Gigabyte X58A-UD9 and GTX480 Quad Sli Review
A couple of things to note about the CPU socket. Firstly the amount of chokes around the CPU is unbelievable, as befits a board with this much capability. The heatsinks on the power circuitry and linked to each other, and the northbridge, by virtue of a huge heatpipe. However they have also been well designed to ensure that all but the largest CPU cooler shouldn't foul them.
The RAM slots strangely don't use the single clasp retention that are used on many other high-end boards. Below them we have the only couple of curious design choices on the motherboard. The power button is a bit in the middle of nowhere, and the reset switch is tiny. Not at all in keeping with the rest of the board.
Yes, there really are seven PCI-e slots on this board. Plenty of Quad goodness. Of course they can't all be populated due to double-width cooling solutions on cards, but most people will use a board like this with water-cooling and so space wont be an issue. Four stock high-end graphics cards will fit snugly though. Above and below the PCI-e slots are two molex inputs to help provide the juice necessary to run such a configuration. In keeping with the "everything on one board" philosophy we even have a FDD header. Yes you too can spend the best part of £500 on a motherboard and keep your 1.44mb floppy disk to hand.
Moving to the other corner it's dominated by that cooler. Anyone who's seen a big muscle car with a louvred bonnet will instantly recognise the theme Gigabyte seem to be aiming for. The front-panel header is the colour-coded one we love so much, and the right hand edge of the board is absolutely dominated by storage connectors. 6 SATA2 ports, then 2 SATA6 ports, an IDE and then another 2 SATA6. Not sure why they split the SATA6 ports up though. You'd imagine it's to make routing cables to the opticals, traditionally kept at the top of a case, easier. But there aren't any SATA6 opticals about and we haven't even heard a whisper of any forthcoming.
Heat is the enemy of every enthusiast, and here Gigabyte have tripped over themselves a bit. We have a combined water and air solution for the chipset, which is no use to anybody really. The water guys will either use their own block, or not want all that extra metal to have to cool. And the air brigade wont get the full benefit of a specifically designed cooler. It's a curious choice indeed.
Additionally Gigabyte provide two towers of aluminium to help disperse some of the heat created. Again it's just not well a well-thought out solution though. Because they need to be a certain thinness to fit between a graphics card in the top slot, and the CPU cooler, the likelyhood of any air passing across them is minimal. Even in the most extreme air chassis you'll still struggle to keep them cool. The primary problem is that they are, by nature, a heatsink. Ergo they soak up heat. They are also position right above the primary GPU. It doesn't need a genius to work out that what they will do is soak up all the heat from the primary graphics card and, thanks to the lack of airflow, hold onto it just below your CPU.
On the IO panel we find all the standard things we'd expect such as Firewire, USB3, twin Gigabit ethernet and the like.