When Gigabyte first released their batch of X58 motherboards it contained three models representing the value, mid-range and high-end markets. They were the UD3, UD5 and UD7 respectively.
The main differences between each model were the "extras" that you got with each one. Although the UD3 did have a reduced amount of power phases compared to its two bigger brothers.
Power-phases have two main uses. Firstly to ensure that the power delivery is smooth and stable from idle through to heavy loading. The second, and to us almost more important, aspect is that the ability of a motherboard to supply plenty of amps and retain stable voltage is key to overclocking.
Sadly the original UD3 was quickly found wanting in this department and so the budget overclockers moved on to other boards with more potential. Having honed their skills on the UD9 and various P55 platforms Gigabyte are back to bring the UD3 up to the standards it should have been from the start, by giving it the increased power phases that the overclocking community demands.
With the main change being those power phases, here is the list of specifications. As you can see the UD3R is compatible with the "333" technologies and 32nm Intel Hexcore processors.
|Storage Interface||South Bridge: |
* SATA3 SSDs are not recommended for use in RAID 0 mode on Marvell SE9128 ports.
GIGABYTE SATA2 chip:
|USB||Integrated in the South Bridge |
|Internal I/O Connectors|
The UD3R v2 certainly doesn't push any boats out when it comes to design, following on perfectly from its v1 counterpart and the rest of the Gigabyte range. An information packed box gives way to the standard blue board with sky-blue and white slots that we're all familiar with.
Here you can see the many PCIe slots with the rather curiously placed legacy PCI slot as I mentioned in the video. You can also see on the bottom right the red-marked "Charge" USB header. This allows a much greater power-draw than USB standards so you can charge your iPhone/Mobile much quicker than normal.
The CPU area is where the main changes are found with the increased amount of power circuitry to better deliver smooth power and greater overclocking performance. The Gigabyte heatsinks always look lovely with clear writing and a nice deeper blue than that of the slots.
The RAM area is kept fairly clear. Normally this is where companies cram those few things they couldn't find room for elsewhere but Gigabytes design keeps everything in sensible places and allows this to have maximum airflow to keep the DIMMs and CPU cool.
Despite still retaining FDD and IDE compatibility the focus is definitely on SATA slots with 6 SATA 2 and 4 SATA 6G/bps sockets covering your storage requirements.
The front panel connectors, so often a bane of our lives, are once again well served by Gigabytes continued use of a very clear, colour-coordinated, header.
The IO panel contains everything you'd expect to see from PS2 ports, SPDIF, USB 3.0 to Audio, Firewire and LAN.
Gigabyte X58A UD3R v2
Intel Core-i7 950
6GB Mushkin Redline RAM
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
With the Gigabyte nicely positioned at the entry-level enthusiast end of the market with a £150 price tag to match, it only made sense to put it up against our most recent £150 X58 motherboard, the ASUS Sabertooth.
So how does the updated UD3R perform? Starting with the BCLK we managed to achieve 218 MHz which is higher than the Sabertooth we're up against and the original UD3 too.
With a serious step-up in Core voltage that is easily achievable with the more stable power circuitry on the v2 revision of the UD3R we managed to get the system bootable at 4.6GHz. Of course we wouldn't want to run at this voltage as a 24/7 overclock so we dropped the voltage back to 1.4 and the CPU to 4.4GHz for our testing. Speaking of which...
The processor tests of SiSoft Sandra demonstrate how pure they are. The Sabertooth 4.2GHz slots neatly between the 4GHz and 4.4GHz overclocks of the UD3R whilst the stock tests are as near as inseperable as you're likely to get.
In the Multi-Media tests their is clearly a limit of some sort reached at 4.2GHz with the extra 200MHz of the UD3R not leading to any significant improvement in results. At stock we're again inseperable. Let's move on.
AIDA64 uses different methodology to Sandra and it shows with some variance in our results. The CPU Hash benchmark, which is encryption based, follows the CPU speed pretty closely. zLib has slightly odder results giving nothing extra to the 4GHz UD3R result, but then the 4.4GHz overclock decimates the rest of the chart. PhotoWorxx gives the edge at stock to the Sabertooth and CPU Queen has everything back to normal.
Admittedly none of the differences are striking or even remotely large, but they are what they are.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark always tests the whole of the system and so can usually give a wider range of results on theoretically identical hardware. Running at stock the UD3R really takes the Sabertooth to task, beating it in all of our tests. Some of the improvements can be down to running the Catalyst 10.10c drivers on the UD3R tests instead of the 10.9s we ran on the Sabertooth, but the results cannot be denied.
Once overclocked we can again see how the i7-950 just adores a good overclock with the scores getting further apart the more you overclock it. Yes that might sound obvious, but if the different between 4GHz and 4.2GHz is worth 400 PC Marks then we'd expect the 4.4GHz UD3R v2 to get 10300, but it nearly cracks 11000. The gaming test is an ever starker demonstration of how the i7-950 starts to stretch its legs as you head towards 4.5GHz, and the improved power phases of the UD3R v2 can easily keep up.
Maxons CineBench again shows how insanely close these two systems are. Even in OpenGL the results are pretty linear with clock speed. CPU Pts do show an increase with the UD3R gaining 10% over the Sabertooth.
The freeware ray-tracing program POV-Ray replicates the CineBench results, with everything being linear to clock-speed except the UD3R v2 has the edge at stock in this particular test.
Unigine is very GPU dependant and so we see fairly close scores across the board. Contrary to the CineBench and POV-Ray tests the stock UD3R is lagging behind here, but at both overclocked settings the Gigabyte board just shades the ASUS offering by half a frame or so.
3D Mark Vantage
Finally onto the gaming benchmarks we're following the Unigine results with the UD3R at stock just a bit behind the Sabertooth, but when overclocked even at 4GHz it just edges ahead. In Extreme mode, which with this setup will probably be the one you all use, the difference between stock and overclocked lessens greatly as GPU becomes more of a factor.
What a curious bunch of results. If we can take anything it's that Crysis is as predictable as the missus. The Sabertooth has similar results at both 3GHz and 4.2GHz, but the UD3R is both miles behind and miles ahead. Crytek have never had to bench anything, obviously.
Finally the recently released HAWX 2 benchmark puts everything where we'd expect it to be. Some differences in minimum and maximum frame-rates, but at average which is the one that matters, it's clock speed that is King so the extra overclock of the UD3R v2 helps.
Thankfully as we've previous reviewed the UD3R in its v1 guise we don't need to worry so much about the design and technology elements and can focus purely upon the improvements and performance.
To that end, has the improvement to the power phases helped the overclockability of the UD3R? Most certainly. 218MHz BCLK is pretty good and although it couldn't quite hold much above 200MHz when the CPU multiplier was increased it could still happily run all day at 4GHz and, with decent cooling, 4.4GHz is a reasonable expectation with the Core i7-950 we used today. Although the Sabertooth gave us a slightly higher maximum overclock, 4.7GHz compared to 4.6GHz here, the 24/7 overclock was actually only 4.2GHz.
Our testing certainly ended up with the two boards being inseparable. For every jab thrown by one or the other, a different test saw a counter-punch. The word jab is also key here because none of the differences were so large we could label them a hay-maker, except PC Mark Vantage which absolutely loved the 4.4GHz overclock on the Gigabyte UD3R v2.
Coming in at the very acceptable £150 price-mark the X58A UD3R v2 is a definite improvement over the v1. If you're in the market for a great value board this should be at the top of your shortlist.
So which should you buy between this and the similar priced, similar performing ASUS Sabertooth? Well it's purely a matter of personal taste. Both boards are exceptionally good for the money and either will give you years of service. In a blind-test you couldn't tell them apart.
Now if that doesn't speak volumes about Gigabytes commitment to improve the original UD3, we're not sure what does. An easy winner of our Gold award.
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the X58A UD3R v2 for review today. Discuss in our forums.