First I owe Gigabyte an explanation for taking so long to get this review written up. The truth is, Gigabyte products always take me the longest time to review because they’re so much fun to use. I often forget I’m supposed to be writing a review, and get completely sidetracked. I’d like to thank Angela at Gigabyte for being so patient with me taking my time to publish results any time she sends a product to me for testing.
GOOC 2009 (Gigabyte Open Overclocking Championship) was the first time I overclocked on the X58 platform, and I haven’t done so since then. P55 got in the way, and although I’ve been having a blast with it over the past several months, something has been missing. I realized just what that was when Gigabyte sent me their X85A-UD7 for testing.
Specs and Features
- CPU: Core i7, LGA1366
- QPI: 4.8GT/s, 6.4GT/s
- Northbridge: Intel X58
- Southbridge: Intel ICH10R
- Memory: 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory
- Memory frequency: DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
- Audio: Realtek ALC889 codec
- LAN: 2 x RTL8111D chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
- 2x PCI Express slots running at 16x
- 2x PCI Express slots running at 8x
- 2x PCI Express 1x slots
- 1x PCI slot
- Multi-Graphics technology: Support for 2-Way/3-Way ATI CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology
- Up to 10 USB 2.0 ports: 6 on back panel, 4 internal
- 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on back panel via NEC chip
- 6x SATA 3GB/s connectors supporting RAID 0, 1, 5, 10, via ICH10R
- 2x SATA 6GB/s connectors supporting RAID 0, 1, via Marvell 9128 chip
- 2x SATA 3GB/s connectors supporting RAID 0, 1, and JBOD, and 1x IDE connector, via Gigabyte SATA2 chip
- 2x eSATA 3GB/s connectors on back panel, via JMicron JMB362 chip
- 1x floppy drive connector via iTE IT8720 chip
Here we see packaging typical of high-end Gigabyte products. Product features cover the oversize box, and the front flap opens to reveal the motherboard inside. The board resides in a clear plastic shell, while the huge assortment of accessories have their own separate box, hidden behind it.
Opening the box, we see the X58A-UD7 nestled comfortably in a clear plastic shell (like most top-end Gigabyte boards) with the SilentPipe chipset cooler add-on.
And a closer look at the SilentPipe assembly. The X58A-UD7 heatpipe assembly has options for air or water cooling. For users taking the air cooling route, this is easily mounted with a little thermal paste and four screws.
- User manual, installation guide, Smart 6 manual, driver disc
- I/O shield
- 4x SATA cables
- 1x PATA cable
- Tri-SLI bridge
- Flexible SLI cable
- eSATA bracket and cables
And finally, the motherboard pictures. Typical Gigabyte color scheme and all the component cooling hardware you’d expect on a board like this.
Located next to the memory slots, we find a nice, big onboard power button, along with a smaller reset button.
The first thing you notice on the lower right corner of the board is the huge heatsink covering the ICH10R. Located in this area are ten total SATA ports, the battery, a PATA connector, front panel connectors, two USB headers, and an onboard debug LED. If you don’t own a debug LED (or POST code reader), and your motherboard doesn’t have one built in, you need to order one. They’re absolutely essential for troubleshooting, and I always have one on hand when overclocking.
In the expansion slot area, we have two PCI-E slots at 16x, and two at 8x. There are also two PCI-E 1x slots, and a single PCI slot.
Now on to the CPU socket area. The X58A-UD7 features 24-phase power, as you can see by the crowded socket area. Insulating around all of it for liquid nitrogen cooling was a bit more time consuming than some other boards, but well worth it.
And a closer look at Gigabyte’s SilentPipe cooling solution. These pictures are only for the top half, because there are several pictures showing the ICH10R portion above.
Now to see what’s under all that cooling hardware…
And the rest of the motherboard pictures, including the back and I/O panel.
You may be worried about the un-sinked mosfets on the back of the board, but none of the Gigabyte boards with 24-phase power that I’ve owned have had any problems because of this.
Most of the BIOS settings you’d expect on just about any motherboard, with the exception of the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section. And the M.I.T. section is by far the most important. Where other motherboard companies put the overclocking goodies section in the top right (or worse even), Gigabyte put theirs first. This means before even setting the system time, you need to begin overclocking.
And now the important stuff…The M.I.T. section.
Ideally, the thing to do here would be to list all the slick overclocking features under the M.I.T. menu. But it’d be much easier to list the options that are missing, since it’s got pretty much everything you could want or need.
I did a little air testing with a Core i7 920 D0, and a good bit of air testing with a 920 C0. I did a bit of liquid nitrogen testing with the D0 as well, but in cooling with both air and LN2, the CPU was the limiting factor.
- Core i7 920
- Gigabyte X58A-UD7
- 3x1gb Kingston HyperX DDR3 2000MHz
- Radeon HD 4890
- OCZ 1000w PSU
- Open air bench station
- Air cooling: COGAGE TRUE Spirit
- LN2 cooling: Dragon F1 EE
Air testing the 920
I’ve never overclocked on anything so easy before. The 920 D0 was doing 4.5GHz perfectly stable within only a few minutes of powering it on for the first time. The only settings I had to change in BIOS were CPU voltage, CPU VTT, and DDR3 voltage. All other settings were at ‘auto’ or ‘normal.’ I received this board shortly before Forum Wars, which gave me a great opportunity to do some competition-based testing. It topped out around 4.7GHz on air, but was a disappointment when frozen.
The 920 D0 I had was a great CPU on air. When put under the cold stuff, it was a completely different story. I was stopped just short of 5GHz, but stability was not an issue for any benchmarks I threw at it. Even with the CPU’s poor LN2 results, I was able to pull off some personal bests in a few benchmarks:
Final Thoughts and Conclusion
I’m not near finished testing this board, and I probably won’t be for quite some time. There are so many possibilities with a powerhouse such as this, and I get a huge grin on my face every time I have the opportunity to use it.
Still on my list for tesing:
- Gulftown + HD 5870
- USB 3.0 + SATA 3 testing
- GTX 480 when available
If you’re new to overclocking, you probably won’t find an easier motherboard to get your feet wet with. If you’re an extreme bencher, and need every single MHz you can get, this board will give you that. If you’re a casual user, who just wants a solid motherboard with USB 3 and SATA 3 at an affordable price, Gigabyte has less expensive options in their X58A line as well.
I’d like to thank Angela at Gigabyte for letting me test this incredible motherboard.