Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 Review - Full Review Including Audio Analysis + Testing(RMAA)
The G1.Sniper 5 Review
So earlier this month everyone saw the launch of the 4th generation core I processors from Intel, Haswell. Haswell is the latest in Intel?s mainstream lineup bringing new technologies such as the integrated silicon voltage regulator to the average consumer. The SharkBay platform is the code name for the Z87 chipset and today I will cover the intricacies of the G1.Sniper 5, GIGABYTE?s top of the line G1-Killer series motherboard. I will cover brand new technologies such as Flexible I/O, which is the ability given to the motherboard makers to customize the amount of USB 3.0, SATA6G, and PCI-E 2.0 from the PCH. I will also cover some of GIGABYTE?s latest technologies such as their new AMP-UP replaceable operational amplifier, their new UEFI, and software. So without further ado I bring you the G1.Sniper 5 Review.
Box, Board, and Accessories:
The G1.Sniper 5 totes a pretty big box. Advertised on the front is their replaceable AMP-UP kit which includes an extra o-amp and IC tweezers for replacing it.
The back of the box shows the user all the fancy features of the Sniper 5.
1. 6x SATA6GB/s Cables
2. USB 3.0 front case panel bay
3. BackPanel I/O Shield
4. GC Dual Band Wifi/BT 4.0 with new Antenna Kit
5. OP-AMP Kit(Tweezers and 1 extra OP-AMP)
6. 4-way SLI Bridge
7. 3-way SLI Bridge
8. 2-way SLI Bridge
9. 2-way CF Bridge
10. Driver DVD + Manuals
Here we have an up close of some of the parts. Since the jacks are gold plated they aren?t color coordinated, so the IO shield can show the end user which port is AMPed up and which are not.
You can also see the stream line antenna, it combines both the Bluetooth and Wifi into one, and it is magnetic. It looks pretty cool.
Okay so here we have the majestic G1.Sniper 5. The board supports 32GB of DDR3, 4-way SLI/CF at 8x/8x/8x/8x. The heatsinks have active and water cooling, we have 10x SATA6G ports, and 10x USB 3.0 ports. The board also has 9 fan headers, the fan on the heatsink doesn?t use any of those 9, and I am pretty sure you have full control of at least 7 of those 9 both in the UEFI and in Software.
Compared to the G1.Sniper 3 the G1.Sniper 5 is like comparing a BWM 3 series to a 5 series, the G1.Sniper 5 is so beefed up it requires 2 more PCB layers than its predecessor.
Here we have the backpanel:
1. 6x USB 3.0(the two closest to the audio jacks are Intel, the rest are through a hub)
2. Gold Plated TOSLINK w/S/PDIF Digital
3. 2x USB 2.0
4. 2x Gold Plated HDMI
5. Gold Plated DisplayPort
6. Intel NIC Port
7. Bigfoot Killer NIC Port
8. PS/2 Keyboard and Mouse
9. Gold Plated S/PDIF Optical
As you can see there is a fan which blows down onto the VRM heatsink. This fan is pretty quiet actually and the heatsink I cold to the touch when the fan spins, meaning that the fan really is just for esthetics. The heatsinks is cooling a 16 phase VRM powered by IR3550 PowIRstages. We can also see the nice black capacitors. The VRM heatsink and the PLX/PCH heatsink are not connected. I will take apart the heatsink later to show you how it is constructed.
The PCI-E layout supports 4-way SLI/CF with the help of a PLX chip. The lane layout is 16x/8x/16x/8x electrical, however in 4-way situations the slots will all drop to 8x. The golden skull also has illumination behind it. You can always unplug the wire that provides the PCH heatsink with its power, however the illumination isn?t too bright and you might not notice it. We can also see 10 SATA ports, all of them are the SATA6GB/s revision, the gray are powered by a 3rd party Marvell controller. The red basin in the upper USB 3.0 header signifies USB 3.0 ON/OFF Charge capability. USB 3.0 requires extra chips to provide extra charging power.
Here we have the audio section; we can also see the two NICs from here. We will cover this section in more depth. All the black 1x slots are powered by the PCH and are PCI-E 2.0.
Another shot of the PCI-E lanes and the audio section. The golden MUSE ES capacitors from Nichicon are low profile so that they won?t get damaged by the GPUs.
Here we have the SATA ports and some other things, the SATA power connector is for extra PCI-E power.
Here we have the OC features of the motherboard. GIGABYTE has added a really great new OC feature to all their boards with these extra OC features. That feature is called Single BIOS mode switch. I am sure many of you experienced GBT fans have seen the error code ?db? this stands for Dual BIOS, it is the Main BIOS checking the Backup and it results in a few extra reboot cycles. However if you disable Dual BIOS feature of the board then your OC recovery times are much quicker and overclocking becomes less of a headache, the Single BIOS mode switch allows this. By default this switch is set to Dual BIOS mode, but you can really cut down on OC recovery time with this switch. In my opinion the position of these features on this board is really great.
Now I will cover the heatsinks, first off you will notice that the fan doesn?t blow directly down, instead it blows down at an angle. This is because the air blows out and towards the PCI-E area, this can actually cool down your top GPU as the fan is pretty good. You might also notice the water cooling pipes are capped.
Here we have the PCH heatsink and the VRM heatsink turned over. The heatpipe in the PCH heatsink actually has that direct copper contact with the chip even if it?s only part of it, that is pretty high quality.
Here I have taken apart the VRM heatsink and you can see the water-pipe. It is pretty interesting how they pulled this off, and since heatsink comes from the same vendor as the Maximus 5 Formula it seems, we can assume this is how they usually put together these types of heatsinks. The waterpipe is secured with screws and a thermal paste helps fill in the micro-gaps between the copper pipe and the aluminum housing.
Here I have taken it all apart.
Another shot of the angle, I think it is pretty cool.
Here is a shot of the fan, I couldn't find many specs, but maybe some of you Google experts can.
A final shot of the PCH heatsink.
Here we have the back of the PCB where the dividing line for the audio lies. From the edge to the line the PCB is isolated from the rest of the board. GBT said the power and ground layers are pulled out of this section of the PCB to reduce EMI. The green translucent line is illuminated by LEDs which line the underside of the PCB along the length of the line.
Here is a much closer image so you guys can get up close and personal. Also you will notice this is a 8 layer PCB, last time I saw an 8 layer G1 board was the G1.Assassin (the original X58 one). The Z87X-OC Force is also 8 layers.
Here you can see exactly how bright the light is. Now GIGABYTE has implemented a setting in the BIOS to turn off these ?Audio LEDs? and it is in there so you can disable it if you don?t like it.
Here you can see how powerful the underside LEDs are. I have looked at some other brands and it seems GBT is using a lot of LEDs, this allows for illumination of almost the entire underside of the motherboard. In a case I am sure you?d see an aura around the outline of the board. I think this is a really awesome feature, its perfect bling bling.
Here we can see the PCH illumination, it isn?t that strong, however it does look kind of cool in total darkness.
Now that the heatsinks are removed we can see the board basically naked:
First thing to do is to look at the special features, the Audio is first:
This is the Core3Di quad core audio processor, it is the same chip you find on the $100+ Core3D Recon3D audio cards from creative, and it is an actual audio processor. it isn't one of those Realtek codecs that work with the Intel HD Audio in the PCH. It also uses a single PCI-E 1x 2.0 lane from the PCH.
Some high quality Nichicon Audio capacitors, four of the Muse ES and four Muse MW. Some of the caps are ultra low profile so that they don't interfere with with the GPUs. GIGABYTE has an echo chamber as well as other sound testing rooms in their HQ where they test out the quality of their on board audio designs. If you ask me that is pretty cool for a motherboard maker to have an echo chamber. We also have some other chips I will cover them now.
Here we have from the top left to the bottom right:
1.OPA2134 is a very popular operational Amplifier found on many boards, this AMP can be replaced. The other amp that is included is the LM4562 also manufacturer by TI.
2.Here we have a TPS6513 which is a very important chip for this type of amplifier as it provides the AMP with +15v and -15v and can go to 17vto fully support a full range of AMPs and their features. THis is the reason the audio output from the back panel AMPed insert is so loud, thus you need to lower your volume if changing from an un-amped port into an amped one. It is no joke or marketing gimmick.
3.We also have a DRV632 and this is a Texas Instruments AMP, this is found on many GIGABYTE boards with Z87 and a few with Z77, this AMP has really good characteristics and can drive 600ohm headphones.
Now for the NICs:
Here we have the two NICs. The one on the left is an Intel NIC and the one on the right is the e2201 which is the Bigfoot Killer NIC. The Intel one is a I217V and is Intel's latest generation Clarkville PHY which works with the built in GbE MAC in the PCH. Many of you have seen the e2205 on some MSI gaming boards, the e2205 is the cost down version of the e2201(it is bigger and takes up more space thus more integrated solutions cost more), however both offer the same feature set.
Here we have the PEX8747 which is a 48-lane switch(16x to the CPU and 32 to the slots). The PEX8747 requires its own VRM and that is what we have on the right. A Richtek RT8120 is a single phase PWM and drives a few Renesas FETs.
Now we can get to one of my favorite parts the VRM. I was told these inductors are actually rated for 60A, and they complement the 60A IR3550. This VRM could have equal power output when compared to the Z77X-UP7?s 32 phases because these inductors would allow double the current. The nice black output capacitors also are of very high quality.
Here we have a close up of the IR3550 PowIRstages which can output 60A at 11W. The IR3563B is an 8 phase digital PWM and it is the latest from International Rectifier, it also supports 2mhz per phase switching frequency(up from 1.2mhz of the IR3563A), but still you don?t really run MOSFETs at 2mhz, but this is good for doubling and quadroupling. Talking about doubling you might be wondering how they are doubling the 8 PWM phases. They use IR3599(same as on the UP7) however on this board and other 16 phase GIGABYTE Z87 boards the IR3599 is used as a doubler instead of a quadroupler, it is such a small IC that many might miss this chip.
Here we have a two phase VRM powered by Rensas K03B7 and K0393 MOSFETs and an IR3598 (doubler/dual driver) which is being used in dual driver mode here. An IR3570 is a 3+2 phase digital PWM which drives the memory VRM and the PCH.
Re: Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 Review - Full Review Including Audio Analysis + Testing(RMAA)
Here we have another interesting part, the new EC chip and the EC BIOS. EC stands for embedded controller and is something that has been used in the past by other vendors such as ASUS and their ROG boards. With EC GIGABYTE is able to provide fan control over 7 headers(6 controllable settings 2 headers are tied into one setting), GIGABYTE is also able to provide better BIOS functions. Think of EC as a do what you want chip, it supplements the UEFI BIOS ROMs and the SuperIO functionality. It is also what allows profiles to be saved even after a CMOS clear.
Here we have the Z87 PCH, the Flexible IO capability is really interesting. It allows vendors to configure the amount of native USB 3 and SATA6G. There can be a total of 6 of each, but then you also lose 2 PCI-E 2.0 lanes. So you can do 6/6/6 (USB/SATA/PCIe) or 4/8/6 or 6/8/4 or 5/7/6 and so on, however you can?t have over 18 and you can?t have more than 6 USB 3.0, 6 SATA6G, or 8 PCI-E 2.0. The Z87 PCH is also made on a different processing node than Z77, I think this is 32nm or 22nm while the Z77 was 45nm or 65nm. That is also why this PCH is only 4.1w TDP while Z77 was 6.7w.
Here we have a Marvell SE9230 which provides four (4) SATA6GB/s ports, these ports are gray on the motherboard. This controller uses 2 PCI-E links to the PCH, making it more practical than using two SE9172. It also means that if you only plug in 2 drives or 1 drive then the controller still has two PCI-E lanes of bandwidth, so if you use two drives then this is like a SE9182, if you use four then it is like two SE9172.
Here we have a nice NEC D720210 USB 3.0 SuperSpeed hub which is better than the VIA hub on the previous generation GBT boards. There is also supposedly a big benefit to this. That benefit is that the ports will work after recovering from sleep as the hubs have no issues polling the ports after recovering from sleep while the PCH does. However the Hub will check the port for devices and then send a signal to the PCH to activate the USB 3.0.
A second D720210.
Here we have half of the PCI-E 3.0 switches used for switches the lanes around the 16x slots. Each set of these 4 switch chips can switch 8x. We also have two BIOS ROMs, these ROMs are 128Mbit which is twice the capacity of Z77 BIOS ROMs. Intel has given us Quad SPI flash for better dual BIOS communication, these BIOS ROMs are 16Mb each.
Here we have the iTE8728F which is the typical SuperIO we find on GIGABYTE boards.
Here we have the USB 3.0 ON/OFF charge port, now notice the two little chips to the left of the port, these are TPS2546 and they provide the extra charging and data transfer capabilities. The two tiny ICs right above the USB 3.0 socket actually are the ESD protection. The quality on these boards is there, you just gotta look close ;)
Lately we have two NXP level shifters. Since the native Intel iGPU output is in the digital video format (for Display Port) it needs to be converted by level shifters for HDMI and or DVI, here GBT is using them for the dual HDMI.
Now I will cover the UEFI:
A few points about the UEFI:
1. There are two resolution modes, the first is full resolution which has those side panels which show temperatures and voltages, the other is the standard resolution which just shows the settings page. For full resolution mode you must use a compatible graphics card and a monitor with at least 1920x1080 resolution, DVI and HDMI connections are preferred. THis is ground breaking technology to have a 1080P HD BIOS mode, so it is going to take some time to support everyone. Otherwise most of my BIOS shots show the NON HD mode(i actually prefer it since the font is bigger).
2. The BIOS for all the boards UD3H and up have CPU OC profiles, Memory OC Profiles, and CPU+Memory OC.
3. The new UEFI is actually easy to use with the mouse as the mouse doesn't lag like it did before.
4. The new UEFI has many cool features; one of those is being able to OC on-the-fly in the BIOS without restarting. You can click the little ?on? button next to the setting you wish to change instantly, and then press apply at the bottom of the page to change the setting. This makes it easy to bin CPUs in the UEFI.
5. Users can also customize 5 ?Home? pages where you can take settings from each page and put them together on your own customized pages. You can also choose which page to enter when you enter the BIOS.
To learn to OC this board I have made a guide, please Google: GIGABYTE Z87 OC Guide and mine should come up.
THis is a shot with linx, however i redid this on an OS which supports AVX(the one board doesn't) and I did it with AIDA64 for an hour.
1.67x divider working? Yes, Check.
CPU OC to 5.2ghz? Yes, Check.
Now for benchmarks:
The audio tests from this board are the best I have ever seen with RMAA, most likley beucase it is measuring the quality of the Core3Di processor and the OP-AMP which is pretty strong.
Now for some more proof of my results:
This is the basic Core3D software.
Bigfoot Killer Software:
The new EasyTune and other GBT Software:
Here we have a motherboard with some legit audio circuitry, including a legitimate operational amplifier with the proper power circuitry to sustain it. The hardware is solid, however the Core3Di's software also helps a good amount in making everything whole. During computex, Creative boasted about the customization of their Core3Di quad core processor and how manufactures can request to have different features and functionality implemented, so not all Core3Di implementations are the same. Here we see that GIGABYTE has done a fine job with it. You can tell by looking at the other motherboards for Z87 that everyone has been racing to the audio upgrade finish line, and once again GBT is ahead of the curve using a top motherboard audio processor and implementing a never before seen replaceable/upgrade-able audio AMP built into the PC motherboard. The audio is one of my favorite parts of the G1.Killer series, and while the G1.Sniper 3 might not have been such an upgrade over the Sniper 2, the Sniper 5 is an upgrade. However this board is about a lot more than the audio, it also has upgraded NICs, which apart from the e2201 we saw in the last few G1.Killer boards and the new Intel Clarkville NIC there isn't too much to boast about. However this board must be one of the finest and durable G1.Killer boards since the original Assassin. This is the second 8-layer PCB G1.Killer, the first was the G1. Assassin (X58), however compared to the Assassin this board has better connectivity( 10 SATA6G powers and 10 USB 3.0 ports) and boasts one of the most powerful Z87 VRMs you will find. That is why I was a bit surprised to find a watercooling heatsink on the board, I think that is more for marketing than anything else.
When the fan is blowing you can feel that the heatsink is cold and the air blown out is cold as well, in my opinion the watercooling is a waste on a product like this, there is no reason to have it there and I feel some users will see it and think that they must cool the VRM heatsink with water, which isn't the case. I was glad to see that they implemented a BIOS option to turn off the green LEDS on the backside of the motherboard, however I also would have liked an option to disable all the other LEDs(the Power, POST Code, and BIOS LEDs) when needed, because in certain cases the green and orange clash a tiny bit, however some black electrical tape works just fine as well. EasyTune also is in its infancy and is much better looking than it was before, however while its fan functionality works, they need to add in a feature to have EasyTune apply your settings at system start-up, instead of you having to go in and apply them yourself (it does save your settings but wont auto apply them on start-up). Other than those few qualms I really like this board, since launch GBT has made some major strides in releasing good UEFIs for the board and form what I know will continue to tackle issues quickly as they arise. I was very pleased with this product, even its overclocking was pretty good and the BIOS is actually pretty good too at this point, a lot of the issues we saw at launch have been fixed. This board is a perfect choice for a gamer/enthusiast if one can afford to drop around $400 on a motherboard. I will sum this board up in one sentence: An expensive but really awesome motherboard which shouldn't disappoint, if you have the cash and need for a gaming motherboard which can also OC your system to its limits, then look no further as the G1.Sniper 5 is going to be very hard to beat.