Gigabyte X79S-UP5 Review
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......