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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?
|CPU SUPPORT||Socket |
|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.
Gigabyte didn't completely abandon its signature pastel color theme, but it did darken things up a bit for what we feel is an upgrade to the aesthetics. Previous boards have bordered on garish, and that's not the case with the UD4P.
Much more important than appearance, Gigabyte nails the layout, giving us little, if anything, to complain about. The rear-facing SATA ports removes any worry of elongated videocards blocking access, and as we've come to expect from any modern motherboard, all data connectors are lined up along the edge, though we'd prefer to see the IDE and FDD ports situated in a right-angle (minus 200 geek cred points if you still use either of these).
Gigabyte leaves you with plenty of room for today's increasingly monstrous cooling solutions, with ample space surrounding the CPU socket area on all four side.
If you look on the left side of the pic -- right next to the tri-channel DDR3 slots -- you'll notice a pair of buttons. These are onboard power and reset buttons, a boon to overclockers, reviewers, and anyone else who might use an open-air chassis.
Legacy support lives on in the form of PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports on the rear I/O section, though that's where the old-school ends and the new-school begins. Gigabyte fleshes out its I/O with a generous eight USB 2.0 ports, a single Firewire port, optical and S/PDIF outputs, a single LAN port, and the customary 3.5mm audio outputs. In another nod towards overclockers, Gigabyte also slapped a Clear CMOS button on the back of the board, which means no more fumbling around for jumpers and coin-sized batteries when tweaking goes horribly wrong.
|QPI Link Speed|
|QPI / PLL Voltage|
Hardcore tweakers will also find a ton of options above and beyond the basic settings, particularly when it comes to various voltage settings. Casual and even most veteran overclockers probably won't ever touch most of the available voltage options, but for the extreme minority -- like those chasing overclocking records -- the UD4P doesn't come up short in any respect.
Firstand foremost, overclocking results are never guaranteed. Many factorscan influence what a system is capable of, including complimentarycomponents (motherboard, processor, power supply), user experience, andsimple luck of the draw. Two identical systems will not necessarilyyield identical results, and anything over the rated specificationshould be treated as a bonus, not an expectation.
As we often do when reviewing motherboards, we take a largely barebones approach to overclocking in order to provide a baseline expectation. For those who want to spend more time coaxing additional MHz out of their setup, the UD4P affords a ton of tweaking options and you could spend weeks experimenting before discovering the optimal configuration. We're more interested in how the board fares when keeping it simple, and as such, we push the BCLCK to its maximum stable speed while letting the motherboard autotune everything else.
Using this method, we managed to goose the BCLCK from its stock 133MHz up to 165MHz, a modest bump that took our Core i7 975 from 3.33GHz to 4.125GHz, just shy of a 1GHz OC. Not a bad baseline, and consider that we also left Turbo mode enabled
|Custom PC Benchmarks Suite 2007|
Knights of the Sea (1280x1024, High, No AA)
In a word, "impressive." Gigabyte's EX58-UD4P delivers performance on par with boards costing an extra C-note, running neck and neck with EVGA's X58 Classified, for example (because the setups were slightly different -- in EVGA's favor -- we're not posting comparison benchmarks side-by-side). The near-effortless overclock also paid dividends across the board in both synthetic and real-world benches.
|Warranty & Support|
Our RecommendationRemember when Asus, Abit, and DFI were the only manufacturers churning out high-powered motherboards? Neither do we, not with the way Gigabyte has positioned itself in the past several years. We've watched Gigabyte expand its focus from the OEM and budget markets to now consistently targeting overclockers and power users with potent boards, and the UD4P is but another example of this.
At $260 street (before rebate), the UD4P isn't exactly cheap, but relative to other X58 boards, the UD4P falls squarely in the middle, if not just under. But its performance and feature-set are anything but middling. There's a lot included to entice the enthusiast crowd, from the PCB design to the robust overclocking options, and the UD4P's performance numbers put the board towards the front of the class. Several subtleties help flesh out the package, like onboard power/reset/clear CMOS buttons, right-angled SATA ports, and a boatload of power saving features. Factor in tri-SLI and three-way CrossFireX support and you'd be hard pressed to find a more rounded X58 motherboard in this price range.
So what's not to like? Very little. We wish the IDE and FDD connectors were angled, but if you're building a Core i7 rig in the first place, you'll probably never use these legacy ports anyway. And even if we don't ever find ourselves using it, we've grown accustomed to having two LAN ports, if for nothing else than as a backup in case one goes bad.
This one's a slam dunk. If you're building a Core i7 rig and have the scratch for a $260 mobo, we unequivocally recommend the Gigabyte EX58-UD4P.
Other Reviews of Note
Itsalways nice to have more than one opinion on a component before youspend your hard earned money. For one, We may see something othersmissed, or vice versa. As with all reviews published at HardwareLogic,we'll not only give you our recommendation, but also point out somereviews from some other great sites around the web.