Whenever a new technology is released there is a frantic rush to get samples out for review without having them arrive so early that less-scrupulous sites can break the release date and sometimes they arrive too late to give the full treatment to. In the case of the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD5 it was having the final touches applied to it right up to the very last minute to make sure that it's perfect when it arrives on the shelf of your local hardware emporium.
However, rather than just let it slide until we had completed all of our testing, and knowing from past experience that the UD5 is extremely popular, holding the sweet spot between the value UD3 and the premium UD7 model, we knew you'd be gagging to cast your eye over it and so we're bringing you a preview today, with a full review a little later on.
The UD5 is so fresh out the R&D department that the specifications haven't yet been formatted into the normal pretty style. We'll be covering these features as we run through the pictures, so let's get down to it.
Packaging and Accessories
The UD5 comes in a very crisp white box. The major new feature, besides the obvious X79 stuff, is the 3D BIOS and 3D Power, and so they take up a large proportion of the real estate on the front. On the reverse we have the normal Gigabyte clarity with all the important information clearly laid out.
One thing Gigabyte have always been excellent at is their documentation. With so many new features on both the X79 side, and on the UD5 itself, it's definitely something we enjoy seeing. Filling the hardware up with technology and then not explaining how to use them is a problem we find all too often.
The IO shield is both clearly labelled and colour-coded in the normal Gigabyte fashion, enabling easy recognition when you're fumbling round the back of your case.
As well as the all black bridges for Crossfire and SLI, we have a WiFi/Bluetooth expansion board. From our experience so far with the X79 motherboards it appears that wireless connectivity is high on the agenda. The UD5 gives the option to include it or not depending on your hardware arrangement so you're not stuck with a couple of aerials to hide if you use a LAN cable for your internet. The Bluetooth part of the card supports the very latest Bluetooth 4.0 which has a shorter effective range than the classic Bluetooth but greatly reduces both the latency and power consumption when paired with compatible devices such as the iPhone 4S.
As well as providing a USB 3.0 header on the board, the UD5 has a front-panel expansion allowing you to take advantage of the extra speed that is available with USB 3.0 without having to reach round the rear of your case. Useful for those of us who utilise USB sticks for transferring films and the like.
The UD5 Up Close
The X79-UD5 itself moves away from the powder-blue and white slots that we've come to expect from Gigabyte. Instead it switches to a largely black arrangement with the blue reduced to just appearing on the heatsinks. Unlike the other motherboards we've looked at it also hasn't got heatsinks in the areas we're used to finding them, but with nothing underneath. Instead Gigabyte have concentrated on having the aluminium only where it's needed, thus saving weight and being much more environmentally friendly.
We have three PCI Express 3.0 slots on the UD5. Two are rated at x16 and the bottom at x8.
There is a wealth of internal expansion headers. With everything being USB these days it's one of those technologies that you can never have too many of.
Storage is provided by six SATA 6Gbp/s ports (the white and the grey ones) and four SATA II. Those of you who require huge amounts of hard-drives to store all your digital entertainment will welcome having so many to choose from, especially a lot of SATA 6Gbp/s ports.
Rather than a power and reset switch next to each other the UD5 has just a power button tucked away in the top right.
The IO has just about everything one could hope to find. From left to right we have a combined PS2 port and two USBs. Then a lot all in one block. The OC button is a one-press CPU overclock. Beneath that we have buttons to select which of the dual-BIOS you wish to boot using, Backup in blue and Master in green, and below that is the CMOS clear. Moving along we have the Firewire, three USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 and e-SATA, then yet more USB 3.0, USB 2.0 and the LAN before finishing off with the audio jacks for the Realtek ALC 898.
Above the CPU socket is the Gigabyte 3D Power. This is a Digital Power controller which, as the name implies, has three parts to it. One of the bank of DIMM sockets on the left, another for the DIMM slots on the right, and finally one to control the CPU power. This also includes vDroop protection for the Memory, something we normally see only applied to the CPU.
Placement of your headers is something that can make a big difference when trying to cable your system in a tidy fashion, so it's nice to see the front-panel USB 3.0 expansion places on the right hand edge of the UD5. Equally the placing of a fan header right at the corner is perfect for the now ubiquitous front intake fan on your case. It is odd to see the Reset Switch located right down here instead of up with the Power Switch though.
Almost the antithesis of the above design choice, the front panel audio is as far from the front of your case as possible, although this absolutely isn't a Gigabyte only thing, as every motherboard does this.
Keep an eye on our front-page for a full review of the X79-UD5 shortly. Until then, let us know what you think in our forums.