Author: Chris Ledenican
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/Gigabyte_G1_Assassin/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
The G1.Assassin is a motherboard designed exclusively for extreme enthusiasts who value performance and features above all else. This makes this board a rarity in today's market, as most products maintain a balance between the amount of features available and the overall cost. The G1.Assassin, however, has totally flipped this concept on its head, and at $509.99 it is easily the most expensive motherboard in the consumer market. With such a steep MSRP, it is essential that the motherboard perform well across the board.
As a motherboard designed for the enthusiast community, the G1.Assassin includes a wide array of features to enhance the user's gaming experience, like support for 4-way CrossFireX and 3-way SLI. This model also integrated both a Creative X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity sound card and Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 Game Network directly onto the PCB. These features really help distinguish this board from other motherboards currently available, and should make it highly sought after by deep pocket gamers.
According to Gigabyte, the G1.Assassin can improve a user's gaming experience by giving users "the ability to see clearly through the fog of war that can often tip the balance between the winning and losing force". That is why GIGABYTE has equipped the G1-Killer series motherboards to offer maximum graphics flexibility and upgradeability. With multiple GPU support, GIGABYTE G1-Killer motherboards deliver maximum FPS (Frames Per Second), allowing gamers to see more clearly, aim faster, and move more quickly."
It is easy to see that Gigabyte went all out with the G1.Assassin, but the question is does the extreme price tag translate into extreme performance.
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel Connectors||
The Gigabyte G1.Assassin comes packaged in a box that is rather large for a motherboard, and is meant to resemble military casing. The front of the packaging mainly highlights the main features such as the use of a Killer E2100 NIC and on-board Creative sound card. The back of the box dives further into the details regarding the included features and specifications.
The motherboard and accessories come packaged in their own separate casing. Over the last few years it has become common practice for motherboards to ship with the internal goods separated in this manner, and for good reason. It prevents the accessories from excessively shifting around during transit and it also allows the manufacturers to include more accessories with the product. However, the larger the packaging the more waste. I guess you really can't win either way.
The accessories that are included with the G1.Assassin consist of a G1-series poster, stickers, a user's Guide, user's Manual, driver CD, CrossFireX bridge, 2-Way SLI bridge 3-way SLI bridge, four SATA 3.0 cables and the rear I/O Shield Plate. In all this is a good deal of accessories, even for a high-end product.
One of the more interesting accessories included with the G1.Assassin is a front mounted control panel that fits into an open 5.25" drive bay. This panel features two USB 3.0 ports and a eSATA port. These in themselves are nothing new, but Gigabyte has also included a Quick Boost button that can automatically overclock a processor simply by pressing a button. What separates this overclocking feature from others on the market is that it can be used during a game, benchmark or even while idle at your desktop for an instant performance increase.
The G1.Assassin is a sleek motherboard that uses an non-standard XL-ATX form factor, and has green and black color scheme that is inspired by jungle camouflage. In all we really like the overall design, but the large form factor is uncommon in the consumer market, and thus only select cases will be able to properly accommodate the G1.Assassin. Gigabyte uses the size to its advantage though, as it were able to integrate more features onto this board than anything else you'll find on the market. Also, the increased size will improve upon the expandability by proving more room for add-on components.
Turning to the back of the PCB, you can see that all the on-board heatsinks are secured to the board via screws. This has become the standard for enthusiast grade motherboards, and is the best option to ensure optimal thermal performance.So, at least for now the G1.Assassin is really looking to be quite a promising product.
The Gigabyte G1.Assassin use the Intel X58+ICH10R platform and includes full support for all Intel LGA-1366 i7 processors, including the 32nm hexa-core CPUs. The board also supports features such as Intel Turbo Boost Technology, EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology), XMP (Xtreme Memory Profile) and all other technologies associated with this platform. To power the installed processor, the Assassin includes a 16 phase Voltage Regulator Module (VRM) that incorporates Dual Power Switching and Power Phase Boost with Multi-gear Switching. These features all increase the power efficiency of the motherboard, which in turn improves the total system stability and increases the available overclocking ceiling.
Sitting next to the CPU socket are six 1.5V triple-channel memory DIMMs that are color coded per channel, with green representing one channel and black for the other The Assassin can support a maximum memory capacity of up to 24GB, and DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules.
The rear I/O options found on the G1.Assassin are rather light for a motherboard of this caliber. Gigabyte has included a PS/2 keyboard port , PS/2 mouse port, optical S/PDIF Out connector, coaxial S/PDIF Out connector, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a single RJ-45 port, and five audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Side Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out). The USB 3.0 options are enabled via on-board NEC controllers that are spread out across the PCB.
To improve the performance of the RJ-45 LAN port, Gigabyte has integrated a Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 processing unit directly onto the PCB. This will reduce in-game lag through features such as Network DNA, which combines the benefits of a dedicated network processor, Advanced Game Detect, Windows network bypass and Visual Bandwidth Control along with other technologies. The Killer E2100 processor can improve the networking speed by up to 10 times, which will give users a faster online experience, both in and out of games. Additionally, the Network Processing Unit (NPU) is equipped with a dedicated 1Gb DDR2 memory chip that offloads network traffic from the processor, freeing it up for other computing tasks.
The add-in card expansion options on the G1.Assassin include four PCIe x16 slots, two PCIe x1 slots and a single Legacy PCI slot. This is an exceptional amount of expansion slots, even for a high-end board, but the gaming community will find even more to like. The G.Assassin has support for 4-way CrossFireX and 3-way SLI in either a (x16/x16), (x16/x16/x8), or (X16/X16/x8/x8) configuration.
If you have a keen eye, you will have noticed this board includes two on-board power connectors located above and below the PCIe slots. These power adapters are used to provide supplemental power to the PCIe lanes and will ensure maximum system stability when multiple graphics cards are installed. It is not necessary to use these connectors when only a single card is installed, but if you are considering running three to four graphics cards, using the power connectors is recommended.
The G1.Assassin has six SATA 2.0 ports that are connected via the ICH10R South Bridge and can support devices at 3Gb/s and utilize RAID 0/1/5/10 configurations. Additionally, there are two on-board SATA 3.0 porst that effectively have double the transfer speed of the SATA 2.0 interface and include support for SATA RAID 0 and RAID 1.
Just above the eight SATA ports is a 24-pin ATX power connector, and there are also two additional 8-pin 12V power connectors that are located to the left of the MOSFET. The inclusion of dual 8-pin power connectors will increase the system stability and also prolong the life of the VRM by splitting the current between the connectors. If your power supply doesn't include dual CPU power cables, the Assassin can be used with a single 12V power cable.
The heatpipe design used on the G1.Assassin uses a heatpipe design that is similar to other high-end motherboards on the market, but Gigabyte has created a distinctly unique look by modeling it after a G1 assault rifle. The heatsink is very robust, so it should have no issues efficiently cooling the critical components of the motherboard. Gigabyte has actually placed a viewable mockup bullet in the cartridge shaped heatsink, and there are five active LEDs located on the Northbrige heatsink.
One of the features that really sets the G1.Assassin apart from other high-end motherboards on the market is the on-board Creative Sound Blaster Digital Audio Processor. The sound processor includes X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity and EAX Advanced HD 5.0 technologies, which greatly enhance the audio quality. Gigabyte has also included high-quality Bi-Polarized audio capacitors to further improve audio.
Another unique audio feature included on the G1-Assassin is a built-in front audio headphone amplifier. The amp is specially designed for gamers and can drive loads up to 150Ω. The additional power will create a fuller range of dynamic sound with less distortion, which will create a more immersive gaming experience.
The Gigabyte G1.Assassin use the Award BIOS which has a very well known and simple interface. The first screen when entering into the BIOS is the main menu. From this menu you can select from a list of categories, save current settings, load defaults and set a password.
The MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) is where all the overclocking for the Gigabyte board is done. From this menu you can alter the board's voltage, clock speeds and much more. Even though the Award BIOS allows for some very complicated changes, the interface is still set up in a way that should be accessible to novices and enthusiasts alike.
Standard CMOS allows the user to adjust the stored date and time, as well as view and configure the installed IDE/SATA devices.
The Advanced BIOS features menu allows the user to make changes to the boot devices, and other settings like displaying the full screen logo and where to store the back up BIOS file.
The Integrated Peripherals menu gives the user direct access to the add-on components, such as the hard drive and USB features.
The Power Management option is used to make changes to the power options, including how you can turn on the PC.
PC Health Status is a page that monitors the temperatures of the motherboard and CPU, as well as the rotation speed of the attached fans.
Overclocking a system to its maximum performance level takes more than just a highly overclockable processor. In fact, components such as power supplies, memory and the motherboard are also very important when it comes to achieving a stable clock speed. The motherboard is perhaps the most important piece of the overclocking bundle, as it is the command center for all the add-on parts. It is for this reason that many companies have started to add features such as improved cooling solutions, better voltage regulation modules, and more to their products. These all aid in achieving the highest possible overclock and can be the means to pushing your processor beyond what is possible.
For overclocking I will be using a XSPC Rasa 750 RS360 water-cooling setup to cool the processor, and increase the voltage as necessary until the maximum bclock is reached. We will also be testing the overclocking button that is included on the Assassin's control panel.
Intel Core i7 920 (Quick Boost)
The Quick Boost overclocking button found on the front control panel is an interesting option. Gigbayte has taken a concept we have seen on other motherboards such as the MSI OC Genie button and made it more easily accessible. Another difference between the OC Genie and Gigabyte's overclocking button is that the Quick Boost can be pressed at anytime, meaning it can be activated during a game or benchmark for an additional performance boost in real-time.
While we were sold on the concept of the Quick Boost feature and really liked the accessibility, we ultimately had mixed feeling about the final results. The Quick Boost only increased the frequency of our i7-920 by 11%, which gave it an overclocked speed of 2940MHz. At this frequency the overall performance of the system was indeed improved, but not by enough to noticeably enhance the user's gaming experience. For this reason, it is our opinion that most enthusiasts will find the Quick Boost feature to be more of a gimmick than an asset.
However, we do understand the reason the Quick Boost did not overclock the processor higher, and part of it is in the name. Essentially this feature is intended to give a quick performance boost when needed, and not an all-out replacement to manually adjusting the settings in the BIOS. Also, if the frequency was increased by a larger percentage when the CPU was active, chances are the system would crash. So for what it is, it does do a good job but we feel that a 15% to 20% overclock from a feature such as this should have been possible.
Intel Core i7 920
When using the more traditional method of BIOS overclocking, the G1.Assassin proved to be quite the capable motherboard. In all we were able to reach a stable bclock speed of 220MHz, which gave use a overclocked frequency of nearly 4.2GHz. When testing the overclocking settings, the voltage was set at 1.375V and we used a CPU multiplier of 19x. This is the maximum threshold for our processor at this voltage level, but with a 220MHz bclock we could have potentially increased our processor to 4620MHz with the right cooling and voltage level.
7-Zip is a compression program, much like WinRAR. It features a built-in test, which gives a score for compression and decompression.
Right off the bat, the G1.Assassin is performing at the top of its class and also scaled exceptional well when overclocked.
HandBrake is an application that converts sound and video files to other formats. It makes use the many available threads so it can exploit the processor to its full potential.
Just as in the last benchmark, the G1.Assassin managed to perform better than all the other models, and is actually the first x58 board we have used that converted our custom file in under 126 seconds.
POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is a 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.
The G1.Assassin fell to to middle of the pack in POV-Ray, but ultimately the performance was identical to the other models. We also continue to see excellent overclocked scaling in all the benchmarks we have tested thus far.
Cinebench R11.5 is another rendering program, also optimized for many-core processors. I will run both the single-threaded benchmark as well as the multi-threaded.
In Cinebench, the G1.Assassin climbs back to the top as it managed to perform slightly better than the MSI X58 platinum.
Sandra, by SiSoftware, is a tool capable of benchmarking about every component found inside a computer. The processor arithmetic and multi-core efficiency will be ran as well as the memory bandwidth and latency benchmarks.
The Sandra 2010 results came out somewhat mixed, but the G1.Assassin performed well in all tests aside from the memory bandwidth benchmark.
PCMark resembles a lot to the 3DMark suite from FutureMark, except the fact that it includes many other tests like hard drive speed, memory and processor power, so it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.
The G1.Assassin was able to surpass the Sapphire Pure Black X58 in PCMark Vantage, which until this point was the only X58 board in our test bed to post a score in excess of 8000.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack of the original Crysis, at that time well known for requiring the most powerful hardware to play at maxed settings. It uses an enhanced version of the same engine.
Here the Assassin achieved a higher frame rate than all the other tested models, but the most impressive feat is that it actually managed to net 2 extra frames-per-second at 1920x1200. The overclocked scaling is excellent, as the G1 managed to improve frame rates at the highest resolution by nearly 20FPS.
Far Cry 2 is another first person shooter that has been developed by Ubisoft. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to assassinate an arms dealer.
DiRT 2 is the most recent driving game in the Colin McRae series. It features a built-in benchmark consisting of displaying a race of computer players using the same view as the gamer would.
Once again, the G1.Assassin shows it dominates when it comes to in-game performance. In our testing the Assassin performed at the top of its class in all three of our gaming benchmarks, and showed very impressive scaling.
Instead of doing the standard summary where I list all the pros and cons of a product prior to giving my final recommendation, I am going to just come out and say that the G1.Assassin is one of the more innovative and unique motherboard we have tested to date. Now, we know the G1 series is not for everyone, but one of the things we love about this product is that it never pretends to be mass market. Instead it is marketed as an exclusive board for high-end gamers that are looking to take their gaming experience to the next level by including innovative features that will help them kick ass on the virtual battlefield and take names later.
The G1.Assassin is able to improve gaming experience by adding features such as an on-board Creative X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity sound processor and a Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 Processing Unit. These features increase the board's value in their own way, but all types of gamers will find both enhance the overall appeal of this motherboard. For instance, the Bigfoot E2100 is able to reduce lag by using a combination of a dedicated Network Processing Unit (NPU) and exclusive Game Networking DNA software to enhance online play.
The Creative X-Fi sound processor on the other hand deals exclusively with the audio. With the Creative audio processor built directly onto the PCB, there is no need for an add-on sound card, which frees up additional space for extra graphics cards. This also makes the high MSRP of the G1.Assassin more palatable, as a high-end Creative add-in card can cost as much as $150. In addition to the integrated X-Fi sound saving you some green, it is also a huge improvement over the standard on-board audio for an even better gaming experience.
Along with an excellent feature set, the G1.Assassin is also very capable when it comes to add-on expansion. The Assassin includes four PCIe x16 slots that can be used in either a 4-Way CrossFireX, 3-way SLI configuration. Additionally, the Assassin can also support up to eight USB 3.0 devices and as many as eight hard drives. So, there will be plenty of upgrade options available to the end-user. This makes this board an ideal solution for high-end gamers looking to reach the maximum gaming threshold offered by the X58 platform
When it came to overclocking, the G1.Assassin was among the top boards we have tested, as it was able to reach a stable base clock 220MHz. This is pretty good for a high-end board, as even the best overclocking LGA-1366 models usually have a hard time exceeding a bclock rating of 225MHz. This means the Assassin has plenty of overclocking headroom available to increase a system's overall performance. There were, however, a few aspects in the OC department that we would have liked to see improved. The first is that there was no easily accessible clear CMOS button anywhere on the board. Even mid-range motherboards are starting to include a clear CMOS button, so we feel like this was a big missed opportunity.
We were ultimately not impressed with the Quick Boost button on the included control panel. The feature only gave us an 11% processing speed increase, when we know the chip is capable of so much more. Still, it is nice to have the ability to increase the CPU clock speed instantly while gaming or running a benchmark. We just would have liked to see this feature give our system a little more of a kick than it did. Since most enthusiasts are well versed in the ways of overclocking, many might see this option as a bit of a let down or all out gimmick.
To sum it up, the Gigabyte G1.Assassin is a motherboard that has it all. It has a high performance level, plenty of overclocking headroom, a feature set that puts most motherboards to shame and only minimal flaws. The only real downside is the $509 MSRP could potentially be enough to nearly build an entire mid-range system, but (at least in this case) you really do get what you pay for.
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