Gaming has nabbed another victim, and no, it's not an addicted WoW player on an extended binge. GIGABYTE has come to the table with a new range of appropriately named G1.Killer motherboards. The Assassin model in our hot little hands (and in a gallery here) resides at the top of the range... with a matching price to boot! If the name doesn't give away the fact that these boards are aimed squarely at gamers and ASUS's ROG brand, then perhaps the heatsink shaped like an ammunition magazine might.
The very first thing that jumps out when spying the board’s bits is the lack of onboard controls. Debug displays, on/off buttons, CMOS reset button – all absent. Unlike the ROG range, which mash their audience of computer enthusiasts with hardcore gamers, the G1.Killer range isn't an enthusiast brand at heart.
Naturally, overclocker oriented bits and bobs aren't a deal breaker for many, particularly if the board is capable of providing clean power, an abundance of I/O options, or other extra goodies such as a Creative X-Fi sound solution, and a single Bigfoot Killer E2100 NIC powered Gigabit connection. Yes, GIGABYTE has gone to town with the green fella to source parts which appeal to gamers. We like the idea of having a sound card inbuilt; it saves a PCIe slot, and it provides clean audio straight out of the box. On the other hand, it's more susceptible to noise and has limited connectivity (no 6.5mm TRS connections here!). But when compared to the typical Realtek solution, there’s no competition.
Killer NICs have been largely ignored by enthusiast circles because of the limited gains they provide vs price. For the uninitiated, the main premise of the device is that it handles the processing of network traffic without offloading work to the CPU. In theory, this should provide performance gains in games; in practise, buy a better GPU instead. It also claims to improve pings by bypassing the Windows Network Stack, and is capable of processing BitTorrent load on its NPU. Having the Killer E2100 integrated into the motherboard eases the otherwise exuberant price.
Connectivity on the G1.Assassin is somewhat lacklustre for the price point. Four USB 3.0 and four USB 2.0 ports adorn the I/O panel. Audio connections are the standard deal: 3.5mm TRS connections for surround setups, and an SPDIF out. For nostalgic reasons the good ol' serial mouse/keyboard ports make an appearance.
Speaking of nostalgia, GIGABYTE bundles a handy little 5.25in bay that features a further two USB 3.0 ports, an eSATA/USB2.0 port, and get this – a turbo button! Okay, so it's not labelled as such, but it looks, feels, and acts like one – squeeee!
Expansion options include four PCIe 16x slots capable of powering four-way CrossFire and three-way SLI configurations, a standard PCI slot, and two PCIe 1x slots. Fortunately the layout and sheer size of this motherboard means you can install cards of varying bulkiness with no trouble. In fact, our massive Noctua NH-D14 can be installed with triple channel memory installed without causing a fuss. Interestingly, two 8-pin power connections are required for CPUs with large power draw (130W+). 3TB+ HDDs are supported out of the box.
Equipped with the 16 phase power design and the latest F3d beta BIOS, we took to the G1.Assassin to see how far it could push our latest victim – a shiny Intel X 990. First up we raised the unlocked multiplier to 34x for an admirable 4.522GHz, with standard LLC and 1.35v Vcc. This proved stable, despite the significant vDrop/vDroop (1.36v/1.31v respectively). After a bit of tweaking, we settled on 4.8GHz as our highest stable clock, but at a cost of borderline insane voltages (1.481v) and Level 2 LLC (1.472v load/idle). A great effort overall.
When it comes down to plonking a wad of cash on a motherboard, one expects to get their money's worth. While the inbuilt audio and NIC solutions are pricey individually, one must ask oneself if they're merely justifying the price, or whether they genuinely seek these added features. As a whole, the package is impressive, but offers little, if not less, enthusiast features over a standard midrange X58 board. You'll also need to find a large enough case to put it in!