A Closer Look Part II

We'll take a bit of a tour around the motherboard starting with the SATA connectors. The six at the top are the standard ports supported by the X79 chipset consisting of a pair of SATA 6GB/s connectors and four 3GB/s connectors. The bottom four connectors labelled "GSATA" 6 to 9 are 6GB/s compatible and support RAID 0 and 1. These ports are controlled by a pair of Marvell 88SE9172 chips. There is a gap for an additional four ports, probably held over for a future revision of the board with a revised X79 chipset including the omitted SAS ports.

At the bottom of the board we see the dual BIOS chips (switchable via the back panel switch) and the reset button. The heatsink itself is very large and will benefit from some airflow over the area, helping to cool the chipset and particularly the PWM connected via the heatpipe.

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Below we see several of the controller chips for the board. On the left is the iTE IT8728 I/O controller that handles the ps/2 ports, hardware monitoring and miscellaneous features such as chassis intrusion detection. The space consuming VIA VT6308P chip handles IEEE1394 (firewire) duties with a port on the back panel and a header for an additional port. Audio is provided by a standard Realtek ALC898 chip supporting HD with up to 7.1 channels. LAN duties are serviced by an Intel controller rather than the commonly seen Realtek solution. On the far right is a Fresco FL1009 chip providing the two ports on the rear panel. A little further off the right of the pic is another Marvell 88SE9172 controlling the two eSATA ports. In total there are three of these Marvell chips on the UD5!

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Below are the expansion slots. The three PCIe 16x slots are all PCIe 3.0 compliant with the middle one being an 8x electrical slot. The other two are full 16x slots. There are a pair of PCIe 1x slots that conform to the 2.0 standard. Also present is a legacy PCI slot, a rare sight on an X79 board and possibly a deal maker for those with a PCI card they don't wish to part with.

With three 16x slots, obviously 3way SLI and Crossfire are supported. Those few that want to use 4way will need to choose another board. The cheaper UD3 is 4way capable which is interesting. This is an indicator that Gigabyte is pushing the board towards the content creation and professional market rather than catering for the tiny percentage of 4way users who would likely go for a board like the UD7 anyway.

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The PWM heatsink part is really small. Given the power that Sandy Bridge-E chips can pull when overclocked, we think Gigabyte needs to address this design. As a result, good airflow is critical, particularly when overclocking. Both heatsink sections make excellent contact with the components.

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As we mentioned in the intro, Gigabyte's X79 motherboards are the company's first to debut digital PWM systems for the CPU and memory. Some major advantages of a digital system over an analogue implementation are finer granularity and control of features such as switching frequency, load line calibration and voltages themselves. Feedback & monitoring are also inherently improved. This solution offers dynamic phase control (perfect for the variable turbo and C-state features of Intel CPU's), I2C support for software control and also saves valuable board space over an equivalent analogue system. In total there are fourteen phases for the CPU on the UD5.

The memory channels feature a similar scaled down system, with one set for each pair of memory channels. These two systems plus the CPU implementation give rise to the 3D Power moniker being pushed by Gigabyte.

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Quality IR MOSFET's and tantalum capacitors are found on the rear of the board as well.

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The CPU PWM is controlled by an International Rectifier IR3567 digital controller.

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