When the LGA2011 socket was first unleashed upon the world there were only a handful of motherboards around, as is often the case with any major upgrade in technology. Adapting current Z68 motherboards to Z77s is a lot easier than going from X58 to X79.
One of the first models we got our hands on was the Gigabyte UD5, and it was clear from our preliminary testing that it most definitely wasn't ready for public exposure. Gigabyte agreed and the UD5 quietly disappeared.
Now, nearly a year later, we finally have our hands upon the X79S-UP5. Although the change in designation might fool others, it's obviously a UD5 v2. A revised version if you will. Regular readers will remember the P55-UD3 had a similar upgrade to cure a few issues. So, are the power problems solved with the new UP5?
But wait, I hear you cry, this is based on the Intel C606 chipset, not the X79. This isn't anything like the UD5 at all. Ahah knowledgeable readers one and all, the C606 is the workstation variant of the X79. Otherwise this would be the C606-UP5 wouldn't it. Consider it the middle child of the Intel C60x range of chipsets. For the vast majority of users this motherboard works exactly like any other LGA2011 motherboard would. If you happen to have a bunch of SAS drives laying about (anyone? didn't think so), or could afford to splash out on a Xeon (again, a very niché product) and Gigabyte has been shouting very loud about Xeon support with the C606, but its worth pointing out Xeons work perfectly fine on X79 anyways. The only thing the C600 chipset's bring to the table is support for dual sockets which this obviously does not have. It'll support your ECC RAM too, if you happen to have any.
But we know that almost nobody has SAS drives or Xeon CPUs, so to all intents and purposes this is a X79 motherboard and will be reviewed as such. We do have Xeons on hand, so we'll be running our tests on the E2687W for those of you who care about such things plus mixing it up with the good old 3960X with a hefty overclock.
|IEEE 1394||VIA VT6308 chip:|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
Up Close - Packaging
The packaging is far too busy for our liking. Wherever you look there are a host of logos and technology advertisements. To be honest it's only missing a "As seen on TV" badge to complete the look. Simplicity has obviously passed Gigabyte by.
Inside we have the standard accessories we're all used to seeing, with IO Shield, GPU bridges, SATA cables and, as the box delights in telling us, WiFi.
Here is the UP5 itself. With the C606 being capable of workstation capabilities perhaps that explains the lack of flair with the design. It's utilitarian at best.
Up Close - Features
The heatpipe beside the CPU socket is likely to cause problems for those of you with big heatsinks. This is a board designed for either a water block, or a single tower type heatsink. Speaking of heatsinks, those on the X79S-UP5 seem designed to gouge lumps out of your knuckles at every opportunity. You could probably grate cheese with them.
The PCI Express slots hint at the true expectations Gigabyte have about who will use this. Although the first slot has enough room to enable a dual slot cooler, the rest of them are tightly packed.
We can't recall seeing another motherboard with so many storage connection options. It's a bit of a false dawn though as eight of them can't be used by 99% of people reading this, so in reality it's only six SATA ports, which is less than most current motherboards.
The power heatsinks are strange. Besides their anti-knuckle design, only the top heatsink is actually touching and there for really cooling anything. The heatsink by the I/O is mainly for decoration.
Although the many SAS ports are a curiosity, the back part of the UP5 is much more standard, with all the connection options you'd expect to see from a modern motherboard.
The BIOS of the UP5 is exactly the same as the other UEFI BIOS's we've seen from Gigabyte and covered extensively on this site in previous reviews. So rather than state the obvious we will allow you to peruse them for yourself.
We'll be running two very different tests today. On the one hand we'll be using the Xeon with registered 1333MHz memory for our 'stock' settings. We all know how good the i7-3960X is, so repeating the stock results of that wont teach us anything new. Our other test will be using the i7-3960X at whatever overclock we can coax from the UP5, alongside the Dominator Platinum running at 2133MHz. Got all that?
Gigabyte X79S-UP5 Motherboard
Intel Xeon E3687W
Intel Core i7-3960X
Corsair Dominator Platinum 2133
Corsair AX1200 PSU
Windows 7 x64
Now we come to the crunch. The power phases on the UD5 gave us fits it was so woeful. The ones on the Z77 UD5 aren't much better. So have Gigabyte finally turned the corner?
Yes and no. Always a handy answer we know, but bear with us. Firstly the UP5 managed to get 4.6GHz out of our i7, which isn't bad at all. It's only 150MHz shy of the much pricier Rampage IV Extreme and that bonus was acheived by overclocking the BCLK. So far so good. Then you look at the core voltage, 1.392v, and we know we had 1.45v set in the BIOS. Even with every anti-vDroop measure available to us the UP5 is still droopier than a groom on his stag night. This was one of the main problems with the X79-UD5 and we would have thought with a good 12months they would have got this fixed.
In pure CPU horsepower terms the UP5 follows its clockspeed perfectly well. Not quite able to match the higher speed of the Rampage IV, but not disgraceful either. The Xeon performs well too, with only the AES result being a bit low but that's down to the processor more than the motherboard.
The Rampage IV Extreme review used 1866MHz RAM and you can really see the difference that extra 266MHz makes with the UP5 results. Our 3930K review had 2133MHz RAM and it's right on a par with the UP5. The combination of the Xeon, with its MCE benefits, and the ECC RAM really delivers a score that you would never imagine from its 1333MHz RAM. Clockspeed isn't everything boys and girls.
The latest Catalyst drivers have really given the OpenGL performance in Cinebench a massive boost, so to be fair you really can't draw any firm conclusions from our results in that particular part of the test. Although the UP5 certainly hasn't got any gremlins. Oddly the CPU score isn't as impressive, barely able to match our i7-3930K result, and nowhere near the i7-3960X on the Rampage IV Extreme.
The Persistence Of Vision raytracer is heavily CPU dependant, as all rendering engines are. Overall the UP5 puts up a good showing, but it's clear from the average PPS that clock speed is king. This does neatly highlight the 'many ways to skin a cat'. The Xeon goes for lots of slow cores, whereas the i7 goes for a few really quick ones. The difference in per CPU performance is marked, yet the overall score is nearly the same.
Folding @ Home
There is no way to beat around the bush here, the UP5 is shockingly bad in F@H. Even with the 4.6GHz i7-3960X at its heart it gives us the lowest result we've seen. Lower than the stock CPU on the reference Intel board. It's as if the moment you have a heavy loading on the CPU the power phase gives up and chokes (if you'll pardon the pun) the life out of the CPU.
Our third CPU dependant benchmark in a row and our third different result. Whereas POV-Ray showed a good turn of pace on the X79S-UP5, F@H was woeful, now with wPrime95 things return to their good state of affairs. Inconsistency seems to be the watchword.
PC Mark 7
Finally PC Mark 7. We'll discount the Xeon result because although PC Mark is excellent at taking advantage of multiple cores, it also is skewed towards certain results where brute-force CPU speed will always trump a clever design. Looking at the Core i7 CPUs we see the 3930K is 100 points behind the 3960X, which is quite a drop but okay for the price. So when the i7-3960X on the UP5 is a further 100 points behind that you get some idea of how average the performance is on the Gigabyte effort.
Both of the 3D Mark results show good performance from the UP5. Because we're running a single GPU we get the full benefit of the PCI Express 3.0 16x bandwidth.
3D Mark 11
3D Mark Vantage
It all looks so promising. You have an extra years development time, lots of RAM space, decent if unspectacular GPU support (16x, 8x, 4x) and this is the motherboard with the 5 designation. The 3s have always been a good value option, the 7s for the enthusiasts, but the 5s are where Gigabyte really make their money so the product has to be bulletproof. Recently this hasn't been the case with both the X79-UD5 and Z77-UD5 being fairly disappointing when compared to the high standards that Gigabyte have set.
Sadly this trend continues with the X79S-UP5. The biggest issue with it is the same problem we had with the original UD5, and that's the power phases are inconsistent at best. Our overclock had a higher voltage in the BIOS than was being reported when under load, which indicates problems with vDroop. On the one hand you can argue that the fact it can be stable at a lower voltage than it has set in the BIOS to boot is a good thing. It's certainly a view. However, when you're talking about a difference of just over .05v and a very expensive CPU, nobody wants to be guesstimating how much voltage their CPU will have at any one time. So you go conservative in the BIOS, which leads to poorer overclocks.
It's not even as if the board completely rocks once it does get going. Sure the results are fine in some of our testing but when it does score poorer than expected, and we are certain this is the vDroop affecting the stability and performance of the CPU, the results just fall off a cliff. The last place you want to find a bottleneck is the one element of your system that handles every component. Vdroop in this day an age, especially this much is just not acceptable for a big brand like Gigabyte as a whole, much less one of their high end boards that they had problems with the exact same ting in its previous incarnation.
What you do get though, is excellent stock performance. The inclusion of 8 SAS ports is bound to be a benefit to somebody, we just aren't sure who because we are pretty sure if you have the money for SAS drives you'll also understand the bonus of having a dedicated RAID card for them and more than likely have the money available too. Nearly everybody has SATA storage thanks to the combination of excellent performance and low £/GB pricing. If you are a company with a bunch of SAS drives you're unlikely to be looking at a desktop motherboard to support them all. Even less likely is somebody spending a thousand pounds on a Xeon and then saving a few notes on the motherboard.
It's as if Gigabyte have tried to justify the absence of a good 5 series motherboard by making it a jack of all trades. However, we are all well aware of how the rest of that idiom goes and that's the problem with the X79S-UP5. We find it sad that a company that can produce such excellent work with the G1 range can bring this to the table and be proud of it. We're wholly unconvinced the extra time behind the scenes has fixed the power problems that plagued the UD5 and seem to plague the UP5, and the extra features don't really make up for it. If we were a teacher this would definitely read "must do better".
They had 12months to fix the power issues from the UD5 and all they seem to have done is changed the chipset which wont benefit 99% of the people that end up buying this, and changed the power delivery. You'd have thought when they spent all this time changing the power side of things they would have fixed the Vdroop issue from the old board. Gigabyte should have saved wasting time on pointless changes and just fixed was was broken before hand. Would have been much cheaper for them in the long run. To say we are disappointed with this board would be an understatement.
If you're looking for a board that is like a summer dress in that is has most the important bits covered but only barely, then the UP5 might be worth a look. Thing is its now winter and there are fitter models with everything covered that do the job properly without being high maintenance. If the vdroop was not there it would be just about worthy of our Bronze award for combining features and flexibility into a reasonably priced package (for X79 prices anyway), if running at stock is your main aim then you'll be happy. If you want to overclock because you have an i7 and don't have SAS drives then your money would be better spent anywhere else. So at the last minute we decided not to give this an award at all, if Gigabyte ever fix the vdroop problems with a BIOS update then we would give it Bronze. It would then raise the question how they ever allowed it to leave the factory after testing in the first place......
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the X79S-UP5 for review. Discuss in the OC3D forums.