Gigabyte X79-UD5 motherboard review
The X79-UD5 marks Gigabytes mid range Socket 2011 motherboard, positioned as their middle of the road offering on the socket 2011 platform, it splits the difference between the higher end UD7 and Assassin.2 and lower end UD3 models.
The UD5 series of boards from Gigabyte have typically been their board aimed at the enthusiast on a budget. They typically give you improved power circuitry over the lower end UD3 models as well as adding in a few extras so that the value remains high, but keeping the price point a bit more attractive for those of us with spending limits.
The X79-UD5 does stray a little from that typical Gigabyte formula, but not by much. While the UD5 does, in fact, improve the power circuitry (12 phase versus 8 on the UD3) and gives you many extras over the UD3 :
8 DIMM slots (instead of 4) for up to 64Gb DDR3,
A wireless N/Bluetooth 4.0 PCI-E card
An add-on front panel USB3 bracket.
It also adds power and reset buttons on the board, as well as some extra buttons on the rear panel which will be covered below.
It does lose one 16X PCI-E slot allowing only 3-way SLI or CrossfireX. A little unusual, but the 4th slot will be used by only a very small percentage of enthusiasts. For 99.7% of all users this is a pretty good trade off for the extras gained.
By now you have likely read plenty about the new X79 socket 2011 chipset itself and what it has to offer over the mid level socket 1155 Z68 and P67 (and now Z77) chipsets, but the quick and dirty version of things is this:
1. Up to 40 PCI-E lanes versus only 16 PCI-E on the 1155 platform.
2. Up to 6 hyper threaded CPU cores versus a maximum of 4 cores with Hyper threading on Socket 1155 platform.
3. Up to 64Gb of Quad channel DDR3 verses 32Gb Dual channel DDR3 on the socket 1155 platform.
4. Up to 4 PCI-E 16X slots (running at 8x) for up to 4-way SLI or CrossfireX vs. only 2 PCI-E 16X slots.
For the average user these things will go relatively unnoticed. But for the enthusiast, who wants all the performance they can get, it means potentially much greater memory bandwidth and the ability to run more than 2 GPUs in SLI or CrosssfireX. The extra bandwidth should show itself in applications that are particularly memory hungry or when using multi GPU, multi monitor setups for gaming.
Board Layout and Features
Looking at the board, Gigabyte is continuing their trend of satin black PCBs for the performance oriented boards, a trend I do like. For the UD5 they have moved to a blue and silver heatsink design. While the blue is attractive, I think that it follows a bit too closely with the color schemes of some competing company’s boards. However, color matching RAM and other components is pretty easy to accomplish.
I am a fan of the grey/gold that has been with us for the past few releases of performance oriented boards.
This board is an E-ATX board, as opposed to a standard ATX. This means the board is a bit wider than standard ATX, so be sure your case can accommodate an E-ATX board.
There are 12 SATA ports in total on the X79-UD5:
6 supplied by the Intel X79 Chipset, 2 of which are SATA 3 specification.
4 SATA 3 connected to 2 Marvell 88SE9172 chips.
The SATA ports are color coded, white is for the Intel supplied SATA 3 ports. Black is for the Intel supplied SATA 2 ports and grey indicate ports supplied by the add-on Marvell chips.
2 ESATA 3 ports (including 1 USB/ESATA combo port) on the rear I/O panel are also fed by a Marvell 88SE9172.
Looking at the rear I/O panel, there are a few interesting features. The standard combo PS/2 port is in the usual location along with a pair of USB 2.0 ports (RED).
Right below these are several buttons that are not the norm. Top to bottom we have the OC (overclocking) button, the BIOS selection button and a clear CMOS button. We will go into more detail about these later in the article.
There are 8 USB 2.0 ports (red) on the back panel as well as an additional 2 USB 3.0 ports (blue) in the middle connected via a Fresco FL1009 chip for a total of 10 USB ports on the rear panel. The ESATA ports mentioned earlier are along the lower edge, blue in color. And there is a single Firewire Port (yellow).
There is an Optical digital out and 6 mini-jack plugs for analogue 7.1 audio connections and a single Intel Gigabit LAN port.
The BIOS selection button allows the user to switch between the main and backup BIOS chips. It can be handy in that it allows the user to have two completely different BIOS setups and switch between them easily between reboots. This is particularly handy if you get too aggressive overclocking in one profile and need to get the system back up in a hurry.
The CMOS clear button on the outside allows the user to reset without opening up the case and finding the onboard jumper.
The OC button on the back panel is supposed to give a bit of an overclock when pushed. I could not see any difference when this was activated or not. I could also not find any documentation on exactly what this button was supposed to accomplish. An internet search also did not provide any further information on its exact function. I will follow up once I contact Gigabyte for further information.
There are additional headers on the board for 6 more USB 2.0 ports as well as Firewire and HD Front panel Audio connections.
An additional header for 2 more USB 3.0 ports is located below the ATX power connector. Gigabyte has even provided a 3.5” front panel USB 3 panel so any case can utilize USB3.0 on the front panel without the need for built in USB3 compatibility.
This should be enough storage and connectivity for most users.
The expansion slots on the board are configured as follows:
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16_1 slot; if you are installing two PCI Express graphics cards, it is recommended that you install them in the PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots.
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
(All PCI Express x16 slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
2 x PCI Express x1 slots
(All PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
1 x PCI slot
So when running 3 way SLI or CrossfireX, the cards would run @ 8x, 8x, 8x.
There is plenty of space between the two PCI-E 16 slots so your video cards will have lots of room to breathe if you are running a two card setup. This is well thought out. Gigabyte even provides you the longer crossfire bridge to ensure you have one that can reach over four slots. When using more than 2 cards, things tighten up and, like any board that supports more than two cards, the breathing room will be somewhat restricted. You will want excellent case ventilation in that situation. In any case, Gigabyte provides the necessary SLI bridges as well, including a 3way SLI bridge.
Like the X79-UD3, there are no additional power connectors on the board to feed the additional PCI-E slots when using multiple GPUs. All other Gigabyte boards I have used in the past included at least one additional power connector when more than two way multi card setups are possible. This seems a bit unusual to me. Perhaps this is a cost savings measure, or the board’s power circuitry is robust enough to supply the needed power.
The heat sink mount spacing shares the same physical footprint as socket 1366, however, the actual mounting mechanism is different and you may require adaptors in order to use older heat sinks. Be sure that the heat sink you purchase is specifically designed for socket 2011. Otherwise you may end up with an overheating CPU. Notice that the holes do not go through the board. The holes are threaded to accept the proper fasteners for a socket 2011 mount.
The area around the CPU socket is filled with eight (YES EIGHT!) ram slots, four on either side of the socket. The UD5 allows two sticks of ram per channel, for up to 64Gb of ram.
Be cautious of tall ram sinks when using large heatpipe coolers. Clearance may be a problem. This is common now and RAM manufacturers are coming out with low profile versions of DDR3 to help with said clearance issues.
There is also a heat sink on the MOSFETS above the socket linked via a heatpipe to the large flat PCH heatsink. The design is well finned and provides excellent cooling. In my testing this rarely got more than warm as long as there was even the slightest airflow over it.
The onboard power button can be seen in teh uper right hand corner of teh board.
There are 5 fan headers on the board for all your cooling needs. 3 of which are controlled through the BIOS smart fan settings. This should be more than adequate for most users.
The included Wireless N/ Bluetooth 4.0 bracket is a 1xPCI-E card and utilizes a mobile type wireless module. It has a 150Mb connection speed for wireless LAN. The Bluetooth 4.0 allows file transfers on the newer iPhone 4 and allows many of the telephone functions to be operated remotely using the computer.
There would be an issue using this add on if all three video card slots are filled with double height cards as 1XPCI-E slots will be blocked and unusable.
The X79 series from Gigabyte are the first to incorporate their new UEFI 3D BIOS. Here is what Gigabyte has to say about this feature:
“At the heart of this exciting 3D BIOS technology is a pair of 8MB physical BIOS ROMs containing Gigabyte’s exclusive in-house designed UEFI BIOS technology. With a superior graphical interface capable of 32-bit color imaging and fluid user-friendly mouse navigation, UEFI DualBIOS™ makes BIOS configuration a new and exciting experience for novice and experienced users alike. UEFI BIOS also brings native support for large hard drives on 64-bit operating systems.”
Basically it is a new, fully graphical BIOS interface that has two different modes. One is a more basic mode that uses a visual representation of the motherboard. When you hover the mouse pointer over various areas, they are highlighted. Highlighted areas are mouse clickable and open basic menus for changing some of the more common items related to the area highlighted.
More information and a video demonstration can be found here:
There is also a more advanced mode that gives a bit more of a traditional layout and separates the various groups of settings much like a more traditional BIOS. This includes separating the tweaking and tuning section under the traditional Gigabyte M.I.T. heading.
I will admit that the mouse action within the BIOS can be a bit “clunky” just as the UD3 was and it sometimes takes me several clicks to actually get into the menu I am trying to open. But this is a relatively minor issue and one that is easily adjusted to. The keyboard can also be used to navigate the BIOS using the arrow keys.
Gigabyte also continues with their TouchBIOS utility, which allows the changing of bios settings from within windows. No more pounding the delete key trying to get into the BIOS settings. You can simply make the changes you want and then just reboot for the settings to take effect. It also includes a few overclocking presets for the rookie user just looking for a moderate boost in performance.
Gigabyte has also launched their new 3DPower software utility to go along with the new fully digital 3D power design. This allows changing of power phase settings from within windows much like TouchBIOS. More information can be found here:
Intel i7 3930K
Corsair Force 3 60Gb SSD
AMD HIS 6970 2Gb
4 X 4 GB DDR3 2133 Gskill Ares
XSPC RASA RS240 Water cooling kit
OCZ ZT750w PSU
All testing was completed on an open bench with some strategically located fans to keep airflow over the VRM heat sinks and RAM.
Overclocking was pretty straight forward. As a matter of fact, I got similar results to the UD3. I was using some different hardware like memory and video card. But CPU overclocking remained essentially the same.
As the 3930k is fully unlocked, much like a Sandy Bridge chip, you can just play with multipliers and voltage until you find that sweet spot between performance and power/heat.
Make no mistake. If you have any intention of overclocking a socket 2011 chip, you better have good cooling. These chips have a 130W TDP and when pushed hard with voltage the heat ramps up quickly. With this particular chip 4.5 GHz was as easy as a slight voltage bump to 1.38V and a change in the multi to 45.
Temperatures remained very manageable at this setting as well. Under My XSPC Rasa RS240 water cooling kit, temperatures rarely exceeded 60C even during prolonged benchmarking sessions.
Further experimentation pushed the clocks up as high as 4.87Ghz, using Quad channel DDR3 2133. I was able to go higher only if I went to dual channel or reduced the RAM speed to DDR3 1600. Looks like this chip does not have the best memory controller! Temperatures were getting well above what I would feel comfortable with on a day to day basis, and I do not recommend Vcore voltages much over 1.4V unless you have excellent cooling.
The X79 chipset allows you to make changes to the bus speed and multiplier, unlike socket 1155 which really only allows you to move a few MHz away from the standard 100mhz bus speed so overclocking can only be accomplished by raising the multiplier.
X79 has straps which allow base clock settings of 100, 125 and 166mhz. This should help you to find the sweet spot with ram speeds as well as improving overclocking with multiplier locked CPUs. I was able to overclock using the 125 boot strap, but there was no discernable difference in overclocking headroom. It did allow for a bit of fine tuning with slight adjustments in BCLK speed.
My chip is definitely not a “Golden” chip. I had to push way too much voltage through it in order to get much past 4.6Ghz. I think the sweet spot for this particular chip is 4.5Ghz as I was able to achieve that easily and my core temperatures were well under control.
I suffered no issues other than some auto recovery when pushing a bit too far into the overclocking. Even then it would auto recover seamlessly, allowing me to enter the BIOS to alter settings once again.
For the performance comparisons I will use 4.5Ghz for the overclocked numbers compared to the stock settings.
All tests were completed with the 6970 at stock speed.
Here is a screen shot of Cinebench 11.5 results showing a chart that has a few other CPUs for comparison. Cinebench does not properly detect the CPU speeds on Sandy Bridge or Sandy Bridge-E CPUs. The overclocked speed in the chart is 4.5Ghz. As you can see, even compared to an i7 970, this platform shows a substantial increase in performance at the same clock speeds. There was no change in score from the UD3.
Video Encoding has traditionally been one of the few pieces of software that can take advantage of all those cores. Let’s see how the 3930k does using X264 Bench version 4.0.
X264 Bench 4.0
encoded 1442 frames, 172.45 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 170.23 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 170.23 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 170.23 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 52.61 fps, 3955.05 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 52.97 fps, 3957.30 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 52.94 fps, 3955.25 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 52.94 fps, 3954.10 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 216.97 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 220.09 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 217.50 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 214.97 fps, 3913.50 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 67.47 fps, 3956.60 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 67.32 fps, 3955.96 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 67.67 fps, 3954.68 kb/s
encoded 1442 frames, 67.52 fps, 3955.77 kb/s
The CPU seems to scale very well with overclocking. This is the CPU to have if you are into video encoding. Nothing like encoding HD video at more than double real time! The results are slightly better than I achieved on the UD3, but that is likely due to faster memory.
PCmark05 by Futuremark is a system benchmark designed to test the entire system.
Overclocked (4.5Ghz): 23139
These scores seem a little strange and I ran the benchmark several times to confirm everything was running properly, I was expecting a much larger difference in scores here.
All tests were completed with the 6970 at stock speed.
Overclocked (4.5Ghz): 25416
As this is primarily a video card benchmark, the scores did improve, but only slightly.
Final Fantasy XIV Benchmark
Tests were completed with 1 60Gb Corsair Force 3 SSDs in AHCI mode.
The X79-UD5 is the workhorse in Gigabyte’s socket 2011 lineup. It has the highest memory capacity, solid power circuitry and capable overclocking features. It has some value added features like the included USB 3.0 front panel connector and wireless module. It has a clean layout and good looks that should be shown off with windowed cases and careful wire routing. It is the do it all, and do it all well, offering for socket 2011 from Gigabyte. It has extensive storage capability built right in and allows all but the most over the top video card configurations, allowing up to 3-way SLI or Crossfire capability.
I thoroughly enjoyed working with the X79-UD5, it proved to be a stable and reliable platform.
I am Xtreme
Nice review man, you worked really hard on it! i think you did great!
Great motherboard and review. Its one of my favourite X79 motherboards.
Thanks guys! Appreciate the feedback.
wait a minute....... you say in your review that is does 3way sli @ 8x 8x 8x??? Why not 16x 16x 8x???? Newegg states the 3way connectivity as "PCI Express 3.0 x16
3 (x16, x16, x8)"
But nice review sir, appreciate the time you have taken to do that!
I think it is actually 16x, 8x, 8x or 16x, 8x, 16x. The 8X slot in the middle is physically only 8x. I would have to assume that with 40 lanes available that there would be no real need to bandwidth split between the 2nd and third slots. Although i cannot, at this time, find any documentation to that effect.
Originally Posted by newls1
And you are welcome. Glad that some enjoy my reviews. I enjoy having the opportunity to play with the hardware!