Review: Some times you just want a plain and simple motherboard, with a minimum of bells and whistles... the new GA-X79-UD3 is just that, and a little bit more.
Given the comparably sensible price tag of the GIGABYTE X79-UD3 one may assume that the board is lacking in features when compared to many of the more expensive boards found on the market. It is a reasonable assumption, but it is also not completely correct.
GIGABYTE have on offer here one of the best value boards you’ll find, using the X79 chipset and 2011 socket. Not only does it have support for 4-way CF/SLI, it also has the build quality and overclocking prowess that earned GIGABYTE the respect it currently commands in the market place.
Ferrite Chokes and the usual Solid Capacitors add to the longevity and overall stability of the motherboard, while the advanced 9-phase PWM also ensures a steady and consistent voltage for your overclocking endeavours on Intel’s newest and most powerful platform.
While we are impressed with the board, there are a few features missing on the UD3 that are found on the higher-priced UD5 and UD7. Features like the 4x RAM slots instead of the larger 8x slots found on the UD5 and 7 may not matter to most people, as you can still equip the UD3 with up to 32GB of high-density RAM if you feel the need.
A feature that some overclockers may miss, however, is the removal of the on-board controls. Things like a power button and reset button do really come in handy when you are trying to play around with your PC and diagnose issues, along with the LED debug screen. More times than not those little error messages can help you quickly determine a problem without having to run through the usual check-list of issues. Again, not everyone will miss this, and it is a great way to keep costs down and important features included.
The overclockers among us will be happy to know that the new BIOS contains a vast array of options that cater to your every need. Memory, chipset and CPU clocks and features are all fully customisable, along with the expected advanced voltage control for everything. The BIOS truly is detailed, and we do appreciate the effort GIGABYTE has put into its new layout, as it should help newcomers to the scene.
Veteran overclockers may become quickly frustrated with the way the menus have been set up, however, and at the relatively slow speed at which you can scroll through the BIOS with your keyboard, compared the old ‘analogue’ BIOS. There are definitely positives and negatives to both the new and old BIOS, but personally I feel this whole GUI BIOS thing is getting a little too complicated – taking part of the charm out of the ‘hacking’ feel many user got fiddling about with their BIOS.
Whacking our i7 3960X into the system we quickly confirmed setting up for an overclock is at least easier than it used to be; we simply selected the pre-defined ‘overclocking’ profile within the BIOS. This made changes to a few voltages, removed the usual power saving features and generally edited the BIOS in such a way to bring stability to your average air overclock. If you’re chasing bigger numbers, ‘extreme’ can be selected, disabling all CPU features (except HT) and applying larger BCLK and CPU multiplier automatically. These profiles take some of the fun out of learning what all of the new options do for yourself, but it does make it easier for anyone who just wants to reach a half-decent overclock with minimal risk and time spent.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to take the board any higher than 4.7GHz, as our 3960X sample doesn’t seem to find true-stability at anything above 4.6GHz, even if we apply 1.55v+ (the same happened on last month’s Rampage IV review). Don’t let that news disappoint though, as we are sourcing a new CPU, and we know this board is capable of great things. Only last month Hicookie (GIGABYTE’s resident overclocker) took a plethora of world records using the X79-UD3. If the board is good enough to take LN2 world records, it is most certainly good enough for your average air-cooled enthusiast PC.