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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

Gigabyte has released four motherboard models for the new socket LGA2011 platform, the X79-UD3, the X79-UD5, the X79-UD7, and the G1.Assassin2, targeted to the most high-end processors Intel offer for desktops today, the Core i7 “Sandy Bridge-E” models. Let’s take a look at the X79-UD3, which is the only ATX model Gigabyte is offering right now.

To better understand the Gigabyte socket LGA2011 motherboard line-up, we compiled the table below.

X79-UD3 X79-UD5 X79-UD7 G1.Assassin2
Memory Sockets 4 8 4 4
PCI Express x16 4 (x16/x16/x8 or x16/x8/x8/x8) 3 (x16/x16/x8) 4 (x16/x16/x8 or x16/x8/x8/x8) 3 (x16/x16/x8)
PCI Express x1 2 2 3 2
Standard PCI 1 1 0 1
SATA-300 4 4 4 4
SATA-600 6 6 6 4
eSATA-600 2 2 0 2
USB 2.0 14 14 14 14
USB 3.0 4 4 4 4
Network Chip Intel WG82579V Intel WG82579V Intel WG82579V Bigfoot Killer E2100
Audio Codec Realtek ALC898 Realtek ALC898 Realtek ALC898 Creative CA20K2
Price  USD 270  USD 325  USD 370  USD 400

In Figure 1, you see the Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboard.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 1: Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 comes with four PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and one standard PCI slot. Socket LGA2011 processors have a total of 40 PCI Express 3.0 lanes for video cards. This allows a very high-end configuration for the PCI Express x16 slots, but the exact configuration used will depend on the motherboard model.

On the Gigabyte X79-UD3, the first PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX16_1) always run at x16 speed. The third x16 slot (PCIEX16_2) works at x16 if two or three video cards are installed, but drops to x8 when four video cards are present. The second and fourth PCI Express slots (PCIEX8_1 and PCIEX8_2) always work at x8 speed. Please note that if you have two video cards, for better performance the second one must be installed in the third slot, not in the second slot.

The first three PCI Express x16 slots support the installation of dual-slot video cards, but the fourth slot only supports dual-slot video cards if you have a computer case with at least eight expansion slots (cases usually have seven). When installing dual-slot video cards, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up) of the slot being used.

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

The PCI Express x1 and standard PCI slots are controlled by the chipset.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 2: Slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA2011 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, which 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 LGA2011 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz officially, but they actually support memories up to 2,133 MHz. One of the most important features of the socket LGA2011 processors is the support for the new quad-channel memory architecture, which allows the memory to be accessed in 256-bit mode for higher performance. Since each memory module is a 64-bit entity, four memory modules are needed to enable this architecture. If only two or three memory modules are installed, the memory will be accessed under dual- or triple-channel architecture, respectively.

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 has four memory sockets (two at each side of the CPU socket) and, 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. As explained, you must install four memory modules in order to achieve the best performance possible.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 3: Memory sockets; install four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]

The Intel X79 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). In addition to these ports, the Gigabyte X79-UD3 has four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvell 88SE9172 chips and two eSATA-600 ports controlled by another Marvell 88SE9172 chip. These chips support RAID 0 and 1.

The ports controlled by the chipset and two of the four additional SATA ports are located at the motherboard edge, rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them. See Figure 4. The other two additional SATA-600 ports are located at the motherboard edge, near the fourth PCI Express slot (PCIE8_2). The installation of a video card in this slot will block these ports.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 4: SATA-600 ports controlled by one of the Marvell 88SE9172 chips (gray), and SATA-300 (black) and SATA-600 (white) ports controlled by the chipset

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 5: SATA-600 ports controlled by the second Marvell 88SE9172 chip

The Intel X79 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and, unfortunately, support for USB 3.0 ports isn’t integrated in the chipset yet. The Gigabyte X79-UD3 offers all 14 USB 2.0 ports, eight soldered on the rear panel and six available through six headers located on the motherboard. It also supports four USB 3.0 ports, controlled by two Fresco Logic FL1000 chips. Two of them are located on the motherboard rear panel and the other two are available on a motherboa
rd header, to be used by USB 3.0 ports located on your computer case.

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 doesn’t come with FireWire ports.

This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the new Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.

This motherboard has independent 7.1 analog audio outputs, meaning that you won’t need to use the “line in” or “mic in” jacks when installing a set of analog 7.1 speakers. The motherboard has on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs. An SPDIF header (“SPDIF_O”) is also available if you want to route digital audio to your video card to have digital audio available on the HDMI connector, in case your video card needs this connection.

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

In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel, with PS/2 keyboard and mouse shared connector, eight USB 2.0 ports, optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs, two eSATA-600 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, and independent 7.1 analog audio jacks.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 6: Motherboard rear panel

[nextpage title=”Other Features”]

As it is tradition with motherboards from Gigabyte, the X79-UD3 has two BIOS chips, which allows you to recover your motherboard in case your BIOS is erased or corrupted, which can happen in the case of an unsuccessful BIOS upgrade or the attack of viruses that corrupt the BIOS chip.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 7: Two BIOS chips

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 has a legacy serial port, available on a header labeled “COMA.” If you want to have this port available, you will have to buy the necessary adapter, since the product doesn’t come with it. It also allows you to install a Trusted Platform Module (TPM), which increases security by encrypting data handled by the computer.

Figure 8 shows all the accessories that come with this motherboard.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 8: Accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte X79-UD3 uses a digital design and is controlled by an IR3567 chip, providing eight 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 an “8+2+1” configuration.

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 9: Voltage regulator circuit

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 10: Voltage regulator circuit

This motherboard uses solid capacitors and ferrite-core coils, which provide less energy loss, improving efficiency up to 20 percent. It also uses low RDS(on) transistors, which improve efficiency.

One of the unique features present on the Gigabyte X79-UD3 is the presence of over voltage protection (OVP) for the CPU and memory. The over voltage protection levels are configured in the motherboard setup.

The voltage regulator used for the memory modules also uses the same high-end design.

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

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 has several overclocking options. Below, we list only the most important ones (F3 BIOS):

  • Base clock: From 80 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
  • CPU core voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.735 V in 0.005 V increments
  • CPU VTT (PCI Express and DMI interfaces) voltage: From 0.715 V to 1.610 V in 0.005 V increments
  • CPU PLL voltage: From 1.195 V to 1.985 V in 0.005 V increments
  • IMC (memory controller) voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.600 V in 0.010 V increments
  • PCH (chipset) voltage: From 0.825 V to 1.510 V in 0.005 V increments
  • PCH (chipset) 1.5 V voltage: From 0.925 V to 2.175 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Memory voltage: From 1.100 V to 2.100 V in 0.005 V increments
  • Memory reference voltage: From 0.440 V to 1.072 V in 0.002 V increments

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 11: Overclocking options

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 12: Overclocking options

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 13: Voltage regulator options

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 14: CPU voltage options

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 15: Memory voltage options

Gigabyte X79-UD3 motherboardFigure 16: Chipset voltage options

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the Gigabyte X79-UD3 include:

  • Socket: 2011
  • Chipset: Intel X79 Express
  • Super I/O: ITE8728F
  • Parallel ATA: None
  • Serial ATA: Four SATA-300 and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5), four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvell 88SE9172 chips (RAID 0 and 1)
  • External SATA: Two eSATA-600 ports controlled by another Marvell 88SE9172 chip
  • USB 2.0: 14 USB 2.0 ports, eight soldered on the motherboard rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: Four USB 3.0 ports controlled by two Fresco Logic FL1000 chips, two on the rear panel and two on a motherboard header 
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
  • On-board video: No
  • On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC898 codec (7.1+2  channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 110 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs
  • On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by the chipset with an Intel WG82579V physical layer interface chip
  • Buzzer: No
  • Infrared interface: No
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: Four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16/x16/x8 or x16/x8/x8/x8, supporting SLI and CrossFireX), two PCI Express x1 slots, and one standard PCI slot
  • Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2133, 32 GB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, two four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: Two BIOS chips, legacy serial port, support for TPM
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
  • Programs included: Motherboard utilities
  • More Information: https://www.gigabyte.com
  • Average price in the US*: USD 270.00

* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this review.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The Gigabyte X79-UD3 brings many features, such as four PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, six SATA-600 ports, two eSATA-600 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, and an outstanding number of overclocking options.

The main problem with the socket LGA2011 platform is that the CPU and motherboard are very expensive. This model from Gigabyte, which is the only ATX model this manufacturer offers (all other models are bigger, using either the XL-ATX or E-ATX sizes), currently costs USD 270. Expensive? Not really. Today there are only three socket LGA2011 motherboards cheaper than the Gigabyte X79-UD3, the ASRock X79 Extreme-4M (USD 220), the MSI X79MA-GD45 (USD 230), and the ASRock Extreme4 (USD 235), and all of them have fewer features and don’t come with four PCI Express x16 slots. True competitors from MSI and ASUS cost more, making the Gigabyte X79-UD3 your best option if you want to save money while building a PC based on a Core i7 “Sandy Bridge-E” processor with four video cards and yet have a high-quality motherboard with lots of extra options.