[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 is a high-end socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors), using the microATX form factor. Let’s see what the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 has to offer.

The Intel Z77 is an upgraded version of the Z68 chipset with the same basic features (Intel Smart Response Technology and Virtu video switching technology), plus native support to four USB 3.0 ports. It also includes the addition of two new technologies: Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode) and Rapid Start (faster boot times).

In addition, the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.

Gigabyte has launched 12 different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset; we list the differences between them in the tables below. We won’t describe the Z77X-UD5H-WB WIFI and the Z77X-UD3H-WB WIFI models, as they are simply a version of the Z77X-UD5H and the Z77X-UD3H models bundled with a PCI Express x1 expansion card containing IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking and BlueTooth 4.0. This card is also included with the G1.Sniper 3 motherboard. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.

Specification G1.Sniper 3 Z77X-UD5H Z77X-UD3H Z77X-D3H Z77-D3H Z77-DS3H Z77P-D3
Form Factor E-ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX ATX
Memory Sockets 4 4 4 4 4 4 4
PCI Express x16 4 (x16/x0/x16/x0 or x16/x0/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8) 3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) 3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) 3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) 2 (x16/x4) 2 (x16/x4) 2 (x16/x4)
PCI Express x1 2 3 3 3 3 2 2
Standard PCI 1 1 1 1 2 2 2
CrossFireX Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
SLI Yes Yes Yes Yes No No No
SATA-300 4 4 4 4 4 3 3
SATA-600 6 5 2 4 2 2 2
eSATA-300 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
eSATA-600 0 1 2 0 0 0 0
mSATA 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
USB 2.0 4 6 6 6 10 8 8
USB 3.0 8* 8* 8 8 6 4 4
FireWire 2 2 0 0 0 0 0
BlueTooth Yes, 4.0 No No No No No No
Gigabit Ethernet 2 2 1 1 1 1 1
Wi-Fi Yes, a/b/g/n No No No No No No
VGA 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
DVI 1 1 1 1 1 1 0
HDMI 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
DisplayPort 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Audio CA0132 ALC898 VT2021 VT2021 VT2021 ALC887 ALC887
Voltage Regulator 12+2+1 12+2+1 6+2+1 6+2+1 6+1+1 4+1+1 4+1+1
Price USD 280 USD 190 USD 160 USD 145 USD 120 USD 105 NA

* The motherboard has only four “real” USB 3.0 ports that are expanded to eight using hub chips.

Specification G1.Sniper M3 X77MX-D3H Z77M-D3H
Form Factor microATX microATX microATX
Memory Sockets 4 4 4
PCI Express x16 3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) 3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4) 2 (x16/x4)
PCI Express x1 1 1 1
Standard PCI 0 0 1
CrossFireX Yes Yes Yes
SLI Yes Yes No
SATA-300 3 4 4
SATA-600 2 2 2
eSATA-300 1 0 0
eSATA-600 0 0 0
mSATA 0 0 0
USB 2.0 10 10 10
USB 3.0 4 4 4
FireWire 0 0 0
Gigabit Ethernet 1 1 1
VGA 1 1 1
DVI 1 1 1
HDMI 1 1 1
DisplayPort 1 0 0
Audio CA0132 VT2021 VT2021
Voltage Regulator 6+2+1 4+1+1 4+1+1
Price USD 180 USD 135 USD 115

Figure 1 shows you the G1.Sniper M3 motherboard.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 1: Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 comes with two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, and one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot.

The two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed. Since these slots are controlled by the CPU, they will offer PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth (8 GB/s at x16) when a “Sandy Bridge” CPU is installed, but PCI Express 3.0 bandwidth (16 GB/s at x16) when an “Ivy Bridge” CPU is used.

It is important to know that, differently from most motherboards, the second PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot is not the one close to the first slot; it is the third slot of the motherboard, the one closer to the edge of the board.

The third PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the chipset and always works at x4, offering PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth. This slot is the one in the middle.

So, if you want to install two video cards, the second video card must be installed in the third slot (labeled “PCIEX8”) and not in the second, as is the norm. Also, if you want to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will need to
use a computer case with at least five expansion slots. (Small computer cases targeted to microATX motherboards usually have four.)

The PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz (“Sandy Bridge” CPUs) or up to 1,600 MHz (“Ivy Bridge” CPUs). According to Gigabyte, the G1.Sniper M3 supports memories up to 2,400 MHz.

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. When installing two memory modules, you will have to “skip” one memory socket. On the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3, the first and third memory sockets are green, while the second and fourth are black. When installing two memory modules, use the green sockets.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]

The Intel Z77 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). Two of the SATA-300 ports and the SATA-600 ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°. One SATA-300 port uses a regular SATA connector and is located near the motherboard edge; a video card installed in the third PCI Express x16 slot (“PCIEX8”) may block it. The fourth SATA-300 port, routed to the motherboard rear panel, is available as an eSATA-300 port.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 4: The three SATA-300 ports (black) and the two SATA-600 ports (white)

The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 offers 10 USB 2.0 ports, four available on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. It also offers four USB 3.0 ports, two located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard.

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 doesn’t support FireWire ports.

This motherboard supports 5.1 audio format, which may seem like a drawback, since most motherboards in the same category support 7.1 audio. However, this motherboard uses a high-end audio codec, the Creative CA0132. Unfortunately, the precise specifications for this chip are not available to the public. The motherboard has a shield against electromagnetic interference around its audio section. See Figure 5.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 5: Shield against electromagnetic interference

The motherboard has an optical SPDIF output and an amplified headphone output on the rear panel (the dark green jack).

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by the chipset and using an Intel WG82579V chip to make the physical layer interface.

In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with four USB 2.0 ports, shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, VGA output, DVI-D output, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, eSATA-300 port, Gigabit Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 6: Motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]

This motherboard has two BIOS chips, so if the main BIOS chip is corrupted by a virus or a bad BIOS upgrade, you can still recover the motherboard.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 7: Two BIOS chips

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a module that encrypts data in order to increase the computer’s security level.

The motherboard comes with a series of stickers (shown in Figure 8) for you to use on your computer case or wherever you want.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 8: Stickers

In Figure 9, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 9: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 has six phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), and one for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces). Therefore, it uses a “6+2+1” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3567 integrated circuit, using a digital design.

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 10: Voltage regulator circuit

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 uses solid electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]

The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 has a few overclocking option
s. Below, we list the most important ones (F6 BIOS):

  • Base clock: From 80 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
  • CPU graphics clock: From 400 MHz to 3,200 MHz in 1 MHz increments
  • CPU core voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.900 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Memory controller (“IMC,” “System Agent,” VCCSA) voltage: From 0.925 V to 1.400 V in 0.005 V increments
  • CPU VTT (“I/O”) voltage: From 0.770 V to 1.440 V in 0.030 V increments
  • CPU PLL voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.200 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Memory voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.400 V in 0.020 V increments
  • Memory termination voltage: From 0.750 V to 2.192 V in 0.008 V increments
  • Memory reference voltage: From 0.674 V to 2.192 V in 0.008 V increments

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 11: Overclocking options

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 12: Voltage options

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 13: Memory options

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 motherboardFigure 14: Memory options

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 include:

  • Socket: 1155
  • Chipset: Intel Z77 Express
  • Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Three SATA-300 ports and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
  • External SATA: One eSATA-300 port controlled by the chipset
  • USB 2.0: 10 USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Four USB 3.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header on the motherboard
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
  • On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU, VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Creative CA0132 codec, on-board optical SPDIF output
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by the chipset using an Intel WG82579V to make the physical layer interface
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: No
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4, all slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX), and one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2400, 32 GB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and three four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: TPM support, two BIOS chips
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More information: https://www.gigabyte.us
  • Average price in the U.S.*: USD 180.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

Although it uses the microATX form factor, the Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3 is a high-end motherboard, targeted to users who want to build a small yet powerful PC.

Its highlights include the presence of three PCI Express x16 slots (supporting both CrossFireX and SLI), which are great to see on microATX motherboards, and a high-end audio codec from Creative. Also worth mentioning are the overclocking capability in 0.01 MHz increments, the presence of two BIOS chips, and support for three PWM fans.

Motherboards using the standard ATX form factor may bring more SATA-600 and USB 3.0 ports, but we understand that it is very hard to squeeze so many ports on a microATX motherboard.

The price of this motherboard is not bad for all the features it brings, so it is a really nice choice if you are building a small form factor computer for playing games and carrying it around.