Recent years has seen AMD somewhat lose their way, with CPUs that weren't quite as quick as the ones of old, or too hot, or just not priced competitively when compared to it's Intel rivals.
One of the clearest indicators of this trend has been the dearth of high end motherboards for the platform. After all, if a manufacturer of motherboards feels that the market isn't there, it's obviously a deeper problem than merely preferring one brand to another.
However, the AMD APUs are fantastic chips, capable of performance far higher than equivalent models from Intel when it comes to graphics performance. Such is their power that both of the next generation of consoles use AMD APUs at their heart, and this has been backed up by Gigabyte releasing their high-end G1.Sniper on the AMD platform, specifically the A88X chipset.
As we have an AMD A10-6700 and A10-6800K on hand, it seems the perfect opportunity to see what the Gigabyte board has to offer.
It's amazing how close the latest AMD chipsets are getting to the Intel boards. We have 2400MHz memory support, the excellent Realtek ALC898 audio, PCI Express 3.0, loads of 6Gb/s SATA ports and a fair selection of USB ports. The G1.Sniper certainly has the performance on paper. Let's see how it looks.
|Onboard Graphics||APU with integrated AMD Radeon™ HD 8000/7000 series graphics:|
* To use the onboard graphics port, you must install an AMD APU with integrated graphics.
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
The packaging for the A88X Sniper is not quite as complex as the early G1 Killer motherboards, and it's the better for it. Freed from a multitude of technological logos there is a clarity to the box which is backed up by the contents. The G1.Sniper A88X itself isn't quite as bedazzled as some that we've seen. If it wasn't for the Sniper green colours it could pass for almost any Gigabyte motherboard. As is often the case, the devil is in the details.
The A88X supports 2400MHz DDR3, which should go some way towards redressing the bandwidth deficit between the AMD and Intel offerings. Despite being part of the serious G1.Sniper range the power heatsink is smaller than we had expected. It still cools the MOSFETs effectively, it just doesn't visually wow you.
One of the big selling points of the high end Gigabyte motherboards is the excellent audio and the split PCB that keeps interference at a minimum. The G1.Sniper A88X has probably the finest audio on an AMD socket motherboard we've experienced.
Given that the G1.Sniper A88X is a barely believable £80 there will always be a few areas that are a slight disappointment, and vertical SATA ports are the price that we pay, if you'll pardon the expression, for such an affordable package. We'd rather have a feature-rich, low priced choice with a couple of cosmetic niggles than something that is all show and no go.
Showing how long it's been since we've had a new AMD product worthy of review, the PhotoWorxx test of AIDA64 was the old version in our previous tests, so the results of that particular test aren't able to be compared. However the performance available from the latest AMD CPUs is clearly demonstrated when you compare it to the 5800K on the D3H and the older A4 3200. Managing to beat out the i3-3220 is no small feat for such a cost effective solution. A particular highlight is how much memory bandwidth is now available to us on the Sniper, particularly with the A10 6800K.
The performance of the G1.Sniper A88X is excellent, making the very most of the AMD CPU installed. The FM2+ socket combined with the Gigabyte motherboard definitely does the business in calculation terms.
The CPU result is fairly linear as we move through the AMD CPU range, but the big kick comes in the switch on the Sniper from the 6700 to the 6800. As well as a higher clock speed we see a big leap in the frames rendered, and the CPU score is now comfortably better than the Intel i3s.
A slightly mixed result in wPrime. We'd have expected the 6700 to perform better on the Sniper, especially when we take the AIDA64 and Sandra results into account. However the 6800K makes a mockery of its low price tag to give a very respectable result indeed.
A bad motherboard can restrict the smooth running of your components, just as a great one becomes more transparent in the process. The G1.Sniper A88X is fantastic, as demonstrated by the excellent PC Mark scores, both in the Vantage and 7 versions of the benchmark. The better memory performance is particularly highlighted in the PC Mark 7 benchmark which sees the Sniper get extremely close to the i3-3220 setup.
PC Mark 7
To a certain degree we're mainly testing the APU side of things here. Unquestionably the A10 6800K is the chip to go for as it works beautifully in the Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X. Given the tiny price difference it's an easy choice.
3D Mark Vantage
3D Mark 11
AMD reviews are sadly few and far between here at OC3D. The relative performance differences of their processors and chipsets are so negligible that usually we'd be wasting our time and yours looking for an nth improvement. Nobody is sadder about this state of affairs than ourselves. We cut our teeth on AMD CPUs, whether it was the Barton core of yore or, for our orange elder statesman, the Thunderbird.
We're delighted that things seem to be finally turning the corner, with the A10 6800K a particular highlight. We know that many of you wonder why we use the APU versions for our testing but for the money, and we know many of you are on strict budgets, they're impossible to beat. It's not just us who believe this as both Sony and Microsoft have jumped on the AMD APU bandwagon with their Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles. For those of you looking to buy a dedicated graphics card you can buy a cheaper Athlon 750K quad core without the onboard graphics.
Just because you're staying on a tight budget doesn't mean that you should be left bereft of features and that is where the Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X steps in. For an extremely meagre price of £80 you get a motherboard that has everything you could reasonably expect to find. Good overclocking performance, good looks, plenty of connectivity, some brand kudos, and all of that without breaking the bank. The only areas that even hint at the affordable nature are the fairly plain heatsinks, and the vertical SATA connectors for the #3-8 ports. Otherwise it's a robust delight. The audio is a particular highlight, being perhaps the best we've heard on an AMD motherboard.
In a market that is sadly short on choice, it's great that Gigabyte have applied their G1.Killer branding to an AMD motherboard, but kept the pricing at the level one would normally expect. It would have been very easy to assume that the prestige of the brand-name alone would allow them to charge the earth, so we very much like seeing common sense prevail.
For the combination of affordability, connectivity and that low price, we think the Gigabyte G1.Sniper A88X should be at the top of your list if you're looking for a FM2+ motherboard, and we're happy to award it our OC3D Gamers Choice, and for that low price, our Value For Money award too.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the G1.Sniper A88X for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.