For any enthusiast building a new machine, the easy part is deciding which platform to go with. Intel owns the high end market with its Core i7 platform, leaving only budget shoppers and the AMD faithful looking in the other direction. For everyone else, it's Core i7 or bust. Less easy is picking out a motherboard. At this still relatively early stage, the process is simplified somewhat in that the X58 chipset remains the only game in town, but the options are varied to the point where you can spend anywhere from the high $100s all the way up to nearly $600.
At about $260 street, Gigabyte's EX58-UD4P sits somewhere in the middle of the X58 pack, but that's only when looking at the sticker price. A glance at the spec sheet reveals anything but a mid-range motherboard, and this one tilts heavily towards the high end. Just some of the robust features include a 2-ounce copper PCB, Japanese capacitors, tri-SLI and 3-way CrossFireX support, 8 USB 2.0 ports, 8 SATA 3Gb/s ports, support for up to 24GB of DDR3-2100, and dual hardware BIOS chips, among other goodies. In fact, all that really separates the UD4P from Gigabyte's pricier X58 models are two more SATA ports, an additional LAN port, and slightly improved cooling, positioning the UD4P at the cutoff point before diminishing returns kicks in. But while the UD4P offers best-in-class features at a mid-range price (by X58 standards), will it follow suit with best-in-class performance?
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|REAR I/O PANEL|
|INTERNAL I/O HEADERS|
In line with the UD4P's middling positioning among Gigabyte's X58-based motherboards, the bundle goes beyond the bare minimum while falling short of being packed chock full of goodies. Contents include a driver disc, a triumvirate of user guides, two- and three-way SLI bridges, an eSATA bracket with accompanying power and data cables, floppy and IDE ribbon cables, four SATA cables, and the obligatory rear I/O plate. More SATA cables would have been a nice inclusion, especially considering you have eight SATA ports to work with, two of which will be used right off the bat if you roll with a pair of optical drives.