Computex 2012: Gigabyte’s X79 refresh is on the way

For those of you looking at a nice X79 motherboard, you may be disappointed to find that there’s really nothing that sets itself that far apart from LGA1155 Z77 designs. In fact, there may even be Z68 designs that usurp the features and connectivity found on your board and make it look silly and boorish (even the colour schemes back then were garish). So Gigabyte’s come to the rescue and before you lies the highest SKU X79 board we’ll see from them for some time yet.

Currently the X79 high-end market is ruled by ASUS and MSI. Perhaps also Intel if you’d like to consider their efforts, but their boards are mostly boring by comparison unless you’re looking at the DX79 Slier. Gigabyte does have the X79 UD5 and the G1 Sniper X79, but this looks to surpass both. 

Yes, I know you quickly counted the number of SATA ports – all fourteen of them, in fact. The board that lies before you is in fact based on Intel’s low-end server chipset. Like the 6PXSV3, this is essentially a workstation board dedicated for gaming. The board (which could turn out to be the X79S-UD7, if they stick to the naming convention) has a low profile heatpipe design and features eight DIMM slots which can take unbuffered or buffered modules. The maximum levels aren’t stated but its possible than unbuffered DIMMs could go to 64GB. Buffered ECC modules could possibly push that up to 128GB but that’s way beyond what any gamer would use. As an aside, the ECC capability means that any Xeon chip will also work in this board.

The server chip the board is based on is Intel’s C606. Its available only to OEMs and is commonly used in high-end Dell and HP workstations featuring the Xeon processors. Its also found in the all-in-one workstations that we’ll see from HP and Dell, so there’s enough product uptake and support to make the solution the better choice. The chipset brings with it support for Quad SLI or Crossfire and fourteen SATA 6Gb/s ports, with eight of them certified for SAS use (the ones in blue). RAID options go up to RAID 50 and considering it is a server chipset, would be easily better than the ones in competing boards in terms or stability and througput. There’s a PLX chip providing the extra PCI-Express 3.0 ports and two network ports, one by Intel and the other by Atheros. They can be used separately or together in a teamed setup.

Moving to the back, there’s the expected ports and connections. There’s 7-channel audio, 6USB 3,0 ports with the two red ones supporting Gigabyte’s On/Off charge feature, e-SATA and rather interestingly a Firewire 800 connector (never thought I’d see one again!). The lack of Thunderbolt is disappointing, but there’s no integrated graphics hardware on Sandy Bridge-E chips so that’s not too bad. If you’d like to use the connector, you’ll need a PCI-E 1x card for it. Finally there’s an OC button, two switches to change between the board’s DualBIOS configurations and a rather useful ClearCMOS button.

Gigabyte hasn’t said when the board will be available in the retail channel, but I’m betting its sometime in late July. Pricing should be more in line with the G1 Sniper, so expect something around R5000 that could usurp the ASUS Rampage currently sitting in the NAG Dream Machine.

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