It's been a while now since we reviewed Gigabyte's first X58 motherboard and one which I was very impressed with, the EX58 UD5. Since then we have reviewed a number of motherboards from the ever popular Asus P6T to the High Performing DFI T3eH8. None of those boards however, could match the all round abilities of the UD5, especially for the price. So then, what can the UD4P, Gigabytes latest offering bring to the table? Well, for a start it is cheaper than the UD5, it's still a feature packed board and as we will see, it has only forsaken a few features of the UD5 which you may or may not miss.
Priced between the UD5 Extreme and the budget DS3R, the UD4P is the latest performance X58 motherboard based on Intel's Skt1366 configuration and one of seven motherboards hailing from the Taiwanese company. All of the boards from Gigabyte are cut down versions of the range topping UD5 Extreme. The UD4P has a slightly different PCIe configuration, sporting 2x16 PCIe ports which drop down to 1xPCI16 and 1x8 when the third (orange) 8 speed PCIe port is used. The UD5 however retains the full 16 lanes of PCIe 2.0 goodness when the third slot is used. In contrast the UD3R has 2 full size PCIe ports so does not allow 3-way SLI/CrossfireX. The UD4P also has less SATA ports than the UD5 but as it already has 8 SATA ports only the storage hoarders should be concerned.
The UD4P does however have a feature which the UD5 does not and that's the Ultra TPM encryption capability. The TPM (Trusted Module Platform) allows users to secure their files, preventing any unauthorised access without the keys stored on the USB stick. Being much more secure than software based encryption, TPM is perfect for users who might have what some might say 'sensitive information' on their PC. These keys can also be backed up in the BIOS should you be the forgetful type. Once the key's are stored on the USB stick they are then erased from the PC preventing anyone from accessing your protected files without the key. Simply unplugging your USB key locks up the files and renders them unusable until the USB key (and therefore the keys) are re-inserted. Thankfully Gigabyte include full instructions for this procedure with a separate manual.
Being part of the Ultra Durable range, the UD4P features quality components which provide better cooling, greater efficiency and enhanced signal quality. This, along with lower EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) provides greater stability allowing for higher overclocks.
Here's What Gigabyte have to say about the EX58-UD4P:
An Impressive specification to say the least. Raid RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10 is available on the Intel controller and Gigabyte have also managed to cram a floppy port on the board for good measure which is a rarity these days. This, along with dual PS/2 ports should ease the monetary burden of upgrade for those clinging to yesterdays hardware.
Let's take a look at the aesthetics of the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P...
Packaging & Appearance
As with the Gigabyte EX58-UD5 (reviewed here), the UD4P is packaged in a white box with a holographic weave effect. The front of the box is plastered with emblems and advertisements of the features of the motherboard. Taking pride of place though is the Ultra Durable badge informing the prospective buyer that the EX58-UD4P has 2oz of copper in the PCB, Japanese solid capacitors Lower RDS(on) Mosfets and Ferrite core chokes. Flipping the box over we see that the features are explained in greater depth. Despite the UD4P being a mid range board it's as feature packed as any high end board on the market at the moment.
Removing the outer sleeve and opening the plain white reinforced box we come to the accessories of the motherboard. Gigabyte include an I/O shield, 4x SATA cables, e-SATA cables, IDE and floppy cables as well as a small (dual) and large (triple) SLI bridge. Aside from the obligatory driver CD and manual, Gigabyte also include 3 other manuals for you to peruse should you need further instruction on setting the motherboard up for the first time.
The motherboard itself is very similar to the UD5 but there are a few discreet differences. The colour scheme is the much improved blue/white affair but Gigabyte have still seen fit to throw a little extra colour into the mix with couple of orange PCIe slots. The only other ports that really stick out like a sore thumb are the USB ports. It's a crying shame that the whole board could not be matched up to one colour scheme as the blue/white is very attractive, spoilt only by the orange and yellow ports. Still this is a far cry from the days of the rainbow coloured Gigabyte boards of old so they are to be applauded for that.
The CPU socket area is very cluttered thanks to the 12 Phase power delivery. All of the chokes are ferrite core ensuring stable clean power is supplied to the CPU even under the highest load conditions, this along with solid capacitors should also ensure that the motherboard will still be going strong long after the socket has become obsolete. The six memory slots support triple channel DDR3 up to a maximum of 24GB.
Onto the PCIe area and we find that from top to bottom there are: PCIex1, PCIex4, PCIe 2.0 x16, PCI, PCIe 2.0 x16, PCI and PCIe 2.0 x8. All of the 16/8x PCIe slots are CrossfireX/SLI compatible and both the blue slots will provide the full 16 lanes. However, when a third card is added to the bottom slot then the second blue slot along with the orange slot drop down to 8 lanes. At present this has very little effect on todays GPUs as there is no requirement for 16 lanes on PCIe 2.0. 8x PCIe 2.0 provides roughly the same bandwidth of PCIe 1.1 x16 so this is a bit of a none issue. Perhaps only the dual GPU cards would be hindered by 8 lanes but as these cards can't be run in Tri configuration this is a none issue.
The UD4P is missing 2 SATA parts that it's bigger brother has however, as they are on the Gigabyte SATA2 controller I doubt they will be missed too much, especially as the board still has 6 SATA ports on the Intel ICH10R controller and a further 2 on the Gigabyte SATA2, not to mention the eSATA ports available.
The I/O area of the boards has plenty (8) USB ports, a single Gigabit LAN port, 7.1 audio courtesy of 6x 3.5mm jacks, S/PDIF, Firewire and 2 PS/2 ports. There's also a handy CMOS reset button allowing the user to reset the BIOS should the settings create instability. Toward the bottom of the board there are two USB sockets and a further two fire wire ports. The motherboard header area is colour coded to ensure ease of connection but sadly no quick connector is provided. Above these is an IDE port that while rapidly becoming obsolete is still frequently used by those with older hardware.
The UD4P features 2 BIOS chips that can recover a corrupt flash with the redundant BIOS chip re-flashing the corrupt one should the need arise. Next to these chips is a floppy drive port. While the floppy port is rarely used for anything other than a BIOS flash these days, some people swear by this method of BIOS flashing and are reluctant to try any other method. To the top right of the board is a power on/off and reset switch. I would liked to have seen the reset switch be something more than a tiny little button as it can be fiddly to use. Never the less it's great that Gigabyte have considered those who run motherboards out of the box so to speak.
Removing the Aluminium heatpiped which snakes along the motherboard was a relatively simple affair with the two Mosfet coolers being a push pin design and the QPI (NB) and Southbridge held fast by spring loaded screws. This design ensures that there is a near perfect mount and thanks to the generous amount of paste used the mount was indeed very good. The Mosfets transfer heat by the means of thermal tape which again is the perfect material for the uneven surfaces of the Mosfets.
Sadly, one area which has seen a budget restraint is the heat sink cooler. On the surface, the gun metal grey looks attractive enough but the Aluminium material used is not as good as copper for transferring heat. Hopefully this won't have too much of an effect on the cooling of the motherboard as the thick finned cooler certainly does not have as much surface area as the more expensive Gigabyte boards.
So there you have it, a very attractive motherboard with only a few discreet differences between it and the UD5. The packaging could be improved, especially in the way the accessories are packaged as they are simply separated from the motherboard by a loose layer of cardboard. This is packaging at its most basic and something Gigabyte would do well to change as they are slowly falling behind in this area when compared to other manufacturers. Beauty is only skin deep though and thankfully there has not been too much cost cutting where it counts, the motherboard itself.
Let's take a look at the brains behind the board, the Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) section of the Gigabyte EX58 - UD4P's BIOS...
Starting the board up, the first screen we come across after the VGA has initialized is the Full Screen Logo which in effect is the same as the UD5 albeit a red/pink blur instead of a purple one. The section we are most interested in is the MIT (Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker) as this is where we find all the overclocking options and performance tweaks for the UD4P.
Those who are familiar with the Gigabyte BIOS of old will feel right at home here despite the lack of FSB controls. These are replaced with a combination of Base Clock (Bclk), QPI and Uncore controls. For all intents and purposes just adjusting the Bclk will serve most needs, leaving the QPI and Uncore settings on Auto which auto adjusts depending on your clockspeed. All of the major CPU features can be enabled/disabled in it's own section.
The BIOS is very user friendly and can be navigated by the arrow keys. Pressing enter on the required setting will bring up a new window as with the QPI Link speed below showing all the available options. To save time if you know your required setting you can simply scroll through them via +/- keys or input the setting directly as with the voltages. One noteworthy point I would make however, is that some settings are repeated depending on which section of the BIOS you are in at that time (See both screenshots below).
The Uncore frequency is adjusted by the means of multipliers with a maximum of x18 available. Once this multiplier is used then the readout is changed to reflect this new value below the adjustment. A ridiculous Base Clock value of 1200 is available should you be an overclocking Deity but the base clock increases/decreases by single numbers for the mere mortals out there.
The Advanced Clock Control section fine tunes some of the motherboards frequencies such as the PCIe bus speed. Clock drives and skew can also be fine tuned in this section too along with C.I.A.2 (CPU Intelligent Accelerator 2) which allows automatic overclock to values of Disabled, Cruise, Sports, Racing, Turbo and Full thrust,overclocking your CPU by 0, 5-7%, 7-9%, 9-11%, 15-17% and 17-19% respectively. Another auto overclocking utility is the Performance enhance setting (Stand, Turbo, Extreme) which Gigabyte claim changes your PC's performance to basic, Good and extreme performance respectively.
As with Uncore and QPI, Memory bandwidth is controlled by multipliers numbered 6 through 18 i.e a 200 Bclk with an 8x Multi will results in your memory running at 1600MHz - simples! (insert Meerkat wink here). Memory timings are very thorough thanks to the Gigabyte method of setting the latency for each individual channel. While only the main 5 options are available, opening up the advanced DDR timings selection allows a multitude of sub-timings for you to fiddle with until the early hours.
The Voltage section is very comprehensive allowing a massive amount of on-board device configuration. Not only that but the serious amount of voltages allowed could very easily damage your components and motherboard so use with extreme caution. Thankfully Gigabyte remind you when you are being a tad ambitious with colour coded warnings, yellow, purple and red depending on the severity of the voltage selected.
The PC Health screen is perhaps the one section I was a little disappointed in due to the lack of configuration for the 6 on board fan headers. The fan speeds are either controlled by the motherboard or set to run full tilt. Warning are given should your fan fails which is a welcome inclusion but I wish they had actually considered the fact some fan headers might need extra configuration with true adjustable speeds. A screen missing from other motherboards is the security chip configuration screen (default = disabled). Enabling this screen will allow you to make use of the TDP features of the UD4P.
Notice I mentioned earlier that Gigabyte remind you of excessive voltages used by colour coding the resultant setting, well they also present a nice little reminder on the save CMOS screen depicting which setting is causing concern. In my case I had set my DDR3 voltage to 1.66v, this reminder would have been welcome were it not for the fact that this board seemed incapable of setting the Vdimm to the recommended value of 1.65. 1.64 or 1.66 were my only choices. Plucking up the courage I decided to risk it for a biscuit and saved the settings regardless.
Flashing the BIOS was a breeze and perhaps the best method I have encountered thus far with a motherboard. Simply download the BIOS to your desktop, unpack the contents to a USB stick and on reboot hit F8 which takes you to the BIOS flash screen allowing you to save your current BIOS or flash to a new one. I did not flash the BIOS via windows although Gigabyte do allow for this method. After a number of failed BIOS flashes, I would not recommend using this method, especially when flashing via USB stick is so straightforward.
Well thats about it for the BIOS so I'll move straight on to the Test setup and overclocking section where we will find out exactly how this board performs...
Despite outperforming all of the boards in 3DMark, the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P could not replicate those results in the real world gaming tests. In fact, for COD4 it showed terrible performance in comparison though that does appear to be a one off as the motherboard performed on a par with the others in Far Cry 2 and Crysis.
Let's take a look at it's overall performance...
PCMark Vantage is the latest benchmarking suite from Futuremark. Differing significantly from their 3DMark suites, PCMark performs a series of benchmarks designed to recreate and benchmark scenarios of a PC being used for everyday tasks. Vantage has a Vista only requirement as it actually relies on several different components from the OS in order to run correctly.
While the Gigabyte hardly blew the competition away it did manage to come out on top in 5 of the 6 tests in PCMark Vantage, a feat not managed by any other board previously tested at OC3D. Interestingly, Vantage puts the Gigabyte top of the pile in the gaming result which goes to show you should never fully trust synthetic benchmarks as in real world test the Gigabyte was mediocre. However, as the results above show, the Gigabyte board is a solid performer in all the tests we ran today.
Let's head over to the conclusion where I attempt to put today's testing into perspective...
It's a rare day indeed when I come across such a well rounded motherboard. All of the other motherboards on test have some failing, be it price, overclocking, aesthetics, cooling etc. The Gigabyte EX58-UD4P hit's the sweet spot in almost everything. It looks the business (but please get rid of those orange and yellow slots!), it's performance is up their with boards costing a third more and it's features, while not quite as extensive as others are useful and not just added for the sake of it.
I was surprised at how similar the UD4P and the UD5 were, the UD5 being our test rig for other components. The UD4P, at a glance looks almost identical to the UD5, it clocks exactly the same and has the majority of the features it's bigger brother has. The BIOS of the two boards are near identical and very easy to use. While they are not as complex as say the DFI, all the main features are there to allow some supreme overclocks. It works well in AUTO configuration too which is a blessing for those unsure about reference voltages and the calculations needed to offset these with VTT etc.
I would have liked to have seen copper cooling instead of the Aluminium used but that would add to the cost of the motherboard and put it into competition with the big boys, thereby defeating the object of this motherboard. Priced around the £200 mark it's by no means cheap but as X58 goes the UD4P is placed in the mid-range sector. However, I think I have shown that this motherboard is capable of punching above it's weight and on occasion placing high end boards firmly on their backsides.
If you are in the market for a feature packed, high performing motherboard that ticks all the right boxes in the mid-range sector, I cannot think of a better motherboard than the UD4P.
- On board LED's
- SLI/Crossfire compatibility
- Comprehensive accessories
- Packaging could be better
- Aluminium heatsinks
- Orange/yellow slots