Gigabyte GA-X58-USB3 review
The imminent arrival of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors means the current generation of LGA 1366 motherboards will soon be behind the curve. Consequently, prices are dropping: both Foxconn’s Flaming Blade GTI and Gigabyte’s new GA-X58-USB3 cost just £101 exc VAT.
That’s cheap for an X58 part, then, but the Gigabyte doesn’t look like a budget board. There are six DIMM slots, for instance, for up to 24GB of DDR3 RAM – twice as much as the Flaming Blade GTI can handle in its three DIMMs. There are three PCI-Express x16 slots, with two running at full speed and the third restricted to x4, and a single PCI slot alongside a trio of PCI-Express x1 slots.
Six SATA/300 sockets handle storage and, despite the lack of SATA/600, should provide enough bandwidth for the fastest SSDs currently available. The backplate has six USB 2 and two USB 3 ports, but no eSATA. An eight-pin CPU power connector provides enough juice for Intel’s top-end chips, and there are five fan connectors scattered around the board, including one with power management.
The bottom of the board houses three USB 2 headers, one of which is powered – handy for charging mobile phones and other portable devices. While there are the usual S/PDIF and HD Audio connectors they’re awkwardly placed, with the audio jumper sitting between the backplate and a heatpipe.
The price doesn’t stretch to real enthusiast features, with no onboard power switches, LED POST displays or overclocking tools. Even without them the board feels cramped: the processor socket is surrounded on three sides by chunky heatsinks, and the six DIMM sockets are also close by – an arrangement that could prove problematic if you’re trying to fit a sizeable cooler. Those heatsinks also block all but the smallest of expansion cards from being used in the top PCI-Express x1 slot.
The BIOS is better. While the MB Intelligent Tweaker isn’t exclusive to Gigabyte’s dearer boards, it’s still one of the most intuitive tweaking tools we’ve seen. Its offers clock speeds, voltages and temperatures, and the Current Status menu serves up a grid of more detailed information pertaining to each core of your processor and each bank of memory installed in the system. Advanced frequency, voltage and memory options are divided into sensibly ordered menus packed with options, too. That’s the main BIOS draw, with little else of note, but the whole thing is far more navigable than Foxconn’s rambling, outmoded equivalent.
The Gigabyte doesn’t just outpace Foxconn on the software side, though; it’s better throughout. While Gigabyte’s own GA-X58A-UD3R remains an option if you’d like the future-proofed comfort of SATA/600 and a more versatile backplate, the GA-X58-USB3 take its place as our new favourite X58 motherboard.
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard integrated graphics||no|
|Processor/platform brand (manufacturer)||Intel|
|Processor socket||LGA 1366|
|Motherboard form factor||ATX|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel X58|
|South bridge||Intel ICH10|
|Number of Ethernet adapters||1|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|CPU power connector type||8-pin|
|Main power connector||ATX 24-pin|
|Memory sockets total||6|
|Internal SATA connectors||6|
|Internal PATA connectors||1|
|Internal floppy connectors||0|
|Conventional PCI slots total||1|
|PCI-E x16 slots total||3|
|PCI-E x8 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x4 slots total||0|
|PCI-E x1 slots total||1|
|USB ports (downstream)||6|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||1|
|3.5mm audio jacks||6|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Extra port backplane bracket ports||none|
Diagnostics and tweaking
|Motherboard onboard power switch?||no|
|Motherboard onboard reset switch?||no|
|SATA cables supplied||1|
|Molex to SATA adaters supplied||0|
|IDE cables supplied||0|
|Floppy cables supplied||0|