Gigabyte brought the G1-Killer motherboard gaming series to the enthusiast community in early 2011, focusing on gaming features specifically in its design. Both the G1.Sniper and G.Assassin variants seemed to have become quick favorites with the avid gamers out there. In this review we will be looking at the X79 version of the G1-Killer series, the Gigabyte G1.Assassin 2.
Retail Packaging and Contents
The retail box has an intimidating military look with a green camouflage background and dry blood smears across the to end. The flaming skull clenching the bowie knife signifies that this board belongs to the G1-Killer series. The back of the box is packed with all the features that this top-end gaming board has, the detail of which we will cover further down in this review.
Opening the outer box you will find two smaller boxes; one contains the accessories and the other the motherboard which can be seen through a plastic window covering the top. Unpacking the motherboard you will notice the two tone black and green color scheme Gigabyte chose for this gaming board.
The accessories box includes the following
- Sheet with stickers to put all over your gaming case
- Huge Sniper fold-out poster
- Extended CFX and SLI bridges as well as a tri-SLI bridge
- WiFi/Bluetooth combo card with the two extended antennas
- Four manuals which include: motherboard installation, users manual, WiFi and Bluetooth installation guides
- Gigabyte driver CD for motherboard, plus one for WiFi
- I/O back plate
- Front USB 3.0 panel
- Four SATA cables
Board Photo Shoot
The PCB on this board is all black with the green PCIe and RAM slots breaking the darkness. Taking a view across the board you will notice only four RAM slots, hosting quad channel DDR3. The three PCIe 3.0 slots will give you access to two full PCIe x16 lanes when running two video cards in CrossFireX or SLI; adding another card will drop the lanes to x8, which is still plenty of bandwidth for any gaming card.
Looking at the VRM and chipset heat sinks you will see there is no doubt about the Killer theme here, the chipset has a small pistol as heatsink and the VRM is an air cooled rifle barrel. The SATA port section includes four SATA 3.0 and four SATA 2.0 ports which should be plent for gaming PCs. The board features an integrated Killer E2100 dedicated NPU, which is clearly marked on the board and is one of the main features of the gaming platform. To the lower left of the NPU is a collection of gold and green caps; these are Nichicon MUSE ES series (green) and MW series (gold) bi-Pplarized audio capacitors which should deliver high quality sound. Around these audio caps sits a 100% copper plate giving protection against other power interference resulting in improved EMI shielding, another feature that should ensure quality gaming sound.
The I/O panel on the back of the board carries your e-SATA ports, USB 2.0 and USB3.0 ports and well as a few powered USB ports to power your iPad or other devices. There is also a green/blue button set which allows you to switch between BIOSes. Only one LAN port is incorporated which is a bit odd given that this is a gaming top end board.
I did notice that there are no debug LED or reset/power buttons, which is something you would expect on a high end board. Then again, you might expect that gamers would tend to put their systems in gaming cases so they rarely need on board buttons. Below the BIOS switching buttons sits a small black button with which you can reset your CMOS in case you need to.
You will also notice a button marked “OC” that when pressed will instantly overclock your CPU to 4.0 GHz which will be plenty for most gaming systems.
The G1. Assassin 2′s main purpose is to combine the processing power of the SNB-E platform with some powerful gaming features that the G-Killer gaming series are known for. There are two main themes when looking at the features of the motherboard: “3D” which pertains to the power package and BIOS and “Super” which umbrellas the graphics capability, cooling solution, audio and game networking platform
First let’s take a look what 3D features the board brings to the SNB-E platform to drive the six headed LGA2011 CPU beast.
The G1.Assassin2 has an all new hardware and software-based Digital Power Engine which feeds power to both the PWM stacks and memory modules. The digital PWM controller from International Rectifier supports Dual VR12.5/VR12.0 Modes, which is a requirement for all future 22nm CPUs. Auto Voltage Compensation is present, which should feed a steady flow of power to the CPU and Memory. Digital power control dedicated to the two memory zones result in a real time PWM frequency adjustment. Built into this control feature is a OVP (Over Volt Protection) to protect the memory modules from frying. The control aspect also brings us LLC (Load Line Calibration) which we normally only get with CPU voltage control; this helps minimize v-droop to improve stability.
To fully utilize the 3D Digital features Gigabyte has included a nifty utility they call 3D Power control. The voltage control menu includes most of the voltage parameters which can be modified using the utility, including load line calibration for the CPU. OVP (Over Voltage Protection) can be adjusted to change the default protection range of the CPU, memory controller, and VTT as well as the system memory. Using the phase control menu users can calibrate OCP (Over Current Protection) for the CPU, integrated memory controller and system memory power levels. This allows the Phase control to deliver even more power to the system when required. GIGABYTE’s all-digital PWM allows for adjustable frequency control of the CPU, VTT, Integrated Memory Controller and both A/B and C/D Memory arrays.
GIGABYTE 3D BIOS™ is based on GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™, which aims to make the BIOS more accessible and easier to use than ever. It incorporates both a 3D Mode and an Advanced Mode.
3D Mode aims to provide a graphical, intuitive BIOS experience which makes it easy to use and gives insight into how BIOS settings affect your PC’s performance. It gives you descriptions of the key areas and has menus that show options for CPU and Memory frequency controls. Additional help and suggestions in the lower panel help the user make the best choices for their system.Clicking the 3D BIOS logo reveals real-time CPU core, BCLK and Memory frequencies. Advanced Mode gives the user a comprehensive UEFI BIOS environment designed specifically for enthusiast overclockers and power users.
GIGABYTE DualBIOS™ features two physical BIOS ROMS mounted onto the motherboard. One chip acts as your “Main” BIOS, or the BIOS your system primarily uses during boot up. The second chip acts as a “Backup” BIOS and will automatically restore data to the main BIOS in case of malfunction.
Now let’s take a look what the board brings us under the “Super” set of features. There is a lot of detail on the Gigabyte product page so I will only bring light to the key ones here in this review
GIGABYTE G1.Killer series motherboards are the world’s only gaming motherboards to feature Creative’s top-of-the-line Soundblaster Digital Audio Processor (20K2) onboard with X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity® and EAX® Advanced HD™ 5.0 technologies. It has a whopping 128 Mb of dedicated memory for Creative Digital Audio Processing (20k2) to reduce the load on the CPU. The EAX® (Environmental Audio Extendion) is a collection of audio technologies which should appeal to gamers looking for good onboard sound. The EAX PurePath is designed to deliver accurate surround sound, while the EAX Voice will enable gamers to hear their voice with the same effects as the environment their character is in. Furthermore, if the game title supports “3D Voice Over IP” then other players in the game will be able to hear their voice coming from the correct direction.
This gaming board features the Bigfoot Networks Killer™ E2100 Game Networking Platform which contains Game Networking DNA™ software that offloads gaming data directly to the NPU by bypassing the Windows Network Stack, which is advertised to yield an up to 10% faster average ping than a traditional standard network interface. The board also has 4 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports (2 front panel, 2 back panel), and a 3x USB power boost on all USB ports for charging USB devices.
The GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 carries the “Locked and Loaded” theme across the cooling solution, it looks pretty dramatic with the golden skull clutching a bowie knife in it’s teeth on the pistol heatsink over the chipset. The heatsinks on the VRM and chipset have been modelled around common firearms issued to soldiers deployed to a warzone, including a pistol and machine gun; the heatpipe design on the VRM utilizes the same fluting technology you’d find on a machine gun barrel, which should aid heat dissipation.
The board has five strategically placed Smart Fan pin headers with individual thermal sensors which allow for more precise control of system and CPU fans further helping to eliminate heat.
With multi-GPU and PCIe Gen 3 support, GIGABYTE G1.Killer motherboards has plenty of capacity for video cards; as mentioned previously, the board has three PCIe 3.0 slots of which two operate at x16 and the third at x8, giving the gaming plenty of bandwidth to run up to three GPU beasts in either SLI or CrossFireX.
Below are the detailed specifications for those that want to get into the details.
(Courtesy of Gigabyte)
i7 processors in the LGA2011 package
Intel® X79 Express Chipset
|MULTI GRAPHICS CAPABILITY||Support for 3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX™ / NVIDIA SLI technology.|
* When a RAID set is built across the SATA 6Gb/s and SATA 3Gb/s channels, the system performance of the RAID set may vary depending on the devices being connected.
2 x Fresco FL1009 chips:
|INTERNAL I/O CONNECTORS||
|I/O CONTROLLER||iTE IT8728 chip|
|Motherboard||Gigabyte G1.Assassin 2 X79|
|RAM||4 x 2 GB G.Skill Sniper DDR3-1866|
|GPU||MSI R6950 2 GB|
|Storage||OCZ Vertex 3 120 GB|
|OS||Windows 7 Ultimate 64|
|Cooling||Swiftech Apogee XT with Thermochill TA120.3 rad, 6 fans|
When you power up the board you will notice the lack of lights other than a green light close behind the first PCIe slot, it left me a bit disappointed as I have come to like the light show I normally see on other high end motherboards; it’s not a deal breaker, just a cosmetic thing.
Booting up the board you are greeted by the G1-Killer series flaming skull. A couple of taps on the “Del” button bring you to the 3D Dual EFI BIOS where you will get a view of the motherboard and all the key areas, this is the 3D BIOS mode and is useful for beginners and intermediate users. You can move your mouse over the various areas marked to enter the settings.
At the bottom you will see the Advanced menu options; clicking on any of the icons will open up advanced mode. This is the area that you would want to explore if you wish to take total control of your motherboard driving your system.
The X79 series have been out for a while so I’m not going through the basics of how to overclock your CPU. I had some trouble overclocking after I installed the Easy Tune6 Windows tool; for some reason I ended up at stock settings every time I booted up. Needless to say I did not use this piece of software to change any settings in Windows.
The board also comes with a piece of overclocking software called Touch BIOS. It looks great and has all the same settings in the various menus as the EFI BIOS, but sadly it does not work and the oveclock settings I tried did not stick after re-boot.
Getting to 4.5 GHz on the 3930k was a a piece of cake working in the UEFI. All I had to do was adjust the CPU Clock Ratio, voltage on the core, disable all the unnecessary power savings settings and save/exit the BIOS. Next stop was 4.8 GHz which ran at pretty decent voltage on the CPU and the temperatures under load were moderate on water cooling. I have to mention that the V-droop is noticeable as you can see under load running WPrime above.
The CPU/board topped out around 5.0 GHz – I just could manage to run a couple of benchmarks. For a board that is specifically designed for gaming, it is more than adequate to drive your favorite graphics card on the battlefield. Most of the gaming boards are limited as far as overclocking power and from what I’ve seen out there the G1.Assassin2 tends to max out around 4.8 GHz on the CPU.
Summary and Conclusions
The G1.Assassin2 is a solid board from a overclocking perspective; getting to 4.8 GHz was really not challenging and it managed to get to the golden 5 GHz. Couple that with the rich audio and networking features it should meet any pro-gamer’s needs. I did not test any of the “gamer” features as there is no benchmark for sound quality or networking speed and my gaming skills are pretty average so I cant judge whether the board will give you the edge at the next LAN party. The WiFi/Bluetooth combo is a nice feature and will enable you to connect remotely to your favorite devices and to the WiFi network if you so desire. From a looks perspective it has an intimidating look following the G1-Killer theme.
A few things that would have been nice add-ons are a debug LED and power/reset switch to help you along when on an open top benchmarking station. The Easy Tune6 and Touch BIOS software did not play nice with this board but driving the CPU through the full interactive EFI BIOS was as effective as any Sandy Bridge BIOS. Having only one LAN port on the IO panel was a bit odd as most gaming boards have two.
All in all the board is a solid board and I’m happy to allocate the Overclockers.com stamp of approval.
~Edmund Meyer (Brolloks)