Gigabyte G1 Sniper 5 w/ OP AMP
Gigabyte recently invited Legit Reviews to come out and take a look at some of their upcoming Intel Z87 motherboards and that is an offer that we could not resist. Gigabyte has roughly 30 Intel 7 series motherboards and expects to have about the same number of boards for the Intel 8 series. Gigabyte expects to have around 15 boards at launch, which is too many for any one site to cover. Today we'll be covering a handful of their upcoming Intel Z87 motherboards and going over some of the key features of those boards.
When it comes to the gaming focused boards we were happy to see the G1.Sniper product line is still alive and well. Gigabyte will be carrying the G1.Sniper 5 and G1.Sniper M5 motherboards and these are considered fairly high-end boards with a ton of interesting features. As you can see from the image above the G1.Sniper 5 is a full sized ATX motherboard that features four PCIe x16 3.0 slots, which can be configured a number of ways since Gigabyte is using the PLX PEX8747 48-lane PCI-Express 3.0 bridge chip. This means you can run it x16/-/x16/- or x16/-/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x16/- or x8/x8/x8/x8. This means you can do 4-way NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFireX.
When you take a closer look around the Intel LGA socket you can see that this board has the option to be liquid cool the driver-MOSFETs, which is nice to see. The G1.Sniper 5 features 16-phase VRM and ferrite-core chokes.
When it comes to the rear IO panel there are all the usual connectors. The highlights are the Qualcomm/Bigfoot Killer K2000 and Realtek RTL8111F gigabit Ethernet interfaces, six USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, dual-HDMI and DisplayPort display outputs, and legacy PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo connector.
Gigabyte uses all solid-state black capacitors on the entire board with the exception of the audio components where higher-end audio parts were sourced. The black capacitors look nice and we have a feeling that this is going to become the standard on enthusiast DIY boards from this point on.
Gigabyte has put a ton of time and effort into the audio on some of the Intel Z87 series boards that they will be offering. The Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 and G1.Sniper M5 motherboards both feature Creative Sound Core 3D chips, but also removable operational amplifiers that allow you to customize the boards audio characteristics.
The Creative audio solution features a gold-coated cover for shielding, Nichicon high-end audio capacitors, audio noise guard with path lighting and gold plated connectors for HDMI, Coax, Displayport, and the analogue 7.1 audio ports. Directly in the middle of this image you can also see the Op-Amp socket.
Here is a closer look at a Op-Amp socket with the OPA2134 Burr-Brown standard Op Amp removed. Gigabyte will be including two amplifiers with boards that have this audio feature, but you can also purchase more on your own. The other one that will likely be included is the AD827 by Analog Devices.
Gigabyte will be offering an upgrade kit for the op-amps which includes an LM4562NA op-amp and an IC extractor. This optional kit isn't priced just yet, but you can take a look at it above.
Numerous Op-Amps are available for purchase online and all of them cause the motherboards audio characteristics to sound different. We have been told they range in price from a few dollars all the way up to around forty bucks, so you can spend some money if you really wanted to.
The Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 micro-ATX motherboard is very similar, but is obviously smaller and has some of the features removed. This board measures 240mm by 240mm and features an 8-phase CPU VRM, four DDR3 DIMM slots, two PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16/NC or x8/x8), one PCI-Express 2.0 x16 (electrical x4), and a PCI-Express 2.0 x1 slot. You get six SATA 6Gbps ports that are all thanks to the Intel Z87 chipset and it looks like all the toasty components will be getting passive cooling solutions.
The rear IP panel has two USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a PS2 port, dual-link DVI, two HDMI, DisplayPort, Intel Gigabit Ethernet and all the audio ports.
Here is a look at the Creative Sound Blaster chip that makes up the Sound Core 3D technology possible. The metal shield easily pops off, so we thought we'd give you an up close look. As you can see this board has most of the critical features of the G1.Sniper 5, but in a micro-ATX form factor and likely less money. Let's take a look at some of the other boards.
Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI Mini-ITX Board
Gigabyte hasn't been that active in the Mini-ITX motherboard market when it comes to enthusiast chipsets, but all that changes with Intel Z87. Gigabyte will be coming out with the GA-Z87N-WiFi motherboard based on the Intel Z87 chipset! This board is very similar to the Gigabyte GA-Z77N-WIFI that came late to the market for Intel Z77 boards.
This motherboard has two DDR3 memory slots, four SATA 6Gbps slots, a single PCI Express x16 slot and one PCIe Mini socket for a Wi-Fi model or maybe a small notebook style SSD. The other main and that USB 3.0 internal connector.
The Gigabyte GA-Z87N-WIFI has four power phases and it doesn't look like they'll be getting any passive cooling solution. The Intel Z87 chipset is passively cooled by a small heatsink though.
Gigabyte said that an 802.11ac WIFI solution would be included with this board, but it wouldn't be the card that was in the demo board that we photographed. It will likely be made by Atheros as Intel does not have an 802.11AC card out yet.
The Gigabyte Z87N-WiFi has two HDMI and a DVI port for video outputs. There are also four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a PS2 port, dual Ethernet jacks backed by a pair of Realtek controllers and all the audio ports.
Gigayte GA-Z87X-OC Force
If you are an overclocker you should be keeping an eye out for the Gigabyte Z87X-OC Force and Z87X-OC motherboards. These are the two OC oriented boards that were made by Gigabytes in-house overclocker HiCookie over in Taiwan. The flagship Gigabyte Z87X-OC Force is shown above and features a 16 phase digital VRM, GPU brace, actively cooled heatsinks, quad PCIe slots and 10 SATA ports. It also features dip switches that shuts off PCIe slots and full overclocking capability right from the OC Touch buttons on the motherboard.
Here is a quick look at the GPU brace for open bench use and the rear-IO panel.
Notice the heatpipe that connects both of the active cooled heatsinks for improved thermal performance.
The chipset cooler has a nice low profile design that doesn't interfere with full sized video cards.
The Gigabyte Z87X-OC Force doesn't have high-end Creative Sound 3D audio, but the realtek audio solution should be good enough for overclockers and it does have black capacitors!
Here is a closer look at the OC Touch panel on the Gigabyte Z87X-OC Force motherboard. There are buttons to change the multiplier, base clock, bclk strap and more.
Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H & GA-Z87X-UD5H
Next up we have the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H motherboard, which is more of a mainstream board. With the GA-Z87X-UD4H we see that Gigabyte went with a red and black color theme for a clean modern look. This motherboard keeps it simple and we like the color choice.
The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD4H comes with a 16 Phase VRM, 2 layer copper design PCB and the black solid capacitors that we have seen on most of the other boards. This board has three PCI Express x16 full sized lanes which operate as 16x, 8x, and 4x. This board also has three PCIe x1 lanes and an old school PCI slot! The board has eight SATA ports and four DDR3 memory slots.
Here is a closer look at the Intel LGA1150 socket and the area around the CPU socket.
The I/O panel on the GIGABYTE Z87-UD4H gives us just about everything we could need. If you're taking advantage of the video from your 4th gen Intel Core processor, you have all the options available to you, DVI, VGA, HDMI, and DisplayPort. It packs a punch for USB with a total of six SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, as well as a pair of eSATA ports. On the audio side there is the typical six 3.5mm jacks as well as an optical SPDIF out. It is odd that a VGA port is still included on a board in this day and age, but keep in mind this board is part of the affordable standard series by Gigabyte and is not considered a high-end board.
For those that are looking to take a step up we will end this preview by showing you the Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H motherboard. The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H also uses 16-phase CPU VRM, but as you can see it has a black and gold color theme. This board also has three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots (x16/NC/NC or x8/x8/NC or x8/x4/x4), three PCI-Express 2.0 x1, and a legacy PCI slot. You have a total of ten SATA 6 Gbps internal ports, six connected to the Intel Z87 chipset and four by a third-party controller.
When it comes to video outputs you have two HDMI ports, dual-link DVI and DisplayPort. No old school VGA ports here! You also have 8-channel HD audio with TOSLINK digital output, two gigabit Ethernet interfaces, six USB 3.0 ports and a PS2 port.
Stay tuned for more information when we are allowed to publish it!