LGA2011 and the X79 chipset brought a lot of good things: powerful 6-core CPUs, quad channel RAM, and 40 PCIe lanes. Gigabyte’s X79 line up consists of four motherboards; the UD3, UD5, UD7, and G1.Assassin2. We’ve already taken a look at the GA-X79-UD7, and today we’ll be looking at the GA-X79-UD3. So, we’ll have a point of view from both the high and low-end of Gigabyte’s X79 spectrum. Let’s see what the GA-X79-UD3 has to offer after being branded as Gigabyte’s low-end X79 board.
Specifications & Features
A couple of things that really catch my eye on the UD3’s specifications list is the PCIe slot configuration for up to 4-way SLI/CFX and the large amount storage/USB connectivity. In the features list, there are a few things worth mentioning: First, the 3D BIOS is Gigabyte’s first implementation of a mouse-enabled, GUI-based UEFI. All four of the UD3’s PCIe x16 slots conform to PCIe 3.0 standard. Last, the warranty of Gigabyte’s boards has been increased from 2 years to 5 years with product registration.
|Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3 Specifications
|Multi-GPU Support||Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology.|
3 x Marvell 88SE9172 chips:
2 x Fresco FL1009 chips:
|Back Panel I/O||
Packaging & Accessories
The box is pretty standard as far as motherboard boxes go. It has the motherboard model and mentions a few features on the front, and it has a picture of the UD3 and more in-depth descriptions of the features on the back.
The accessories include the standard manual, driver CD, four SATA cables, and back panel I/O plate. They also provide a 2-way CrossFireX bridge, 2-way SLI bridge, 3-way SLI bridge, and 4-way SLI bridge.
Looking at the board as a whole, it’s aesthetically pleasing having a matte black PCB and being mostly black and grey monochrome aside from the two white SATA ports. You’ll notice that this is the only board in Gigabyte’s lineup that doesn’t sport a heatpipe connecting the power section and chipset heatsinks. I don’t know how much that heatpipe affects the cooling, but it couldn’t hurt to have one on the UD3. Overall, the UD3 is a very good looking board in my opinion.
Here are front and back views of the board. The back of the board is interesting, you can see nine, heatsink-less MOSFETs. I don’t think I’ve owned a board with MOSFETs on the backside, so this was new to me. Also, if you look at the PCIe slots, you can easily tell which slots operate at x16 and which are x8 by looking at the number of physical pins.
A Closer Look
First, we have the socket and power section. Of course, the board uses the massive LGA2011 socket for Sandy Bridge-E processors. The CPU is powered by a 8+1 phase VRM, which isn’t as beefy as the power sections on the UD5 or UD7, but should be adequate for stock and 24/7 overclocking. The board makes use of four DIMM slots, each with its own dedicated channel. So, 1-4 sticks of RAM can be used in any combination of DIMM slots, and the board will run them in the appropriate single, dual, triple, quad channel mode. The memory uses as 4 phase VRM to get its power, which is plenty for the low voltage DDR3 RAM.
If we take a closer look at the MOSFETs on the back of the board, we can see one of the mounting screws of the heatsink is really close to one of them. It’s so close even the rubber washer is bent over the chip. As long as the screw doesn’t touch the legs of the chip, then everything will be fine, but it would have been nice to give the MOSFET and screw some more elbow room.
The expansion slot layout for this board is great, especially for the low-end of Gigabyte’s X79 lineup. The first thing to note is only the X79-UD3 and the X79-UD7 can do 4-way SLI/CFX, the X79-UD5 and G1.Assassin 2 are limited to 3-way SLI/CFX. As for the physical layout, two 3-slot GPUs can be used while having a PCIe x1 slot in between them available for use and the headers on the bottom of the board will not be blocked. Not only does the spacing allow for an add-on card such as a dedicated sound card while using two massive, 3-slot GPUs, but it also allows the top GPU room to get fresh air for its intake to keep it cooler. The operating modes for the PCIe 3.0 x16 slots are x16/x8/x16 and x16/x8/x8/x8, the fourth slot shares bandwidth with the third slot.
On the back panel, there are plenty of connectivity for the majority of users. There’s a PS/2 port for either mouse or keyboard, which is still useful for the n-key rollover ability of PS/2 keyboards. There are ten USB 2.0 ports, and two USB 3.0 ports. That’s a ton of USB ports, which probably 99.9% of people will never use simultaneously, but if more than twelve ports are actually needed, there are internal USB headers as well. Also, on the back, are two eSATAIII ports for external hard drives or solid state drives. It’s nice to see the eSATA ports are capable of 6Gb/s which allows you to take full advantage of current solid states drives as external devices. We have a single gigabit ethernet port controlled by an Intel chip, which is enough for most users. Last, for the audio connections we have optical and coaxial SPDIF out, and the typical analog audio panel.
There are a total of 10 internal SATA ports on the UD3, 6x SATAIII and 4x SATAII. Six of the ports are controlled by the X79 chipset in a configuration of 2x SATAIII (white) and 4x SATAII (black). The other four ports are SATAIII and are controlled by Marvell 88SE9172 chips, these ports are grey. Also, two of the Marvell SATAIII ports are not right-angled and are not located with the rest of the SATA ports. They are located more towards the bottom of the board and the connection is perpendicular to the PCB. So, if a dual slot add-on card like a GPU is used in the bottom PCIe slot, then those ports will be unusable.
At the bottom of the board we have the front panel connectors, a couple of fan headers, three USB2.0 headers, audio & SPDIF headers, serial port header, and trusted platform module header. Unfortunately, there aren’t any on-board power, reset, CMOS clearing switches, so that will have to be done through the front panel of your case or a separate momentary switch. The USB header with a red background is the header that makes use of the ON/OFF charge feature.
Here we have the controller chips for the Marvell SATAIII, Fresco USB3.0, Realtek audio, and Intel LAN. There are three Marvell 88SE9172 chips on the UD3, two of the chips supply four additional internal SATAIII ports, while the last one supplies two eSATAIII ports. Two Fresco Logic FL1009 chips provide an internal USB 3.0 motherboard header and two USB 3.0 port on the back panel I/O. The Realtek ALC898 and Intel WG82579V are on the UD5 and UD7 as well, but the G1.Assassin2 makes use of Creative X-Fi audio and Bigfoot Killer NIC.
UEFI / BIOS
NOTE: Gigabyte had a major BIOS update to versions earlier than F7, so be sure the BIOS has been updated to version F7 or later for critical stability/reliability fixes.
Gigabyte’s UEFI has two different modes, the 3D BIOS and the more traditional BIOS. In the 3D BIOS, you first have to click on part of the motherboard to bring up a window with settings for that part. For example, selecting the CPU socket and DIMM slot area brings up CPU and RAM settings to change. In this mode, you can use the mouse to change settings via sliders, which may be preferred to some. If you prefer the traditional BIOS, then the F1 key can be pressed to quickly switch between modes. Something I really like about the 3D BIOS is that when you select a section of the motherboard, not only do the adjustable settings appear, but a monitoring sidebar appears to the right as well, which shows temperatures, voltages, frequencies, fan speeds, etc.
Interestingly enough, my favorite feature about this UEFI/BIOS is that the F12 key can be pressed to take a screenshot, and that’s how all the following images were captured. I just thought that was really neat and allows for quickly capturing your settings for posting in forums like our own when you are in need of help from the community. So, no more going into the BIOS and writing down all the settings, then typing all the settings in a post, uploading a few images is much quicker and easier.
Below are shots from the CPU/RAM section and the Power section of the motherboard in the 3D BIOS. Other sections are available, but there’s no need to show everything to get a preview of the 3D BIOS.
Below are screenshots of the more traditional BIOS and the settings available for adjustment.
EasyTune6 is Gigabyte’s overclocking software. The first two tabs, CPU and Memory, show hardware info for the CPU, motherboard, and RAM. So you can easily check to see if your overclocking settings “stuck” and are working.
The Tuner tab is where all the good stuff is located. Quick Boost mode has three overclocked options to choose from, ranging from 4.0 GHz to 4.4 GHz. Quick Boost is good for someone new to overclocking and isn’t comfortable changing settings manually, or for someone experienced but wants a “quick boost” in performance with little hassle. Changing the Mode to Advanced opens up a wide variety of options and settings that are organized in tabs. The Frequency tab allows changing of the bclk, gear ratio, and RAM frequency. The Ratio tabs consists of the CPU multiplier settings for each of the six cores. To enable changing the CPU multiplier in the OS, you first ave to enable that setting in the BIOS or check the box labeled “Enable real time ratio change” and restart the PC. The last two tabs have the voltage settings, with the most used voltage settings like Vcore, Vtt (VccIO), PLL, IMC (VccSA), and DRAM voltage appearing in the Voltage I tab.
Next up, we have the Graphics tab which show current GPU clocks and allows for overclocking the GPU. The Smart tab shows the current fan profiles for three fans headers on the board. You can disable fan control which will make fans on those headers operate at their full potential, or you can set up your own profiles by clicking on Advanced within the Smart tab. The last tab in EasyTune6 is the HW Monitor tab which, as the name suggests, monitors your hardware. There are Voltage and Fan/Temp sub-tabs within HW Monitor. The Voltage tab monitors Vcore, Vtt, Vdimm, the 12 V rail, and the 5 V rail. The Fan/Temp tab measures the RPM of the five on-board fans, and it shows the CPU, PCH, and System temperatures. The sample rate of the monitoring can be adjusted by moving the Scan Time slider.
The premise behind Gigabyte’s 3D Power is that three separate digital power engines “deliver unprecedented power delivery control.” The three digital power engines are as follows: one for the CPU and two for the RAM (one engine for each set of DIMM slots). Having three separate engines allows each engine its own group of power settings, instead of just one group of power settings applied to the CPU and each set of DIMM slots. The 3D Power software allows you to change power-related settings of each engine while in the OS. PWM frequencies, Load Line Calibration, OCP, OVP, Thermal Protection, and power phase control are all in the software and can be changed. The 3D Power software combined with EasyTune6 basically gives the user an in-OS BIOS.
|CPU||Intel i7 3930K|
|RAM||4×2 GB G.Skill Eco DDR3-1600 7-8-7-24 1.35v|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GTX 580 Classified 3 GB|
|Solid State Drive||40 GB Corsair Force|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic SS-1000XP|
|Operating System||Windows 7 x64 SP1|
|Graphics Drivers||nVidia 290.53 Drivers|
Load Line Calibration
For Vcore LLC, there are seven settings in the BIOS to choose from: Auto, Normal, Standard, Medium, High, Turbo, Extreme. There are also five settings for LLC in the 3D Power software: 60%, 70%, 80%, 90%, 100%. In the following tests, 1.45 V was set in the BIOS as my max 24/7 use Vcore and CPUz was used to monitor Vcore changes. Of course, getting the readings directly from the board with a Digital Multimeter would be best, but there are no easy voltage measure points on this board.
There are two types of voltage changes that will be seen, Vdrop and Vdroop. The difference between the two is Vdrop is the difference in what Vcore is set in the BIOS and what Vcore is being used while idling in the OS, and Vdroop is the difference in the idle Vcore and the Vcore when the CPU is loaded.
When using the Extreme BIOS setting for LLC, I would see a 0.01 Vdrop and a 0.036 Vdroop. That’s a 0.046 V difference from my target Vcore of 1.45 V, which is pretty bad, in my opinion, and that’s using the best LLC setting the BIOS offers. That means I would need to set the Vcore at ~1.496 V to get my target 1.45 V while the CPU is loaded, which means when the CPU isn’t loaded it would be running at ~1.486 V. I think that Vcore is too high for 24/7 use, but if I set the Vcore to 1.46 V in the BIOS, I would see 1.45 V idle and 1.414 V while loaded. That’s the highest Vcore I can get while staying within my 1.45 V max window, and losing out on a possible 0.036 V could limit the max 24/7 OC.
For testing the LLC when using the 3D Power software, I set the LLC setting in the BIOS to Auto and then changed the 3D Power settings for testing. The results aren’t bad considering the previous results. Surprisingly, the LLC settings via the 3D Power software works better than the LLC settings in the BIOS. When using the best setting of 100% LLC, I saw the same 0.01 Vdrop and a better, but still not good, 0.026 Vdroop. So, using the 3D Power software for LLC instead of the BIOS gained me an additional 0.01 V of headroom on the Vcore.
24/7 Overclock on H2O Cooling
For an everyday overclock, I was able to get to 4.6 GHz with 1.44 Vcore at idle. This overclock stayed within the 1.45 V maximum Vcore that I set for myself. I tested stability by running 20 passes of LinX. I couldn’t get the clocks any higher without increase Vcore, so I settled with 4.6 GHz.
Max Overclock on H2O Cooling
When looking for a max OC when using my water cooling loop, I seemed to hit a brick wall at 4.8 GHz. No matter what settings I tried, I couldn’t boot into Windows any higher than 4.8 GHz. I tried just the multiplier with the bclk at 100 MHz, and I tried with the gear ratio at 1.25. When using the 1.25 gear ratio, I found the “4.8” wall at 38 x 1.25 x 100 MHz (4.75 GHz) since the next step would have been past the wall at 4.875 GHz. I couldn’t get the 1.66 or 2.50 gear ratios to work, so I wasn’t able to test them.
Finally, I tried increasing the bclk without using the gear ratio, which didn’t work either. 48 x 101 MHz would cause a reboot and BIOS recovery, so I tried 46 x 101 MHz to test bclk with the same reboot result. What this means to me is that using the gear ratio doesn’t actually change the bclk as it shows in the BIOS and CPU-Z. If the blck was actually changing, then I would be able to manually change the bclk up to 125 MHz since the 1.25 gear ratio worked. So, bclk is actually always at 100 MHz, no matter what gear ratio is being used. I think of the gear ratio as similar to the “quad pumping” on the LGA775 platform. On LGA775 you would have a chip advertised as 1333 MHz FSB, but in reality it was a 4 x 333 MHz bus. So, in LGA2011 terms, an E8400 from LGA775 would be using a 333 MHz bclk and a 4.0 gear ratio.
Even though I seemed to be at the limit of stability, I was able to make five LinX passes at 4.8 GHz with 1.584 Vcore at idle.
Let’s start off with a few downsides of the UD3. I would have liked to see onboard power, reset, and CMOS switches for when the board is out of a case. More so, a POST code debug LED would have been nice since they make debugging any issues much easier, especially for the inexperienced builder. Better load line calibration wouldn’t hurt for those people wanting to push their CPUs to the limit of stability. Out of these few downsides, only the POST code LED would help 100% of users, while the other two don’t really matter to the majority of people.
Feature-wise, each of Gigabyte’s X79 boards seems to be designed for a different market segment, there’s no specific order the boards can be placed in that categorizes them from worst to best for every situation. For example, the UD3 (budget) is better than the UD5 and G1.Assassin2 for multiple GPUs, the UD5 (workstation) is better than the others for RAM capacity, the G1.Assasin2 (gaming) has better audio and NIC than the others, the UD7 (extreme overclocking) has the best power section of all the boards.
So, the UD3 is the budget board with a combination of features that will accommodate 99% of users. The UD3’s neutral, black and grey color scheme allows it to match almost any theme imaginable for those who love having a good looking system. The UD3 has plenty of SATA/USB connectivity, support for up to 32 GB of RAM, and the ability to use four dual-slot GPUs in SLI or CFX. Not to mention, it can handle overclocking a Sandy Bridge-E 6-core CPU beyond 4.5 GHz for 24/7 stability, which is an enormous amount of CPU horsepower.
– Matt T. Green (MattNo5ss)