The Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
The Gigabyte GA-X58A-UD7
For a while now, Gigabyte's high-end boards have been quite predictable. Stack on the storage options, keeping older interfaces like IDE and floppy while reinforcing the stability with ever more aggressive power delivery design. It certainly makes for a very solid, and hefty board, thanks to Gigabyte's Ultra Durable feature. The UD7 here today continues this trend with a design that's little different from the Gigabyte EX58-EXTREME that made its debut in 2008.
In fact, one can argue that the two are identical, with Gigabyte updating to SATA 6Gbit/s and USB 3.0 for the newer UD7. Even the layout is mostly similar as like the EXTREME, the UD7 is quite crowded. There's no wasted PCB space as Gigabyte cannot afford that. First, let's talk about the massive storage options. Besides the ICH10R Southbridge and its six SATA 3Gbps ports, Gigabyte has included a Marvell controller for two SATA 6Gbps ports. This controller is a slightly superior version to the one found on ASUS, as it comes with SATA RAID support.
Then, there's Gigabyte own SATA2 chip, which adds two more SATA 3Gbps ports, along with IDE support for two devices. A JMicron controller gives eSATA/USB functionality at the rear panel, despite the presence of USB 3.0 ports. And then we get to the floppy drive controller to cover all the storage options. As you can see, this formula is no different from the various storage-heavy boards from Gigabyte in recent times. Even its mid-range products have comprehensive storage options.
Another feature that's distinctive of the EX58-EXTREME is the Hybrid Silent-Pipe 2, a separate add-on heatsink card that acts as a giant radiator. Heat-pipes convey the excess heat from the board to this heatsink where it will be eventually vented out of the system. We did not test the efficacy of this heatsink, as our usual testing routine does not exactly require such cooling prowess. If you don't need such an extensive cooling solution, we recommend that you skip this board, as this radiator will no doubt add to the cost of this motherboard.
The number of features and connectors however lead to one of our usual complaints about Gigabyte's boards. It's not a serious issue but quite often, the layout only works for certain connectors. In this case, there are four PCIe graphics slots but effectively, one cannot setup quad-GPU due to the limitations of the PCIe lanes. Not only that, with three of them in close proximity, the typically, more powerful, dual-slot graphics cards would not be able to fit anyway.
A similar issue affects the PCIe x1 slots, which is so restricted by the heatsink that we're not sure what kind of card Gigabyte is expecting users to install. Fortunately, the rest of the board gave us no reasons to complain, though the large CMOS button at the rear panel is potential cause for concern for the careless user.
Of course, Gigabyte has its own list of in-house technologies, all of which should be familar to enthusiasts, as they have been present for a while now. From the company's well-known Ultra Durable 3 to newer additions like 3X power delivery for USB devices, these technologies all play their part in ensuring enthusiasts have all the tools they need to fiddle around. Just like the ASUS however, it's the stalwarts that we end up using most of the time, like Q-Flash for updating the BIOS and the dual BIOS feature.