With the recently released P67 chipset from Intel supporting their latest LGA1155 socket, a replacement for the LGA1156, it's not surprising to see many manufacturers releasing new boards to support this.
We've looked at a couple so far, the Maximus IV Extreme from ASUS, and the reference design board from Intel themselves.
However there has been a motherboard that for a long time we've been waiting to test. When we first got a glimpse of it a few months ago we were so stunned with its beauty that we had to show you a preview.
Now it's finally here we can get cracking and see if the performance lives up to the looks.
There is some seriously high-end technology going on with the UD7. The Realtek ALC889 audio is the best on-board solution around. Twin, team-able, GigaLAN connections. The only x16/x16 Crossfire/SLI motherboard we've tested so far (both the other two run x8/x8). 4 SATA 6Gbp/s connectors and 2 6Gbp/s eSATA ones. 6x USB3.0 connectors and Dual-BIOS.
Normally we let the technical specifications table speak for itself, but having been heartily disappointed with the technology available on the ASUS offering it's only right to highlight how much more up-to-date and acceptable the Gigabyte UD7 is.
|Storage Interface||Chipset: |
|IEEE 1394||T.I. TSB43AB23 chip: |
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
The box for the UD7 is as amazing as the board is. A clear black top and back, with shiny gold sides.
This is such a large departure from the blue and light-blue Gigabyte colour-scheme that they deserve huge praise for trying something new, and succeeding in such a comprehensive manner.
Within the exterior we have a huge window that allows you to spend ages looking at the board and the clear plastic cover helpfully protects the motherboard from your drool.
Within the accessories package we have the standard selection of SATA cables, Crossfire bridge, manuals and driver disk.
The simple fact of the matter is this. This is the most beautiful motherboard we've ever laid eyes on. No different colours for the various PCIe slots. No variances in the the RAM pairings. In a Spinal Tap fashion, none more black.
It seems a small thing that all the slots are the same colour, but actually there is more to it than meets the eye. This is a UD7 motherboard. It's the absolute premium motherboard Gigabyte do for this chipset and is targeted squarely at enthusiasts. We don't need different colours to be able to tell the difference between a PCIe x16 slot and a legacy PCI slot. We can cope with understanding the DIMM numbering scheme.
It's like Gigabyte are treating us as adults. Given that they once rivalled DFI for the "Crayola factory" style motherboards this is a massive leap forwards and one that cannot be overstated how pleasing it is to see.
Even the heatsinks have a level of class about them and the design. The gold on the UD7 is no mere cheapo dull gold effect, but rather so fine we'd think it was plated. The heatsink design shows that some of the more outre ones we've come across lately are needlessly esoteric.
Not one, but two NEC chips provide a huge amount of USB3.0 ports. With USB3.0 being backwards compatible with USB2.0 it's been a surprise that more manufacturers aren't switching most of their ports to USB3.0.
The IO panel really highlights what a quality piece of hardware this is. USB3.0, eSATA 6Gbp/s, dual LAN. Everything you could wish for on a modern board.
If the amount of connectivity on the back isn't sufficient there are plenty of USB2.0 and USB3.0 headers on the bottom of the UD7, alongside the always excellent Gigabyte front-panel header and 7 segment status display.
Finally a little porn in aluminium form with a close-up of these two stunning heatsinks. If you think this looks good in the pictures, it looks ten times sexier in the flesh. Most things do but it's especially true of the P67A-UD7.
Intel Core i5-2500K
Muskin Joule 1200w
4GB Kingston Genesis 2133MHz
Windows 7 Ultimate x64
Firstly we need to mention that with the i5-2500K being such an outstanding choice of processor we will be using it for all our LGA1155 reviews. Although the i7-2600K has hyper-threading the 2500K is such a bargain and will be so popular we wanted to use what you're all likely to use.
Secondly as you may have noticed we've adjusted the way we do our graphs. With the new chipset comes a chance to give a larger selection of results. For the moment we're comparing the Gigabyte UD7 against the reference Intel motherboard housing both the i5-2500K and i7-2600K.
The final chance is that rather than stick to a certain speed of overclock to make sure that all the motherboards have a chance to demonstrate their underlying performance we will be using whatever the best stable overclock we can attain is.
Overclocking on the UD7 is, in keeping with the new range of Intel hardware, simplicity itself.
With the previous boards it looked like the only possible way to overclock was to change the turbo multiplier and gain the benefits of your overclock when the processor is under heavy loading.
However Gigabyte have shown this is not the case, as we can overclock the i5-2500K in the same manner we are used to with the processor being constantly running at its new higher speed. You just go to the CPU Configuration part of the BIOS and litterally disable everything, just make sure you leave the active cores section alone! Once you have done this the bios wont have Turbo enabled and allow you to crank the CPU Multiplier way past the maximum that you will find on many other boards to levels normally only available to turbo clocks.
This is an example taken from a Gigabyte press pack that is doing the rounds.
You can still use the Turbo overclocking method if you wish of course, and take the energy savings that it brings. But for our purposes in which a seemingly endlessly moving CPU speed is more of a hindrance than a benefit, we're delighted to be able to have a more stable platform from which to tweak.
Reaching 4.6GHz is now so easy that anyone who can change their boot order in the BIOS can do it. Simply up your multiplier, put the CPU volts to around 1.3 (CPU dependant as ever this will not work for everyone), and enable Load Line Line Calibration to assist with the vdroop when under load.
Going beyond that does require a little tweaking, but nothing like the levels we've seen on previous chipsets. Whereas the Maximus IV topped out at 4.6GHz the Gigabyte UD7 BIOS is slightly more mature and quite happily strolls along at 4.9GHz without getting above 70°C on our Noctua cooler.
Pretty amazing I think you'll agree.
So what are the benefits of such a high clock speed? wPrime takes advantage of everything you can throw at it and therefore the 2500K is naturally beaten by the hyper-threading enabled i7s. However the UD7 shows its class by being a long way ahead of the reference Intel board.
Obviously the whole graph is somewhat compressed because the inclusion of the AES instruction set in the latest 32nm Intel CPUs gives a much larger result than the rest.
However, the UD7 once again comes through with flying colours. Not only do we get the highest AES result we've seen, but the other three tests give results far in advance of those on the reference Intel board and comprehensively out-perform a stock HT enabled i7-2600K.
A couple of things worth noting here. Firstly the UD7, as expected, shows it's not just a pretty face by being an exceptional performer as well. More generally though the i5-2500K actually gives a much closer set of results than the 2600K that seems to struggle in the read testing, and far beyond the triple-channel X58 results of the i7-950.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark Vantage tests the whole system with a range of applications that mimic average PC usage. In keeping with the incredible performance we've seen so far from the Gigabyte UD7 the i5-2500K it actually tops the chart entirely beating everything else on test. 1000 points clear of a 5GHz 2600K on a reference board. Impressive stuff.
Just over 7 and 3 quarter points in the CPU score is very high indeed, especially for a non-HT processor. Of course the 2600K wins comfortably, but the UD7 versus the Intel reference board is a complete mis-match with the UD7 winning by miles.
Sandra is a very stern test of the processor separated from the rest of the system but we can see even here how the excellence of the overclock on the UD7 pays dividends as it's ahead of the Intel board especially in the Dhrystone test.
The Processor MultiMedia test finally is a test that brings the two i5-2500K overclocks neck and neck. The benefits of hyper-threading in this particular test are clear, but neither the UD7 nor the Intel reference board can separate themselves from each other.
3D Mark Vantage
As we've discovered many times before 3D Mark is infinitesimally more reliant upon the GPU than the CPU and therefore as all of our tests were conducted on a reference GTX570 we see roughly the same results across the board. With only a single GPU in use the benefits of the 16x/16x PCIe lanes on the UD7 don't become visible.
3D Mark 11
With a very different set of tests 3D Mark 11 still gives approximately the same results. Once again if there is any extra performance to be eked out it's the UD7 that manages to find it, but it's not such a difference that 3D Mark can be the foundation of any decision making.
*bangs head off desk*. Crysis, a pox on thee. It's so unreliable. There is absolutely no reason at all why the UD7 doesn't at least match the scores of the Intel reference board and spank the stock setting, but there it is. As this is the only result in which this performance decrease is visible, and with over a year of Crysis experience behind us, you could pretty much bet your house that it's Crytek being unable to produce a consistent game engine rather than a flaw with the Gigabyte P67A-UD7.
Alien vs Predator
As if to demonstrate the above we have normal service resumed with Alien vs Predator. The results are nip and tuck but the UD7 just about manages to edge ahead consistently enough that it's more than by accident.
It wont surprise anyone to discover that here at OC3D we're very high on the Gigabyte P67A-UD7.
Let's start with the obvious. It's a stunner. We just don't tire of looking at it and can't imagine that you do either. Although black and gold initially gives us bad nightmares of kitsch 80s things, it's done so tastefully here that we wonder how on earth it ever fell out of fashion. If it's good enough for a Formula One team, it's good enough for us.
It would be, especially in these "all about the bling" times, to have gone wild with the gold and perhaps made all the heatsinks gold against a black circuit board backdrop, but Gigabyte have shown that they have finally cast of the shackles of their history and can really bring a classy looking, tastefully designed, motherboard to the table.
The inclusion of all black slots across the board really deserves highlighting. How often have we, as enthusiasts, brought a board that clearly would only ever be purchased by the geeks in the audience, and found it's almost patronising in its paint-by-numbers slot colourings? Maximum kudos to Gigabyte for treating us like we have half a brain which allows them to really focus on the aesthetic.
However this is by no means a Paris Hilton board though, all looks and absolutely no redeeming qualities. No Sir. This has as much go as it does show.
Overclocking is an absolute breeze. We really can't emphasise this enough. To reach 4.5 or 4.6 GHz is so simple that unless you're either a complete technophobe, or utterly lazy and demand a one-button solution, then anyone can do it. Seriously. If you can change the clock or boot order in your BIOS, you can overclock this board.
Should you wish to go further it's still not difficult, and we managed a perfectly stable 4.9GHz out of our humble Intel i5-2500K CPU. It's not just big numbers either as throughout our testing, Crysis notwithstanding, the UD7 comfortably beat the Intel reference design board.
Pricing is fantastic too. The under-equipped and average performing ASUS Maximus IV Extreme is an eye-watering £300-odd. The Gigabyte UD7 should be available for £250, yet is superior in every respect.
When you add in the many high-end features it comes with, such as a plethora of USB3.0 ports and expansions, eSATA and SATA 6Gbp/s by the bucketload and full 16x/16x PCIe slots it's easy to see why this is a clear winner of the much coveted OC3D Gold Award. The ease of overclocking and performance that unleashes also mean it's worthy of our Performance Award too.
The benchmark has been set. The Gigabyte P67A-UD7 is the mark every motherboard, not just P67 equipped boards, should aim for.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the UD7 for testing. Discuss in our forums.