Detailed hands on pictures of Gigabyte’s G1.Sniper 3
Speaking of PCI Express slots, as you might've already have noticed, we're looking at no less than four x16 PCI Express 3.0 slots on this board and yes, they really are PCI Express 3.0 thanks to a new PLX bridge chip hiding under that little heatsink next to the CPU socket. This allows for the 16 lanes from the CPU to be split up into two by 16 or four by eight configurations, even though there technically isn't enough bandwidth, much like how Nvidia's old nForce 200 worked. Note that the board supports 4-way CrossFire, but it's limited to 3-way SLI as Nvidia won't license 4-way SLI for chipsets that don't have 32 lanes of native PCI Express bandwidth. The board also has two x1 PCI Express 2.0 slots and a single PCI slot.
At the front of the board is yet another new addition to the G1 series of boards, an mSATA slot. This is for more than just SSD caching this time around, but we can't really go into the details about that as yet due to Intel's NDA's. That said, there is already some information online from IDF about what to expect and if you have a look at that, you should be able to work it out. The mSATA slot is sharing the same SATA interface as the sixth SATA port on the board, so if you use an mSATA drive, this port is disabled. Gigabyte has also added a pair of Marvell controllers for an additional four SATA 6Gbps ports.
Another new addition – and this is going to be a popular one – is improved overclocking features. Apparently a lot of customers complained that the G1 series didn't overclock all that well, so Gigabyte did something about it. Now we're told that the G1.Sniper 3 should be as good overclocker as any of Gigabyte's other boards and on top of that Gigabyte has added a POST80 debug LED, power measurement points and it has moved the power, reset and clear CMOS buttons to the top corner of the PCB. There's also a manual BIOS switch at the bottom of the board, close to where you connect the chassis headers and headers for four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports – more on that in a second – and two FireWire ports.
The rear I/O has of course also been changed, due to in no small way the change of chipset. Gigabyte has gone for full-on display connectivity support here with a DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and D-sub connector. As you can see there's also a full set of USB 3.0 ports, but sadly Gigabyte decided to go with USB 3.0 hubs here, so the four Intel USB 3.0 ports are split up between the six rear ports and four front ports. The board also has a PS/2 port, the two aforementioned Ethernet ports and 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out via the Creative chip.
That's pretty much it for now; we'll go into some of the other new Gigabyte features in a separate article about some of the other boards. We should mention that Gigabyte has kitted out the G1.Sniper 3 with the same digital PWM controllers as it uses on the X79 series and there's the SATA type power connector at the front of the PCB for extra power to the PCI Express slots. For the rest, you'll have to wait until Intel allows for more detailed reviews which means that you'll have to wait until sometime in April according to the leaked launch schedule, unless something changes again.