Intel Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge Processor Launch Review
With a board called G1.Sniper 3 Gigabyte really had to go with a military theme for the packaging and on the box we find plenty of information on the key features which the board offers. Inside there are a massive amount of extras and those begin with the product documentation, poster, stickers, USB cable, IO shield and software disc.
Added to the bundle are a number of SATA cables, eSATA bracket, front panel USB 3.0 bracket, Crossfire connector and SLI bridges for 2-4 cards. Gigabyte don’t stop there though, they also include a dual band, 300Mbps Wireless-N PCIe card with Bluetooth 4.0+ compatibility.
The board uses a E-ATX PCB which is black with green components standing out. Attached to it are four heatsinks and each is connected to the next by a heatpipe with enhanced cooling offered by the five smartfan headers on the board. Gigabyte use and an all-digital PWM controller array which provides precise power to the CPU, VTT, graphics and memory (including auto voltage compensation).
The G1.Sniper 3 uses a 12 phase power design and is part of the Ultra Durable 4 family which means it features high temperature protection, humidity protection, electrostatic protection and power failure protection. This is in addition to the Japanese solid capacitors, lower RDS(on) MOSFETs and 2Oz copper PCB based on glass fabric materials… all combining to offer cooler operation, enhanced durability, energy efficiency and maximised overclocking potential.
Looking down at the bottom left corner of our board are the add-in card slots with PCIe 3.0 supported. In terms of layout we have 16x, 1x, 8x, 1x, 16x, PCI, 8x. 4way/quad SLI and CrossFire are supported and should we install 3-4 cards the four slots would all run at 8x. It is also worth noting that between the 2nd and 3rd full length slots we find dual BIOS chips to assist us in recovering from any system issues.
To the right of the PCIe Slots, behind a metal barrier we have an interesting set of components, essentially a built in soundcard. Not just the controller as we would expect, but the Creative Core3D processor, front audio headphone amplifier (150Ω), 4 additional amplifiers for the back panel connectors and Nichicon MUSE ES/MW bi-polarized audio capacitors.
Down at the right hand corner we have ten SATA ports, six use the Intel chipset (2x SATA 3.0) and offer RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 as well as AHCI and hot-plugging. The other four ports use the Marvell 9172 SATA 6GB/s controller and adding further connectivity we have an mSATA slot along with USB 3.0 front panel connector and SATA power plug to add extra stability with multiple high end devices installed.
Further up the board is a standard 24-pin power socket and beside this a second front panel USB 3.0 connector which also uses the Intel chipset. Next to these are our four memory slots, these are of course split into a dual channel configuration and Gigabyte support DDR3 speeds well in excess of 2000MHz, officially quoting 2666MHz with compatibility for all socket 1155 CPUs. Rounding off this area we have voltage read points, on-board power, reset and clear CMOS buttons along with a debug LED.
Our back panel connectivity is thorough and includes PS/2, 2x USB 3.0 (Intel), VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, 4x USB 3.0 (VIA), Dual GBLAN (Intel and Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200), with the final connectors 3.5mm and optical audio.
BIOS and Software
Gigabyte use a GUI BIOS and it is split into two areas. The first is called 3D BIOS and allows us to navigate round by clicking on components on the board along with sub options. The second is a more traditional list based interface, of course still using mouse/keyboard inputs. As always the enthusiast options are found in the M.I.T. screen and allow us to tweak the board, CPU and memory easily In addition to the main screens we also have a tool, which allows us to update the BIOS from a USB drive for quick and easy flashes.
Gigabyte offer plenty of software with the Sniper board including tools which add support for faster charging of USB devices and BIOS updates. In addition to this we get two tweaking tools, one based around the boards 3D concept and the other the standard Gigabyte EasyTune software.
Finally the G1.Sniper 3 supports Rapid Start Technology (quicker boots), Smart Connect (updates to applications while powered down) and Lucid VirtuMVP (GPU enhancements).
On our test bench today is the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE which looks to deliver many of the features of the competition such as enhanced audio and M.2. support but at a more aggressive price point.
Last month Intel launched their Z97 chipset, essentially an evolution of Z87, which in many cases brought new features such as SATA Express and M.2 compatibility to the mainstream desktop market. There was of course no new CPU at that time with the existing socket 1150 processors working without issue in the new boards. Since then though Intel launched (along with some lower spec models) the Core i7-4790K, a model which sits at the top of their mainstream platform. Today we see how it compares to various other models when installed on Gigabytes Z97X Gaming 5 and paired with PowerColors new dual core 290X Devil 13.
Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WiFi-BK vs. MSI Z97 Gaming 5 vs Asus Maximus VII Hero It is probably fair to say that Intel don't stealth launch their products... sure they have NDAs but by the time those expire we know pretty much everything about a new product. Part of this is of their own...