Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87 Gaming Motherboard Review
When Intel launched their Haswell range of CPUs with the release of the socket 1150 based Core i7-4770K major motherboard manufacturers were able to release a wide range of new boards to support the new platform. One of those boards was from Gigabyte, the G1.Sniper 5, and we found it to be an excellent high end board. As much as most of us would love to have the best of the best in our system, funds don’t always permit that so we must look a little further down the product stack to find a board that suits our needs and budget.
Sitting at the £120/$169 price point is Gigabytes G1.Sniper Z87, a recent addition to their Z87 range. This board looks to pack as many features from the high end gaming boards as possible into a more approachable price point for consumers. Today we find out if they have succeeded in balancing the two aspects.
Packaging and Bundle
On their packaging Gigabyte give focus to some of the key features for this product and inside we find the board well protected, including the traditional anti-static bag. Bundled with the board we get the usual selection of product documentation, software disc and drive cables with the board also having a high quality I/O shield and SLI bridge connector.
Let’s now take a look at the board itself…
The G1.Sniper Z87 Motherboard
The G1.Sniper Z87 uses an ATX PCB and like the higher priced model it features a black PCB with select components using green and the others, matching the board. There is no active cooling on the board, just a passive heatsink on the chipset with another two on the power circuitry and powering the board we have one 8-pin connector and a 24-pin connector.
As is normal for Gigabyte boards we get their Ultra Durable tech which includes Lowe RDS(on) MOSFETs, solid capacitors, humidity, and temperature protection.
Gigabyte go with a PCIe slot layout which runs from a top PCIe through a 16x slot and on down via PCIe 1x, PCIe 1x, PCIe 8x and dual PCI. The large PCIe slots are all 3.0 spec. Then at the bottom right we find our drive connectors. There are six present here they run off the Intel chipset (6x SATA3) with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 supported along with AHCI.
Moving up the edge of the board we pass an internal USB 3.0 connector and find our power connector. Then past that, beneath the four memory slots we find on-board buttons for power, reset and clear CMOS. The memory slots are split into a dual channel configuration allowing speeds above 2900MHz with XMP also included. Also worthy of note is that in this area a debug LED is present.
Turning round to the back panel we have a good number of gold plated connectors as well as some notable Gigabyte features such as USB ports with individual fuses (as well as fast charging) and network port with electrostatic discharge protection. Our connectors start with PS/2 which sits below 2x USB 2.0. Then it’s coaxial audio connector, HDMI, Displayport and USB 2.0 again, this time with DAC-UP for higher quality power output to digital audio convertors. Four USB 3.0 ports are next up and then we end with KillerNIC port, optical out and our 3.5mm audio connectors.
Speaking of audio ports, this is one area where the G1.Sniper range really leads the way. In this location we have an upgradable Op-AMP for enhanced sound quality and tweaking from the SoundBlaster Chipset but in addition we have other high quality audio components (eg. Nichicon capacitors) and new on this model, switches to boost the power to our headphones for those on high quality enthusiast headsets (6x and 2x amplification). Finally there is some green LED lighting on the PCB… that isn’t all about looks though as it acts as a barrier between the main board and audio section to minimise any interference.
The audio controller used on the G1.Sniper Z87 is similar to that found on the likes of a Creative Soundblaster Z PCIe based card and the use of this chip also unlocks some key software functions. Scout mode for example allows us to boost aspects of in-game audio to hear enemies more easily (or from further away). CrystalVoice cleans up our microphone audio to maximise the quality that others hear and we can enable various surround modes or tweak the equalisers as required. Gigabyte also bundle their own software with the board, including a utility to update our software/drivers and @BIOS to help us maintain that.
Gigabyte have also been refreshing their software recently and now have re-skinned it for the G1.Sniper Z87. Using this software we can take control of the basic funtions such as fan configuration or delve a little deeper to overclock. We can even tweak power use or block USB devices which is an interesting feature and then we can of course also configure USB fast charging for appropriate devices and allow them to be charged through our PC even when it is turned off.
Looking next to the BIOS Gigabyte go with a near identical offering to the higher spec Sniper 5. This feature offers a hugely configurable set of screens (including the ability to have custom backgrounds) with full mouse/keyboard interaction. Around the sides we get key system information and then in the centre are our configuration options, which include the ability to create custom screens/profiles for our favoured options. We can overclock in real time here too, with no need to reboot over and over and as always Gigabyte offer USB based BIOS flashes for quick and simple updates.