Author: Pier-Luc Gendreau
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Thursday, May 7th, 2009
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Hardware/Reviews/gigabyte_ex58_ud4p/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
The recent release of AMD's new flagship processor, the Phenom II 955, might have stolen some of Intel's thunder, but their Core i7 is still up there when it comes to pure processing power. Of course, a processor nothing without a motherboard to sit on and a large variety of them are now available. They're all built around the X58 chipset although they do come with more or less unique feature sets mostly depending on the targeted price point.
Gigabyte's line of X58 motherboards has widely broadened since the December launch and what we have today is their EX58-UD4P which falls in the upper mid-range of their line-up. It carries Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 and Dynamic Energy Saving technologies along with three-way video card configuration. This is also the board used in Gigabyte's own overclocking competition, showing they really stand behind this product.
|Storage Interface||South Bridge:
|Internal I/O Connectors||
|Back Panel Connectors||
The EX58-UD4P comes into a rather good looking box, obviously showcasing Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 technology. Other than that, there's nothing too special to see here. There are more details on the back side along with a couple more features including DualBIOS which is pretty neat.
The board is built on a blue PCB and the components are well laid out. The power connectors are right where they should be and the cooling apparatus looks like it should do a good job keeping things cool. I'm not a fan of the overly colorful theme, but that's hardly a deal breaker.
The back side has nothing of much interest. The heatsinks are held by screwed backplates to ensure good contact and, thus, lower temperatures.
There are no major obstacles in the area around the processor's socket so installing large heatsinks won't pose any issues.
Gigabyte states support for triple channel DDR3 memory up to and over 2100 MHz, that is no small claim. The onboard power and reset buttons are found on the top right corner alongside a three pin fan connector.
This board has plenty of space of expansion including three full length PCIe slots with support for both CrossFire and SLI. The first two run at 16x, while the third is limited at 8x. A pair of video cards will only block the legacy PCI slots, the PCI-e 1x and 4x remain available which is a very smart design decision. However, adding a third video card will entirely block the connectors at the bottom. That really is unacceptable. Also, the 1x PCIe slot can only house a short card as the northbridge's heatsink is in the way.
The bottom of the board has a complete array of connectivity. There are two clearly labeled USB and FireWire headers as well as legacy floppy and PATA connectors for those still relying on older hardware. On the left side, the headers for the front panel buttons and LEDs are color color coded so it's less of a pain to get them into the right spot.
The UD4P sports a grand total of eight SATA 3Gbps ports. six come from Intel's southbridge while the last two are courtesy of Gigabyte's own chip. They're all angled so large video cards will not block any of them.
On the I/O side, Gigabyte supplies access to eight USB ports and a single FireWire port. Continuing with support for legacy hardware, connectors for PS/2 mouse and keyboard are present as well. Sound is provided by the usual six 3.5mm audio outputs as well as optical and SPDIF outputs. The Clear CMOS button is a great thing to have back there. Networking is handled by a single LAN port.
Finally, Gigabyte includes a pretty complete set of accessories. The I/O plate is color coded and clearly labeled. It also comes with floppy and PATA cables and four yellow SATA cables meant for internal drives. The two black SATA cables are actually eSATA, which is provided by the PCI bracket. Power is taken to external drives using the black power cable. Additionaly, Gigabyte includes SLI bridges, manuals, a driver disc and a couple stickers.
Gigabyte uses Award's widely known BIOS layout, it's not the prettiest, but it works well. They chose to move the overclocking section up to the first first menu, which is small but appreciated detail. For those familiar with tweaking BIOS settings, the rest of the menus are standard fare.
The Standard CMOS Features menu is where the clock is adjusted and all the SATA, PATA and floppy drives are listed.
In the Advanced BIOS Features, one can set the boot device priority as well as a few other settings that don't really need your attention. The hard drives S.M.A.R.T. feature defaults to disabled so it's a good idea to enable it just in case it decides to start giving errors.
In the Integrated Peripherals section, it's possible to enable, or not, various onboard devices. Enabling USB Keyboard Function will let you use it between the initial boot screen and log on screen for things like booting into safe mode.
Here are some power management options which can all be left at default settings.
The PC Health page displays various system voltages, temperature, fan monitoring and control.
Once in the M.I.T., Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker, menu, you find yourself overwhelmed with a whole bunch of settings which seems like they've been thrown there without much thought. This section alone is three page long and has useful tweaking options found in three different sub-menus. The options themselves are quite flexible and offer a wide array of settings. The first third of the page is where all the clock settings are set. The processor comes first, followed by the QPI, then the processor's base clock and, finally, the memory. The clock speeds offered are more than enough to suit everyone.
In this submenu are processor specific options such as Turbo mode, HyperThreading and power saving states.
This is where you can set the uncore clock, which should always be, at minimum, twice as fast as the memory. I'm still not too sure why those required a separate page, it could have been straight onto the main overclocking section, but it's here anyway.
In the Advanced Clock Control section are standard clock controls, if that makes any sense. Below those are some clock skew and fine voltage adjustments, which are nice for getting a couple more MHz out of a processor.
All the memory timings are adjustable by channel which is an interesting feature, but really shouldn't be the default and only way to set them. It gets laborious to go through them one by one when all you want is a simple configuration.
In the Advanced DRAM features submenu are some not so advanced settings which are also found at the top of the previous page. The advanced timings are found in yet another submenu once again separated in three different channels.
At the bottom of the page are the four main voltages one needs to overclock i7 processors. Core voltage, QPI and VTT, IOH and memory. The average overclocker seeking moderate clock increases can settle with those.
The Advanced voltage control submenu provides the more avid enthusiast with some more voltage tweaking.
To test Gigabyte's EX58-UD4P, I will be using Intel's Core i7 920 paired with 6GB of memory running at 1600 MHz. The same platform is used for past and upcoming products as well. Core i7's Turbo Mode will be disabled during testing in order to ensure consistent benchmark results and provide reliable comparisons.
Furthermore, a new set of benchmarks will be used from now on. This means that while some benchmarks will stay, many of the previous ones will not be used anymore. There will be a set of system benchmarks and the other half will be gaming oriented. Two of them, Bioshock and Call of Duty: World at War, require custom runs as they have no benchmarking tool. For those two, Fraps will be used to record the FPS, whereas for all other gaming tests, the built-in benchmarking tool will be used. For all of these, the tests will be ran at three different resolutions: 1280x1024, 1680x1050 and 1920x1200.
Here is a CPU-Z screenshot showing all the exact settings that are going to be used in this review.
As usual, overclocking will be discussed in detail at the end of the article. However, overclocked results will also be included in the following pages in order to show what kind of improvements can be expected. Both stock and overclocked settings are tested to be stable under air cooling.
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.
At stock speeds, Gigabyte's UD4P claims the first place in both memory intensive benchmarks. It's ever so slightly slower than the others in processing tasks, but the results are tight nonetheless. With some overclocking, it trades blows with Asus' Rampage.
TMPG is a application that can transcode sound and video files to other formats.
POV-Ray, for Persistence of Vision Raytracer, is 3D rendering software that has impressive photorealistic capabilities.
Gigabyte shows off very good performance in TMPG where it easily beats the Rampage, while being extremely close behind EVGA's X58. In POV-Ray, it scores right in the middle of the pack.
Everyone knows WinRAR, so no need to explain what it does. I will compress our custom 10MB, 100MB and 500MB files using the best compression setting, in the ZIP format.
Cinebench 10 is another rendering program. I will run the single-threaded as well as the multi-threaded benchmark.
While the Gigabyte UD4P doesn't show stellar performance in WinRAR, it tops out the charts when it comes to Cinebench. It leads the pack at both stock and overclocked settings.
HDTune is a benchmarking program for hard drives. Their speed also depends on the chipset so this is why such a benchmark is ran.
Futuremark's PCMark Vantage suite includes many tests to gauge hard drive speed, memory and processor power. Therefor, it is considered as a system benchmark and not just a gaming benchmark.
Average reads are very similar across all X58 boards, but Gigabyte does come ahead in burst speed. In Vantage, it scores basically even with Asus' Rampage, but lacks the headroom to catch up once overclocked.
Crysis Warhead is a standalone expansion pack of the original Crysis. It uses an enhanced version of the same engine.
Bioshock is a creepy first person shooter. It is the oldest of the games in our benchmarking suite, hence the high FPS.
There's nothing too exciting to look at here, they all perform about the same in both games.
World at War is the fifth of the Call of Duty series. This time, the game is back in the Second World War.
Far Cry 2 is another first person shooter. It has been developed by Ubisoft unlike the first one which had been made by Crytek. The story takes place in Africa, where the ultimate goal is to assassinate an arms dealer.
Once more, performance is extremely tight so it's impossible to declare a clear winner.
Left 4 Dead is a first-person shooter developed by Valve which uses their Source Engine. Four survivors must fight against infected people in order to reach a safe area.
Mirror’s Edge is referred by some as a first-person runner. It is a game powered by the Unreal Engine 3 but with the addition of a new lighting solution. The PC version supports nVidia PhysX, which very few games currently do.
Yes, you've guessed it. All three X58 boards show off very similar performance without any of them being able to differentiate itself from the rest of the crowd.
Overclocking the UD4P was a breeze, it deals very well with over-enthusiastic settings and Auto settings sufficed to reach an acceptable 193 MHz base clock. As usual, it feeded components more voltage than required, although none of them we're ridiculously high. When the a voltage is set above a certain treshold, the BIOS prompts the user upon saving to confirm settings.
Of course, I was not going to settle with this. I dropped the multiplier to 12x and went on the quest to find the highest stable base clock. In the end, the board got up to a respectable 216 MHz. Not quite as high as the Rampage, but still a good result nonetheless.
For the review, I went with a the highest stable settings the board and processor were able to reach on Auto settings - 193 MHz using the default 20x multiplier for a grand total of 3860 MHz. The voltages required to run at those settings are safe enough to be used daily. Some will require more or less voltage, but my retail unit is far from exceptional so those results should be easily replicated. However, the X58 northbridge gets toasty under load, especially when overclocked so proper airflow going accross it is important.
It's also important to note the dual BIOS feature works, and it works well. I unintentionally - or maybe not - shut down the computer while it was flashing to the latest version and after a couple beeps, about a minute and some flickering, the board was back on track and ready to be abused again.
In order to load the whole system, I used the same applications as I use in temperature testing. Those are Prime95 and ATITool along with a large file copy from one partition to another to stress the hard drive and its controller. The system is running at stock settings with all power saving options turned off and three fans. Using a Kill-A-Watt power meter, I measure average idle power consumption as well as peak load consumption.
At stock speeds, the platform consumes a reasonable amount of power even under full load.
With a healthy overclock on the processor, power consumption makes quite a jump, especially under load where the extra voltage required to run at those speeds makes a noticeable difference.
The EX58-UD4P is another interesting motherboard to leave Gigabyte's labs. It does pretty well for what it is - a midrange board. The accessory bundle doesn't include anything extraordinary, but everything you might need is in there. Plenty of cables, an eSATA bracket along with the required power cables and thorough documentation. I enjoyed Gigabyte's implementation of driver installation. Once the wizard launches, it's a completely unattended one click job. Everything worked out of the box, as long as I didn't let Windows attempt to update the network driver, which made it stop functionning.
The motherboard's layout is generally well done. All eight angled SATA ports, which are becoming commonplace, are appreciated as usual since they are much easier to use. Gigabyte also has things covered when it comes to supporting legacy hardware, whether it is simply an old mouse and keyboard, PATA drives or a floppy. Even though the board features support for triple graphics cards, such a setup wouldn't be practical. The first two are fine, but the card at the bottom with totally disable the front panel connectors along with floppy and PATA. Of course, this is only true with dual slot cards. However, someone considering such a setup most likely plans to use high end cards since using three low to mid range single slot cards wouldn't be a wise investment.
There is one major gripe I have with this board – the BIOS. Gigabyte's M.I.T. overclocking menu is overly confusing and rather poorly layed out. It has all the features other boards have, and then some, but it seems like it's twice as hard as it should be to accomplish anything in there. Changing simple things such as memory timings really shouldn't require going through all three channels and sub-menus need an overhaul. Other than those annoyance, it has all the customization the above average overclocker will want to tinker with.
On the performance side, it ties all its competitors. There really isn't much more than that to say, the integrated memory controller really streamlines performance since it takes off all the memory tweaking manufacturers could do on previous chipsets. This is also great for us since lower end boards don't suffer from much from having less optimization done. Whichever one you end up choosing, Core i7 will be a very fast processor.
Overall, the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P is definitely a board to consider for anyone looking for more than what the low end X58's have to offer but still want to keep pricing under control. Available now for 240$ including mail-in rebates, it has a complete feature set, good overclocking headroom and performance falls right where it should be. While It might not be perfect, it's a solid choice in this price range.
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