Gigabyte G1.Sniper2 Motherboard Review

Next, in the G1.Sniper series from Gigabyte, is the G1.Sniper2 motherboard. The previous version came out in Socket 1366 form while the Sniper2 in Socket 1155. The Sniper2 like its older brother, boasts features such as Bigfoot Networks’ Killer™ NIC (E2100) and Creative’s top of the line Digital Audio Processor (20k2), both discrete chips on the board making it a gamers delight. Let’s take a look at the board and how it performs.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper2 (Image Courtesy of Gigabyte)

Gigabyte G1.Sniper2 (Image Courtesy of Gigabyte)

Packaging and First Look

One of the first things I noticed when I received this package in the mail was the ‘double din’ size of the box. Gigabyte was sure to give you a lot of goodies in a well protected package on this one. It has a box inside a box packaging with the motherboard being separate from accessories. As one can tell, Gigabyte shows off a lot of the major features of this board on its packaging. Maybe its just me, but I love the digital camouflage inner box.

External Packaging (Front)

External Packaging (Rear)

External Packaging (Rear)

Internal Packaging

Internal Packaging

Motherboard inside the inner packaging

Motherboard inside the inner packaging

Tour de Board

Next we will take a look at the board. I have to say I’m a fan of the black and bright green theme on a black PCB that was chosen. Frankly, I’m not about the bling on a board, but the green glow supplied by the 5 LED’s on the heatsink give glow inside a case. So for me, nice job Giga! In sticking with a military theme, Gigabyte has also used a gun ‘clip’ style heatsink, “Locked and Loaded” as Gigabyte calls it, on the lower part of the board which is a neat aesthetic addition compared to other boards’ coolers in the same area. Also pictured are the onboard Creative and Killer NIC chips, SATA ports, magazine clip, and rear/bottom I/O for the board which has 8 USB ports (2 of which are USB3), ‘easy’ overclock button, audio with optical out, as well as the Ethernet port.

The G1.Sniper2 sports 12 total power Phases with 8 specific to the CPU and 4 for memory and features Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 3 technology: twice the copper for both the power and ground layers of the PCB, Japanese Solid CAPs, Lower RDS(on) MOSFET and Ferrite Core Chokes making for a cooler running, more efficient power delivery, and longer lasting board.

This board is limited to a dual card Crossfire/SLI configuration as it only has two PCIe slots for GPU’s. This shouldn’t be a problem to most as there is a very small minority of people that use or frankly need more than that. But, if you do require a three card solution for your Eyefinity or multi-monitor setup, you may have to look elsewhere depending on the frames per second you want to achieve and GPU setup. I don’t think this is a deal breaker, but it is an omission, in my opinion.

Socket area

Socket area

DIMM area

DIMM area

Creative 20k2

Creative 20k2

Bigfoot Network E2100

Bigfoot Network E2100

Magazine clip heatsink and dual bios chips

Magazine clip heatsink and dual bios chips

Sata ports and front panel USB3

SATA ports and front panel USB3

Rear I/O

Rear I/O

Bottom I/O

Bottom I/O

Green lights on the heatsink

Green lights on the heatsink

Accessories

As with most boards of this caliber, it comes with all the necessary goodies. The G1.Sniper2 even comes with a front panel insert containing two USB3.0 ports, SATA3.0 cables, I/O plate, manuals, as well as a large double sided poster and stickers for case bling are also included (not pictured).

Accessories

Accessories

Specifications and Features

Before I list the dry specifications, let’s take a look at what makes this board special for its target audience, the gamer.

First up is the onboard Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Digital Audio Processor (20K2) with X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity™ and EAX® AHD 5.0™ Technologies. This is a unique feature on a motherboard which “allows you to experience sound in your gaming world exactly as you would in real life.” While I know there are a few out there that are not exactly fans of Creative’s audio equipment, it certainly beats the standard Realtek solutions found on the overwhelming majority of motherboards. The sound has more depth and clarity and seems to have more directional sound even without the 5.1 processing on. Again, leaps and bounds better than onboard. Just note if you are rocking some cheap speakers or cans, you may want to upgrade those to get the full benefit of this audio solution.

Below, one can see the familiar Creative software panels:

Creative X Fi Software

Creative X-Fi Software

Next up of exclusive features on motherboard is Bigfoot Networks’ Killer™ E2100 Game Networking Platform. The addition of this Network Processing Unit (NPU) and associated software (Game Networking DNA) allow this system to classify and accelerate network traffic for the game you are playing. It even has its own 1GB DDR2 onboard cache memory (Samsung chip next to it on the motherboard). Of course, it’s only as good as the lag from outside the box (i.e.. from your router to the server), however once inside the information is processed more efficiently than most other integrated solutions. This functionality will give you the edge over most onboard solutions.

Killer NIC Software

Killer NIC Software

Killer NIC Software (Application Priority)

Killer NIC Software (Application Priority)

Last, but not least, in the plethora of features on this board, is support for PCI Express Gen.3 in which Gigabyte states, “is one of the first to provide gamers with the latest Gen.3 PCI Express technology, delivering maximum data bandwidth for the latest discrete graphics cards.” I know I can’t wait for the next gen GPU’s supporting this feature…let’s see if they can come close to saturating the bandwidth available.

 

Below is a list from the Gigabyte website for the specifications of this board.

CPU
  1. Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/ Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1155 package
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU

(Please refer “CPU Support List” for more information.)

Chipset
  1. Intel® Z68 Express Chipset
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
    * Due to Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Please refer “Memory Support List” for more information.)

Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor: 

  1. 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200
Audio
  1. 1 x Creative CA20K2 chip
  2. Support for Dolby® Digital Live and DTS™ Connect
  3. Support for X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity® and EAX® Advanced HD™ 5.0 technologies
  4. High Definition Audio
  5. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  6. Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN
  1. 1 x Bigfoot Killer E2100 chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Expansion Slots
  1. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
    * For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
  2. 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
    * The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode.
  3. 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
    (All PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  4. 2 x PCI slots
Multi-Graphics Technology
  1. Support for AMD CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology
    * The PCIEX16 slot operates at up to x8 mode when AMD CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI is enabled.
Storage Interface 1 x Marvell 88SE9172 chip: 

  1. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connector (GSATA3_6, GSATA3_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. Support for RAID 0 and RAID 1

Chipset:

  1. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3_0, SATA3_1) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. 3 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_2~SATA2_4) supporting up to 3 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. 1 x eSATA 3Gb/s connector (eSATA/USB Combo connector) on the back panel supporting up to 1 SATA 3Gb/s device
  4. Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
    * 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.
USB Chipset: 

  1. Up to 14 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (8 ports on the back panel, including 1 eSATA/USB Combo connector, 6 ports available through the internal USB headers)

2 x Etron EJ168 chips:

  1. Up to 4 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 4 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  4. 3 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  5. 1 x CPU fan header
  6. 4 x system fan headers
  7. 1 x front panel header
  8. 1 x front panel audio header
  9. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  10. 3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  11. 1 x USB 3.0/2.0 header
  12. 1 x serial port header
  13. 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
  14. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
  15. 1 x heatsink LED power connector
  16. 1 x CPU overclocking button header
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 7 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  2. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  3. 1 x CPU overclocking button
  4. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 1 x eSATA/USB Combo connector
  6. 1 x HDMI port
  7. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  8. 1 x RJ-45 port
  9. 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Side Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out)
I/O Controller
  1. iTE IT8728 chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
    * Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/system cooler you install.
BIOS
  1. 2 x 32 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
    * Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver™ 2
  9. Support for Smart 6™
  10. Support for Auto Green
  11. Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
  12. Support for ON/OFF Charge
  13. Support for Cloud OC
  14. Support for 3TB+ Unlock
  15. Support for TouchBIOS
  16. Support for Q-Share
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
  2. Intel® Smart Response Technology
  3. LucidLogix Virtu
    * Make sure the monitor cable has been connected to the integrated graphics port on the back panel.
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows 7/Vista/XP
Form Factor
  1. ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 26.4cm

You can see a complete list of the boards features at the Gigabyte website.

BIOS

Here you will find some screenshots of the standard (non touch) BIOS from Gigabyte. As you can see, there are plenty of overclocking options to get the most out of your system. An abundance of power options (feeding off the 8 phase VRM), all the needed voltage options for overclocking including PLL override voltage to push your CPU well past 4.5Ghz, and the usual suspects for memory tweaking as well as a slew of subtimings. There are plenty of options to push your CPU to its limits.

BIOS Main

BIOS Main

BIOS Advanced Frequency (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced Frequency (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced CPU Core (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced CPU Core (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced Memory Frequency (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced Memory Frequency (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced Memory Timings (Inside MIT)

BIOS Advanced Memory Timings (Inside MIT)

BIOS Voltages (Inside MIT)

BIOS Voltages (Inside MIT)

Overclocking Software

As with most Gigabyte products, the G1.Sniper2 comes with EasyTune6 (ET6) software. There isn’t much to see here as this product has done its job, well, for quite some time with few changes. Per usual you can change all voltages in windows, the CPU multiplier (be sure that you have that function enabled in the BIOS). One new addition, at least for me, was that you can set Load Line Calibration level in the software now. For the green overclocker, you can just push a button on the Quick Boost mode and get a conservative and stable overclock (what frequency will depend on the CPU you have).

Not pictured here is the Cloud overclocking software which allows you to overclock/adjust settings via browser. This is a novel idea, but more geared towards the extreme overclocker than anyone. I also had trouble using this software on my GA-P67-UD7 in that a lot of options were not available for me to use. I did contact Gigabyte support, but they were unable to assist after a lengthy exchange. I have brought this up on the forum and it seems as though others could complete this function so it may have been a system issue on my end.

EasyTune6 Voltage Screen

EasyTune6 Voltage Screen

Overclocking

Test Setup

Board installed

Board installed

 

Overall, I was able to push this machine to 5 GHz. I was limited by my cooling (Air, Hyper 212+) and not the board. I’m quite certain with the robust power delivery area on this board, extreme clockspeeds with better cooling will not be an issue. In that light, this board is not made for an extreme overclocker that would use more than water cooling. There are no power and reset switches on the board or a helpful debugger LED. So if you want to try your luck at extreme overclocking outside of the case, be prepared to short out the front panel headers to power on/off/reset…but who hasn’t done that before? This board just isn’t made specifically for enthusiast with no cases, but for gamers with more conventional setups who like to overclock.

Super Pi 1M (CPU @ 5Ghz).

Super Pi 1M (CPU @ 5Ghz)

Super Pi 32M (CPU @ 5Ghz)

Wprime 32M (CPU @ 5Ghz)

wPrime 32/1024M (CPU @ 5Ghz)

PiFast (CPU @ 5Ghz)

PiFast (CPU @ 5Ghz)

Conclusion

This is a tough conclusion for me, writing as an enthusiast anyway, as there are some features such as power/reset buttons, that are missing on the board for the true hardcore and extreme overclocker. I have to take a step back and look at this through the eyes of who it is marketed towards, gamers. As an avid gamer, I’m really not certain I can ask for anything more out of a motherboard. Superior sound with the inclusion of Creative X-Fi chip (20k2) over most motherboards, check. A superior network card (Bigfoot Networks’ Killer E2100) over most other boards, check. Great overclocking ability, check.

One of the only downsides I can see for this board is the price. Coming from NewEgg.com the price is a steep $359.99 + Shipping. This puts the G1.Sniper2 $10 more than Gigabyte’s top of the line enthusiast board, the z68X-UD7 and $25 more than Asus’ top of the line offering, Maximus Extreme-Z. While I understand the boards serve different markets, the price point is almost unbearably high to me, even with all the features it has over the UD7/MIVE-Z for gaming.

With that said, this board is still going to receive an Overclockers Approved stamp. The features that it has specifically for hardcore gamers are unlike any motherboard on the market. If you want arguably the best motherboard geared specifcally for gaming with its exclusive features, then you are going to have to pay for it. And lets not forget when gaming in First Person Shooters that you ‘always run faster with a knife’. Now go get ‘em!

~Earthdog

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Discussion
  1. Nice review Joe! :)

    I've been looking at this board a lot for my "gaming" build which will take place soon. Looking to get a different color scheme for the build other than the overly used red/black color-scheme on most motherboards nowadays.
    Maybe I wasnt clear enough in the review, sorry! The chip that is used is the EXACT same chip that the stand alone Xfi cards use AFAIK...so its a standalone solution but integrated on the motherboard. There are plenty of USB ports (for me personally) already and the onboard solution doesnt block anything as far as vents go (not that a vent located where the audio jacks are would help anything.. ;)
    Frankly I am tired of "high end" gaming boards always being slapped with on-board audio of some sort. On-board audio is supposed to be for budget build systems. It's like on-board video - just a waste of space IMO. I agree that this is a great chip for on-board audio but frankly if you are spending a lot of money on a board, you are going to be using something other than an on-board solution IMO. I would rather have extra cooling vents or usb ports in place of the audio jacks. Just my 2 cents.
    Thanks!

    Its a really nice board, just not meant for benching table overclocking due to do those missing features. Doesnt mean you cant get around it of course, as it sure has the internals to take a SB to its limits. ;)

    Truth be told, I want to take it cold... Im wondering if one would have to disable sound and nic like is frequently done considering that the load for those items are not on the CPU with the inclusion of the Bigfoot NIC and Xfi chips...

    I suppose it doesnt really matter as it does really come down to that debug LED and the convenience of power/reset buttons as opposed to a flat head. :p
    Nice review Joe:thup:

    The lack of debug LED and reset/power buttons is a real let down, then off course the huge price tag.

    All in all nice looking board