Gigabyte X79-UD5 LGA 2011 Motherboard Review

Gigabyte brings us another beautiful board in the form of the X79-UD5. Should this board be on your short list or is beauty only PCB deep? See how this LGA 2011 socket board stacks up with the Sandy Bridge E boards we have seen so far. This UD5 model is feature rich for a decent price, but, does it blend?

Introduction

Gigabyte is one of the most well known motherboard manufacturers in the world. Like many of its competitors its products cover a wide range of price points and market segments. Gigabyte even manufactures other types of computer parts such as cases and graphics cards. However, it is motherboards that Gigabyte is generally known best for.

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The Gigabyte X79-UD5 is based off Intel’s X79 Express chipset. The X79 Express chipset is Intel’s most recent addition to its motherboard chipset lineup. This chipset was released to facilitate support for Intel’s Core i7 3xxx family processors based on the LGA2011 socket. Like the P67 and Z68 Express chipsets before it, the X79 is a unified design. Functionally X79 is not really much higher end than P67 or Z68, it simply supports the new LGA2011 CPUs. About the only performance enhancement X79 really got was the ability to support 64GB of RAM in up to four channels. P67 and Z68 only support dual memory channels and top out at 32GB of RAM.

Following Gigabyte’s typical naming convention, the suffix of "UD5" indicates that the board is mid-range in the enthusiast model lineup. A "UD3" would be more of a budget oriented offering while a "UD7" would be high a higher end solution. Despite being more or less a mid-range board, being an LGA2011 board makes this a high end platform to begin with as all LGA2011 CPUs are hex cores at this point in time. And again, despite being a mid-range LGA2011 board, the feature list on the X79-UD5 is fairly impressive. The board supports CrossFireX as well as SLI, 3-Way SLI, and PCI-Express 3.0. It even supports SATA 6G and USB 3.0. This is no thanks to Intel’s lackluster support for this on the chipset side. The chipset supports only 2 SATA 6G devices and USB 3.0 support is provided by a third party chip as usual.

Like others in the market, Gigabyte has its own list of unique features which may or may not actually be all that unique, but are given catchy names which are unique to the company’s products. Gigabyte now has its "3D Power" feature which is digital control over the power phases of the board. In this case 3D refers to the two sets of memory channels and the CPU power phases. At least this is what I was able to decipher from the marketing speak on the Gigabyte product page for the X79-UD5. Another clever name is the "DualBIOS" which isn’t really unique to Gigabyte, but is assigned a catchy name on Gigabyte boards. This obviously referring to the dual BIOS ROMs on the motherboard providing the enthusiast with some redundancy should they need to recover from a bad BIOS flash or simply wish to switch over to the other one for a variety of reasons ranging from alternate settings to even alternate versions of the BIOS itself.

Additionally Gigabyte has its ON/OFF charge feature for charging for your phone even if the computer is powered down. The version of the Gigabyte X79-UD5 we received also came with a WiFi card and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Finally this is one of Gigabyte’s "Ultra Durable 3" motherboards with a 2x copper PCB. The board therefore uses all Japanese solid-electrolytic capacitors, lower RDS MOSFETs, and Ferrite core chokes.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

The Gigabyte X79-UD5 comes in a white box with black text on it and despite being larger than cheaper board packaging tends to be, it’s pretty much standard fare for motherboard shipping. Our board arrived with all its accessories intact and damage free. Our PCB was marked "Rev 1.0."

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At this price point, Gigabyte isn’t shy with the accessories. Included are a user’s manual, quick start guide, utilities manual, GC-WiFi manual, driver discs for both the WiFi and the board itself, SATA cables, SLI & 3-Way SLI bridges, CrossFireX bridge, I/O shield, internal USB cable for the WiFi card, WiFi card, front panel USB 3.0 bay ports, dual WiFi antennas, and finally a metallic sticker with the Gigabyte logo on it.

Board Layout

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The board features an almost exceptional layout. Lately I’ve been finding more and more to nit-pick about with many boards from virtually every brand. On the X79-UD5, I recognize only one thing which truly bothers me. The absolutely bone headed placement of the CMOS battery. You’d have to remove your primary graphics card to pull or replace the battery if it’s a dual slot card. Even with this glaring screw up in the design, the Gigabyte X79-UD5 layout is still better than that of some more expensive X79 boards I’ve seen. All power connectors, onboard switches, headers and expansion slots are really ideally placed for most people and most case installations.

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The CPU socket area is easily accessible and fairly spaced well. I’m not really all that happy about flanking both sides of the CPU socket with memory slots as push/pull setups using large air coolers will probably block the use of at least one DIMM slot per bank. Your mileage may vary on this. Granted I think most people who will opt to go the Core i7 3930K / 3960X route will probably use either one of the self-contained watercooling units from Intel, Corsair, and Antec or more traditional water cooling hardware. I don’t see too many people running an LGA2011 board with an old fashioned air cooler at this point. The use of some type of liquid cooling makes the socket area work out just fine.

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The board’s 8 DIMM slots flank the CPU socket. These are color coded grey and black to denote proper dual/quad channel operation and use a standard dual locking tab retention mechanism found on most boards today. The tabs at least match on all the DIMM slots. Some boards use two different styles of locking tabs alternating between color coded slots, which I find atrocious. There is also plenty of room to add or remove modules even with large video cards installed in the system. Only your choice of CPU cooler could cause problems with this area.

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The X79 chipset is a unified chipset so there is no north bridge. The "north bridge" can be found where the south bridge would have been on an X58 board. Directly in front of that are the 10 SATA ports the motherboard has, tied to various controllers. The X79’s controllers are black and white, where white denotes SATA III / 6G capability, while the black ports are SATA II / 3G compatible only. Curiously, the board’s Marvell 9172 controller ports are separated by a couple of inches from the X79 ports. These are all SATA III / 6G capable and are all color coded gray. I really like how Gigabyte chose to color code these in such a way as to make figuring out which ports belong to which controller easy enough. Also the location of these means that with larger video cards, only some of them may end up being difficult to reach. All are right angled at least, and all support locking SATA cables. A must in my mind.

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The expansion slot area is done extremely well aside from the moronic placement of the CMOS battery. I could take or leave the legacy PCI slot, but other than that, I think this is optimal. Gigabyte correctly chose to allocate 16 lanes to the top and bottom PCIe x16 slots and leave the middle one an x8 slot. This allows full bandwidth and tons of space in between when running two cards SLI or Crossfire. However all three slots drop to x8 mode when 3-Way SLI or 3 card CrossFireX are used. PCIe x1 slots are out of the way.

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The rear I/O panel is packed with ports. 7 USB 2.0 ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, 1 RJ-45 LAN port, 1 optical output, 5 mini-stereo jacks, 1 IEEE1394a port, 1 PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, 2 eSATA ports (one of which is a combination USB 2.0 port), 1 BIOS switch button, and finally a 1 touch OC button.


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