Date: December 2, 2013
Author(s): Rob Williams
Gamers with deep pockets who appreciate motherboards packed to the gills with features, features, and more features ought to have a look at GIGABYTE’s G1.Sniper 5. Its black and green aesthetics are eye-catching, sure, but its feature-set would surely make its rivals green with envy. Read on to find out what we think of the G1.Sniper 5!
In September, I took a look at GIGABYTE’s midrange Z87X-UD3H. With its rich feature-set and $160 price tag, I deemed it an impressive offering – impressive enough to earn itself an Editor’s Choice award. For those wanting an affordable Z87 board and don’t want to give much up, the Z87X-UD3H still comes highly recommended by me.
In this article, we’re taking a look at another GIGABYTE board, but one that has a bit of a different focus: The high-end gamer. At $400, the G1.Sniper 5 isn’t targeting the market at large; rather, it’s aimed at those who want a gamer-tuned product with a features list longer than entire 26-volume Warren Commission Report. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to dub this board GIGABYTE’s “ultimate” Z87 offering.
But, features on paper and features in execution are two different things, so let’s take a quick overview look at the board, and then figure out just what it offers.
We’ll take a hardware tour on the next page, but for now, feel free to peruse a top-level view of the G1.Sniper 5′s features:
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5|
|Architecture||Intel Z87 (LGA1150)|
|Form-Factor||EATX (12″ x 10.4″)|
|Memory||Up to 4x8GB DDR3-3000|
|Multi-GPU||4-way NVIDIA SLI
4-way AMD CrossFireX
|Expansion||4x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16, x16+x16, x8+x8+x8, or x8+x8+x8+x8)
3x PCIe 3.0 x1
|Storage||6x SATA 6Gbit/s (Intel)
4x SATA 6Gbit/s (Marvell)
|Network||1x Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201
1x Intel Gigabit
|Wireless||802.11 a/b/g/n Dual-Band (2.4/5GHz)
|Audio||Creative Sound Core 3D (5.1)
|USB||Back-panel: 6x 3.0 (Renesas)
2x 2.0 (Intel)
Internal: 4x 2.0 (Intel), 2x 3.0 (Intel), 2x 3.0 (Renesas)
|Back I/O||2x 1Gbit/s LAN, 6x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Optical S/PDIF, 5x Audio Jacks, 2x HDMI, DisplayPort, PS/2|
|Features||@BIOS, Q-Flash, Xpress Install, EasyTune, ON/OFF Charge2, EZ Setup, Dual BIOS|
When a board comes in the EATX form-factor, there’s a great chance that its feature-set is large, and that’s just the case with the G1.Sniper 5.
One of the biggest things to set this board apart from most Z87 models is the fact that it supports 4 graphics cards with AMD’s CrossFire or NVIDIA’s SLI. While running mainstream cards in such a configuration might be suitable, I’d quicker recommend the Intel X79 platform for the ultimate in high-end – as mentioned in my look at ASUS’ P9X79-E WS a couple of months ago, it’s not bandwidth that matters so much, but instead electrical lanes. Still, it’s nice to have support for multi-GPU for those who need to make use of it, especially with the rising popularity of Bitcoin mining.
With its 4 DIMM slots, the G1.Sniper 5 supports up to 32GB of RAM at DDR3-3000 speeds. For storage, a total of 10 SATA 6Gbps ports are provided; 6 of which are driven from the Intel chipset (which means they are priority for your drives), while the other 4 come courtesy of Marvell. USB-wise, 6x 3.0 and 2x 2.0 can be found at the back I/O panel, while a total of 4x 3.0 and 4x 2.0 can be added via internal connectors.
Most people wouldn’t associate “wireless” with “gaming”, but GIGABYTE has provided some rich Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality here. On the Wi-Fi side, GIGABYTE allows you to forego the functionality if you don’t want it; and if you do, it can be added in via an included x1 PCIe card.
Since its introduction a couple of years ago, GIGABYTE’s G1. series has included a Killer NIC solution on each model, and on the higher-end models, a Creative X-Fi solution. Here, the primary NIC duties are handled by the E2201 chip, and the audio, a cut-down version of a discrete Creative X-Fi solution called Sound Core 3D. I’m not an audio expert, but GIGABYTE touts this as being a far superior solution to a traditional onboard card (such as Realtek, and we’d never disagree).
Clearly, the G1.Sniper 5 is a packed board, so let’s get right into our hardware tour, shall we?
To help kick things off, we’ll make use of a GIGABYTE-provided image of the G1.Sniper 5, offering a top-down view that lets us grasp the board’s layout much easier.
One thing that helps the G1 series stand out of the crowd is its aggressive green+black color scheme, and not to mention its heatsink design. On the Sniper 5, GIGABYTE avails the opportunity to integrate the top heatsink into a water cooling setup – so for those who have one, you’ll be able to keep temperatures around this area much cooler than would be possible on air.
In a recent motherboard review, I mentioned that it used to be that you’d have to spend hundreds of dollars on a motherboard in order to get a good assortment of fan headers (at least 6). Well, if that’s the case, then what about a motherboard that does cost hundreds of dollars – $400 to be exact? Well, you’re given what I believe is the highest number of fan headers ever seen on a desktop board.
In total, the G1.Sniper 5 includes a staggering nine fan headers – 7 of which are 4-pin. As has become a regular sight, 2x 4-pins are located to the top-right of the CPU socket, while another can be found to the bottom-left. Along the bottom of the board, there are four more. The board’s 2x 3-pin headers can be found to the right of the DIMM slots – perfect for a RAM fan or top-mounted fans.
Other notable features: Onboard buttons (power, reset, CMOS clear), an LED BIOS code display, 2x USB 3.0 headers, a separated audio solution (electrically, not physically), a small fan to the top-right of the CPU socket, and the 8-pin motherboard connector in the exact orientation I like to see them in.
GIGABYTE has done a great job overall here with the layout, although it’s worth pointing out that if all four x16 slots are populated with a dual-slot GPU, all of the x1 slots become unusable. For a lot of people, this won’t be an issue, but given the fact that the included Wi-Fi card is destined for one of these slots, GIGABYTE in effect prevents you from taking advantage of two board features at the same time – 4-way GPU, and Wi-Fi. I’ll jump to conclusions, however, that Wi-Fi is going to be low-priority on a quad-GPU setup.
Alright – let’s buckle-up and go on this hardware tour.
As covered on the previous page, the G1.Sniper 5 supports 32GB of RAM with its 4 DIMM slots, with further support of up to DDR3-3000 speeds. At the top-right corner of the board are three buttons; red = power, blue = reset, and black = CMOS clear. Below these are the board’s 2x 3-pin fan headers and LED BIOS code readout.
Looking at the shot above, and to the right of the DIMM slots, we can see two switches. These correlate to the dual-BIOS function; one acts as a switcher, and the other disables the dual-BIOS function for those who don’t want it (I can’t come up with a reason for doing that). Also worth pointing out is the red USB 3.0 internal header – a convenient spot for those using front-panel peripherals (such as the one included with the board).
Moving to the bottom-right part of the board we can see an attractive heatsink (which cools the Intel Z87 chipset), BIOS battery, ATX chassis connectors, another USB 3.0 internal header, two internal USB 2.0 headers (one is half cut off in the photo), and finally, two of the bottom 4-pin fan headers.
The next shot is interesting for a couple of reasons. For starters, we can see the Creative audio solution to the left, which has been separated from the rest of the board with a trace path. We can also see the other two bottom 4-pin fan headers, along with the 4x x16 and 3x x1 PCIe slots.
Audio is a major focus of GIGABYTE’s latest G1 series, a point that is proven with the inclusion of a feature most people won’t take advantage of: A removable OPAMP, which can be seen in the below image, near the center. One feature a lot of people with higher-end headphones might want to take advantage of is the built-in amplifier – but, it works only when using the front panel audio connector (the internal header is also located on this “card”).
For those who feel more confident when their audio components are gold-plated, GIGABYTE has got you covered here.
And here is the LGA1150 socket in all its glory. Exciting stuff, huh? More worth looking at might be the heatsink solution which has input/output water cooling barbs on either side, in addition to a small fan located to the top-left. Motherboards that feature built-in water cooling capabilities are hardly new, but GIGABYTE’s implementation looks quite good here.
Below is a better look at the top of the board. It’s crowded, but it shouldn’t be crowded enough to prevent most large CPU heatsinks from being used (it’s worth double-checking in case you are planning to use a mammoth cooler, though).
We’ve covered a number of things in this article so far that helps set this board apart from most, and it’s time to add another to the list: Dual HDMI ports. I admit to having a horrible memory, but I do not recall ever seeing this in a motherboard before. The idea is that you could use one HDMI port for audio, and the other for the display (which would assume you’re plugging into an amp, and not into a monitor that has built-in speakers). Like the rest of the audio-related hardware, these ports are gold-plated.
In addition to the HDMI ports, there’s also a DisplayPort, 2x USB 2.0 ports, 6x USB 3.0 ports, the dual LAN options, and full complement of audio jacks. Oh – and for those with the need, a PS/2 keyboard or mouse port (I like to call these the “Oh crap, the computer is beyond repair so I need a non-USB keyboard to fix it” port).
All motherboards include accessories, so let’s start with some that – once again – set this board apart. First, an additional OPAMP is included for those who want to fiddle with their sound reproduction, along with the tool required to remove the one on the board.
To help prove that GIGABYTE isn’t just implementing a feature like this to separate itself for the sake of separating itself, it offers an OPAMP kit that provides three other solutions: Burr-Brown, Linear Technology, and Analog Devices.
As of the time of writing, however, I couldn’t find that particular kit available anywhere, which leads me to believe that it’d be easier found in Asia. Still, it’s the thought that counts, and there are certainly many ways to procure different OPAMPs on these shores.
For the Wi-Fi solution, the single antenna that ships with this board can also be seen in the above photo (it connects to both available connectors on the included card).
Finally, a look at the crazy assortment of other accessories GIGABYTE has included here.
Because AMD’s vendors have made sure to include a CrossFire bridge with each card, one is never included with a motherboard – except here, apparently. For SLI, every possible bridge is included – another rarity.
Apart from that, we can see the I/O back panel, 6x SATA cables, a USB cable which connects the Wi-Fi card to an onboard connector, the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth PCIe card, and front-panel accessory which adds 2x USB 3.0 ports to the PC.
You might be wondering why a Wi-Fi card would need a USB cable, and I was right there with you. GIGABYTE offers an iOS app that allows you to negotiate data transfers with this Wi-Fi solution, as well as manage EasyTune settings (think remote overclocking). As I don’t own an iOS device, this isn’t a feature I tested, but fortunately it seems pretty self-explanatory. Let’s hope Android will get some love down the road.
Onward to a look at the EFI.
An archive including all of these screenshots and more can be snatched here (.ZIP, 6.5MB).
Because the EFI on the G1.Sniper 5 is almost identical to the one found on the Z87X-UD3H, this page will feature much of the same text, but unique screenshots.
In the past, I’ve been a little critical of GIGABYTE’s EFI design choices, as I found them to force me to grab hold of the mouse to get around, rather than stick to just using the KB, which I find to be far more efficient.
In some of my past reviews, I said that GIGABYTE should focus on building an EFI around keyboard use, and not to mention enhance some other things just to make the overall experience better overall.
Well, for its Z87 lineup, GIGABYTE delivered. Big time:
With its latest EFI, GIGABYTE has pulled off a couple of things that I didn’t even realize were possible. The visuals, for example, are a level beyond what I’ve ever anticipated to see – it looks like a desktop app. Helping it to feel like a desktop app is the fact that it can run at full HD resolution (1080p).
Have you ever run a game or your OS at low resolution on your high-resolution display? The mouse will feel odd. That’s because your monitor is effectively reproducing 2 or 3 pixels for every 1 pixel that the app is rendering. You lose precision as a result. Thus, when your EFI runs at 1080p (even if you have a higher resolution monitor than this), the mouse work is going to feel a lot more natural – and in this particular case, I can state with assurance that it does.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that GIGABYTE decided to stick to the mantra of “mouse is better”. Keyboard interaction has been vastly improved here as well.
In our look at ASUS’ Z87-EXPERT, we explored a new EFI feature called “My Favorites”, where users can cherry-pick the EFI options that they’d like to gain quicker-access to. Here, we can see GIGABYTE has much of the same idea, except the entire screen can be built at once, via a pop-up menu system, seen here:
Both GIGABYTE’s and ASUS’ solutions here are quite nice, but I have to give a slight nod to GIGABYTE’s implementation, as I find it a lot easier to keep track of everything that I’m adding to my screen – on ASUS’ EFIs I have to go back to the My Favorites screen to see which options I’ve added (important for someone like me who forgets things instantly sometimes).
The above is an example of an EFI area where a mouse does come in handy, because it allows you to very quickly navigate the various menus in order to get to the option you’d like to add to your custom screen. It can of course be accomplished via a keyboard as well, but it’s just less efficient.
Moving on, a look at something else GIGABYTE’s doing that’s a bit interesting: Integrating pictures into the EFI to help explain a feature. Granted, this is the only particular area that I noticed an image being introduced, but it’s a useful one: Before choosing your loadline calibration, you can see how the board will conduct its scaling on the right.
Seeing this gave me the idea of a live updated image in a situation like this where you can see results of things in real-time, such as updating your fan speed configurations. Granted, that’d undoubtedly prove to be a little beefy for an EFI, but at this point it wouldn’t surprise me if it were possible.
Our last look at a full EFI screen showcases another simple yet attractive option: Setting the date. You get a real calendar, and if you want, can use your mouse to surf through the years and months to get it to where you need it.
I simply can’t get over just how attractive this EFI is (though I admit I am a little more keen on the styling of the UD3H board’s EFI).
I’d like to call out two other features to this EFI. On the bottom-left, you can see a menu that appears when you right-click your mouse in an open area, giving you quick access to key areas – a nice touch. On the bottom-right, an option that quite literally made me laugh out loud: “3DMark01 Boost”. Apparently, this is something overclockers had been demanding. It in effect screws with the memory whenever 3DMark01 is detected so as to deliver better results. I never thought I’d see such a specific benchmark targeted in a BIOS/EFI before.
Notice that “Classic Setup” option above? That’s for those who might not like GIGABYTE’s new EFI style, and instead would like to use something more familiar. Clicking it brings us back to the same EFI design we’ve seen for the past couple of years:
For some reason, select functions of the main EFI will bring us to this classic style – why, I have no idea. Fortunately, those options are few, so you can enjoy the “new age” EFI look most often.
It should go without saying at this point, but GIGABYTE’s latest EFI design is impressive. Let’s see if the company’s latest software suite matches up.
Until just a couple of years ago, it seemed that motherboard vendors would have loved to do anything other can craft quality software. In fact, it’s really only been ASUS that has left us impressed, with its feature-rich and easy-to-use AiSuite package (which, as we discovered a couple of months ago, still kicks some serious ass).
Where GIGABYTE is concerned, its software options have left me largely unimpressed up until this Z87 generation. Well, much like its EFI this generation, GIGABYTE has put the effort forth to give its users a worthwhile pairing of software as well.
The first thing anyone with a GIGABYTE Z87 board will want to do is install “App Center”, GIGABYTE’s all-encompassing software suite, pictured below:
From here, the first stop would be “Live Update”, which will load up an app chooser screen. After selecting what you want, click “Install” and watch the magic happen:
This app will take care of every driver your motherboard requires, along with all of the software that can be used inside of App Center. Alternatively, you could download each component separately off of GIGABYTE’s support site, or install it off of the DVD-ROM, but this is by far the easiest way to get going quickly, and with as up-to-date software as GIGABYTE offers.
Admittedly, GIGABYTE’s take on this all-in-one software suite isn’t as elegant as ASUS’ – not even close. Apps don’t load inside of the main suite, for example, but rather as individual windows. And past that, nothing here strikes me as all too interesting, or too self-explanatory. One interesting feature, though, is one I’ve discussed before: USB Blocker. With it, you’re able to restrict certain types of USB devices from being plugged in – useful if you don’t want anyone to plug in a USB stick and take off with some info (and yes, it’s locked behind password protection).
The real highlight of GIGABYTE’s Z87 software suite is the latest version of EasyTune, which ties into Intel’s “Management Engine Interface”, allowing a good deal of interaction with the motherboard’s knobs and switches.
Take a peak:
This is an even bigger aesthetics upgrade than the EFI experienced! Don’t remember the last version of EasyTune? Take a look. Sheesh – this is like going from Windows 98 to Windows 8 in one fell swoop.
Attractiveness aside, the latest EasyTune does in fact make tuning easy, with everything laid-out in a pretty common-sense way. I am personally not sure I like the massiveness of the application though, which is mostly made that way because of GIGABYTE’s choice to use some equally massive fonts in some places. While the app might scale, it ran at 1600×900 on my 1080p display – it takes up quite a bit of real-estate, unlike ASUS’ AiSuite III. This is a minor complaint overall though, because again, the app is easy-to-use, and that’s what truly matters.
Want a hands-off overclock? Then QuickBoost is for you. Here, you can automatically overclock your CPU to varying levels, or underclock if you’re looking to save power. If you want the board to find your most “stable” overclock, you can hit the “Auto Tuning” option. Overall, simple stuff that we’ve come to expect, but as we can see a 4.50GHz overclocked option in this list, it’s nice to see GIGABYTE isn’t being too conservative. Of course, if you want to push your hardware further, you certainly can in the “Advanced” menu.
An example of that menu can be seen here:
I am very impressed overall with what GIGABYTE has done with EasyTune here, and I can’t help but feel that EasyTune should essentially be what ASUS’ AiSuite is – get rid of the other stand-alone applets, and integrate them right into EasyTune (USB Boost, USB Blocker, et cetera). For most people, I’d imagine that EasyTune is going to be enough, so App Center might really not even prove that useful to many.
Whatever my thoughts, the proof is in the pudding here… GIGABYTE has been hard at work, and it’s certainly paid-off.
From a performance perspective, we feel that motherboard benchmarking is useless. It’s the motherboard’s job to allow all of the installed hardware to operate at its full potential, so in theory, a $100 option shouldn’t be much (or any) slower than a $300 one. The differences in price instead comes down to the quality of the onboard components and other features.
So why do it at all? It’s because it’s important to make sure that the board we’re dealing with doesn’t lack in one particular area versus the rest. If board A performs 2% slower than board B in PCMark, for example, that’s of no concern to us – random benchmark variance is a fact of life. However, if one board consistently performs weaker than the rest, that’s worthy of note – it could suggest that weaker components have been used which do not allow the hardware to operate at its full potential.
Please bear this in mind when perusing our results. Just because a board under-performs in a single test, it doesn’t mean anything in regards to its quality as a whole. Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that each board we test performs as we’d expect across the gamut of scenarios we pit them against.
Because some motherboards auto-OC the CPU when certain options are chosen (XMP, for example), we force the Turbo ratios for our Core i7-4770K to reference settings: 39x/39x/38x/37x (1/2/3/4 cores).
|Intel LGA1150 Test System|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4770K – Quad-Core, 3.50GHz|
|Motherboard||ASUS Z87-EXPERT (BIOS: ’1206′ 07/19/2013)
GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 (BIOS: ‘F7′ 08/05/2013)
GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H (BIOS: ‘F7′ 08/05/2013)
|Memory||Kingston HyperX Beast 2x8GB – DDR3-2133 11-12-11-31 @ 1.65v|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 Ti (GeForce 326.41 Driver)|
|Storage||Kingston HyperX 240GB SSD|
|Power Supply||Corsair HX850W|
|Chassis||Corsair Obsidian 700D Full-Tower|
|Cooling||Noctua NH-U14S Air Cooler|
|Et cetera||Windows 7 Professional 64-bit|
Let’s get on with it!
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||100.0 MHz|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||100.0 MHz|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||100.0 MHz|
The BCLK matchup is as perfectly even as it could get.
To take a look at the “overall” performance of our PC configuration, we rely on dual Futuremark suites: PCMark 8 and 3DMark (2013).
|PCMark 8 Suite Scores||Home||Work||Creative|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||5605||5423||4480|
|Higher results are better.|
|3DMark (2013)||Fire Storm||Cloud Gate||Ice Storm|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||4700||20083||143964|
|3DMark results in points; higher is better.|
Things are looking good, so far.
To properly give the internal SATA 6Gbps a good workout, we turn to HD Tune and CrystalDiskMark.
|HD Tune Pro 5||Minimum||Average||Maximum||Latency|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||299.3||407.6||437.2||0.059ms|
|Min/Avg/Max results in MB/s; higher is better. Latency results in ms; lower is better.|
|CrystalDiskMark 3.0.2||Read Seq.||Read 4K||Write Seq.||Write 4K|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||501.0||38.44||311.0||126.5|
|All results in MB/s.|
As we discovered in our look at GIGABYTE’s UD3H board, its I/O performance was quite lacking – for what reason, we’re not sure. There’s no such issue with the G1.Sniper 5, however.
Writing files to disk or reading a website doesn’t do much to exercise our CPU, so for that, we turn to a few common scenarios – image editing, video rendering and 3D rendering – using a combination of Adobe, CyberLink and Autodesk products.
|Adobe Lightroom 5.0||Result|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||255 s|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||244 s|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||255 s|
|Results in seconds; lower is better.|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||3754 s|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||3644 s|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||3656 s|
|Results in seconds; lower is better.|
|Autodesk 3ds Max 2011||Result|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||1082 s|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||1108 s|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||1077 s|
|Results in seconds; lower is better.|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||80.47||8.14|
|Higher results are better.|
The G1 board continues churning out good results.
For memory and CPU testing, we utilize SiSoftware’s Sandra 2013 (SP3a), and for Ethernet testing, we use iperf (or more appropriately, the Java-based jperf which utilizes it).
|Sandra 2013 SP3a||Integer||Float||Mem Latency|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||27.447 GB/s||27.660 GB/s||22.2 ns|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||27.441 GB/s||27.567 GB/s||21.9 ns|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||27.491 GB/s||27.556 GB/s||22.0 ns|
|Int/Float/Cache results in GB/s; higher is better. Latency results in ns; lower is better.|
|Sandra 2013 SP3a||Arithmetic (Agg.)||Multi-media (Agg.)|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT||111 GOPS||400 MPix/s|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5||112 GOPS||400 MPix/s|
|GIGABYTE Z87X-UD3H||112 GOPS||400 MPix/s|
|Higher is better.|
|Ethernet (iperf)||50 Jobs (64KB)||50 Jobs (1518KB)|
|ASUS Z87-EXPERT (Intel I217V)||938||942|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 (Intel I217V)||936||937|
|GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5 (Intel I217V)||936||941|
|Results in Mbps; higher is better.|
All checks out here – time to move onto our final thoughts.
I have to imagine that building a board like the G1.Sniper 5 is a lot of fun for a product team. The limits? What limits? Instead of having to start from the top and whittle the feature-set down in order to fit a specific price-point, the G1.Sniper 5 instead includes extras on top of it all. Simply put, this board is packed.
Let me put it another way: The G1.Sniper 5 is a board that’s probably too much for you, and that’s what makes it so great. It offers features you might not necessarily need right now, but you might grow into later. And likewise, it could offer features you don’t even know you want. Take the advanced audio solution, for example.
Let’s start from the top.
This board’s major features include the Killer Ethernet (something I don’t care much about; I’d opt for the Intel NIC – you might see things differently), a robust audio solution that features a headphone amplifier and replaceable OPAMPs, 10x SATA 6Gbps ports, 6x USB 3.0 ports at the back, 2x HDMI (one could be used for an external amp), and a great-looking / feature-rich EFI and software package (in the form of EasyTune).
In the end, there’s little to nit-pick about here, though as I mentioned on page two, I would have liked to see the PCIe configuration changed a wee bit, so as to keep an x1 slot available should all four of the x16 slots be occupied. That said, for that to be possible, the board’s vertical dimensions would likely have to be increased; this design choice would then consequently restrict chassis support. From this perspective, I can see GIGABYTE’s reasoning, but it’s something to be aware of.
While I don’t expect it to be a widely used feature, one perk worth mentioning again is the ability to water cool the top heatsink. I’m too lazy to pursue a proper water cooling setup myself, but I’ve always appreciated this feature because keeping your PC cooler = an obviously good thing.
As major as audio is on this board, it’s unfortunate that I didn’t (and cannot) tackle it to a great degree. I appreciate good audio, but I am not an audiophile. Still, I can appreciate the lengths GIGABYTE has gone to here to deliver what’s sure to please those who, like me, appreciate clear audio. I’d argue that gold-plated connectors mean little, but it definitely helps to separate the card on the board as GIGABYTE has done, since it can reduce noise significantly.
For those who really want good audio, it goes without saying that a discrete solution is going to be best, but for an all-in-one solution here, GIGABYTE’s done well – this isn’t simply a rebadged onboard chip like some other boards have.
GIGABYTE’s Z87 EFI
Past the actual hardware, the EFI is fantastic, and the software, not bad at all. I still think GIGABYTE has work to do there on the latter point, but the generational improvement for Z87 has been amazing, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
While the G1.Sniper 5 is an expensive board – there’s no denying that – it’s built well, has a smart design, nine fan headers (I’m still in relative awe), a Wi-Fi solution for those who need it (which includes Bluetooth), both a Killer and Intel NIC, the most advanced audio solution to be seen on a motherboard to date (as far as I recall – ASUS has come close), and other nice perks that we’ve covered more than once throughout the course of this review.
For those who want as robust a Z87 board as possible, and don’t mind paying that premium, GIGABYTE’s G1.Sniper 5 deserves to be at the top of your consideration list.
GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 5
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