X58 is by far the most expensive board on the market, mostly because it is at this point the only chipset capable of supporting the Core i7 processors. And most likely, unless NVIDIA is granted a licence for the QPI bus, it will be the only chipset.
Intel has certainly put a high price premium on the X58 IOH to its partners, which in turn causes the boards produced to be somewhat expensive. Coupled with the higher price of Core i7 processors, this means that we are stuck with a huge bill to build a capable overclocking gaming rig, or are we?
GIGABYTE has certainly produced a few good X58 boards for the extreme users, but today we are looking at one aimed for overclockers who want to keep a few extra dollars in their wallets.
The EX58-UD4P motherboard comes in at 259.99 U.S. Dollars over at Newegg and comes equipped with quite a few features for a more budget conscious board. Today we are going to see just what GIGABYTE is able to produce when it comes to keeping prices down.
The Box and What's Inside
GIGABYTE's UD4P variant comes packed in their traditional white box for mainstream boards. This box is not oversized so we can easily tell that the accessories bundle will be a lot lighter than their high-end DQ series boards. However, we aren't aiming for bells and whistles here as we are trying to keep things down in price. The front of the box has some art work denoting the Ultra Durable 3 technology that the board is based around.
For those who don't know what UD3 is, this comprises three sets of new features added into the board. First off, feature one is solid state capacitors and chokes rather than electrolyte caps and copper wound chokes. The next feature is a 2 ounce copper layer running through the PCB and its aim is to remove excess heat from vital components such as the base of the CPU, memory and voltage regulation systems as well as reducing EMI interference that prevents overclocking. Lastly is the DES Advanced system that is designed to save power by shutting down unnecessary voltage phases when the CPU is in idle and light loads.
On the back of the box GIGABYTE has put a lot of marketing hype about its new 2 ounce copper layer inside the PCB and how it's supposed to help. However, we would have rather seen more info on the board itself including a larger colour picture of the board; this is what people want to see as it helps customers identify if the board is right for them.
GIGABYTE provides two user manuals in the box; one is the standard novel size containing all the info on the board, BIOS, hardware and software that is included on the driver and software DVD. The DVD also has drivers and software for XP and Vista in 32-bit and 64-bit variants. The second manual is a multilingual guide book, basically a quick start manual in multiple languages.
Lastly in this section are the accessories. GIGABYTE provides in the UD4P series four SATA-II data cables which include locks that prevent the cable from coming out in transport or snagged by the user when installing hardware. An IDE cable with two drive support and a FDD cable make up the additional accessories. This is a light bundle, but enough to get you started.
Now we move along to the board itself, which is where all your hard earned dollars are going. The board is based around the traditional dark blue full ATX PCB that GIGABYTE uses for all its latest boards. The layout follows the traditional GIGABYTE design.
The 24-pin ATX power connector is located behind the six DDR3 memory slots which are coloured light blue for the first triple channel bank and white for the second triple channel bank. The 4/8 pin EPS power connector is located behind the PS/2 towers on the upper left hand side of the board. This is the optimal layout for the power connectors as it keeps the bulky cables away from the CPU and other vital components.
On the lower right side of the board we have six blue SATA connectors and two white connectors. The blue SATA ports are connected to the ICH10R. Supporting RAID 0, 1, 10 and JBOD, you have what you need for the basic RAID/performance storage arrays. The two white SATA ports are controlled by the JMB368 PCIe x1 SATA/PATA controller chip which gives the board its IDE controller since Intel are no longer integrating IDE channels into their ICH's.
The board is equipped with a 2x6 phase voltage system working in parallel; these are cooled by the heatpipe that also cools the ICH10 and the X58 IOH.
The rear I/O ports on the UD4P are slightly different compared to the DQ series. One of the big misses on this board is that it has no eSATA ports on the rear I/O and with no break-out brackets like we see in the other GIGABYTE boards, this one misses out on eSATA altogether. On the plus side of things, the board has a Clear CMOS reset button which means if you do end up getting this board into an endless loop with a failed overclock (which happens with GIGABYTE boards), you can simply press this button and reset the BIOS to its defaults.
Lastly, we are down to expansion slots. GIGABYTE has done a fantastic job with keeping a variety of expansion options. There are a total of three PCIe x16 slots; two are blue and one is orange. The two blue slots are capable of full speed x16 allowing for Crossfire(X) and SLI. If you want to 3-way SLI you can put a graphics card capable of 3-way SLI into the orange slot which will remove 8 lanes from the second blue slot and divert them to the orange x16 slot, giving you the 16/8/8 setup.
At the very top of the expansion slots there is a white PCIe x1 slot and just below this is a orange universal x4 slot; this can be used to put an extra graphics card in if you want four GPU's or any other PCIe devices that you wish. It's perfect for a x4 or x8 SATA/SAS RAID controller, but remember that it is limited to x4 speeds and runs of the ICH10R, so it will be slower for graphics cards. Lastly, there are two white PCI slots for legacy expansion.
BIOS and Overclocking
On to our BIOS setup and GIGABYTE continues to use the blue Award Modular V6 BIOS that we are so familiar with. GIGABYTE contains all of its overclocking options under one menu.
The Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T) Menu is where for quite some time GIGABYE has put its tweaking and overclocking options. There are quite a few sub menus here and it's extremely impressive with quite a few extra features.
As of late GIGABYTE boards have become a lot more technical with more tweaking options, which is a good thing. Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming and it took quite a bit of tweaking to get this board up and running, resulting in quite a few BIOS resets.
We were stuck at 140MHz without the board posting, however, after tweaking a few voltages under a couple of extra menus we managed to get 173MHz stable. We didn't get past this in the time we had for overclocking and testing, but we believe with more time 190MHz would easily be possible.
Important Editor Note: Our maximum overclocking result is the best result we managed in our limited time of testing the motherboard. Due to time constraints we weren't able to tweak the motherboard to the absolute maximum and find the highest possible FSB, as this could take days to find properly. We do however spend at least a few hours overclocking every motherboard to try and find the highest possible overclock in that time frame. You may or may not be able to overclock higher if you spend more time tweaking, or as new BIOS updates are released. "Burn-in" time might also come into play if you believe in that.
Test System Setup and Memory Performance
Processor: Intel Core 17 965 @ 3.2GHz (24x 133MHz)
Memory: 3x 2GB DDR3-1600 Corsair Dominator (Supplied by Corsair)
Hard Disk: Intel X25-M 80GB SSD (Supplied by Intel)
Graphics Card: GIGABYTE 9800GX2 1GB (Supplied by GIGABYTE)
Cooling: Stock Intel cooling
Operating System: Microsoft Windows Vista X64 SP1
Drivers: Intel INF 22.214.171.1248, Forceware 180.24
Time to start testing and today we have the ASUS Rampage II and P6T Deluxe OC Palm Edition boards as our benchmark. We use our usual array of tests in both stock settings and overclocked.
EVEREST Ultimate Edition
Version and / or Patch Used: 2006
Developer Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Product Homepage: http://www.lavalys.com
Buy It Here
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is an industry leading system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. CPU, FPU and memory benchmarks are available to measure the actual system performance and compare it to previous states or other systems.
Starting with EVEREST we see that at stock speeds GIGABTE manages to just slip ahead, but at OC with a lower BLCK and memory speed it falls behind our two ASUS boards.
Benchmarks - Sisoft Sandra
Version and / or Patch Used: 2009
Developer Homepage: http://www.sisoftware.co.uk
Product Homepage: http://sisoftware.jaggedonline.com/index.php?location=home&a=TTA&lang=en
Buy It Here
SiSoft Sandra (System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is a synthetic Windows benchmark that features different tests used to evaluate different PC subsystems.
Sandra shows no difference to EVEREST in the memory trends.
Benchmarks - PCMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: Unpatched
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/benchmarks/pcmark-vantage//
Buy It Here
PCMark Vantage is the first objective hardware performance benchmark for PCs running 32 and 64 bit versions of Microsoft Windows Vista. PCMark Vantage is perfectly suited for benchmarking any type of Microsoft Windows Vista PC from multimedia home entertainment systems and laptops to dedicated workstations and high-end gaming rigs. Regardless of whether the benchmarker is an artist or an IT Professional, PCMark Vantage shows the user where their system soars or falls flat, and how to get the most performance possible out of their hardware. PCMark Vantage is easy enough for even the most casual enthusiast to use yet supports in-depth, professional industry grade testing.
Synthetic system tests show GIGABYTE even at stock and with its 3.97GHz core clock it's able to keep up with the other two boards, despite a lower memory/BLCK.
Benchmarks - SYSmark 2007 Preview
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.04
Developer Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.bapco.com/products/sysmark2007preview
SYSmark 2007 Preview is the latest version of the premier performance metric that measures and compares PC performance based on real world applications.
SYSmark 2007 Preview extends the SYSmark family, which has been widely accepted by IT Managers, PC OEMs, press and analysts worldwide to support Windows Vista™.
SYSmark 2007 Preview allows users to directly compare platforms based on Windows Vista™ to those based on Windows XP Professional and Home.
The new release also incorporates numerous new features and enhancements such as an improved GUI allowing streamlined start-up and run along with a heads-up-display (HUD) and automated error reporting.
SYSmark 2007 Preview is an application-based benchmark that reflects usage patterns of business users in the areas of Video creation, E-learning, 3D Modeling and Office Productivity. This new release includes a robust and refreshed set of applications.
Real world application tests show us the same trend as the synthetic ones, so all goes well for GIGABYTE.
Benchmarks - Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Adobe Premiere Elements 4.0
Version and / or Patch Used: 4.0
Developer Homepage: http://www.adobe.com
Product Homepage: http://www.adobe.com/products/premiereel/
Buy It Here
Our test with Adobe Premiere Elements 2.0 is performed with a raw two hour AVI file. It is then compressed into DivX format using the latest version codec. We measure the time it takes to encode and then record CPU usage.
Encoding takes its toll on the system and despite lower memory bandwidth, the extra juice in the CPU helps keep the GIGABYTE board right in contention.
Benchmarks - 3DMark Vantage
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.01
Developer Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com
Product Homepage: http://www.futuremark.com/products/3dmarkvantage
Buy It Here
3DMark Vantage is the new industry standard PC gaming performance benchmark from Futuremark, newly designed for Windows Vista and DirectX10. It includes two new graphics tests, two new CPU tests, several new feature tests, and support for the latest hardware.
3DMark Vantage is based on a completely new rendering engine, developed specifically to take full advantage of DirectX10, the new graphics API from Microsoft.
Testing with synthetic games puts GIGABYTE just behind the other two boards when it's overclocked, but at stock all is equal.
Benchmarks - Crysis
Version and / or Patch Used: 1.1
Timedemo or Level Used: Custom Timedemo
Developer Homepage: http://www.crytek.com/
Product Homepage: http://www.ea.com/crysis/
Buy It Here
From the makers of Far Cry, Crysis offers FPS fans the best-looking, most highly-evolving gameplay, requiring the player to use adaptive tactics and total customization of weapons and armor to survive in dynamic, hostile environments including Zero-G.
Real time editing, bump mapping, dynamic lights, network system, integrated physics system, shaders, shadows and a dynamic music system are just some of the state of-the-art features the CryENGINE™ 2 offers. The CryENGINE™ 2 comes complete with all of its internal tools and also includes the CryENGINE™ 2 Sandbox world editing system.
Crysis' real world test shows all three boards equal across the board at stock levels.
Power Usage and Heat Tests
We are now able to find out what kind of power is being used by our test system and the associated graphics cards installed. Keep in mind; it tests the complete system (minus LCD monitor, which is plugged directly into an AC wall socket).
There are a few important notes to remember though; while our maximum power is taken in 3DMark06 at the same exact point, we have seen in particular tests the power being drawn as much as 10% more. We test at the exact same stage every time; therefore tests should be very consistent and accurate.
The other thing to remember is that our test system is bare minimum - only a 7,200RPM SATA-II single hard drive is used without CD-ROM or many cooling fans.
So while the system might draw 400 watts in our test system, placing it into your own PC with a number of other items, the draw is going to be higher.
This has always been a sore point between GIGABYTE and ASUS and we are still happy to say the UD4P manages to just save that little bit of extra power.
As a new measure, we are now monitoring the heat generation from the key components on the motherboards, this being the Northbridge, Southbridge (if it contains one) as well as the Mosfets around the CPU. The results are recorded at idle and load during the power consumption tests.
Lastly we see that both companies manage to keep the heat to a respectable level.
GIGABYTE has been one of the biggest names in motherboards for over three years now. Their LGA775 series of boards were extremely impressive and their Core i7 series are already starting to look the goods, too.
We have already tested a couple of their X58 based boards and have been generally impressed. While there are a few changes we would like to see made, so far we haven't had a major drama with their retail boards, only a few bugs in beta boards.
The EX58-UD4P board represents what we've come to believe the best compromise X58 board out there. While it lacks a few features such as eSATA, the board has all the GPU slots you're going to need, making it perfect for the X58 SLI/Crossfire rig without spending a fortune on the board. At 259.99 U.S. Dollars from Newegg for this X58 motherboard, you can allocate more towards your graphics card(s).