As the release date for AMD’s new Kaveri APU inches closer, we are beginning to see a lot of AMD socket FM2+/A88X chipset motherboards hitting the market. The A88X chipset brings support for the new Kaveri APUs, and it looks like the majority of manufacturers will be ready with supporting motherboards. Today, we’ll be looking at a Kaveri-ready offering from Gigabyte… The G1. Sniper A88X to be exact. Gigabyte claims they’ve had a lot of customers asking for an AMD solution to be added to their popular G1-Killer Gaming series of motherboards. Gigabyte listened to their customers and took it a step further by adding their AMP-UP audio technology. So, let’s dive into this newest member of the G1-Killer family and see what it has to offer.
Specifications and Features
The specifications below are provided by the Gigabyte website. At first glance, many of the specifications resemble other A88X offerings out there with the same Realtek LAN and Audio Codec. Where these boards differ from each other will mostly be determined by power delivery and enthusiast level features added to the motherboard’s layout. We’ll see how the G1. Sniper A88X stacks up as the review progresses.
Gigabyte G1. Sniper A88X Specifications APU FM2+ Socket:
- AMD A series processors
- AMD Athlon™ series processors
(Please refer “CPU Support List” for more information.)
- AMD A88X
- 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 64 GB of system memory
* Due to a 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 the size of the physical memory installed.
* The maximum 64 GB of system memory can be supported using 16 GB (or above) memory modules. GIGABYTE will update the memory support list on the official website when the memory modules are available on the market.
- Dual channel memory architecture
- Support for DDR3 2133/1866/1600/1333 MHz memory modules
- Support for AMD Memory Profile (AMP)/Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
(Please refer “Memory Support List” for more information.)
Onboard Graphics APU with integrated AMD Radeon™ HD 8000/7000 series graphics:
* To use the onboard graphics port, you must install an AMD APU with integrated graphics.
- 1 x D-Sub port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200
- 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 2560×1600
* Support for 2560×1600 resolution requires both a monitor and cable that support Dual Link DVI.
* The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
- 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096×2160
* The resolution of 4096×2160 can be supported when using an FM2+ APU; the maximum resolution supported is 1920×1200 when using an FM2 APU.
* Support for HDMI 1.4a version.
- Maximum shared memory of 2 GB
- Realtek® ALC898 codec
- High Definition Audio
- Support for S/PDIF Out
- Realtek® GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
- 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
(The PCIEX16 slot conforms to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
* To support PCI Express 3.0, you must install an FM2+ APU.
- 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
- 3 x PCI Express x1 slots
(The PCIEX4 and PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
- 2 x PCI slots
- Support for AMD CrossFire™ technology
- Support for AMD Dual Graphics technology
* Only A series APUs support AMD Dual Graphics.
Storage Interface Chipset:
- 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
- Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10, and JBOD
- 4 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
- 9 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (5 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
- 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
- 8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
- 1 x APU fan header
- 3 x system fan headers
- 1 x front panel header
- 1 x front panel audio header
- 1 x S/PDIF Out header
- 1 x USB 3.0/2.0 header
- 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
- 1 x serial port header
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
- 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
- 2 x gain control switches
Back Panel Connectors
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
- 1 x D-Sub port
- 1 x DVI-D port
- 1 x HDMI port
- 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
- 5 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
- 1 x RJ-45 port
- 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
- 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
- iTE® I/O Controller Chip
- System voltage detection
- APU/System temperature detection
- APU/System fan speed detection
- APU overheating warning
- APU/System fan fail warning
- APU/System fan speed control
* Whether the fan speed control function is supported will depend on the cooler you install.
- 2 x 64 Mbit flash
- Use of licensed AMI EFI BIOS
- Support for DualBIOS™
- PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.6, ACPI 2.0a
- Support for @BIOS
- Support for Q-Flash
- Support for Xpress Install
- Support for EasyTune
* Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
- Support for Smart Recovery 2
- Support for ON/OFF Charge
- Support for Windows 8.1/8/7 32-bit/64-bit
* If you plan to install Windows 8.1, please download the latest drivers from GIGABYTE’s website.
- Support for Windows XP 32-bit
* To support Windows XP 32-bit, you must install an AMD FM2 Trinity APU.
- ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 22.5cm
The features Gigabyte wants you to be aware of are plentiful. We’ll begin with the Gigabyte features and then move our way to those that are more specific to the socket FM2+/A88X chipset. The Gigabyte specific features include some useful items, so please take a minute to browse through them. Other than the many onboard audio improvements Gigabyte has incorporated, a couple other features that caught my eye are the upgradable OP-AMP chip and each USB port having its own dedicated power fuse. Gigabyte does a nice job explaining each of the below features, so I’ll step aside and let them do the talking here. All images and descriptions are courtesy of Gigabyte.
GIGABYTE G1-Killer series motherboards are packed with absolutely everything you’ll need to build an uncompromising, high-performance gaming PC. Loaded with advanced audio technologies, maxed out multi-card gaming support, and advanced cooling and high quality heatsink design, GIGABYTE G1-Killer motherboards are the ultimate choice for serious PC gamers.
Featuring a gold plated USB 2.0 port, GIGABYTE USB DAC-UP provides clean, noise-free power delivery to your Digital-to-Analog Converter. DACs can be sensitive to fluctuations in power from the other USB ports, which is why GIGABYTE USB DAC-UP takes advantage of an isolated power source that minimizes potential fluctuations and ensures the best audio experience possible. GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio combines a range of unique features and technologies that are designed to give audio enthusiasts and PC gamers more control over their motherboard audio than ever before. To further optimize the audio experience provided by the onboard OP-Amp, GIGABYTE motherboards also debut Gain Boost. Gain Boost provides onboard switches to select between 2.5x and 6x amplification modes depending on speakers or headphones being used. GIGABYTE motherboards are the world’s first to feature an onboard operational amplifier (OP-Amp), allowing users to physically switch out and try different OP-Amps which offer distinct and nuanced properties that make the audio clearer, punchier and more life-like. Additional OP-Amps can be purchased separately to further expand audio capabilities. To help protect and insulate the the Realtek ALC898 audio processor and onboard amplifiers from electrostatic interference (ESD), the GIGABYTE G1.Sniper A88X motherboard features an audio noise guard that essentially separates the board’s sensitive analog audio components from potential ESD pollution at the PCB level. LED trace path lighting illuminates to show the separation of the PCB layers. The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper A88X motherboard uses top quality gold plated hardware for improved connectivity and long lasting durability for the USB DAC-Up port and audio connectors. Gold has superb signal conductivity and will not tarnish over extended periods of use. The Realtek ALC898 audio processor is also shielded by a gold-plated cover which eliminates electrostatic interference. The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper A88X motherboard uses the highest quality Nichicon High End Audio Capacitors at each channel layout. These professional audio capacitors deliver the highest quality sound resolution and sound expansion to create the most realistic sound effects for professional gamers. GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ 4 Plus debuts on GIGABYTE motherboards, with a range of features and component choices that provide record-breaking performance, cool and efficient operation and extended motherboard lifespan. GIGABYTE motherboards feature new heatsink designs that offer uncompromisingly efficient cooling on key areas of the motherboard including the PWM area and chipset. GIGABYTE motherboards offer excellent cooling of the crucial APU power delivery area, ensuring even the most aggressive and extreme configurations will be kept well within optimal thermal parameters. GIGABYTE uses All Solid Caps (Capacitors) and Low RDS(on) MOSFETs which are rated to work at higher temperatures to provide a longer lifespan. GIGABYTE motherboards feature GIGABYTE DualBIOS™, an exclusive technology from GIGABYTE that protects arguably one of your PC’s most crucial components, the BIOS. GIGABYTE DualBIOS™ means that your motherboard has both a ‘Main BIOS’ and a ‘Backup BIOS’, making users protected from BIOS failure due to virus attack, hardware malfunction, improper OC settings or power failure during the update process. GIGABYTE motherboards raise the bar in terms of protecting your system, providing advanced electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection for both your Ethernet LAN and USB ports, both common sources of ESD-related failures. Each LAN and USB port is paired with a dedicated protection filter that can withstand high electrostatic discharges, protecting your system from common electrical surges and even direct lighting strikes. On GIGABYTE motherboards each USB port has its own dedicated power fuse that prevents unwanted USB port failure, helping to safe guard your important data during transfer. GIGABYTE On/Off Charge technology allows you to charge your iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch regardless of whether your PC is on, in standby mode or even off. A derivative of GIGABYTE’s highly acclaimed 3x USB Power feature, On/Off Charge enables devices to draw more current from GIGABYTE motherboard USB ports than standard USB ports allow, so that charging from your PC can be as fast as with a charger… More Information
The next set of features deal with the AMD A88X chipset and APU graphics side of things.
GIGABYTE FM2+ series motherboards based on AMD A88X chipset and feature the new FM2+ APU socket, and are designed to get the most from forthcoming Kaveri AMD APUs, while preserving compatibility for current AMD FM2 APUs. FM2+ AMD APUs offer native support for 8 GT/s PCI Express gen 3.0 as well as DX11.1 support integrating the high performance ‘Steamroller’ core. AMD socket FM2+ APUs also offer native support for 4K resolution displays on HDMI port. The AMD FM2+ series platform showcases AMD Dual Graphics technology, allowing users to further boost 3D graphics performance by adding an additional discrete AMD Radeon™ HD 6000 series graphics card* to the system. This unique Dual Graphics technology means users can enjoy higher frame rates on the latest gaming titles, utilizing the processing power of both discrete and integrated graphics processors. Supporting multiple independent display outputs simultaneously, AMD Eyefinity technology delivers innovative graphics display capabilities enabling massive desktop workspaces and ultra-immersive visual environments for the ultimate panoramic computing experience. Flexible graphics capabilities – Up to 2 VGA cards are supported for 2 way AMD CrossFire™ (running at x16, x4 bandwidth), delivering the ultimate in graphics performance for gaming enthusiasts who demand the highest frame rates without compromising on resolution. GIGABYTE FM2+ series motherboards are taking advantage of AMD Eyefinity technology, to allow users to extend their OS desktop by connecting up to three high-resolution digital displays. Triple displays mean more real-estate for enhanced productivity, plus the ability to enjoy panoramic triple screen 3D gaming thanks to AMD’s optimized Eyefinity driver technology. Designed to leverage the awesome potential of the latest AMD Fusion A-series APUs, GIGABYTE motherboards deliver an enhanced visual experience that includes advanced DX11® gaming, incredibly smooth HD multimedia playback and support for high resolution displays of up to 2560 x 1600 pixels by Dual-link DVI port. HDMI is latest High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which is able to provide up to 5Gb/s video transmitting bandwidth and also 8-channel high quality audio. Via transmitting uncompressed digital data, HDMI is able to reduce signal interference as transferring between digital and analog signal, seen and heard, direct from the source. In addition, HDMI is compatible with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), which allowing playback of Blu-ray/ HD DVD and other protected contents.
From the specifications and features we’ve listed, the G1. Sniper A88X certainly appears to be a worthy contender in the socket FM2+ market. Let’s get it up on the bench and have a closer look.
Packaging and First Look
The box is decked out with a black and gold theme, and of course, Gigabyte’s fluorescent green found on most of their G1. Sniper motherboards. The box front has a picture of the redesigned MOSFET cooler and complimentary branding. On the back, very little real estate was left unused to describe many of the features we listed above. All four box sides are used for additional branding and a multilingual snippet of high-level features.
With the box open, we find the accessories siting on top and the motherboard below. The board is wrapped in an anti-static bag and securely nestled in its surroundings. The accessory pack includes the following items:
- Installation Guidebook
- User’s Manual
- Driver/Software DVD
- 4 x SATA 6 Cables
- I/O Shield
- Case Badge/Sticker
Before we hone in on the different areas of the G1. Sniper A88X, here are some images of the board from several different angles. It’s a pretty sharp looking board in my opinion, but aesthetics are purely dependent on any one person’s taste. Our more astute viewers may notice the board is not a full sized ATX form factor, but rather the small ATX design. Also, noticeably missing are onboard power/reset buttons and a post code LED display.
The Gigabyte G1. Sniper A88X Up Close
Beginning with the outer edges, let’s have a look at what Gigabyte has included on the G1. Sniper A88X. Along the bottom-left are the connections for the front panel audio, COM Port, TPM, and two USB 2.0. Moving over to the bottom-right, we have the front panel switch/LED headers, the CLR_CMOS pins, and six of the eight available SATA 6 GB/s ports.
The lower-right side of the motherboard is where we find the last two SATA 6 GB/s ports and the front panel USB 3.0 header. The upper-right area has the 24-pin ATX main power connector and a 3-pin system fan header. From this vantage point, we can also see the four DIMM slots, which support up to 64 GB of system memory. Officially, the motherboard claims DDR3 2133 MHz memory support, which aligns itself with the flagship Trinity and Richland APUs’ officially supported memory speed.
Along the top edge, about all there is to see is the 4-pin CPU fan header and the 8-pin AUX-12V CPU Power connector.
The upper-left side of the G1. Sniper A88X is home to all the connectivity options. At the top of the I/O area, there are two USB 2.0 ports sitting on top of a combination (mouse or keyboard) PS/2 port. The next I/O block has the VGA and DVI-D display connections. Next in line are two USB 3.0 ports sitting on top of the HDMI display connection. Flanked just next to those is a gold plated USB 2.0 port. This port is intended for the DAC-UP feature, which allows a USB DAC (digital-audio converter) device to be installed. The next I/O block provides the Realtek RTL8111F Gigabit LAN port and two more USB 2.0 Ports. Rounding out the I/O area are the analog speaker jacks and the optical S/PDIF out port. I’ve harped on other board manufacturers for not having the optical out port on similar offerings, so it’s nice to see that Gigabyte has included it here.
The bottom-left area is home to everything the AMP-UP audio consists of. The AMP-UP audio allows the user to actually change the OP-Amp chip to any of a wide variety of options out on the market. Replacement OP-Amps are pretty cheap and can usually be had for less than $2.00 at places like Digikey. They can be used to fine tune the audio experience to your own personal preference. Another feature located here are the two headphone gain control switches, which allow for a 2.5x or 6x gain to match your headphone specifications. There is also shielding and board isolation incorporated into the AMP-UP audio design. These will prevent electrostatic interference, audio noise, and ESD pollution at the board level. The board isolation line that weaves its way around the audio components will illuminate in a green color to match the aesthetics of the motherboard. Nichicon high end audio capacitors are used throughout the AMP-Up audio, which are known to be excellent for producing quality sound resolution. All and all, it looks like Gigabyte has done a good job turning an onboard audio solution into something about as close to a stand alone solution as possible.
Moving more towards the center of the board, we can get a look at the expansion card slots. There are three PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI-E x16 slots (running at x16 and x4 speeds respectively), and two PCI slots. Only the top PCI-E x16 slot is capable of using the PCI-E 3.0 standard, but you’ll have to wait for the Kaveri APUs to utilize the function.
The CPU socket area is free from any concerning obstructions and should allow for easily installation of your favorite air cooler. As always, be cognizant of memory height to ensure CPU cooler compatibility.
The two heatsinks applied to the board are rather attractive and are said to be newly designed from previous Gigabyte offerings. Both heatsinks are held in place with screws rather than the plastic push-pins, which is nice to see. After removing the MOSFET heatsink, we found the thermal pad to be making excellent contact with its intended targets. Once the MOSFET heatsink is removed, we get a good look at the six phase CPU power design. The power phases are controlled by an ISL6377 VRM. In addition to the six power phases dedicated to the CPU, two more are found next to the DIMM slots to provide power to the memory.
Moving over to the heatsink covering the A88X FCH, things become a little troubling. When the heatsink was removed, I found that there was a cement type thermal interface material applied. I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of what was applied here, but suffice to say I’d much rather see a more convention TIM used. Normal methods of cleaning the heatsink didn’t even phase what ever is on there, and it gives the appearance of being metal to metal contact.
Zooming in a little closer to have a look at some of the ICs that make the board function, we find an ITE IT8620E handling the multi-I/O duties and a Realtek RTL8111F chip handling the onboard Gigabit LAN. The two MXIC MX25L6406E ICs make up the DualBIOS feature and are 64 Mbit (8 Mb) in capacity. Both BIOS chips are hard soldered to the motherboard. Also pictured below is a close-up view of the AMD A88X FCH. Finally, worth mentioning are the two additional 4-pin fan headers located mid-board and just behind the I/O area.
Now that we’ve been up, over, around, and under… let’s get this board fired up!
The UEFI BIOS
The Gigabyte UEFI BIOS implemented here isn’t as rich as some of their other higher end boards, but it has plenty of features for overclocking and setting the system up to your liking. When you first enter the UEFI BIOS, you land in the M.I.T. area where there are five sub menus dealing with everything for overclocking. From here, you can set CPU ratios, memory speeds and timings, and voltages. Real time monitoring is also available in the PC Health sub menu.
The next two areas are the System Information and BIOS Features sections. Under the System Information tab, you can see the BIOS version information, as well as set the time/date. Inside the BIOS Features tab is where the boot options are located.
The Peripherals section has four sub menus dealing mostly with the APU graphics and SATA configuration. Above the sub menu options are settings to enable/disable onboard features and configure the SATA mode.
The Power Management tab is pretty standard stuff found on most modern systems. However, you do have the option of powering on the system by using the keyboard or mouse. You can also control the AMP-UP LED lighting from here as well.
The last area of the UEFI BIOS is the Save & Exit tab. Pretty standard stuff here also, but you do have the ability to save up to eight profiles and give them custom names.
Included Software Bundle
Ok, I admit it… I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to paying any attention to all to the software bundled with most motherboards. Typically, I install the OS, head to the internet for drivers, and on my merry way I go. Heck, often times the driver/software DVD never even gets removed from the sleeve. This time around, I took a minute to browse the DVD that comes with the G1. Sniper A88X. I was impressed with everything included here, which goes far beyond just drivers. EasyTune 6 is Gigabyte’s windows based overclocking utility, which we’ll explore in greater detail later. For now though, the table below gives a brief outline of all the software available on the DVD. All information and descriptions below are taken directly from the DVD.
Gigabyte Utilities Name Description EasyTune 6 An easy-to-use Windows-based system enhancement utility allowing quick access to a variety of performance features. @BIOS @BIOS provides utility for updating BIOS through internet. Smart Recovery 2 Based on the Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Services technology, Smart Recovery 2 allows you to quickly back up and restore your system data in the Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 8 operating system. Smart Recovery 2 supports NTFS file system and can restore system data on PATA and SATA hard drives most stable overclock. DMI Viewer DMI Viewer provides a management tool for viewing motherboard hardware information. FaceWizard Face Wizard provides utility for customizing BIOS boot up screen. Update Manager Gigabyte Update Manager can update Gigabyte utilities by internet. Application Software Name Description Norton Internet Security Your Power Against Online Threat.
Stops Viruses spyware and cybercriminal with real-time protection.
Enjoys online activities safely without slowdowns or distruptions.
Proactively blocks hackers and dangerous downloads.
Identifies unsafe websites in search results.
By selecting Norton Internet Security you agree to Norton License Agreement and activate your free 60 days of protection.
Acrobat Reader Utility for viewing or printing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files. AMD Game! In terms of AMD GAME! program, AMD Overdrive/AMD Fusion is the application software designed for AMD chipset based motherboards and is propertied by AMD (Advanced Micro Drvices, INC.). To get the driver and detail information, please visit AMD website at www.amd.com. AMD Live! In terms of AMD LIVE! program, AMD LIVE! Explorer is the application software designed for AMD chipset based motherboards and is propertied by AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, INC.). To get the driver and detail information, please visit AMD website at www.amd.com. PowerDVD 12 PowerDVD is designed to deliver state-of-the-art media entertainment and the best player experience available resulting in maximum enjoyment of your HD & 3D media. PowerDirector 11 CyberLink PowerDirector 11 Ultra, video production software provides the easiest and fastest way to create home videos. Packed with innovative video technologies to automate and speed up video processing time. Power2Go 8 Safeguard Data, Copy DVDs and Burn Everything Copy all your media to any disc with CyberLink Power2Go 8! With new System Recovery tools and over 5000 free DVD menus to choose from on DirectorZone.com. PhotoDirector 4 CyberLink PhotoDirector 4 is a comprehensive, powerful, and intuitive solution to create professional looking photos. From the moment your photos are imported, you are empowered with unique features that bring out depth and sharpness in your masterpieces. YouCam 5 CyberlInk YouCam 5 is the ultimate webcam software, providing you all the tools and features you need to get the most out of your webcam. Whether you are looking for fun features and effects you can use when chatting with friends, or powerful utilities to enhance your work presentations, tutorials or video conferencing, YouCam has it all. For work, play and everything in between, YouCam is the only webcam software you will ever need! MediaEspresso 6.7 MediaEspresso is a blazingly fast media universal converter that can transcode your videos photos and music files and out put them to a huge range of portable devices including mobile phones portable media players and even game consoles. Splashtop Streamer A computer with the Splashtop Streamer can receive connections from any device running Splashtop Remote Desktop FileHound Splashtop Remote Browser Splashtop Whiteboard Splashtop CamCam Splashtop XDisplay Splashtop Touchpad or Splashtop Presenter applications. Splashtop Streamer Client Splashtop Streamer Client Version.
EasyTune 6 is a robust desktop overclocking and monitoring utility, which features a wide variety of performance tuning options. There are six tabs found in EasyTune 6 that deal with overclocking, monitoring, and fan control. The CPU tab gives real time information on BCLK, multiplier, and the actual speed the APU is running at. There are also additional motherboard and APU specifications listed here. Under the memory tab, you’ll find a handy timings and voltage table.
The Tuner tab is broken down into three modes – Quick Boost, Easy, and Advanced. Quick Boost is a one click overclocking method that basically uses a raise in the BCLK to achieve mild overclocks. The easy mode only allows BCLK adjustments, but this time there is a slider available to use. In order to get the full allotment of voltage, multiplier, and frequency options, you have to enter the Advanced mode. Once you enter advanced mode, the frequency, ratio, and voltage tabs located on the left side become usable. You can even overclock the APU graphics core by visiting the next tab over called Graphics.
Next is the Smart tab, which is where all the fan control settings are. The last tab is called HW Monitor, and it’s exactly as the name implies. Voltage readings, fan speeds, and temperatures can all be viewed in the HW Monitor area.
Overclocking and Benchmarks
|Motherboard||Gigabyte G1. Sniper A88X|
|APU||AMD Richland A10 6800K|
|CPU Cooling||Swiftech H220 LCS AIO CPU Water Cooler|
|PSU||Thermaltake Smart M 750 Watt|
|HDD||Toshiba HDS721050DLE630 500 GB SATA 6 Gb/s|
|OS||Windows 7 X64 SP1|
The first thing I wanted to do was to check for stability at stock speeds. The A10 6800K has a Turbo Frequency of up to 4.4 GHz, so I manually set it to that speed for the stock stability test. I like doing this to eliminate core speed fluctuations and to make sure it’s stable at the maximum Turbo Frequency of 4.4 GHz. I also set the memory to the APU’s officially supported maximum frequency of 2133 MHz. I didn’t expect any problems and none were encountered. A 15 minute run of AIDA64′s system stability test went off without a hitch. Don’t pay any attention to the APU temperature readings as AIDA64 wasn’t much help with accurate monitoring. I did find that the monitoring built into EasyTune 6 did a pretty good job of providing accurate readings.
Just about every other motherboard I’ve installed this A10 6800K in has been able to take it to 4.9 GHz. There was no difference here either, another 15 minute run of the AIDA64 System stability test easily passed.
Ok, let’s check performance with a few benchmarks I normally run on motherboards. Just as I expected, there is little difference between all the motherboards I’ve tested with this APU, whether they were A85X or A88X based. So, instead of boring you with charts that pretty much show the same numbers, we’ll just give you some screen shots of the benchmarks. First up is Cinebench R10 and R11.5, both of which were run at 4.4 GHz and 4.9 GHz.
Next up, I ran WPrime 32M and 1024M. Some nice performance gains were had when overclocked here.
Everyone’s favorite, SuperPI was run next at the same settings. Again, we see some good scaling.
Last up is a quick run of AIDA64’s Cache & Memory Benchmark.
Pushing the Limits
Past attempts at ‘pushing the limits’ with this APU resulted in a brick wall at anything over 5.0 GHz. The G1.Sniper A88X actually did better than previous motherboards, and it managed 5.1 GHz. Just like with previous attempts at 5.0 GHz or better, the memory needed to be dropped to 1866 MHz. Still, a 100 MHz gain over all the other boards I’ve tested this APU on is good news! Chalk one up for Gigabyte here.
The Gigabyte G1. Sniper A88X is a motherboard that tends to grow on you the more you use it. It showed itself to be rock solid stable throughout the testing phase and performed right on par with similar motherboards reviewed in the past. It actually outperformed previously tested motherboards on the overclocking front. It allowed me to push to a 5.1 GHz overclock, which was not obtainable on any of the other A85X/A88X boards I’ve reviewed.
Gigabyte’s AMP-UP audio is one of the main focuses of this motherboard, and it’s well implemented. The ability to purchase additional OP-AMP chips and easily swap them out is a feature audiophiles will enjoy. Gigabyte is the first motherboard manufacturer to offer this feature, and we like new and innovative ideas!
The included software bundle is another plus for G1. Sniper A88X. EasyTune 6 works well and gives the desktop overclocker a viable set of tools to get the job done. Equally impressive is the abundance of CyberLink multimedia software, which if bought alone can get quite expensive.
There are just a couple of gripes with the G1. Sniper A88X. The first obviously being the less than desirable thermal interface material under the FCH heatsink. Because the heatsink is held in place with screws, removing it only takes a matter of seconds. So, it’s not a big deal to take a minute and perhaps add a dab of something better. The only other thing I would like to see is the inclusion of a post code LED and onboard power and reset buttons. I’m assuming these were omitted in favor of the beefed up onboard audio features in an effort to keep the price affordable. It’s not likely they will be used much once the motherboard is installed in a case anyway.
Currently, the Gigabyte G1. Sniper A88X is selling for $109.99 at Newegg, which plants it right in the middle of A88X based offerings. Based on its audio features alone, I thing it’s positioned just about right. Toss in the great overclocking potential and the bundled software, you begin to see the value the board offers. In the end, whether you’re looking to build a price conscious gaming rig or even a HTPC, the G1. Sniper A88X could be just what you are looking for. It’s definitely worthy of consideration and our Approved Stamp!