The Gigabyte X58A-UD7 motherboards have been out for a while now. Chances are that if you’ve been interested in this board at all, you have had no problem finding information on it. There are reviews galore and forum threads dedicated to this board that are hundreds of pages long. This board is that popular. It’s safe to say that the X58A-UD7 is aimed at overclockers, gamers or anyone else that may be looking for a feature-packed X58-based motherboard and is willing to spend some extra cash for the finer details, like increased power circuitry phases, on-board switches and on-board monitoring LEDs.
So why write yet another article about it? For starters: it’s a terrific board, worthy of some more space on the Web and this particular article includes some benchmark results against a rival board that some might find interesting. Before we get to those, however, a recap on the Gigabyte X58A-UD7 Rev. 1.0 is in order.
The X58A-UD7 is part of Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable 3” line, which means it has 2 ounces of copper in the PCB, 50,000 hour solid Japanese capacitors, lower RDS(ON) MOSFETs and Ferrite core chokes. This means that Gigabyte doesn’t skimp by using less costly, lower quality components and also means that “Ultra Durable 3” motherboards can be more efficient, more stable, run cooler and last longer than boards from manufacturers that cut costs on components or who use less copper on their power and ground layers.
The X58A-UD7 also features Gigabyte’s “333 Onboard Acceleration”. This combination is comprised of USB 3.0, SATA3 and 3x USB Power. USB3.0 provides a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 4.8GB/s (10x more than USB2.0) and SATA3 yields 6GB/s (2x more than SATA2).
It’s easy to see the benefits of USB3.0 and SATA3, but maybe not as much with the 3x USB Power. With power requirements being raised by mobile devices, extra USB power comes in handy. A standard USB port provides 500mA maximum. A USB port on a Gigabyte “333 Onboard Acceleration” motherboard provides 3x that, or 1500mA (1.5A).
How is that beneficial? Say your new, recently released device requires 1200mA (1.20A) to charge while it is on. With a motherboard that only has standard 500mA USB ports, it simply wouldn’t be possible unless multiple ports could be used simultaneously for the one device. Short of that, the device would either need to charged out of the wall or charged via the standard USB port with the device turned off, which may take a while. With 1.5 A available on the USB ports of a Gigabyte “333 Onboard Acceleration”-equipped motherboard, that same device can be charged in a single port while using it and still have power to spare. This is not some far fetched what-if scenario. In fact, it has already happened with an extremely popular mobile device, and if one well-known manufacturer pushed the power limits for standard USB, others are likely to follow. So, Gigabyte’s “333 Onboard Acceleration” is about as future-proof as a board can get right now.
Now we can take a closer look at the particular board used for this article.
As the PCB says, this X58A-UD7 is a Rev. 1.0 and, as the box says and pictures show, it has 24 phase power circuitry for the CPU. In a nutshell, the electrical load is spread across all of the phases in the power circuit, so configurations with more phases should run cooler, last longer and generally be more stable than those with fewer phases. The X58A-UD7 also features three phase power for memory and three phase for the I/O Hub (IOH or “Northbridge”), which is as many as can be seen on current X58 boards. Cheaper motherboards have only one or two phase power for these sections.
It needs to be mentioned that the newer Gigabyte X58A-UD7 Rev. 2.0 has a “16 phase Unlocked Power design” (from the Gigabyte website). A unique feature of the setup is that when the Dual Power Switching feature is enabled, only half the phases operate at a time when full power is not needed. The other half of the phases are powered down to rest and then each set of phases alternately handling the load. All 16 phases are “unlocked” and become operational during maximum load. This feature reduces wear and so could potentially double the lifespan of the components. The X58A-UD7 Rev. 1.0 does not incorporate the Dual Power Switching feature, so be aware that the board in this article is a Rev. 1.0.
The question has been posed as to why the Rev. 1.0 had 24 phase power and the Rev. 2.0 has 16 phase, but at the time of publication an answer has not been received. If an answer arrives, this article will be updated. While more phases are generally deemed better, this is not to suggest that 16 phase is too few by any stretch of the imagination. 24 phases represent the extreme end of the spectrum and the 16 phase setup on the Rev. 2.0 is still a step up from many boards.
The X58A-UD7 provides 10 internal SATA connectors. Eight are SATA2 3GB/s ports and two are SATA3 6GB/s ports. Since SATA3 support will not be included on the Intel chipsets until Sandy Bridge is released in the coming months, Gigabyte has been utilizing a separate Marvell controller to bring us the SATA3 6GB/s ports and added a third controller to provide two more SATA2 ports and handle the IDE channel. The remaining six internal SATA2 ports are run off of the Intel ICH10R controller. Various RAID options are available depending which ports/controllers are used, but a minimum of RAID 0 and RAID 1 are available on all of them. Rounding out internal storage connections are a single IDE channel (which supports two devices) and an FDD channel. Yeah, that’s right, a Floppy Disk Drive channel.
The rear I/O panel provides four dedicated USB 2.0 ports, two “combo” ports that can be used for either USB 2.0 or eSATA (yellow, bottom), and two USB 3.0 ports (blue). If you are keeping count: that is eight external USB ports, including the combos. Another four USB 2.0 ports can be added by connecting the internal USB headers. The remaining rear I/O panel is comprised of the on-board Clear CMOS button, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, S/PDIF, 1394/1394a Firewire, analog audio input/output and dual Gigabit LAN ports that feature Gigabyte’s “Smart Dual LAN”, which allows teaming and switching.
In addition to the internal front I/O header for installing the motherboard in a case, the X58A-UD7 also has on-board buttons for power, reset and CMOS reset. The power button should be obvious in the above photo. The reset button is the blue button right next to the power button and as mentioned earlier, the Clear CMOS button is located on the rear I/O panel, which is handy whether the board is installed in a case or not. As an “extreme cooling” bencher that rarely uses a case, the on-board buttons are one of my favorite features and have been for years. Another feature that adds to the coolness factor of this board is that it has a ton of on-board LEDs that indicate amount of overclock, voltage and temperature status at a glance.
The LEDs show the overclock (BCLK), voltages on the CPU, IOH, Southbridge and memory, as well as temperatures on the CPU and IOH. Rounding out the on-board monitoring features are the Debug LEDs that give POST code information, which can be quite helpful when pushing the overclock limits as not every boot is a successful one. With the number of on-board indicators that Gigabyte incorporates on the X58A-UD7, an on-board hard drive activity LED seems to be the only thing missing.
The X58A-UD7 officially supports 3-way Crossfire and SLI graphics card configurations, which can be a key feature for benchers and gamers. The 3-way slots are spaced to allow room for the dual-slot cooling solutions found on a vast majority of graphics cards today. The board does have four PCIe x16 slots in total, however, and you can “unofficially” do whatever you want with them. In addition to the four PCIe x16 slots, the X58A-UD7 has two PCIe x1 slots and a single PCI slot.
The X58A-UD7 Rev. 1.0 comes with a water block pre-installed on the IOH heat sink. The Rev. 2.0 comes with a heat sink extension pre-installed on top of the IOH sink and the water block is included separately. Both X58A-UD7 revisions come with the Hybrid Silent Pipe 2, which is a large passive heat pipe sink that can be added to the IOH sink in conjunction with the other included IOH coolers. Importantly, there is plenty of room for a graphics card in the primary PCIe x16 slot with the Hybrid Silent Pipe 2 installed.
With the nuts and bolts of the board covered, it’s time to take a quick look at the BIOS. Here are just a few (somewhat fuzzy) shots of the main overclocking sections of the BIOS. The BIOS is divided up well and is very easy to navigate. There are so many options and sub-options in the BIOS, I’d have to buy a larger memory stick to show them all, but suffice it to say that this BIOS can keep a tweaker very busy if they so desire. Unlike some other companies, the titles of the options are clear and straightforward. Gigabyte motherboards are known to be overclocker friendly and the X58A-UD7 BIOS offers some very high maximum voltage options in combination with fine resolution intervals.
Overclocking is consistently very easy on Gigabyte boards and the X58A-UD7 is no exception. The AUTO settings in BIOS can get anyone going with a decent overclock fairly quickly. Even on a processor that is most definitely not the best overclocker, it is able to boot to the desktop at 218 BCLK on air (Thermaltake Frio) with all cores and Hyperthreading enabled. All that was manually set in BIOS was the memory ratio, primary memory timings and the memory voltage.
At higher BCLK (200+), some of the AUTO voltage settings may be a little more than some people will be comfortable with for 24/7 use, especially Vtt and DRAM voltage. The AUTO voltages can generally be used as a starting point though. Depending on the overclock you are trying to achieve, the processor, memory and cooling being used, some or all of the AUTO voltages can be reduced (sometimes by a lot) once a tentative overclock is found. You will need to test your individual setup to see what will be possible and in your comfort zone.
As seen in the image above on the right, using Slow Mode on QPI (and running 106 PCIe frequency) allows the processor to boot to the desktop at 230 BCLK (on air, still on the AUTO voltages, all cores and Hyperthreading enabled). It’s doubtful that anyone except a bencher would want to run in Slow Mode, but the board is capable of high BCLK with the correct settings. Even with sub-zero cooling and “safe” voltages set aside, this particular processor has only ever reached a maximum of 239 BCLK in any board, including this X58A-UD7. So, 230 BCLK on air is a very good result given the weak IMC on this particular processor.
While we’re looking at screen shots of the Gigabyte’s desktop overclocking utility, EasyTune, it’s time to point out a very cool new feature that has been added to that application. It’s called HotKey OC. In a nutshell, this allows on-the-fly changes in overclocks with a few key strokes. All that’s needed is to make the settings that you want in EasyTune, save each overclock setting as a profile, assign each of those profiles to a function key and then you can select each profile directly from the keyboard as needed. This is a very useful tool, a free download and it works with any Gigabyte motherboard that works with the EasyTune software.
Gigabyte has also released Cloud OC. While I have not had occasion to try it yet, it may be even cooler than HotKey OC in that you can monitor and control the motherboard in from any internet connected device: iPhone, laptop, Netbook, etc. It’s another application that can be useful for adjusting overclocks in real-time during benches or even monitor, change settings, reboot or turn off your computer from anywhere in the world where you have a internet connection! There is a video of CloudOC in action (click the link).
|The Benchmark Showdown|
So let’s make this article a little more interesting. In addition to the X58A-UD7, I also happen to have a board that might very well be considered its most direct competitor: the Asus Rampage III Extreme (“R3E”). I am sure that if you have considered either of these boards yourself, you’ve at least looked at the other. They are similarly equipped: socket 1366, X58 boards with SATA3, USB3.0, dual LAN, 4x PCIe slots, on-board switches. It is probably safe to say they are mostly targeted at overclockers and gamers. The R3E is a bit more expensive than the X58A-UD7 at the popular online retailers, but has two fewer SATA ports and no IDE or FDD channels, so Gigabyte scores some points before either motherboard even comes out of the box.
First and foremost I am a bencher, so I wasted no time putting the X58A-UD7 to work in that capacity. It didn’t take long to notice that the X58A-UD7 just wipes the floor with the R3E in certain 2D benchmarks, particularly SuperPi 32M. From benching and comparing, it seems clear that the X58A-UD7’s advantage in some benchmarks comes from internal settings that are attributed to either memory handling or more broadly, the overall latency of “the board” itself. Either way, this built-in advantage is there no matter what you may be using the X58A-UD7 for, though the net benefit will vary depending just how reliant the activity is on memory/latency. The R3E doesn’t stand a chance in SuperPi 32M , but let’s see how the two boards stack up against each other in other benchmarks.
|Motherboard:||Gigabyte X58A-UD7 Rev. 1.0||Asus Rampage III Extreme|
|Processor:||Intel Core i7 950|
|CPU Cooler:||Thermaltake Frio (2x 120mm fans on high)|
|Memory:||3x2GB Corsair Dominator GT 2000C7|
|Graphics Card:||Gigabyte GTX 460 768MB|
|Solid State Drive:||Kingston V Series 64GB|
|Power Supply:||Gigabyte Odin 1200W|
|CPU Clock:||4200 MHz|
|Uncore:||AUTO (4000 MHz)|
|QPI:||AUTO (3600 MHz)|
|Memory:||2000MHz 7-7-6-20-74(72)-1T (1.64V)|
|Graphics Card:||Modded BIOS defaults: 800/1600/2000 MHz, stock cooler|
|Operating Systems:||Windows XP SP3 (stripped) / Windows 7 32-bit (stripped)|
* The BIOS used in each board is simply the last versions they were previously updated with.
** Both boards were booted at 200 BCLK set in BIOS, however, the R3E overclocks that to 200.5 BCLK in reality. In order to run comparatively, the X58A-UD7 was booted at 200 BCLK and raised to a matching 200.5 BCLK with SetFSB from the desktop.
Right off the bat is the comparison between the Gigabyte X58A-UD7 and R3E in SuperPi 32M, because it is the most striking display of the difference in performance between these boards. It should not go unnoticed that the R3E has tighter default secondary memory timings, which should actually give it an advantage in the SuperPi benchmark. Despite this fact, it loses, and loses big.
|SuperPi 32M Screens|
|SuperPI 32M Results
(lower is better)
|Gigabyte X58A-UD7||Asus Rampage III Extreme|
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
|8m 25.047s||8m 25.068s||8m 28.776s||8m 28.687s|
|8m 25.078s||8m 28.765s|
|8m 25.079s||8m 28.875s|
There is nearly a four second difference in the SuperPi 32M benchmark! To the non-benchers out there, is a positively HUGE difference. Some people would give their right arm to take even one second off in this bench, let alone 3 or more.
To help the R3E’s lackluster performance in some 2D benchmarks, the so called “2D Boosted” BIOS was released. The catch is, the “2D BIOS” only works on hex core processors and since a quad core processor was used in these tests, the hacked BIOS doesn’t apply. The “hack” simply alters the CPUID string, which turns off some flags on the hex cores that might increase performance on some 2D benchmarks (while generally decreasing performance for 3D benchmarks).
(higher is better)
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
|Mem Copy||21857 MB/s||22063 MB/s||Mem Copy|
|Mem Read||19679 MB/s||19775 MB/s||Mem Read|
|Mem Write||17365 MB/s||17400 MB/s||Mem Write|
|Mem Latency||37.3ns||38.1ns||Mem Latency|
|MaxxMem Marks||1579.1||1554.8||MaxxMem Marks|
Here we can see that the R3E scores slightly higher in memory bandwidth, but with higher memory latency. Bandwidth and latency can be a bit inversely related sometimes (some looser settings can yield higher bandwidth), so it’s not altogether surprising that the looser R3E board has somewhat higher bandwidth. The 0.8ns difference in latency, however, is a large part of why the X58A-UD7 is substantially faster in SuperPi 32M, where latency plays a large role in results. The slight edge on the R3E in bandwidth is not enough to make up for its slower overall latency and for the bottom line MaxxMem Marks score, the X58A-UD7 edges out the better average score.
(lower is better)
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
|wPrime 32M||5.656s||5.667s||wPrime 32M|
|wPrime 1024M||179.593s||179.583s||wPrime 1024M|
The wPrime benchmark is hardly dependent on memory/latency at all. So much so, that in many cases, benchers run extremely low memory speeds with very loose timings or even only single or dual channel in order to take stress off of the processor’s integrated memory controller (IMC) in an attempt to gain CPU, Uncore or BCLK frequencies instead, which make much more of a difference in results for this benchmark. With the memory/latency pretty much ignored by this bench, we see that the boards trade punches and the averaged runs are nearly identical in both tests. The R3E had two quicker 1024M runs, possibly due to the slightly extra bandwidth, but then had a relatively slow run out of nowhere. The X58A-UD7 remained extremely consistent through all three runs and as seen, the averaged runs are within fractions of a second of each other.
|3DMark Vantage Screens|
|3DMark Vantage Results
(higher is better)
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
3D benchmarks are fairly bandwidth dependent, so if the R3E has potentially more bandwidth with its looser settings, it should potentially have an edge in 3D benchmarks. Surprise! Overall, the X58A-UD7 wins on 3DMark Vantage final scores and that is what counts at the end of the day, but a peek at the screen shots is required to see how this breaks down. The R3E out-scores the X58A-UD7 on the CPU side, but the Gigabyte board out-scores the R3E on the GPU side enough to make for the final overall higher scores. Logical conclusion: while the CPU tests in this bench may benefit a bit from the slacked R3E, the GPU tests benefit from the latency on the X58A-UD7.
(higher is better)
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
|24696||24777 Marks||24571 Marks||24538|
Unlike 3DMark Vantage, both boards run similar CPU scores in 3DMark06, however, the X58A-UD7 keeps its advantage on the GPU side of the benchmark and easily out-scores the R3E. Even with its one lower run (that still happens to be higher than the R3E’s best run), the X58A-UD7 out-scores by it more than 200 marks, which is quite a substantial difference for this benchmark.
(higher is better)
|3 Run Average||3 Run Average|
|35279||35325 Marks||35286 Marks||35212|
In a fleeting light of hope for the R3E in this benchmark, it did produce the highest score out of all of the 3DMark05 runs, if by only 12 marks. Much like the one oddly slow wPrime 1024M that it produced, it might be a fluke good run. The benches are being run three times and averaged in the first place to remove the impact of any unusually good or bad variations in the benchmark results. In any case, the other two runs were lower and one decent run out of three just doesn’t get it done. Once again, the X58A-UD7 pulls out the higher average score by scoring well and doing that consistently.
|LinX 1 Hour Results
|Peak GFlops||50.2642||49.7598||Peak GFlops|
|Max Temp||78°C (Core 0)||89°C (Core 0)||Max Temp|
The goal with LinX was to see how little Vcore was necessary on each board to maintain stability for one full hour at the same clocks. Load Line Calibration was left on AUTO for both boards, Vtt and DRAM voltages were set the same on both boards and Vcore was adjusted up and down as necessary to find the lowest setting that would complete the test. All other voltages were left on AUTO.
The X58A-UD7 undervolts what is set in BIOS (1.30V) by a minor amount at idle and raises closer to the set mark on load. The R3E, on the other hand, runs close to what is set in BIOS (1.31250V), but tends to overvolt a bit. While these differences may be due to how Load Line Calibration is handled by each board while on AUTO, the bottom line is that the R3E required more actual Vcore to complete the test.
The X58A-UD7 wins the LinX test hands down. Higher Peak GFlops, less time per loop, obviously more total work in the allotted time, the X58A-UD7 requires less Vcore and does it with substantially cooler CPU temperatures. Two things to note are that the ambient temperatures were on the coolest end of the measured range (70°F) during the R3E LinX testing and the CPU temperature difference is more than can be accounted for by only the Vcore difference.
Note: this processor historically runs hot for any type of cooling it has been under. In order to reduce heat while on air cooling for this long test, Uncore was lowered to 3800 MHz (3809 MHz as tested). On X58s, the Uncore multiplier must be a minimum of twice the memory ratio (except for Core i7 Extreme), which required lowering the memory ratio to 8x in order to lower the Uncore. In addition, the Uncore ratio on the R3E also had to be manually set to match the X58A-UD7 as with the 8x memory selected, the R3E AUTO Uncore dropped all the way down to 3400 MHz.
The Gigabyte X58A-UD7 overclocks very well and very easily. Given that all manufactuers start with the same chipsets and basic variables to work with, it’s difficult to have a stand out performance from one board to the next when all external variables are set equal. In this set of benchmarks against the board that could be deemed its primary competitor, the X58A-UD7 holds its own very well. In most benchmarks tested here, the final averaged scores are similar or better for the X58A-UD7 and it has a runaway performance on SuperPi 32M thanks to Gigabyte dialing in a lower overall latency for the board. Some of the individual tests in the benchmarks don’t benefit from the latency or may even be slightly hindered by it while other individual tests gain from it. It’s a balancing act, but when all is said and done, all except one final averaged score are won by the X58A-UD7.
The Gigabyte X58A-UD7 is a solid board with all the bells, whistles and (most of the) lights that anyone could want, including USB3.0 and SATA3 and high-powered (1.5A) USB ports. Not satisfied with the status quo, Gigabyte has come up with a new VRM setup and features on the X58A-UD7 Rev. 2.0 that may very well double the life span of the already stout components. In addition, with the release of HotKeyOC and CloudOC, Gigabyte continues finding ways to add useful and innovative overclocking options and make available for free, so extra kudos for that.
In addition to its overclocking and performance, compared to the competing board tested against here, the X58A-UD7 offers more ports (that require extra controllers), more storage options and, after checking the usual favorite online retailers, it does all that at a lower cost. More for less is always a good thing in my book and the Gigabyte X58A-UD7 delivers.
As mentioned earlier, there are tons of reviews and information available for the X58A-UD7. If you have yet to get your fill of pictures of the board, are looking for more detailed images of BIOS options, extreme cooled results or just another perspective, take a look at another Overclockers.com review of the Gigabyte X58A-UD7 done by sno.lcn earlier in the year.
Some graphics courtesy Gigabyte.com.