With the introduction of X79 everyone was a bit scared about what would happen to prices of motherboards, as the CPUs available at the time were so expensive, an entry level system for the X79 chipset would put you back $500 for the CPU alone. Now we have the 3820 which costs about as much as a 2600K, and thus X79 is picking up a lot more users, especially those looking for the latest and greatest platform to replace their X58 systems. Now if you remember X58 you might have remembered the X58A-UD3R, a pretty reasonably priced motherboard which was loaded with most of the connectivity features of its bigger brothers, but also it also held its own against competitors in the same price bracket. Well today I will give you a look at the X79-UD3 and what it offers, as well as test it not only on water, but also some sub-zero action with LN2. I will also show you guys how I insulted the board to how I overclocked it. First we will begin with the basic things potential buyers might want to know, such as how the board is built hardware wise, and what it has to offer.
- Box, Board, and Accessories
- Board Layout and Design
- In-Depth Circuit Analysis
- BIOS Gallery
- Test Setup and OC Guide
- Insulation Guide and LN2 Performance
Box, Board, and Accessories
The box is very typical of the GIGABYTE X79 lineup, they seem to have gone totally white, from the boxes background color to the inside color of the package.
Sin’s Take: It is like an apple product almost, but instead of being made in a Foxconn factory like many other motherboards are, GIGABYTE manufacturers these boards in their own factories.
- I/O Shield
- 4 SATA6GB/s Black Cables.
- SLI Bridge
- 3-Way SLI Bridge
- 4-Way SLI Bridge
- CrossFireX Bridge
Sin’s Take: I like the fact that GIGABYTE still provides 4-way bridges with their 4-way boards, many manufactures do not seem to understand 4-way bridges cannot be made out of 2 way bridges, SLI isn’t crossfirex.
GIGABYTE also provides their blue sticker which isn’t picture.
Sin’s Take: I am waiting for a cooler case badge from GIGABYTE…. But I collect case badges so many I am just picky about these things.
Layout and Design
It is a very nice looking motherboard, perfect for black on black action/builds.
Sin’s Take: Only thing missing from this board in terms of basic features is the lack of 8-DIMMs, while it isn’t such a big deal for me, some users who are hardcore want the 8-DIMMs. In that case the UD5 might better suite your needs. What is surprising is that this board offers 4-Way SLI in an ATX Package.
The back of the board has 9 extra MOSFETs on the back, these are the third MOSFETs used in every phase, for 3-MOSFETs per phase. They aren’t cooled, but they also don’t really need to be directly cooled, since they carry half the current and the other MOSFET carries the other half, but is cooled.
Sin’s Take: I would have preferred some type of heatsinks on these, but probably not anywhere to be found on a UD3 or UD5, but I think the UD7 should have had them heatsinked.
Here we have the upper left quadrant of the board, we see two fan connectors situated perfect for a dual fan heatsink. The DIMMs are pretty close to the first PCI-E slot, and that is because the board is a 4-way SLI board, so spacing isn’t going to be like the UD7. The 8-Pin is for the CPU VRM. The spacing between the CPU socket and the memory DIMMs seems to be the same on every single X79 board, this is due to the fact that memory overclocking is dependent on this because of the quad channel operation. Low trace distance=lower trace parasitics=better signal integrity=better oc.
Here we have the upper right quadrant, behind the 24-pin connector we have a USB 3.0 header positioned closer to the front panel bays. An extra fan connector as well is positioned in this area. Be sure to install your memory before putting in your long GPU.
The lower right quadrant is here, we have a TON of SATA6GB/s for a UD3! 4 extra ports here are provided by two Marvell SE9172, but there is also another Marvell SE9172 for the back panel eSATA6GB/s. You should use the Intel ports first, also the white is the Intel SATA6GB/s, the Black is Intel SATA3GB/s, and the gray are Marvell SATA6GB/s. Two of the Marvell are not angled. We also see another fan header in the lower corner of the board, next to the case headers. The clear CMOS jumper is two pins right outside the plastic that encompasses the front panel headers. Short these two pins and you have just cleared the CMOS.
The lower Left quadrant of this board shows us the beauty of 4-way SLI on an ATX form factor at 16x/8x/8x/8x. The X79 platform offers 40X PCI-E 3.0 lanes, so if you do 2-way SLI your first and third 16x slots will be 16x, if you do 3-way the second will be 8x, while the other two remain the same. I think the last slot should only to be used in the case of 4-way operation. The PCI slot is native to the X79 PCH.
In Depth Circuit Analysis:
Everyone knows that I love motherboard when their heatsinks are off and their Ices are exposed, ready for me to drool over. I know that sounds a bit over the top, but I really enjoy analyzing the circuitry of motherboards. If you are one of my fans it is most likely because of this section, which makes my reviews a bit different than the rest, in that I don’t only list the ICs, I list their function as well as how they work and compare against other boards. First off my favorite circuitry on a motherboard, the voltage regulators!!
Here we have a up-close shot of the CPU VRM. The motherboards for X79 provide 4 major input voltages, the CPU Vcore, CPU VCCSA(IMC voltage), CPU VCCIO(QPI/VTT Voltage), and CPU PLL. The PLL is provided by a simple linear regulator, so I don’t usually cover it, but the others have switching power supplies we will look at now. The one pictured above provides 8 phases for the CPU Vcore and 1 phase for the VCCSA or system agent or IMC. It is 8+1 phases out of a 7+1 phase PWM. 4 phases from the IR3567 8 phase PWM pictured below are doubled by four doublers which also have two integrated drivers a piece, IR3598(X-Phase IC). Each phase consists of a 0.8uH ferrite core inductor, and 3 MOSFETs. On this board as well as the G1 Assassin 2 we see two low-side MOSFETs and 1 high-side MOSFET, this probably was done to reduce the power draw on the low-side. The low-side FETs are the IRH8313 (25A) and the high-side are IRH8330 (50A) both made by IR. The rest of the low-side are located on the backside of the board. The output of the CPU VRM is decoupled by about 5000uF of low-ESR solid aluminum can-type capacitors with 50K hours life. The CPU VCCSA(IMC Voltage) has a single phase from 1 doubler in which only 1 output of the doubler is used.
The IR3567 is IR’s first CHiL Digital PWM copy. While other motherboard makers might claim digital PWM technology, some of them actually use analog branded controllers! SVID doesn’t make a PWM digital people, the feedback circuitry does. CHiL makes great digital PWMs which are used on some boards such as those by ASUS and Intel. IR recently bought CHiL and copied their technology into their own PWMs, basically a CHiL rebrand but with VRD12.5 certification which the CHiL PWMs do not carry yet. This PWM can operate at 1.2MHz, but with doublers the max effective per phase is 600KHz.
Above we have a special treat on the GIGABYTE X79 boards, the award winning IR Power Stages, these are the IR3553M and are capable of 40A per phase with up to 1MHz switching frequency. They have excellent characteristics, and run pretty cool, thus no heatsink. They are basically a driver and two MOSFETs in one, thus called a powerstage. DrMOS is a type of powerstage if you were wondering. Below we have a 3+2 phase Digital PWM which powers these power stages as well as the DRAM VRM.
Above we have a IR3750 (3+2 Phase) Digital PWM. This PWM is VRD12 certified, and provides a lot of outputs. The UD3 has two of these PWMs, to provide true digital control over all the VRMs on the board, except the PCH power. The memory VRMs are both driven by these digital PWMs, and the System Agent VRM we just looked at uses two phases off of one of these. Each set of 2-DIMMs is powered by one of the IR 3553 40A power stages, enough to power double the number of DIMMs, even overclocked.
The PCH uses a single phase from a single phase ISL6545 PWM with integrated drivers. The PCH VRM also uses Renesas MOSFETs.
Above you can also see a Fresco Logic FL1009 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed certified controller. Each of these controllers provides 2 X USB 3.0 ports and this one is located really close to the internal header on purpose as to provide good performance. There are requirements on USB 3.0 signaling, especially on the distance at which the USB ports are located compared to the location of the controller. I might add that this is the first time we have ever seen a Fresco Logic controller be integrated onto a motherboard, however if you do a quick Google search it performs pretty good for sequential speeds. Also notice the fuses which are part of GIGABYTEs 1 fuse per port USB protection, this also allows higher current per port as part of GIGABYTE’s 3X USB power.
Here we have the other Fresco Logic FL1009 USB 3.0 controller, as well as a Marvell SE9172, which is a 2 port SATA6GB/s controller which has software RAID capabilities. The controller in the picture provides SATA6GB/s to the backpanel’s eSATA ports.
WG82579V is an Intel PHY which provides 1GBit Ethernet to this motherboard. Intel is preferred over other brands for its low latency and high performance, another good thing is that the NIC is integrated into the PCH, so this works in tandem with that. Above is a PHY or physical layer device that provides the actual LAN output. It is only a 0.66W IC.
We also have a Realtek ALC898 a 110dB SNR Realtek Hi-Def audio Codec used on high-end X79 boards. When many manufactures say they have Creative XF-I they are really talking about an ALC892 or ALC989 audio codec using Creative Software. In this case you get the same hardware, but without the price of the creative software. If you want a true Creative XF-I with an actual Creative audio codec you should look at the G1. Assassin 2 X79, it also has a bunch of other hardware like DACs and AMPs to support the package. But here we have a ton of capacitors to smooth out the highs and lows of the audio. This Codec also supports Blu-ray playback.
Centered in the above picture is an iTE IT8728F a very common SuperI/I found on almost all GIGABYTE boards, it supports all the fan, voltage, and temp monitoring and also gives us PS/2 for the backpanel. The same chip is a BG chip which supports the addition of the COM port to the board.
Here we have the 64Mbit 8MByte BIOS ROMs, two of them for every GIGABYTE board provides the 3D UEFI and dual BIOS which provides redundancy in cause of BIOS update or overclocking failures. This addition of Dual BIOS is one of the features all GIGABYTE board currently in production. Sadly we don’t see this done on all boards, but all super high-end boards have this(Excluding all asrock boards).
Two ICS clock generators provide the clocks needed to push the BLCk dividers and the PCi-E clocks on the board.
Here we have the beloved Intel X79 PCH which has 8X PCI-E 2.0 integrated, as well as a bunch of other goodies. Two Marvell SE9172 provide 4 SATA6GB/s connectivity to the 4 internal gray SATA6GB/s headers. In total this board carries 3 Marvell SE9172 for extra SATA6GB/s.
Here we have GIGABYTE’s 3D UEFI:
Test Setup and OC Guide
So are you thinking about getting this board, but don’t have any idea how to OC X79? You would probably be new to the platform, or just someone who is looking at this board, well I wrote an in-depth OC guide which goes step by step of how to OC on X79. It was done on a UD7 but the UD3 has the exact same settings and layout.
OC Guide: http://sinhardware.com/index.php/overclockingoc-guides/113-sandy-bridge-e-overclocking-guide
Here is the test setup for my benchmarks:
The benchmarks will have the UD3’s score highlighted in blue. All benchmarks were run on all systems using the same memory speed, same bus speed, and same multiplier across platforms even. However the UD3 used the latest BIOS and drivers to get it ready for my Z77 reviews, so the scores might be a bit higher just because of microcode updates. However 3D Mark 11 was kept the same version because of the physics score issue with 1.03, so 3Dmark 11 is 1.01 version. Also while all my other benchmarks were run with 8GB of memory(on UD7 and Assassin2), and 4GB on Z68 boards, I ran the UD3 with 16GB quad channel however for the benchmarks below I ran the memory at the same timings and speed as on the other boards, 9,9,9,24 T1 @ 1600MHz.
Overclocking, Insulation Guide, and LN2 Overclocking:
I got a new memory kit to use, 16GB of 4x4GC Kingston memory for quad channel operation. I wanted to see how the XMp worked for the memory, it is rated 2133 11,12,11,32 CR2, but the board loaded CR1 but it worked perfect at those timings and settings throughout. The CPU was able to handle 16GB at 2133 but not at 2400, however 2133 was done without any voltage change for the IMC nor DRAM voltage changes.
Insulation Guide for use of the board AFTER LN2 OC:
While you can do this, any and all overclocking voids all motherboard warranties including GIGABYTE's 5 Year warranty, so please know this before continuing. I also take no responsibility for the death of your hardware.
So if you want to use your board as if it was brand new after Ln2 OCing, it might be smart to skip the grease yet still have the same level of micro protection that filling in the holes offers. In that case how about a cheap conformal coat that not only resists the extreme temperatures but also peels off like a band aid when needed? The answer is LET or liquid electrical tape found at Home Depot. This stuffis perfect, however you want to make sure you use enough.
The first step is to remove heatsinks and tape off parts of the board you don’t want pained over, like the MOSFETs and the CPU socket. You should also tape up the DIMMs, but I am a bit more adventurous and lazy too. Also if the tape isn't sticking to the MOSFETs that were originally covered by the heatsinks it is because the thermal pad leaves some residue, just use rubbing alcohol to clean the tops of the FETs and then the tape will stick.
You want to paint, but you want to paint a thicker layer than I have painted:
You want to paint it on thick enough so that you don’t see any white through the board, LET takes a few hours to dry.
Then I fill the center whole with eraser:
I decided not to use the hold down for my extreme OC with LGA1366, as the holes are already open, but of course if you remove the POT to see how your mount was, it will pull out the CPU, and the CPU also needs good pressure. So I recommend replacing the socket hold down, and using different screws or something.
Then you want to totally cover everything up to the DIMMs and down to the first PCI-E slot, and up to the chokes with eraser, I get the eraser almost as high as the top of the CPU, but definitely not higher.
I also painted the back of the board, and used a layer of arm flex bought from home depot to fully add some extra insulation for the board.
I just recently purchased a F1 Gemini Revision 2 from Kingpin(thanks Vince), and I used the slow pot provided.
Then I add some paper towels around the socket area, and then mount the new POT!
Use some extra shop towels to catch condensation as well as protect my nice GPU!!!!
Please pay attention to the photo above, because of my laziness I spend 10mintues checking each DIMM to make sure no LET got inside, please make sure to tape up your DIMMs. Be careful with the eraser as it can get into the DIMMs and socket as well.
Now we are ready for some LN2 OCing!
First of all my OC with an Antec Khuler 920 was 4.8GHz, same as the G1 Assassin2. However under Ln2 I was able to get to 5.1ghz with under 1.6v, and run whatever benchmark I wanted tool. Sadly the CPU didn’t’ scale past 0C to -15C is where I would hold it during load. Also there was a 0C CBB with this CPU/Board, which was not so fun. I wasn’t able to get higher than 5.1ghz, and I had to use EasyTune6 to change the multiplier inside Windows. However I could run 5.1ghz like it was my job, easy OC even with 16GB of memory at 2133 at T1.
Here are some benchmarks; they have been run on an un-tweaked OS that I use for my reviews, so maybe you can compare against another un-tweaked system or my benchmark results.
This board has decent 2D efficiency.
The results aren’t bad the board has good efficiency, however my CPU sucks anyways. It required the same Vcore I used for 5.1 GHz at 0C for 4.8 GHz to be stable at 50C. The board also probably isn’t the X79-UD7 when it comes to extreme OCing, however even the entry GIGABYTE X79 board can handle Ln2 conditions, the board I still alive and kicking.
The board is pretty nice, everything about it seems like it is well made. I was able to OC under LN2 with no fan blowing directly on the VRM, the only fan was blowing air away from the board when under LN2 as in the picture above.
The ability for this board to run 4-Way SLI is really nice advantage which most X79 boards do not have. This board at this price point would have made a really nice cheap OC board if GIGABYTE had added some buttons and POST Code and Voltage Read Points. It isn’t really meant for Extreme OC, but you can have some fun with it regardless. It is a very well built basic board; uses high quality parts and makes for an excellent 24/7 machine. The build quality is that of the best GIGABYTE boards, and the connectivity is pretty obvious. It has a lot of internal SATA6GB/s and ports are well placed. I am glad to see Intel LAN as well as the new Realtek Codec on this board.
However I find it odd that the number of USB 3.0 ports has been reduce across all X79 boards regardless of manufacturer when compared to Z68. The board could also use those extra 4 DIMMS for a total of 8 DIMMs like the UD5 has. Overclocking under LN2 could be a bit easier if they fixed up that CB, like with the UD7. The board was surprisingly resilient when my overclocks failed, even when I cold bugged the board it wouldn’t throw a fit, and there weren’t any boot loops I encountered. However, at $239.99 @ Newegg it really is a good buy for anyone looking to get into the X79 platform. It worked very well with the 16GB Kingston quad channel kit I used, it was the easiest memory OC to 2133 I have ever done, and on 4 DIMMs! The price of the board makes it a good buy for anyone looking for a 24/7 machine, especially if you want 4-way SLI/CF capabilities which X79 is known for, as well as the high build quality that GIGABYTE offers. Also the entire GIGABYTE X79 lineup, including this board, has a 5-year warranty.
Excellent build quality and attractive design
Fully Functional UEFI (Very little non-OC issues)
XMP works well
Tons of SATA6G in many places
Good Value for the Price
Survived many LN2 sessions without any issues.
3D Mode for BIOS is good for new users to learn.
Not as good as the UD7 for LN2 OC
No Buttons, POST LED, or VRead Points
Heatsink runs a bit warm on the VRM while heavy OC(5GHz)
Sin's Take:(If you have ever read a HardOCP review and then see Kyle's thoughts at the end of the review, well this is like that but I actually used/tested the product i am talking about) This board makes a great board for anyone who is looking for a good 24/7 motherboard to provide them with all the features of the X79 platform coupled with great build quality and an easy to work with UEFI BIOS. You can figure out the UEFI so much easier than any normal BIOS thanks to the layout and even 3D Mode. If you also want to try some OCing, or even want to try LN2 OCing, the board will survive.