Flirting with two bills
Despite having the lowest price tag of the bunch, I think the EX58-UD3R is the most visually striking. Gigabyte has been trying to make its motherboards look more elegant than obnoxious, and the UD3R's blue-and-white color scheme has a nice Mirror's Edge feel to it.
Like the P6T, the UD3R smartly puts its power plugs along the edges of the board, making it easy to keep cables from interfering with airflow between the processor cooler and rear chassis exhaust. However, unlike the Asus board, the Gigabyte only has four DIMM slots. The slots are still spread over three channels, the first of which can accommodate two DIMMs.
Gigabyte says you can run up to 16GB of memory in the board, but that requires pricey 4GB DIMMs. 6GB triple-channel kits are relatively inexpensive, though, and that's probably plenty of memory for most folks. You can cheaply bump up to 8GB with a fourth memory module, too.
The UD3R's socket area is ringed by heatsinks that cover the north bridge chip and voltage regulation circuitry. These are relatively short heatsinks, so they shouldn't interfere with larger CPU coolers that fan out from the socket.
Beneath a couple of those heatsinks you'll find an effective ten-phase power solution that feeds the Core i7's, er, core and uncore components with eight and two power phases, respectively. The UD3R is also a member of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 3 family, which means it features solid-state capacitors, low-RDS(on) MOSFETs, and a copper circuit board layer that weighs in at two ounces. According to Gigabyte, this two-ounce layer doubles the amount of copper used on other motherboards, reducing impedance and improving signal quality, which the company says should improve overclocking headroom.
Edge-mounted SATA ports are everywhere these days, and I couldn't be happier. All eight of the UD3R's Serial ATA ports are located along the edge of the board where they're not likely to conflict with longer expansion cards. However, keep in mind that edge-mounted ports don't always play nicely with extremely tight ATX enclosures whose internal hard drive cages snug right up against their motherboard trays.
Although the UD3R stacks an impressive seven expansion slots, the top PCI Express x1 slot's proximity to the north bridge cooler precludes the use of longer expansion cards in that slot. Even without the top slot, the board still has plenty of expansion capacity, including a PCIe x4 slot notched to accept longer cards. The x4 slot sits between a pair of x16 slots, though, so there's no way to run a trio of double-wide graphics cards.
If you intend to run a pair of graphics cards on the UD3R, keep in mind that the board only supports CrossFire configurations. You'll need to seek out the EX58-UD3R-SLI to pair up a couple of GeForce cards. Of course, that wouldn't be necessary if Nvidia would simply grant the X58 chipset a pass on SLI rather than requiring certification for individual motherboard models.
Just about everything finds its way into the UD3R's port cluster, including eight USB ports, two flavors of Firewire, and a single Ethernet jack. A full complement of analog audio ports is provided alongside TOS-Link and coaxial S/PDIF outputs. The only modern convenience you won't find here is external Serial ATA connectivity. Gigabyte has long eschewed eSATA ports, instead opting to ship boards with PCI back plate connectors that allow users to pipe any internal SATA port to an external plug. However, the UD3R doesn't ship with any such back plate adapters.
The lack of an eSATA bracket is a disappointing omission, especially since with eight internal SATA ports, the UD3R has plenty to spare. The board also beefs up its port complement with onboard headers for one more Firewire and four more USB ports.
|The TR Podcast 185: Honey, I shrunk the Fury||4|
|Friday Night Shortbread||58|
|Run, gun, and murder aliens in 3D Realms' Bombshell||22|
|Light and shadow play together in Calvino Noir||4|
|Go pro with Razer's Wildcat Xbox One controller||8|
|CliffyB returns to the FPS scene with LawBreakers||23|
|There can be only one Headlander||7|
|Deals of the week: Asus' Strix GTX 970 and more||17|
|Chrome will soon block Flash ads and auto-playing background media||36|