With motherboard vendors trying to differentiate their products as much as possible to give them a leg up on the competition, several brands are marketing some products for gamers specifically, despite the fact that these products may or may not have any actual gaming-related features. Gigabyte’s G1.Gaming brand now stretches all the way down to budget motherboards and it does offer something slightly different to the competition.
The H81M-Gaming 3 is based on an earlier board called the H81M-WW, which was another mATX motherboard with slightly better sound thanks to the closed-off audio circuitry and an otherwise very barebones offering in terms of features and hardware.
The H81M-Gaming 3 changes the base design of the H81M-WW by sticking a G1.Gaming logo on the heatsink and uses different Japanese-made capacitors, which supposedly offer longer operating lifespans. The audio circuitry is still sealed off and includes the Realtek ALC892 chip, but now includes an extra grounding layer to avoid interference and shorts with the chassis.
Elsewhere, Gigabyte switches out the legacy PCI connector for a 1x PCI-Expresss 2.0 slot at the bottom of the board for anyone using Wi-Fi or audio cards that are more modern and not based on old, outdated signaling speeds. The PCI-Express 16x slot stills runs at 2.0 speeds, but this won’t be a problem for most single-card setups. Power-hungry cards like the Radeon R9 295X2 might not be a great fit in there, but it’s still a possibility. For SATA, there are two 6Gb/s and two 3Gb/s ports.
The only hardware component that really changes here is the network interface, switching out the Realtek Gigabit chip for an Intel Gigabit controller, which should offer more features such as packet optimisation and QOS rules that prioritise gaming-related network data. I don’t see that helping much, but hey, it’s there.
Connection-side, there’s two USB 3.0 at the rear along with two USB 2.0, a standard audio jack arrangement, HDMI 1.4a, VGA D-SUB and PS/2 ports for a keyboard and mouse. There are only two four-pin fan headers, so using any more would require hooking them up straight to the PSU or using a fan controller.
All in all, not a bad board, but Gigabyte hasn’t mentioned any pricing or availability stats. Boards catering to gamers usually end up being a little overpriced for the extra frills they offer, but with the distinct lack of frills here I’d be surprised if it ends up being more than R1000.