Killer NIC, killer audio
The latest craze on gaming motherboards these days is the Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 chip. We've seen them on many gaming orientated motherboards, including the ASUS ROG range. We've touched on this in the past - the claim is that by using techniques such as 'Windows network bypass', the performance of network orientated game play is improved. The E2100 will not offload processing to the CPU, freeing clock cycles for other tasks.
Competitive gaming (in particular the FPS genre) is highly reliant on good audio to hear enemies approaching, and to get a complete sense of situational awareness. We're pleased to see the Creative CA20K2 chip make a return from the original G1.Sniper, the audio chip featured on many X-Fi cards. With an impressive signal to noise (SnR) ratio of 109dB over multiple channels, there's really no need to replace this inbuilt solution with an external card unless you're very picky about your audio hardware. The downside is that when you upgrade your motherboard, you can't take it with you.
Make no mistake, the G1.Killer 2 is a premium piece of kit. If the specs don't make that clear, then perhaps the bundle will convince you. Included is a 5.25" front access panel with 2 x USB 3.0 connections, a powered eSATA port, and our favorite turbo-esque Quick Boost button, for overclocking at the touch of a button. You also get the black coloured SATA cables, a SLI bridge, and stickers! Everyone loves stickers, right?
Connectivity on the back panel of the G1.Sniper 2 includes 7 x USB 2.0, 1 x combined PS/2, a CPU overclocking button, 1 x USB/eSATA combo, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x Gigabit LAN and 5 x audio jacks + optical S/PDIF out. The OC button takes the CPU to a modest 4.2GHz on a 2600K and 4.1GHz on the 2500K (i.e. it increases the CPU multiplier by 7, and disables Turbo Mode).
Does it kick arse?
We've met the G1.Assassin previously, and were very impressed by the board. We weren't so keen on the cost. The Sniper 2 is certainly cheaper, but does can it match the X58 variant in performance and features?
We entered the familiar blue BIOS screen and got right into tweaking. We started off by setting the core voltage to 1.45v and ramping up PWM and Over Current Protection to avoid being held back. The memory was then set to 1866MHz and the CPU multiplier to 50x for a 5GHz overclock. After confirming stability with Prime95, a 51x multiplier was used, and then 52x which didn't last too long under stress. Reducing the base clock to 99.5 MHz and increasing the voltage to 1.49v (level 7 LLC) scored us a stable overclock of 5174MHz, which is an admirable achievement. We couldn't raise the memory clock to 2133MHz without very loose timings, so we stuck to the default XMP profile throughout.
Compared to the ASUS Sabertooth P67 we reviewed in June, the extra 150MHz gives the G1.Sniper 2 a clear advantage in benchmark scores, bar the Everest read test due to the lack of a memory overclock. It even gives the G1.Assassin a run for its money - the X58 platform struggles to compete.
If the previous G1.Killer range enticed you, but the price or platform held you back, we highly recommend this board. We're eager to try an Ivy Bridge processor with it!