Gigabyte X58A-UD7 Motherboard
By Rafael Otto Coelho on June 10, 2010
Gigabyte X58A-UD7 is a socket LGA1366 motherboard based on Intel X58 chipset and ICH10R south bridge, bringing all features enthusiasts are looking for: four PCI Express x16 slots, two SATA-600 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Japanese solid capacitors, and more.In Figure 1 you have an overall look at Gigabyte X58A-UD7 motherboard.
In the next pages we will analyse this motherboard in detail.
Intel X58 chipset has 36 PCI Express x1 lanes and on Gigabyte X58A-UD7 the manufacturer arranged these lanes in four PCI Express x16 slots.
The first PCI Express x16 slot works at x16 if the second slot is empty. If there is a video card on the second slot, both the first and the second slot will work at x8. The third and fourth PCI Express x16 slots work the same way: the third one works at x16 or x8, depending on whether the fourth slot is empty or not. So if you have two video cards it is really important to use the first and the third (and not the second) PCI Express x16 slots in order to get the best performance possible. In other words, this motherboard supports the following configurations: x16; x16/x16; x16/x8/x8; or x8/x8/x8/x8. The slots are compatible with SLI and CrossFireX arrays.
The motherboard also comes with two PCI Express x1 slots and one standard PCI slot.The fourth PCI Express x16 slot is located at the edge of the motherboard, so if you install a dual-slot video card you will need a case with eight or more expansion slots. Also the first three slots are close to each other, so if you install a dual-slot video card on the first or second slots you will lose the slot right next to it.
Intel socket LGA1366 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, and not the chipset, that defines the memory technologies and the maximum amount of memory you can have. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
At the moment, the integrated memory controller of socket LGA1366 processors supports only DDR3 memories up to 1,066 MHz under triple-channel architecture, however, according to Gigabyte, X58A-UD7 supports DDR3 memories up to 2,200 MHz through overclocking. This motherboard has six DDR3 sockets and since, at the moment, each DDR3 memory module can have up to 4 GB, you can have up to 24 GB with it.
Here you will find one of the biggest advantages of Gigabyte X58A-UD7 compared to most socket LGA1366 motherboards: the presence of six memory sockets. Some socket LGA1366 motherboard have four memory sockets, turning memory upgrade an expensive procedure: in order to achieve the best performance with only four sockets, you have to remove the old three modules and install three new ones, with greater capacity. With six sockets you can keep the old modules and simply install three more modules on the empty sockets.
The first, the third and the fifth sockets are blue, while the second, the fourth and the sixth are white. In order to achieve the maximum performance you should install three or six memory modules in order to enable triple-channel architecture. When only three modules are used, install them on sockets with the same color in order to enable this feature.
Near the memory modules you can see two buttons, power (the big one) and reset (the smaller one).
The south bridge chip used by X58A-UD7 is Intel ICH10R, which supports six SATA-300 ports (RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10) and all of them (blue connectors) are placed on the motherboard edge rotated 90° so video cards won’t block them, as you can see in Figure 4.
Besides the SATA ports controlled by the chipset, this motherboard brings two more SATA-300 ports and two SATA-600 ports. A pity the manufacturer decided to use connectors of the same color (white) on these four ports, which can easily make the user to connect cables on the wrong connector (i.e., you may think you are installing a cable on a SATA-600 port while in fact you are installing it on a SATA-300 port). Gigabyte should have used blue connectors on the extra SATA-300 ports in order to keep the color standard and make things easy to the user.
The SATA-600 ports are controlled by a Marvell 88SE9218 chip and they use the white connectors on the right, i. e. the connectors close to the blue SATA connectors. These ports support RAID 0 or 1.
The white ports on the left are SATA-300, controlled by a JMicron JMB363 chip, which also controls an ATA-133 port (that supports up to two IDE devices). This chip supports RAID 0, 1 and JBOD modes.
There are also two eSATA ports on the rear panel (physically shared with two USB 2.0 ports), controlled by a JMicron JMB362 chip, supporting RAID 0, 1 and JBOD modes.
This motherboard also comes with an adapter that allows you to convert up to two internal SATA ports into eSATA ports, bringing even a power connector for an external hard disk.
In Figure 4, you can see the SATA ports and a two-digit display which allows you to identify, through a two-digit code, the faulty component, in case your computer refuses to turn on.
This motherboard also brings a floppy disk drive interface, controlled by the Super I/O chip (ITE IT8720F).
X58A-UD7 has ten USB 2.0 ports, six soldered on the rear panel (two of them shared with the eSATA ports) and four available on two headers located on the motherboard. There are also two USB 3.0 ports located on the rear connector (blue connectors), controlled by a NEC μPD720200 chip.
Three FireWire (IEEE1394) ports are provided, two on the rear panel (one standard-sized and one miniature-sized) and one through a header on the motherboard. They are controlled by a Texas Instruments TSB43AB23 chip.
Audio is generated by the chipset using a Realtek ALC889 codec, which is a professional-grade component, allowing you to professionally work with this motherboard for audio editing and conversion (e.g., converting LPs and VHS tapes to digital format) without the need of an add-on audio card. The audio section provides 7.1 audio with 24-bit resolution, 108 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs and 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs. Analog audio outputs use completely independent jacks, so you can hook-up an analog surround speaker system up to 7.1 without needing to “kill” the line in and/or mic in jacks. X58A-UD7 brings one optical and one coaxial SPDIF outputs on the rear panel.
The motherboard comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Realtek RTL8111D chips, connected to the system using PCI Express x1 lanes, which does not limit the bandwidth.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with keyboard and mouse PS/2 connectors, six USB 2.0 ports (black and yellow ones), clear CMOS button, two USB 3.0 ports (blue ones), optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, FireWire ports (one standard- and one miniature-sized), two eSATA-300 ports (shared with two USB 2.0 ports), two Gigabit Ethernet ports and independent analog 7.1 audio outputs.
In Figure 8, you can see the accessories that come with the board. Besides the standard ones (manuals, driver DVD, case rear plate, ATA-133 and SATA cables) it also comes with SLI and CrossFireX bridges and the adapter that converts two internal SATA ports into eSATA ports.
The cooling system of X58A-UD7 is a wonder by itself. It has heatsinks over the voltage regulator transistors and the south bridge chip, all of them connected to the north bridge heatsink using heatpipes. It also have a liquid cooling block on the north bridge chip and a big "expansion card like" heatsink, called "Hybrid Silent-Pipe Module", that must be screwed on the chipset heatsink, helping to cool all motherboard components. In Figure 7, you can see this heatsink in place.
Gigabyte X58A-UD7 has a 24-phase voltage regulator to generate the main CPU voltage (Vcore) plus a two-phase circuit to create the VTT voltage (used by the memory controller, L3 memory cache and some other internal components of the CPU). So this circuit has a 24+2 configuration.
Besides that, the copper power lanes on the motherboard are, accorging to Gigabyte, twice as thick as the ones found on competing products (this feature is called "2 oz. copper"), which means less energy loss (and less heat dissipation) and thus more stable power for the components.
Another interesting features are LED sets that indicate CPU, memory, north bridge chip and south bridge chips voltage levels, and also LEDs indicating temperature.
You can see in Figure 8 the voltage regulator circuit and the set of heatsinks for the chipset and transistors, which use two heatpipes and a liquid cooling block.
As mentioned earlier, all capacitors used on this motherboard are solid made in Japan and the voltage regulator circuit uses ferrite chokes, which are better than iron chokes. Please read our Everything You Need to Know About the Motherboard Voltage Regulator tutorial for more information.
Gigabyte X58A-UD7 provides a lot of overclocking options. Below we list only the main ones available on F6 BIOS.
Gigabyte X58A-UD7 motherboard main features are:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
Gigabyte X58A-UD7 is really a top-shelf motherboard for Intel socket LGA1366 CPUs. It has all the features sought after by enthusiast users who want the newest technologies available, such as USB 3.0 and SATA-600 ports. Its cooling system is amazing, with a watercooler block for the chipset north bridge chip (which also cools down the south bridge chip and the transistors of the voltage regulator circuit, as they are connected by heatpipes) and a big modular heatsink that uses one slot of the case.
There are also a lot of features typical of high-end motherboard, like SLI and CrossFireX support, six memory sockets, high-quality voltage regulator, four PCI Express x16 slots and a professional-grade audio codec.
For overclockers, it also has lots of features: lots of overclocking options inside the BIOS setup, "clear CMOS" button on the rear panel and LEDs indicating voltage, frequency and temperature levels on important spots of the motherboard.
As almost any other high-end motherboard its only drawback is the price. It is less expensive than ASUS Rampage III Extreme, but it is still too expensive for the average user. But, to be honest, it is not a product targeted to the average user.