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Gigabyte’s G1-Killer series motherboards bring a unique set of features coupled with a distinctive look, which makes them stand out in a crowd. We’ve already reviewed the G1. Sniper AMD offering and came away impressed with its performance, features, and rock solid stability. This time around, we move over to the Intel side and have a look at the G1. Sniper Z87. Armed with a discrete-like Creative audio solution and all the features the Z87 chipset offers, the G1. Sniper Z87 certainly looks good on paper. Let’s get to work and find out how this board stacks up!
Specification and Features
At a Glance
- Supports 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors
- GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ 4 Plus Technology
- GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio technology
- Onboard Creative Sound Core3D™ quad-core audio processor
- Killer™ E2200 LAN with high ESD Protection
- Exclusive Gain Boost
- Audio Noise Guard with LED path lighting
- Built-in Front Audio Headphone Amplifier
- Durable black solid capacitors
- 15µ gold plated CPU socket
- GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™
- Multi-GPU Support
The below specifications are provided courtesy of the Gigabyte website. We’ll explore most of what you see below in more detail later; but the high speed memory support, Creative audio, and lots of onboard enthusiast features stand out here.
|Gigabyte G1. Sniper Z87 Specifications|
|Onboard Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor:|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
The feature list is quite impressive and is highlighted by Gigabyte’s AMP-UP onboard audio. The first several features listed below are all part of the AMP-UP audio solution, which Gigabyte claims has the world’s first quad-core audio processor and replaceable OP-AMP ICs. Below images and descriptions courtesy of Gigabyte.
|Creative Sound Core3D – The world’s FIRST Quad-Core processor for HD sound & voice. Gigabyte motherboards feature a dedicated Sound Core3D™ audio processor from Creative, a multi-core sound and voice processor offering high-performance hardware audio processing, with cutting-edge audio technologies including the SoundBlaster software suite.|
|Exclusive Upgradable OP-AMP – 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.|
|Gain Boost – 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 output device. Most OP-Amps are capable of providing a high-gain audio output that is ideal for high-end headphones and speakers that have higher impedance headroom. Gain Boost allows users to switch between 6x and x2 amplification depending on the speakers or headphones being used.|
|Nichicon High End Audio Capacitors – Gigabyte motherboards use the highest quality Nichicon high end audio capacitors. These professional audio capacitors deliver the highest quality sound resolution and sound expansion to create the most realistic sound effects for professional gamers.|
|Gold Plated Audio Hardware – Gigabyte G1-Killer motherboards pack top quality gold plated audio and HDMI connectors for improved connectivity and long lasting durability. Gold has superb signal conductivity and will not tarnish over extended periods of use. The Creative Sound Core3D™ processor is also shielded by a gold plated cover which eliminates electrostatic interference.|
|USB DAC-Up – 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.|
|Audio Noise Guard – Gigabyte motherboards feature an audio noise guard that essentially separates the board’s sensitive analog audio components from potential noise pollution at the PCB level. LED trace path lighting Illuminates to show the separation of the PCB layers.|
The next set of features deal with some of the unique Gigabyte onboard designs. Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 4 Plus and the inclusion of Killer E2200 LAN from Qualcomm Atheros are the big hitters here.
|Killer E2200 Series Gaming Network – Gigabyte G1-Killer motherboards feature the Killer E2200 from Qualcomm Atheros, a high-performance, adaptive gigabit Ethernet controller that offers better online gaming and online media performance compared to standard solutions. The Killer™ E2200 features Advanced Stream Detect technology, which identifies and prioritizes all network traffic to ensure important applications that require high-speed connectivity are prioritized over less important traffic.|
|Gigabyte Ultra Durable 4 Plus – Gigabyte Ultra Durable 4 Plus debuts on GIGABYTE 8 Series motherboards, with a range of features and component choices that provide record-breaking performance, cool and efficient operation and extended motherboard lifespan.|
|Ultra Performance – Gigabyte uses All Solid Caps (Capacitors) and Low RDS(on) MOSFETs which are rated to work at higher temperatures to provide a longer lifespan.|
|Ultra Safe – 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.|
|High ESD Protection for USB and LAN – Gigabyte 8 Series 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.|
|One Fuse Per USB Port – On Gigabyte 8 Series 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.|
|On/Off Charge Technology – 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.|
We’ll wrap up the features section with a look at a few items on the software side of things. Enthusiasts who enjoy overclocking from the desktop will enjoy using the EZ Tune utility. Smart Fan 2 allows for total control of fans connected to the motherboard right from the desktop. The Gigabyte App center, @BIOS, and EZ Setup are a few of the many other utilities Gigabyte offers.
|Easy Tune – Simple and easy-to-use interface that allows users to fine-tune their system settings.|
Adjust system and memory clocks and voltages in a Windows environment.
System-related information display without the need to install additional software
|Smart Fan 2 – As well as offering more system fans than ever before, Gigabyte 8 Series motherboards feature updated and improved CPU and system fan speed controls, with individual airflow and speed settings available via a dedicated digital controller. GIGABYTE Smart Fan 2 allows you to configure CPU fans and system fans.|
|App Center – Gigabyte App Center gives you easy access to wealth of Gigabyte apps that help you get the most from your Gigabyte motherboard. Using a simple, unified user interface, Gigabyte App Center allows you to launch all Gigabyte apps installed on your system.|
|@BIOS – The new and updated Gigabyte @BIOS app allows you to update your system’s BIOS from within Windows using a simple and slick graphical user interface by automatically downloading the latest version from the Gigabyte servers.|
|EZ Setup – Gigabyte EZ Setup combines several key utilities designed to simplify install and configuration procedures for several exclusive Gigabyte apps including Disk Mode Switch, Smart Connect, EZ Rapid Start and EZ Smart response.|
The box does a nice job of explaining what you’re buying into should you purchase the G1. Sniper Z87. On the front, we have some Gigabyte branding and several icons along the bottom explaining many of the features we covered above. If awards were given for the most amount of information printed on a box, Gigabyte would win hands down based on all the features they list on the back. After perusing all the information they put there, you’ll definitely have a good idea of what the G1. Sniper Z87 offers. The box sides are home to more branding and a short multilingual “features & benefits” list.
Inside, we find a pretty simplistic packaging method with the accessories on top and motherboard below. The motherboard itself is well wrapped in an anti-static bag for protection. You won’t find a lot of accessories, but everything you need to get the motherboard installed is there. Here is the list of what is included.
- Multilingual Installation Guidebook
- User’s Manual
- I/O Shield
- Driver and Software DVD
- Flexible SLI Bridge
- 4 x SATA Cables
Before we zoom in for a closer look at the G1. Sniper Z87, here are some pictures taken from various angles. In true G1-Killer fashion, we have a black matte finish to the board with the fluorescent green accents. Also, worth noting is that the motherboard is not a full sized ATX. The width of the board is slightly reduced from the standard ATX specification.
The Gigabyte G1. Sniper Z87 Up Close
Along the bottom edge of the motherboard, we have a rather typical assortment of connections. On the left are the front panel audio, two 4-pin system fan headers, and the first of two USB 2.0 ports. Moving over to the bottom-right side, we have the second USB 2.0 port, the front panel case wiring connections, and a com port. If you look just above the front panel wiring block, you’ll see two ICs with blue dots on them. These are the two BIOS chips that make up the Dual-BIOS feature.
Moving over to the right side of the motherboard, we find the six SATA 6 GB/s ports along the bottom. All six of these SATA ports are native to the Z87 chipset. Moving upward, we find the 24-pin main ATX power socket and a few of the onboard enthusiast level features. Just above the ATX power socket are two switches to control the Dual-BIOS feature. One of the switches allows you to toggle between the two BIOS, and the other allows you to turn the Dual-BIOS feature off. Also located here are onboard power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons. For added diagnostic help, Gigabyte also added a post code LED here.
At the top, there really isn’t a whole lot going on other than the CPU fan header and 8-pin CPU AUX 12V power socket.
Along the board’s left side is where all the I/O ports and AMP-UP audio components are located. Basic I/O connectivity includes a single PS/2 port, three USB 2.0 Ports, and four USB 3.0 Ports. The vertically positioned USB 2.0 port also serves as the USB DAC-Up location. It features a gold plated connection and an isolated power source to provide a low noise power environment for any Digital-to-Analog Converter you might choose to install here. Display outputs include HDMI and DisplayPort only. If you plan on using the CPU’s IGP, make sure your monitor has the appropriate connection or have an adapter on hand if it does not. The G1. Sniper Z87 certainly doesn’t hold back on audio connections. In addition to the standard analog audio jacks, we also have digital audio capabilities via the coaxial and optical S/PDIF connectors. All the audio connectors are gold plated to ensure trouble free connections and durability. For LAN connectivity, we have a single Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 port.
We’re beginning to see many motherboard manufacturers implement discrete-like audio solutions across many of their offerings. This particular AMP-UP offering has some unique items not found on competing boards though. For starters, this is the first time I’ve run across a Creative quad-core audio processor being used. In fact, Gigabyte claims this is the first ever use of a quad-core audio processor onboard. It’s nice to see Gigabyte break away from the traditional Realtek solution most others use for similar discrete-like audio solutions. Another unique feature Gigabyte uses is the ability to swap out the OP-AMP if you wish to use one that is more refined for your personal listening habits. Gigabyte also added a pair of Gain Boost switches that are used to toggle between 2.5X and 6X amplification. This allows you to match the impedance your headphones or speakers offer. Additionally, Gigabyte’s AMP-UP audio offers board isolation, shielding, and uses Nichicon high-end audio capacitors.
Moving more towards the center of the board, we see the seven expansion slots. Here we have three PCI-E x1 slots, two PCI-E x16 slots, and a pair of PCI slots. The board supports both 2-way SLI and Crossfire at x8/x8 speed, but a single graphics card in the top PCI-E x16 slot will run at x16 speed. The four DIMM slots, located just east of the CPU socket, support as much as 32 GB of system memory at speeds up to DDR3-3000 (OC).
There are three heatsinks found on the G1. Sniper Z87 – two covering the MOSFETs and one covering the Z87 PCH. All three have a shiny chrome look with a green accent. The MOSFET heatsinks are held in place with spring loaded push-pins, but the PCH heatsink uses screws for retention.
The CPU socket area is very open and should accept just about any CPU cooler imaginable. As always, pay close attention to memory height if the CPU cooler of your choice will overhang the DIMM slot area.
With the MOSFET heatsinks removed, we can have a good look at the power delivery area. There are 10 total power phases on the G1. Sniper Z87 – eight dedicated to the CPU and two more for the memory. The heatsinks covering the MOSFETs use thermal pads, which were found to be making excellent contact with their intended targets.
The heatsink covering the Z87 PCH uses a hard pad type TIM, which is probably adequate, given that the PCH doesn’t get all that warm anyway.
Because all the USB and SATA ports are native to the Z87 chipset, there aren’t a lot of third party ICs found on the G1. Sniper Z87. The Super I/O functions are handled by the ITE IT8728F chip, which handles such things as system monitoring and fan control. Because the Z87 chipset has no native support for standard PCI slots, the ITE IT8892E bridge chip is used to connect the two PCI slots with the PCI-E X1 lane.
As we mentioned earlier, the motherboard features the Atheros Killer E2201 LAN chip. PCI Express switching capabilities are handled via the four NXP L04083B ICs found mid-board.
Controlling voltage regulation to the CPU power phases is the Intersil ISL95820CRTZ VRM. The last picture below is a close-up look at the Z87 PCH.
At this point, I think you have a pretty good idea of what this board is made of, so let’s get this thing fired up!
The UEFI BIOS
The UEFI BIOS is very unique in that it offers two distinctly different interfaces. The new Dashboard interface is full of scrolling text, graphical effects, and has a look unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. In Dashboard mode, you’ll get real time monitoring on each side of the screen and scrolling text with key stroke information along the bottom. For the purpose of this review, I will be using the Classic mode to go though the UEFI options. However, the first set of pictures below gives you an idea of the look and feel of the new Dashboard interface. It’s definitely unique and something I’ll surely be using once I get time to learn its in and outs.
Upon entering Classic mode, you immediately land in the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) area where six sub-menus hold all the overclocking options. The Current Status sub-menu gives you some basic system information related to your current CPU and memory configuration. CPU and memory frequencies can be manipulated inside the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu. The Advanced Memory Settings sub-menu is where you can choose to use your memory’s XMP profiles or manually set timings yourself. The Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu has three sub-menus of its own. From here, you can work with CPU, chipset, and memory voltages. For real time voltage, temperature, fan speed monitoring, and fan speed control, the PC Health Status sub-menu is where you need to go. Under the Miscellaneous Settings sub-menu, you can set your graphics Gen mode; and there is also a 3DMark 01 Boost feature that can supposedly give you a few extra points when running that benchmark.
The System Information tab gives you BIOS version information and is the place to set your date and time. The next tab is called Bios Features, which has all the boot behavior options. Also located here are a few Windows 8 specific options and virtualization technology settings.
The Peripherals tab is where you can control the onboard devices. The three sub-menus allow you to set SATA configuration, Super I/O configuration, and turn the Intel Smart Connect feature on or off.
The Power Management tab has various power behavior settings and the options needed to turn the system on with the keyboard or mouse. The last area to explore is the Save & Exit tab. Pretty standard stuff is located here, but you do have the ability to save up to eight profiles to the BIOS or save an infinite amount to external storage devices.
On the included DVD are the Gigabyte Utilities, application software, and an impressive array of Cyberlink software.
It’s all about the Apps with Gigabyte’s software package. Once you install the App Center, almost all of your Gigabyte software can be launched by using it. I installed several of the software utility Apps, and the below image shows you what the App Center looks like when populated.
The star of the software show is Gigabyte’s EasyTune desktop overclocking and fan control utility, but we’ll get to that a bit later. Live Update isn’t included on the DVD, but it’s worth downloading from Gigabyte’s website for easy updating of your drivers and Gigabyte utility apps. EZ Setup deals mostly with configuring the Intel Z87 features, such as Smart Response, Rapid Start, and Smart Connect. @BIOS is a utility that allows you to flash the BIOS from the Windows desktop. I’ve never been a big fan of updating the BIOS from the desktop, especially when Gigabyte provides a method from within BIOS itself. @BIOS does offer the ability to save your current BIOS to a file and also gives you some useful information at a glance.
EasyTune is Gigabyte’s answer to desktop system enhancement. There are four tabs to explore that deal with system information, overclocking, fan control, and alerts. Under the System Information tab, you get real time information on your current system settings, along with basic hardware information. The Smart QuickBoost tab features several automatic overclocking frequencies, or you can choose to do the overclocking yourself by utilizing the Advanced area. The Smart Fan tab offers complete control of fans connected to the motherboard. From here, you can choose from a few different preset profiles, or customize the way you want your fans to operate by entering the Advanced area. Fan calibration is also offered to fine tune any settings to the actual fans you have installed. The System Alert tab gives you the ability to be notified should a fan or temperature fall out of line with a level that you can preset.
One last piece of software I thought I’d mention is the Sound Blaster Pro Studio utility. Pro Studio gives you a lot of options to adjust the AMP-UP audio just the way you like it. There are seven different tabs you can explore to find just what you need to get the most from the AMP-UP audio experience.
What I’ve shown you above are just a few of the available Apps Gigabyte offers. There is a wide range of different utility Apps at your disposal, so chances are if you’re looking for something in particular… Hey, there’s an App for that!
Overclocking and Benchmarks
|Motherboard||Gigabyte G1. Sniper Z87|
|CPU||Intel i7 4770K|
|Memory||G.Skill F3-2400C10D-16GTX 2X8 GB|
|CPU Cooling||Swiftech Apogee HD CPU Water Block–3X120 mm Radiator–MCP35X Pump|
|PSU||Corsair HX1050 Professional Series|
|HDD||Toshiba HDS721050DLE630 500 GB SATA 6 Gb/s|
|OS||Windows 7 X64 SP1|
Overclocking for Stability
If you have read any of my other Z87 motherboard reviews, then you know the CPU I have reaches a 24/7 stability limit right at 4.6 GHz. The The G1. Sniper Z87 had absolutely no problem getting this CPU stable at 4.6 GHz, just like all the other motherboard reviews before it. Once I found the stable settings, I ran AIDA64’s System Stability test for a quick 10 minutes. That passed easily, so we’re off and running with our stock and 24/7 overclock for benchmarking purposes.
I ran many of our favorite benchmarks at stock and overclocked, which should give you a good idea of the performance gains just about anyone can benefit from with a little overclocking. All of the results below are right in line with all the other Z87 boards I’ve tested to date. I was more concerned with seeing if any of the benchmarks showed an abnormality of some sort. I’m happy to report that all the benchmarks provided performance levels just as expected.. no issues found… no issues to report.
AIDA64 Cache & Memory Benchmark
POV Ray 3.7 Benchmark
I used RightMark Audio Analyzer to test the onboard AMP-UP audio. I ran the test sampling mode set to 24-bit/192 kHz, which provided the results below.
Pushing the Limits
4.8 GHz was about as much as I could get out of this CPU, which is the same as other Z87 boards I’ve reviewed to this point. I managed to get a SuperPi 1M and wPrime 32M run completed at 4.8 Ghz. Color me impressed with the overclocking ability of the G1. Sniper Z87. It had no problem taking this CPU just as far as other boards I’ve reviewed that cost much more, and there ain’t a darn thing wrong with that!
The Gigabyte G1. Sniper Z87 proved to be a lot more than I was expecting, especially when we get to how much it costs. Currently, it can be had for $169.99 at Newegg, which is a grand bargain in my opinion. Sure, you don’t get things like extra third party SATA controllers, built-in WiFi, and a few other bells and whistles; but you also don’t get the $300 to $400 price tag either. Gigabyte spent the money wisely by using a Creative based audio solution and Atheros Killer LAN, which will please the budget-minded gamers out there.
The board has a good amount of enthusiast features found onboard for those of you that spend a lot of time overclocking in an open air environment. Overclockers will also appreciate the dual BIOS feature, and the new unique Dashboard interface is definitely something worth exploring. Aesthetically speaking, the G1. Sniper Z87 color scheme is very appealing and something you could build a terrific looking system around.
Whether you’re an overclocker, gamer, or simply looking for a great motherboard at a good price, the G1. Sniper needs to be on your short list. It’s an easy call here… Approved!