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Gigabyte EX58-UD5

Date: November 27, 2008
Author(s): Rob Williams

Our X58 motherboard coverage continues with a look at Gigabyte’s EX58-UD5, an offering that’s competing with all the other $300 launch boards out there. Though still expensive, there’s a lot being offered here, including a plethora of USB and S-ATA ports, solid design, support for 3-way GPU configurations and a nice top overclock.



Introduction

Since we first took a look at Intel’s Core i7 processors, we’ve been able to follow-up with a look at one of ASUS’ launch motherboards, the P6T Deluxe. That board turned out to be quite good, but we were itching to test another to see how it truly compared.

Intel’s own board, the DX58SO, is one that I wouldn’t personally recommend, as it’s not much less expensive than the other superb offerings out there. It doesn’t overclock as well, only includes 4 DIMM slots, has the strangest layout and doesn’t include SLI support, like the ASUS P6T and the one we’re taking a look at today. This particular board from Gigabyte showed up much later than the rest, so we’ll see if that works out to their favor.

Upon the Core i7’s launch, many companies had boards prepared, but Gigabyte was the only one to have more than two. While three might seem like too many for a fresh launch, each one targets a different price-range, so in the end, it’s a good thing. The lowest-end model is the EX58-DS4, at $250, while the highest-end is the EX58-EXTREME, which is priced at around $330.

The EX58-UD5 not only settles in the middle of Gigabyte’s line-up, but at $300, it’s also priced right along the rest of the “mainstream” competition. What this means is that the board should include more worthy features than the lower-priced offerings, although performance (and maybe overclocking) should see little-to-no change. So what does the UD5 offer over the company’s own DS4 and the competition?

Closer Look at Gigabyte’s EX58-UD5

Compared to their own DS4 board, the UD5 offers a much more robust setup, including their much-touted “2oz copper” inner PCB layer, which they state will not only improve energy efficiency, but temperatures as well. The other main feature to be included on the UD5, over the DS4, is the ability to use 3-way CrossFireX or SLI configurations… a huge bonus for those looking for extreme gaming performance.

Being an “Ultra-Durable” motherboard, the UD5 also features what seems to be a countless number of additions, such as improved performance, better temperatures and increased efficiency. We briefly discussed the latest Ultra Durable 3 features in last months look at the EP45-UD3P, so if interested in learning more, I recommend checking it out.

If you are familiar with Gigabyte’s motherboards, what might strike you about this one is the color scheme. Although a similarly-colored PCB is used, the component colors are much more mellow, and somewhat subtle when compared to their previous offerings. This might come as a welcomed surprise to some, and I’d have to agree. I still tend to prefer dark-colored motherboards, but this one still looks great.

As we take a look around the board, it doesn’t take two seconds before we begin to realize just how feature-packed Gigabyte wanted this board to be. While most of their competition limit the S-ATA ports to six or eight, this board includes a staggering ten. That might be overkill for most people, but it’s sure nice to have that option, and it will save cash for those who would otherwise have to purchase an add-in card.

Also found in the same corner is the BIOS battery, which is actually rather convenient to get to, the ATX chassis connectors, which are in the most common-sense spot possible (unlike what’s seen on Intel’s own board), along with the various USB/FireWire connectors.

As with the vast majority of other X58 motherboards, this one includes six DIMM slots, with a capability to reach 24GB, if you so desire. That would require six sticks of 4GB each, though, and as it stands right now, it’s not going to be cheap. Luckily, even if you have to splurge and get 12GB, it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg, which is a complete contrast to how things were just one year ago.

As promised, Gigabyte gives us three full-sized 16x slots to deal with, along with one PCI-E 1x, one PCI-E 4x and two legacy PCI slots. What’s great about this board is that Gigabyte actually gives us ample room to use a 3-way GPU configuration, although that will in all likeliness render the bottom 3-pin fan port useless. Likewise, it also means you’ll lose out on your PCI slots, so for any added peripherals, you’re going to need to use the PCI-E 1x or 4x slots.

Surrounding the CPU socket is a robust 12+2+2 power phase solution. The twelve immediately surrounding the socket are dedicated for CPU use, while two more found above it are for the memory, while the other two are for the Northbridge. While this seems a little over-the-top, it will be appreciated by hardcore overclockers. Not so much by the usual consumer, though.

Motherboard heatsink designs don’t usually catch my eye, but this is easily one of the better ones I’ve come across. The dark-colored fins look fantastic, and the entire setup overall adds a lot to the visual appeal. No complaints here at all.

If you love LEDs, then you’ll love this board. When in full operation, small LEDs up towards the top-right corner light up, relating to the status of the respective components, and it looks great overall if you happen to have a chassis with a window. Also found here is the power and reset switches. These are oddly-placed, compared to what we’ve seen before, but they’re still easily accessible.

Taking a look at the back I/O panel further shows how feature-rich this board proves to be. Here, we find both a keyboard and mouse PS/2 port, S/PDIF audio (along with 7.1 audio using Realtek’s ALC889A HD codec), a single FireWire port, eight USB ports, two LAN ports (which can be coupled for 2Gbit operation) and also a Clear CMOS button, in case you overdo your overclock.

Not too much extra is included beyond what is necessary, but nothing is missing, either. Aside from the usual ODD/HDD cables, Gigabyte also includes an extra bracket that can be installed into an available slot, allowing for two E-SATA ports. I would have preferred to have seen these installed on the I/O port rather than this clunky addition, but at least there’s no lost functionality.

You’ll also note the two SLI bridge connectors, one for dual-SLI and the other for triple. The board doesn’t include CrossFireX bridge connectors as it’s common to find those in the box of your GPU. Also, there is a strange bracket here that I cannot figure out a use for, and Gigabyte didn’t respond to my query before publishing time. So, your guess is going to be just as good as mine. I had figured it might be used as a fan mount, to help keep your GPUs cool, but once installed, room wouldn’t allow it.

That aside, this is one very feature-packed board, and Gigabyte did a great job with both the design and the layout. The color scheme is different, but I’m quickly learning to like it. It might not be for everyone though, and that’s understandable, but I personally believe it’s a huge improvement over their previous boards. Can we expect the same level of robustness from their BIOS? We’ll find out next.

Checking Out the BIOS

As I’ve mentioned in previous Gigabyte motherboard reviews, the BIOS includes usually leaves a bit to be desired. Most of the complaints I have are related to convenience, but the reality is, if you spend a lot of time in here tweaking to find the best overclock, small things matter. This is one area where I find ASUS has done a tremendous job, and I’d love to see Gigabyte pick up on a few of the features found there.

One example is ease-of-use… something Gigabyte’s BIOS’ just don’t seem to have. Scrolling up and down will flicker the screen more than is necessary (and can be somewhat headache-inducing), and sometimes when scrolling up or down, things will stick, requiring you to repress the arrow key to get moving again. Small issues, but tedious when in the BIOS a lot.

A simple adjustment to make would be to enable Num Lock on boot, because when swapping settings in the BIOS, you wouldn’t have to manually turn it on. Seems like an extremely minor issue, but like I said, if you are rebooting constantly due to failed overclocks, pressing the Num Lock each time gets old, fast.

All those complaints aside, let’s get to the actual topic of this page. I’ve already ranted and expressed concerns, but what lacks with ease-of-use here, Gigabyte makes up for with tweaking-ability. There are many tweaking-related options here, and it’s very unlikely that even 1% of people who own this board will even touch a fifth of them. That’s not a bad thing, though. I’ll let these following screenshots speak for themselves:

As you can see, the amount of tweaking-ability is staggering. There are sub-menus upon sub-menus in order to keep things modest on the front page, and that’s appreciated, since half of the options in the sub-menus will not be used by most people. For the most part, to get some simple overclocking done, very little has to be changed. So while the BIOS might be a little clunky (at least to me), it might not bother too many people, given how much time will be spent in there.

That all said, here are the voltage ranges:

It goes without saying that the skies the limit here, and Gigabyte certainly wants serious overclockers to be picking up their board. I’ll let the remaining shots speak for themselves since nothing out of the ordinary is here.

Finally, let’s move right into a look at our test system and methodology, which we highly recommend you take a look at if you are unfamiliar with how we handle things. Following that, we’ll jump right into our test results.

Test System & Methodology

At Techgage, we strive to make sure our results are as accurate as possible. Our testing is rigorous and time-consuming, but we feel the effort is worth it. In an attempt to leave no question unanswered, this page contains not only our testbed specifications, but also a fully-detailed look at how we conduct our testing.

If there is a bit of information that we’ve omitted, or you wish to offer thoughts or suggest changes, please feel free to shoot us an e-mail or post in our forums.

Test System

The table below lists our machine’s hardware, which remains unchanged throughout all testing, with the exception of the motherboard. Each board used for the sake of comparison is also listed here, along with the BIOS version used. In addition, each one of the URLs in this table can be clicked to view the respective review of that product, or if a review doesn’t exist, you will be led to the product on the manufacturer’s website.

Component
Model
Processor
Intel Core i7 Extreme 965 – Quad-Core, 3.2GHz, 1.25v
Motherboards
ASUS P6T Deluxe – X58-based, 0804 BIOS (11/04/08)
Gigabyte EX58-UD5 – X58-based, F4b BIOS (11/14/08)
Intel DX58SO – X58-based, 2786 BIOS (11/12/08)
Memory
OCZ Gold 3x2GB – DDR3-1333 7-7-7-20-1T, 1.60v
Graphics
Audio
On-Board Audio
Storage
Intel X-25M 80GB SSD (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.11 (Secondary, Output Drive)
Power Supply
Corsair HX1000W
Chassis
SilverStone TJ10 Full-Tower
Display
Gateway XHD3000 30″
Cooling
Thermalright TRUE Black 120
Et cetera
Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit

When preparing our testbeds for any type of performance testing, we follow these guidelines:

To aide with the goal of keeping accurate and repeatable results, we alter certain services in Windows Vista from starting up at boot. This is due to the fact that these services have the tendency to start up in the background without notice, potentially causing slightly inaccurate results. Disabling “Windows Search” turns off the OS’ indexing which can at times utilize the hard drive and memory more than we’d like.

Application Benchmarks

When benchmarking a graphics card or processor, performance is expected to scale in a certain manner, but that’s not the case with motherboards. Since motherboards tend to only be as fast as the hardware installed on them, we don’t run an exhaustive collection of benchmarks for the sake of avoiding redundancy. For the most part, one motherboard with an equal chipset to another should offer close to equal performance.

Our primary goal with motherboard-related benchmarking is to see if one motherboard is lacking in a certain area when compared to the rest. These discrepancies, if they exist, are usually caused by lackluster components on the board itself, which is why higher-end motherboards tend to see slightly better results than the more budget-oriented offerings.

To properly test the performance of a motherboard, we run a small collection of system-specific tools, such as SYSmark 2007, Sandra and HD Tune Pro. We then run real-world benchmarks using popular multi-media applications, such as Adobe Lightroom. To see how a board stacks up in the gaming arena, we benchmark using both Call of Duty: World at War and Half-Life 2: Episode Two.

We strongly feel that there is such thing as too many benchmarks when it comes to a motherboard review, so we keep things light, while still being able to offer definitive performance data.

Game Benchmarks

In an attempt to offer “real-world” results, we do not utilize timedemos in any of our reviews. Each game in our test suite is benchmarked manually, with the minimum and average frames-per-second (FPS) captured with the help of FRAPS 2.9.6.

To deliver the best overall results, each title we use is exhaustively explored in order to find the best possible level in terms of intensiveness and replayability. Once a level is chosen, we play through repeatedly to find the best possible route and then in our official benchmarking, we stick to that route as close as possible. Since we are not robots and the game can throw in minor twists with each run, no run can be identical to the pixel.

Each game and setting combination is tested twice, and if there is a discrepancy between the initial results, the testing is repeated until we see results we are confident with.

The two games we currently use for our motherboard reviews are listed below, with direct screenshots of the game’s setting screens and explanations of why we chose what we did.

Call of Duty: World at War

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The Call of Duty series of war-shooters are without question some of the most gorgeous on the PC (and consoles), but what’s great is the fact that the games are also highly optimized, so no one has to max out their machine’s specs in order to play it. Since that’s the case, the in-game options are maxed out in all regards.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

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2560×1600

It might have been four-years-ago that we were able to play the first installment of the Half-Life 2 series, but it’s held up well with its new releases and engine upgrades. This is one title that thrives on both a fast CPU and GPU, and though it’s demanding at times, most any recent computer should be able to play the game with close to maxed-out detail settings, aside from the Anti-Aliasing.

In the case of very-recent mid-range cards, the game will run fine all the way up to 2560×1600 with maxed-out detail, minus Anti-Aliasing. All of our tested resolutions use identical settings, with 4xAA and 8xAF.

SYSmark 2007 Preview

Synthetic benchmarks have typically been favored for performance testing, but the results they provide can be fairly abstract, and the methods they use to assign their scores can be dubious at times. By contrast, real-world application benchmarks provide performance metrics that apply directly to real-world usage, and we endeavor to apply both in our performance comparisons.

SYSmark 2007 Preview from BAPCo is a special case, because its synthetic scores are derived from tests in real-world applications. However, we still believe that synthetic benchmarking scores are best used to directly compare the performance of one piece of hardware to another, and not for developing an impression of real-world performance expectations. SYSmark is more useful than most synthetic benchmarking programs in our opinion, because its tests emulate tasks that people actually perform, in actual software programs that they are likely to use.

The benchmark is hands-free, using scripts to execute all of the real-world scenarios identically, such as video editing in Sony Vegas and image manipulation in Adobe Photoshop. At the conclusion of the suite of tests, five scores are delivered: an E-learning score, a Video Creation score, a Productivity score, and a 3D Performance score, as well as an aggregated ‘Overall’ score. These scores can still be fairly abstract, and are most useful for direct comparisons between test systems.

A quick note on methodology: SYSmark 2007 requires a clean install of Windows Vista 32-bit to run optimally. Before any testing is conducted, the hard drive is first wiped clean, and then a fresh Windows installation is conducted, then lastly, the necessary hardware drivers are installed. The ‘Three Iterations’ test suite is run, with the ‘Conditioning Run’ setting enabled. Then the results from the three runs are averaged and rounded up or down to the next whole number.

One thing I should note before we begin analysing the data, is that for whatever reason, Gigabyte’s board seems to clock the CPU a bit higher than the others here. While the ASUS and Intel boards kept close to a stock 133MHz Base Clock, the EX58-UD5 hovered more around 134.9MHz. While that seems like a small difference, that essentially adds 45.6MHz to the total clock speed, which is significant. So, it should be a common theme to see the board score slightly higher in most tests, and the graphs here show proof in that theory.

Multi-Media: TMPGEnc Xpress, Adobe Lightroom, 3ds Max

When it comes to video transcoding, one of the best offerings on the market is TMPGEnc Xpress. Although a bit pricey, the software offers an incredible amount of flexibility and customization, not to mention superb format support. From the get go, you can output to DivX, DVD, Video-CD, Super Video-CD, HDV, QuickTime, MPEG, and more. It even goes as far as to include support for Blu-ray video!

There are a few reasons why we choose to use TMPGEnc for our tests. The first relates to the reasons laid out above. The sheer ease of use and flexibility is appreciated. Beyond that, the application does us a huge favor by tracking the encoding time, so that we can actually look away while an encode is taking place and not be afraid that we’ll miss the final encoding time. Believe it or not, not all transcoding applications work like this.

For our test, we take a 0.99GB high-quality DivX H.264 AVI video of Half-Life 2: Episode Two gameplay with stereo audio and transcode it to the same resolution of 720p (1280×720), but lower the bitrate in order to attain a modest filesize. Since the QX9770 we are using for testing supports the SSE4 instruction set, we enable it in the DivX control panel, which improves both the encoding time and quality.

Adobe Lightroom 2

Photo manipulation benchmarks are more relevant than ever, given the proliferation of high-end digital photography hardware. For this benchmark, we test the system’s handling of RAW photo data using Adobe Lightroom, an excellent RAW photo editor and organizer that’s easy to use and looks fantastic.

For our testing, we take 100 RAW files (in Nikon’s .NEF file format) which have a 10-megapixel resolution, and export them as JPEG files in 1000×669 resolution, similar to most of the photos we use here on the website. Such a result could also be easily distributed online or saved as a low-resolution backup. This test involves not only scaling of the image itself, but encoding in a different image format. The test is timed indirectly using a stopwatch, and times are accurate to within +/- 0.25 seconds.

Autodesk 3ds Max 2009

Autodesk’s 3ds Max is without question an industry standard when it comes to 3D modeling and animation, with DreamWorks, BioWare and Blizzard Entertainment being a few of its notable users. It’s a multi-threaded application that’s designed to be right at home on multi-core and multi-processor workstations or render farms, so it easily tasks even the biggest system we can currently throw at it.

For our testing, we use two project files that are designed to last long enough to find any weakness in our setup and also allows us to find a result that’s easily comparable between both motherboards and processors. The first project is a dog model included on recent 3ds Max DVD’s, which we infused with some Techgage flavor.

Our second project is a Bathroom scene that makes heavy use of ray tracing. Like the dog model, this one is also included with the application’s sample files DVD. The dog is rendered at a 1400×1050 resolution, while the Bathroom is rendered as 1080p (1920×1080).

The Gigabyte board continues to excel here, thanks to its slightly increased Base Clock, in all tests except the Dog Model, where it proved 4s slower than the ASUS board on average.

System: HD Tune Pro, SiSoftware Sandra 2009

While application performance shouldn’t vary much between motherboards, one area where we can see greater differences is with synthetic benchmarks – at least with those that test both the storage and memory bandwidth/latency. Even still, if differences are seen, you are very unlikely to notice the difference in real-world usage, unless the performance hit is significant, which we’ve not found on any board we’ve tested in the past.

To test the storage I/O, we use a tool that we’ve been using for a number of years, HD Tune. The developer released a “Pro” version not long ago, so that’s what we are using for all of our storage-related benchmarking. The drive being tested is a secondary, installed into the first available Slave port, and is not the drive with the OS installed. To avoid potential latency, the drive is tested once Vista is idle for at least five minutes, and CPU usage remains stable at >1%.

It’s safe to say that for the most part, differences seen in I/O tests is minimal, as this graph shows. All winners and no losers, which is what we’d hope to see.

SiSoftware Sandra 2009

Yet another classic tool from our toolbox, SiSoftware’s Sandra is one of the ultimate benchmarking sidekicks around, allowing us to test almost every-single component in our PC, from CPU to GPU to memory to storage. In the case of our motherboard reviews, we stick with the memory bandwidth and latency tests, since its an area where some differences could very-well be seen.

As mentioned above, the results here don’t represent real-world performance, and if one motherboard sees the memory 4ns slower, the chances of you noticing the hit in real usage is highly unlikely, if not impossible. If any scenario would be effected, it would be processes that last the course of a few hours, not a few minutes.

The extra frequency on the Gigabyte board helped it acheive a better overall latency, but bandwidth was oddly slightly lower than what we saw on the ASUS board. That’s a small difference though, and one that wouldn’t be seen in most real-world scenarios.

Gaming: Call of Duty: World at War, Half-Life 2: Episode Two

While some popular game franchises are struggling to keep themselves healthy, Call of Duty doesn’t have much to worry about. This is Treyarch’s third go at a game in the series, and a first for one that’s featured on the PC. All worries leading up to this title were all for naught, though, as Treyarch delivered on all promises.

To help keep things fresh, CoD: World at War focuses on battles not exhaustively explored in previous WWII-inspired games. These include battles which take place in the Pacific region, Russia and Berlin, and variety is definitely something this game pulls off well, so it’s unlikely you’ll be off your toes until the end of the game.

For our testing, we use a level called “Relentless”, as it’s easily one of the most intensive levels in the game. It features tanks, a large forest environment and even a few explosions. This level depicts the Battle of Peleliu, where American soldiers advance to capture an airstrip from the Japanese. It’s a level that’s both exciting to play and one that can bring even high-end systems to their knees.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two

The original Half-Life 2 might have first seen the light of day close to four years ago, but it’s still arguably one of the greatest-looking games ever seen on the PC. Follow-up versions, including Episode One and Episode Two, do well to put the Source Engine upgrades to full use. While playing, it’s hard to believe that the game is based on a four+ year old engine, but it still looks great and runs well on almost any GPU purchased over the past few years.

Like Call of Duty, Half-Life 2: Episode Two runs well on modest hardware, but a recent mid-range graphics card is recommended if you wish to play at higher than 1680×1050 or would like to top out the available options, including anti-aliasing and very high texture settings.

As we’d expect, no motherboard is really going to improve gaming a great deal, but for what it’s worth, the ASUS board came out on top here overall. But like most of our benchmarks here, the differences are minimal and are unlikely to be noticable in real-world gameplay.

Overclocking the EX58-UD5

Before tackling our overclocking results, let’s first clear up what we consider to be a real overclock and how we go about achieving it. If you regularly read our processor reviews, you may already be aware that I personally don’t care for an unstable overclock. It might look good on paper, but if it’s not stable, then it won’t be used. Very few people purchase a new piece of equipment for the sole purpose of finding the maximum overclock, which is why we focus on finding what’s stable and usable.

To help find the maximum stable overclock on any given motherboard, we focus on sticking to the simpler voltages, such as the ones for the Northbridge and CPU, and also the DIMM if it’s required. We try to work within safe limits, because anything too high is going to only kill your hardware faster. Luckily, all computer components nowadays are designed to handle some abuse, so you never need a lot of voltage to get anywhere.

With Core i7, more factors can come into play with overclocking, but we focus on increasing the Base Clock first and foremost, just like we focus on the Front-Side Bus on Core 2 motherboards. Our goal is to keep voltages are low as possible while reaching the highest stable overclock. Areas where we will increase voltage if needed is the CPU, Northbridge and QPI.

Overclocking Gigabyte’s EX58-UD5

For whatever reason, I personally don’t find overclocking Core i7 half as much fun as Core 2 was, and one of the reasons might be because it seems so easy to find a top-limit, whereas before, extra tweaking would actually pay off. Overclocking this board was a great example of this. It does overclock, and overclocks well, but once I found that limit, I couldn’t get it to go much higher, even after three hours of tweaking. It was at that point that I gave up.

What’s worse though, is that I found the top-limit within a half-hour, which is kind of depressing in some regards. But the good news is that it’s a good top-limit… 190MHz Base Clock, to be exact. As long as the CPU would cooperate, that would give us a huge 3.8GHz clock on a Core i7 920, and 4.2GHz on a Core i7 940.

Given how unlikely it is to hit those clocks, I don’t think the 190MHz top-limit will anger many people. Things are even easier on the Core i7 965, where the Base Clock doesn’t even really have to be touched at all.


(Click to view stability report. 1.9MB 2560×1600 PNG)

The amazing thing about this overclock is that it required absolutely no adjustment of voltages. None, nada, zip. That’s why the top-limit was found so fast. Because the ASUS P6T hit 180MHz, that’s the very first clock I tried here, and when it was successful without any voltage increase, I simply boosted it to 190MHz, where it stayed stable for eight hours + another four (I forgot to screenshot the first time, so re-ran it again).

After that, I tried 200MHz, of course, but even after pumping up the voltage all-around and trying various other configurations, it just wouldn’t become stable. For the most part, it wouldn’t even boot into Windows at all, and when it did, it would crash before I could even properly set up the stress-testing. I’d have little doubt that the board could exceed my personal overclock, but given how nice 190MHz is to begin with, in all actuality, it really doesn’t need to be any higher. I might change my mind once I see 920’s or 940’s with stable overclocks using that Base Clock.

Power Consumption, Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that power efficiency is at the forefront of many consumers’ minds today, and for good reason. Whether you are trying to save money or the environment – or both – it’s good to know just how much effort certain vendors are putting into their products to help them excel in this area. ASUS and Gigabyte are two that immediately come to mind that have put a lot of R&D into this, and I’m sure with their leadership, power consumption will consistently get better.

To help see what kind of wattage a given motherboard eats on average, we use a Kill-A-Watt that’s plugged into a power bar that’s in turn plugged into one of the wall sockets, with the test system plugged directly into that. The monitor and other components are plugged into the other socket and is not connected to the Kill-A-Watt. For our system specifications, please refer to our methodology page.

To test, the computer is first boot up and left to sit at idle for five minutes, at which point the current wattage is recorded if stable. To test for full CPU load, eight instances of SP2004 are run using the Small FFT test, one for each thread. For our last test, four of those instances are closed while an “Extreme” run of 3DMark Vantage is performed, which would mimic usage of a game that makes heavy use of the CPU.

The differences here are minor, but interesting. The EX58-UD5 uses more wattage overall on average, but managed to draw a little bit less in the CPU/GPU test.

Final Thoughts

When I first received this board, I wasn’t expecting to be that impressed, but I was wrong. After all, so many motherboards prove to be very similar, and the main draw is usually the overall board design or overclocking-ability. Things were different here though. The EX58-UD5 is easily the best board of the three we’ve tested so far (we’ll be getting down to testing the ASUS Rampage II Extreme soon, though), and based off of what we’ve seen here, I’d highly recommend it.

After using the ASUS P6T Deluxe, I was left impressed, but while still a great board, Gigabyte one-ups them in various regards. Some of the main benefits of the Gigabyte board are not features that will be used by many people, but they should still be mentioned. The ASUS board, for example, tops out at 12GB of RAM, while Gigabyte’s board (and many others) can use upwards of 24GB. The second difference is that while the P6T Deluxe supports 3-way GPU configurations, Gigabyte actually gives you enough room to have three with dual-slot coolers.

Overclocking isn’t a major issue to bring up, because while the EX58-UD5 did manage to score 10MHz more than the ASUS on the Base Clock, neither overclock is going to be used by that many people. Even with a 180MHz BCLK, a 3.60GHz overclock would be possible on the Core i7 920, and I’d find it unlikely that many people would hit that overclock stable, much less even more.

Still, the fact that we managed to hit 190MHz without touching a single voltage setting was impressive. I just wish we were able to go even higher, but it’s really difficult at this point to say what the limit there was. It could very-well be the CPU for all we know, but it’s hard to say until we test many more boards.

Other advantages of the EX58-UD5 are again features that many might not take advantage of, but to have them is great. I’m talking about the healthy supply of S-ATA and USB ports… ten and eight, respectively. Aside from all that, the board happens to look great, has a good layout and costs the same as the direct competition. The main difference is, Gigabyte seems to be offering a bit more for your money.

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