: a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo-port; 6 USB 2.0 ports (red or black colored USB style ports); 2 USB 3.0 ports (blue colored USB style ports); 1 Bigfoot Killer GigE Ethernet port; 1 hybrid e-SATA 3Gb/s / USB 2.0 ports (black colored ports e-SATA style port); 1 HDMI video output port; CPU overclock button with button cover; and 5 analogue and S/PDIF optical audio output ports. As was the case with the Quick Boost CPU overclocking button on the front access control panel, the CPU overclocking button forces an instant jump in the CPU multiplier setting when enabled. In the case of the Intel Core i5-2500K processor used for testing, the multiplier was forced to 41x no matter what its previous setting was.

GIGABYTE EasyTune 6

For windows based monitoring and overclocking, GIGABYTE packages version 6 of their EasyTune software on the install DVD with the version shown being revision B11.0630.1. The application functionality is split across several tabs located at the top of the application window. By default, the application opens to the Tuner tab with the Mode set to Quick Boost.

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The Tuner tab allows for user controlled manipulation of the various board bus speeds and voltages with 3 modes of operation available - Quick Boost mode, Easy mode and Advanced mode. The Quick Boost mode is active by default, allowing the user to select from 1 of 3 overclocking scenarios. The Easy and Advanced mode of operation allows for full user control of board bus frequencies, device speed settings and ratios, and board voltages, with settings shown similar in nature to those shown in the BIOS. Note that the screenshots shown show Advanced mode active only. Easy mode operation is similar in nature, with less configuration options to choose from.

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The CPU tab shows real time system statistics on the various bus speeds, and well as detailed CPU and BIOS related information. The memory tab shows memory statistics for all onboard slots on a slot by slot basis. Note that the information shown in both tabs in very similar in nature to the data you would see in the freeware CPU-Z application.

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The Graphics tab contains settings for manually configuring the GPU and onboard memory speed for supported graphics cards.

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The Smart tab contains settings for manually setting the CPU Smart Fan temperature thresholds for optimal CPU cooler performance.

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The HW Monitor tab displays statistics on all BIOS monitored voltages under the Voltage sub-tab. The Fan/Temp sub-tab contains statistics on monitored device fan speeds and temperatures, with the option for configuring alert settings for the monitored devices.

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Clicking on the summary icon in the upper right corner of the application display the Quick Summary window, which displays high level information on board device and bus speeds, voltages, and memory.