Computex — Despite its breathtaking bandwidth, Intel's X79 platform was somewhat of a disappointment when it launched. The chipset lacked the extra SAS and SATA ports many were expecting, and Intel restricted the accompanying Sandy Bridge-E CPUs to six cores, although the SB-E silicon has eight. While visiting Gigabyte's Computex showcase in Taipei, Taiwan, we were introduced to a motherboard that finally makes good on the platform's potential.
The GA-X79S-UP5 is Gigabyte's latest Sandy Bridge-E motherboard, and despite its name, the board actually features Intel's server-grade C606 platform hub. This is the chip the X79 was supposed to be. In addition to two 6Gbps and four 3Gbps SATA ports, the C606 comes loaded with eight Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) ports. These SAS ports will also work with Serial ATA drives, although only at 3Gbps speeds. That's a whopping 14 storage ports from the platform hub.
Otherwise, the C606 appears to be similar to the X79. That means no native USB 3.0 support, but Gigabyte has employed auxiliary controller silicon to give the board six SuperSpeed USB ports. Also included are dual FireWire ports, four PCIe x16 slots, and eight DIMM slots. All of Gigabyte's new SB-E boards will offer eight DIMM slots, and this one supports ECC memory, as well. The LGA2011 socket can also accept Xeon CPUs, allowing users to drop in eight-core processors.
One such CPU powered the GA-X79S-UP5 demo system, which featured Nvidia Quadro and Tesla cards running in SLI. The rig was equipped with an SSD array fast enough to push over 7300MB/s in IOMeter.
The GA-X79S-UP5 is part of Gigabyte's fifth-generation Ultra Durable family, which features fancy new MOSFETs from International Rectifier. Gigabyte claims these IR3550 PowIRStage components can lower the temperature of the power circuitry by up to 40°C versus the previous generation's Low RDS(on) MOSFETs. Systems with water coolers that provide little airflow around the CPU socket should benefit the most from the new components, the company says.
You won't have to spring for the GA-X79S-UP5 to get the PowIRStage components. They're available in a whole new line of Ultra Durable boards that can be identified by a P in the model suffix. The -UPx boards will be more expensive than the equivalent UD models, which will continue to be available.