Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review Page: 1

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

Introduction

It doesn't seem five minutes ago that we were first taken in by the looks of the Gigabyte Sniper. The gun and magazine shaped heatsinks really caught our eye, as Gigabyte went the full hog down the military theme.

The second edition of the Sniper scaled these elements back a little, whilst still remaining committed to the general theme, and now with the release of the Z77 chipset we have the Sniper 3 already upon us. Surprisingly the military design has been yet further reduced with the name and packaging being the only parts that hold true to the original idea.

Whilst it's a real shame that Gigabyte didn't have the bravery to continue being the most recognisable motherboard around, the underlying hardware should be just as good as it's ever been. Let us find out if the Sniper lives up to its name reputation, or if the aesthetics aren't the only part to have been kicked to the kerb.

Technical Specifications

The specifications are as high as we'd expect from a motherboard that costs the thick end of £280, with an array of connections covering everything you could realistically hope to install in a big E-ATX package.

CPU
  1. Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/ Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1155 package
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU
Chipset
  1. Intel® Z77 Express Chipset
Memory
  1. 4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
    * Due to Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
  2. Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2666(OC)/1600/1333/1066 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
Onboard GraphicsIntegrated Graphics Processor:
  1. 1 x D-Sub port
  2. 1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200
    * The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
  3. 1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200
  4. 1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 2560x1600
Audio
  1. Creative CA0132 chip
  2. Support for Sound Blaster Recon3Di
  3. High Definition Audio
  4. 2/5.1-channel
  5. Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN
  1. 1 x Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit) (LAN1)
  2. 1 x Intel GbE LAN phy (10/100/1000 Mbit) (LAN2)
    * Teaming is not supported.
Expansion Slots
  1. 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.
  2. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2)
    * The PCIEX8_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16_1 slot and the PCIEX8_2 slot with PCIEX16_2. The PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2 slot will operate at up to x8 mode when the PCIEX8_1/PCIEX8_2 is populated.
    (The PCI Express x16 slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
    * PCIE Gen.3 is dependent on CPU and expansion card compatibility.
  3. 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
    (The PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  4. 1 x PCI slot
Multi-Graphics Technology
  1. Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFireX™/NVIDIA SLI technology™
Storage InterfaceChipset:
  1. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0/1) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2 2/3/4/5) supporting up to 4 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  3. 1 x mSATA connector
    * The SATA2 5 connector will become unavailable when the mSATA connector is installed with a solid state drive.
  4. Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
    * When a RAID set is built across the SATA 6Gb/s and SATA 3Gb/s channels, the system performance of the RAID set may vary depending on the devices being connected.
2 x Marvell 88SE9172 chips:
  1. 4 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3 6/7/8/9) supporting up to 4 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. Support for RAID 0 and RAID 1
USBChipset:
  1. Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports on the back panel
  2. Up to 4 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (available through the internal USB headers)
Chipset + 2 VIA VL810 Hubs:
  1. Up to 8 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)
IEEE 1394VIA VT6308 chip:
  1. Up to 2 IEEE 1394a ports (available through the internal IEEE 1394a headers)
Internal I/O Connectors
  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
  3. 1 x PCIe power connector
  4. 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  5. 4 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x mSATA connector
  7. 1 x CPU fan header
  8. 4 x system fan headers
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  12. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
  13. 2 x IEEE 1394a headers
  14. 1 x Clear CMOS jumper
  15. 1 x power button
  16. 1 x Clear CMOS button
  17. 1 x reset button
  18. Voltage measurement points
  19. 1 x BIOS switch
  20. 1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
Back Panel Connectors
  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  2. 6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  3. 1 x D-Sub port
  4. 1 x DVI-D port
  5. 1 x HDMI port
  6. 1 x DisplayPort
  7. 2 x RJ-45 ports
  8. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  9. 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out, Headphone)
I/O Controller
  1. iTE I/O Controller Chip
H/W Monitoring
  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
    * Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/system cooler you install.
BIOS
  1. 2 x 64 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AMI EFI BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.6, ACPI 2.0a
Unique Features
  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress Install
  4. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  5. Support for EasyTune
  6. Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
  7. Support for Auto Green
  8. Support for ON/OFF Charge
  9. Support for Q-Share
  10. Support for 3D Power
  11. Support for EZ Setup
Bundle Software
  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
  2. Intel® Rapid Start Technology
  3. Intel® Smart Connect Technology
  4. Intel® Smart Response Technology
  5. LucidLogix Virtu MVP
    * Make sure the monitor cable has been connected to the integrated graphics port(s) on the back panel.
Operating System
  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows 7
Form Factor
  1. E-ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 26.4cm

 



Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review Page: 2

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

Up Close

Just like the Sniper 2 before it, the G1.Sniper 3 has a very military theme going on with the packaging, looking just like a 50 cal ammo box. Considering how much technology has been packed in to the top end Gigabyte motherboard, it's a testament to how well the designers worked that the rear is still clearly laid out.  

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review     Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

The internal box is mad of the same sturdy cardboard that the outer one is, so there is no fear that your purchase wont arrive in tip top condition. Lifting the lid we're greeted with the motherboard itself, and more accessories than anyone could possible expect to find.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review     Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

Four SLI/Crossfire bridges, two manuals, two driver CDs, and a very high quality IO shield are only the start. We also have external USB ports, eSATA, a Wireless card and two aerials, as well as seemingly enough SATA cables to run a server farm.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review     Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

And here is the Sniper itself. As you can see the green that we've become accustomed to is still heavily present, but any other nods towards its heritage have all been removed. No gun-barrel-shaped power phase heatsinks, no bullet-in-a-magazine chipset heatsink. 

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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

Up Close cont

As we'd expect from a high-end board the Sniper 3 is expecting you to use multiple GPUs, and has spaced the PCI Express slots accordingly. Although it's odd to see both PCIe x1 ports potentially covered up by your GPUs, so it's something to bear in mind if you want SLI/Crossfire as well as a soundcard for example.

The mSATA 1.8" SSD slots are becoming more common on the latest motherboards, and manufacturers are still trying to find the best place to put them. We think with the Sniper 3 Gigabyte have got it right, just behind the main SATA ports.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review     Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

There is plenty of power available for overclocking, and it's also worth noting that the layout of the power phases allows for easy sub-zero cooling too. The top right corner has the standard high-end feature set of a CMOS clear, reset and power buttons as well as voltage monitoring points and a clear 7 segment display.

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The Creative onboard sound has a small EMI shield, something many motherboards would do well to adopt. No matter where you look on the G1.Sniper 3 there are connection points, fan headers, and those wonderful design touches that really let you know you're holding a quality component.

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Finally the connectors are six SATA 6Gb/s ports and four SATA 3Gb/s ones. Round the back we have the normal selection of multiple display outs, twin LAN, USB 3.0 ports, a combined PS2 and the audio connections.

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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

BIOS M.I.T

The 3D BIOS is as easy to use as always, being capable of anything from minor adjustments to full-on hardcore tweaking. It's really one of the most user-friendly BIOS's around. For our shots we're sticking to the Advanced screens which are more recognisable. 

The M.I.T (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) is neatly divided into frequency, voltage, Memory and health screens. There are plenty of load-line calibration options wherever you look, allowing you to really push your CPU hard should the mood take you.

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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

BIOS - Other

Although you'll spend most of your time in the M.I.T section, it doesn't mean that the rest of the 3D BIOS has been left behind. Every screen has a plethora of options allowing you full control over all the elements of the Sniper 3, as well as your connected hardware. It's truly a joy to use.

In fact the only fault we can find is that the shipped BIOS, like every Gigabyte one, doesn't work with high DPI gaming mice, but a painless upgrade via a USB stick or even via Windows fixes that issue.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review BIOS     Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review  

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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

Test Setup

For those of you who were wondering about the lengthy delay between Z77 reviews it's all to do with the ease of obtaining a HD7970 to continue our testing. The world financial crisis hits everywhere. Thankfully Sapphire stepped in with a HD7950 which enabled us to return to the Ivy Bridge testing, so maximum kudos to them. Just worth noting when we come to the 3D tests that the GPU isn't the HD7970 that the other Z77 reviews were tested with.

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Gigabyte Z77 G1.Sniper 3
Intel Core i7-3770K
8GB G.Skill Trident 2400 @ 10-12-12-31
Sapphire HD7950
Catalyst 12.4
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Corsair F80 SSD
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Windows 7 x64

Overclocking

With the eternal quest for more power efficiency our initial results with Z77 motherboards weren't exactly amazing, as the latest chipset seemed to require countless tweaks to remain stable at decent overclocks. Just when we thought we'd have to relearn how to overclock a LGA1155 CPU along comes the Sniper 3, which was as easy to overclock as the P67/Z68 motherboards ever were. A simple voltage boost and increase on the CPU multiplier and everything ran like clockwork. It's reassuring to know that it wasn't our ability at fault, but rather the other motherboards.

So here we have a wonderful 5GHz on air, using only 1.38v on the core. Very impressive stuff by the Sniper 3. 

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 5GHz 

Of course we like to run with as little voltage as possible, especially with the reduced tolerance for high voltages on the 22nm CPUs, and so dropping down to default volts we were still able to see 4.8GHz from our i7-3770K, and that's what we'll be using for our overclock tests.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Overclocking CPUz  



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

AIDA64

The CPU testing on the latest version of AIDA64 shows how close the Z77 motherboards are in performance terms, both at stock settings and when overclocked. As the load increases, such as the zLib test, the Sniper 3 remains perfectly stable where the other boards started to throttle back.

The memory benchmarks are a tale of two halves, with the stock results being very impressive indeed, and the overclock results just being shaded by the UD5 and D3H.

CPU

 

Memory

 



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

SiSoft Sandra

SiSoft Sandra has always been outstanding at separating the various components from the rest of the system and is therefore one of the purer tests we run. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 certainly comes out of it looking outstanding. In both the Arithmetic and MultiMedia tests it stands proudly at the top when everything is at stock, but the overclocked results really highlight how stable the Sniper 3 is as an overclocking platform, utterly dominating the graph.

Processor Arithmetic

 

Processor MultiMedia

  



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

PC Mark Vantage

Further demonstrating how well the system works as a unit, PC Mark Vantage gives some excellent results regardless of the CPU speed. Both stock and overclock benchmarks give some very impressive numbers, with the gaming test emphasising that, despite only having a HD7950 behind it, the Sniper 3 still trumps the rest.

 

PC Mark 7

In the newer PC Mark 7 the results are much closer, although still if you're planning to run at stock the Sniper 3 is the one to beat. With the overclock in place though all three of the Gigabyte boards are very tight indeed, although the Sniper does just shade it.

  



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

CineBench

Thanks to the Sniper 3 we finally see the CPU score that we were expecting. The UD5 wasn't very close, the D3H was better, but the Sniper 3 really takes advantage of the power of the i7-3770K. 

 

POV-Ray

The G1.Sniper 3 maintains its excellent record of topping every chart so far, and POV-Ray continues this. At stock it's all very close with none of the motherboards particularly standing out, but again the bulletproof overclock on the Sniper 3 shows it's hand and dominates proceedings.

  



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

wPrime 95

As much as we go on about the overclocking, the stock results are probably the most impressive. A second faster in the 32M test and 12 seconds faster in the 1024M place test when compared to the other stock setups. The Sniper 3 is a flier. The stability of the overclock remains in place as even the harsh 1024M test doesn't cause it to flinch.

 

Unigine Heaven 0xAA

Although Unigine is mainly here to demonstrate the underlying performance, rather than that of the GPU, with only a HD7950 in our Sniper 3 setup compared to the HD7970 in the others, there is obviously a GPU performance deficit that even the Sniper 3 can't overcome, although it's still impressive.

  



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

3D Mark Vantage

Finally the old favourite 3D Mark. In Vantage we were surprised at how well the HD7950 performed, given its relative performance deficit to the HD7970. We know how good the the HD7950 is, but the Sniper 3 turns it into a star.

 

3D Mark 11

As the more modern of the two 3D Marks it's not surprising that the harsher testing 3D Mark 11 puts the GPU through that our Sniper 3 setup isn't quite capable of matching the full-fat HD7970.

 



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Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 Review

Conclusion

Any review that we do, because of the nature of hardware testing, tends to be largely focussed upon the performance of the component in question. Maybe it comes with a nod towards the price and design, but this is a business that places a heavy emphasis on the final numbers above all else so, barring something exceptional, how much we enjoyed testing it doesn't often crop up. With the G1.Sniper 3 this focus upon performance is as large as ever, but we also need to draw your attention to the ease of our experience.

Starting with the design, and with such a clear theme as we've seen from the Sniper range it's a good place to start, it's all rather disappointing if we're honest. The packaging leads us to expect the same gun/rifle themed design as we've seen before, but the heatsinks are now exactly the same as we'd find on any other motherboard. It's gone from being a motherboard that was instantly recognisable, to a generic one that happens to be green. Maybe the difficulty of shipping something that looked like a gun around the world caused too many problems, but even still it's a shame that a design which was so very different, ends up looking so very similar.

However, this is the only disappointing thing about the whole package. The actual layout of the board is fantastic, with plentiful connection options, lots of fan headers, and a wealth of displays, probe points and the like. Everything is very clearly labelled and exactly where you'd expect it to be. It's a joy to work with. The 3D BIOS continues this trend of providing an exceptionally user-friendly experience. If you're new to BIOS tweaking the 3D display is clear and easy to follow, and yet if you want to tweak a near infinite array of things you can do that too. This is made even easier because the labels in the BIOS are clear and even if you don't know where to find a certain option you just need to read and be reassured that if you want Loadline Calibration, that's exactly what it will be called.

Performance is yet another box ticked. Overclocking the Sniper 3 was a breeze. There was no need to tweak a near-infinite array of settings to obtain a stable overclock, and my goodness was the overclock stable. The Sniper 3 didn't have any headroom manually adjusted and yet still could give us a 5GHz overclock, and a bulletproof 4.8GHz one. Not only were the overclock results excellent, but the stock results were streets ahead of anything we've seen so far. The only thing to always remember is auto settings can also mean its over volting areas far to much so for the extreme end of the spectrum its always safer to manually set as many volts as possible. If you don't know, get in the forums, ask and learn.

The only flies in the ointment are the slight one about the vanilla design, and more importantly the big price-tag. We're big fans of getting great value for money here at OC3D, and will always prefer a decent performance/price combination over a wallet-emptying sledgehammer, but the Sniper 3 is leagues ahead of the other Z77s we've tested.

To keep with the Sniper theme, it's an instakill headshot. A great looking motherboard, with fantastic performance, a true joy to actually use, more accessories than you could hope to utilise and a bombproof BIOS. It can be everything from a simple stock runner all the way up to a sub-zero overclocking beast and we love it. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 is a bona fide, unquestionable, Gold award winner. Fantastic.

     

Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the G1.Sniper 3 for review. Discuss in the OC3D forums.