CES — Gigabyte has been teasing a new line of motherboards for a little while now. At the Consumer Electronics Show, the company finally lifted the curtain on its baby, the G1-Killer series. Built explicitly for gamers, the Killer series is a departure from Gigabyte's norm on several fronts, including how the motherboards were developed. Gigabyte's engineers and board designers usually define a motherboard's feature set. With the Killer series, Gigabyte asked gamers to conjure up their ultimate motherboard and then put its engineers and designers to work on making that board a reality. The end result is, well, a little surreal.
The monster pictured above is the G1.Assasin, the flagship model in a family that also includes Sniper and Guerrilla offerings. As you can see, subtlety has been thrown out the window. The onboard heatsinks have been modeled after firearm components, and there's even a faux bullet poking out of the magazine that cools the south bridge.
Fortunately, there's more to the Killer series than a military theme. In addition to all the goodness one might expect from a high-end Gigabyte motherboard, such as Ultra Durable 3 components, a fancy power delivery system for the CPU, and dual BIOS chips, the Killer boards sport a number of entirely new enhancements. On the networking front, they incorporate Bigfoot's Killer NIC E2100—the same networking controller that recently popped up on a VisionTek graphics card. The Killer NIC makes a lot more sense on a motherboard, and not just because its name is a perfect match. Users will be able to tap Bigfoot's network management software to ensure that BitTorrent downloads and other network traffic don't steal bandwidth from online multiplayer games.
Two of the three Killer motherboard models also feature Creative X-Fi audio. Unlike some onboard X-Fi implementations, these use the CA20K2 audio processor that features honest-to-goodness hardware acceleration for positional 3D audio. Gigabyte even pairs the X-Fi with a dedicated X-RAM memory chip.
In a bid to improve output quality, the Killer series' integrated audio uses fancy Nichion Muse ES and MW capacitors. Each of the output channels, including the front-panel headphone connector, gets its own amplifier chip. If you'd rather get your audio from a digital output, all three members of the Killer series can encode Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect bitstreams. The lone Killer model that doesn't feature an X-Fi audio processor performs DDL and DTS encoding via Creative software running on top of a Realtek codec chip.
Surprisingly, the Killer series looks like it could have pretty decent fan speed controls. In addition to the CPU fan, there are four fan headers on the board. Each is tied to its own temperature sensor. Gigabyte is promising robust fan speed controls via its EasyTune Windows software and through the BIOS.
One might expect the Killer series to be primed for Intel's new Sandy Bridge CPUs, but these boards are equipped with LGA1366 sockets and X58 chipsets. The X58 is Intel's only chipset capable of powering a pair of graphics cards in a full-lane dual-x16 PCI Express configuration. It's also the only one that can drive four graphics cards in a quad-x8 config, and the G1.Assassin takes full advantage with four physical x16 slots. Without an Nvidia NF200 chip, the board's SLI support is limited to three-way configs. You can run up to four Radeons in CrossFireX, though.
To accommodate four graphics cards, the Assassin uses an XL-ATX form factor that's larger than your average motherboard. The Sniper and Guerrilla models are limited to three slots, and they have fewer USB 3.0 ports and CPU power phases than the Assassin. All three boards feature a new Marvell 6Gbps Serial ATA controller tied to several PCIe lanes stemming from the X58's north bridge, so you won't be stuck with the ICH10R's 3Gbps SATA ports.
Gigabyte is still putting the finishing touches on the Killer series, and it hasn't set prices just yet. These are premium offerings, so they won't be cheap. They may not be X58-only for long, either. Gigabyte says it's looking into adding a Sandy Bridge model to the Killer lineup, and it can't come soon enough.