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Gigabyte X58A-UD9 review

By on July 28, 2010
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The Verdict:
The biggest, most fully featured and expensive X58 based motherboard on the market right now is only worth it if you splurge on other hardware components equally powerful.

X58 motherboards are a dime a dozen nowadays, but it takes a truly exceptional board to stand out from the crowd, especially if you’re being asked $700 (AED 2,400) for it! I mean, at that price this thing has to be a monster, feature filled to the brim, allowing you almost limitless overclocking possibilities and future proofed for at least half a decade. Gigabyte’s latest flagship motherboard, the X58A-UD9 is just that, except that it won’t be the biggest and most expensive motherboard on the planet in half a year.

The X58A-UD9 is definitely big, measuring in at 13.58″ x 10.31″ (34.5cm x 25.35cm), this XL ATX motherboard won’t even fit in most of the cases currently available in the market. However, Gigabyte was kind enough to provide a list of compatible cases from various vendors that can swallow this behemoth. Despite its size, the UD9 is still jam packed with circuits, transistors, controller chips, heatsinks and, of course, the 7 PCI-Express slots.

The overall layout of the board seems nicely put, with ample room for shuffling around wires and cables. The only complain I have is the molex connector for additional GPU power, placed adjacent to the Northbridge controller. Should you decide to use the Hybrid Silent-Pipe attachment on the Northbridge, it’s almost impossible to use that additional molex connector. Not that you would need it anyway since the base of the heatsink and the top of the Northbridge is covered with fins. This oxymoronic design choice basically means that there’s no point in providing any further cooling (water or air) since there’s no direct contact between the chip and the heatsink, eliminating any chance of effective cooling. Still, throughout our testing the Northbridge temperature never rose above 49°C.

Otherwise the UD9 is spacious enough to be easily used as a testbed, with the onboard Power and (curiously small) Reset buttons, and a conveniently placed LED POST display that runs through all the codes as the PC boots up, ideal for error checking.

Going through the laundry list of features provided onboard the X58A-UD9, we have 6x DDR3 2200+ connectors for Triple Channel goodness. Going to the bottom we see the 7x PCI-E slots, 4 of which (running at x16 speeds) provide the Quad SLI and Crossfire support. Moving to the right side we see 8x SATA ports, 2 of which give a blistering 6GB/s transfer speeds thanks to the Marvell 9128 chip. On the back panel we have 8x USB ports, 2 of them being eSATA combo versions and another 2 running on 3.0 speeds powered by the NEC chip. Finishing things off are the standard IDE and Floppy connectors at the edge, complimented by USB and Audio connectors for the front panel.

And then you have your regular old power connectors, of which the X58A-UD9 requires a few extra. There are 2x 8-pin power plugs and 2x molex connectors onboard for some extra juice you’ll need if you decide to do a 4-way SLi or Crossfire setup. Finally you have the shiny, nickel-plated LGA 1366 socket which will accept a Core i7 processor, especially the 980X Extreme.

Despite the two nF200 controller chips, do keep in mind that the 4-way SLi or Crossfire will only work efficiently when plugged into PCI-E slots 1, 3, 5 and 7 as these are the ones running at x16 speeds. Slots 2, 4 and 6 run at x8 speeds. This goes without saying, but you will need one hell of PSU to power a quad GPU setup along with the UD9 itself.

One other interesting feature about the X58A-UD9 is its overclocking capabilities. The BIOS will allow you to change the BCLK from 100MHz to 600MHz, the RAM multiplier from 6x to 18x, and the CPU multiplier from 12x to 65x. Voltage is also allowed to be changed for all the standard settings you’d expect; CPU going from 0.50V to 1.90V and Memory going from 1.30V to 2.60V.  Sadly we couldn’t test the overclock as our paltry 1000W PSU only has 1x 8-pin power connector (as opposed to the 2 required), so any overclocking eventually resulted in a complete system shutdown. Ironically these failed attempts allowed us to test the touted 24 phase power management system which effortlessly brought back the system to default settings on a second power up every time.

If you don’t want to fiddle with the BIOS, there’s another way to easily overclock the X58A-UD9. Accompanying the drivers and software DVD is the East Tune software that allows you to easily overclock your machine from Windows itself. A safe way to see whether your hardware is up to scratch before going into the BIOS. Interestingly the Network drivers weren’t picked up by our copy of Win 7 (Professional) for the Realtek RTL8111E chip, so the drivers DVD came in quite handy. That said, pretty much all the utility softwares on the DVD had an updated version on Gigabyte’s website itself, so that should be your first stop after installing the Network drivers.

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About

From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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