It was really a pleasure to break the i7 920 back out for use. It is an awesome processor, and combined with the X58 chipset really makes an incredible system. The LGA 1156 i7’s benchmark numbers are similar to the LGA 1366, but benchmark numbers don’t always tell the whole story. The huge bandwidth attained by the triple channel, along with 6GB of memory, makes the system run much better. Large programs launch faster, games get from one map to the next faster, things that benchmarks just don’t measure.
As most motherboards, the Gigabyte X58A-UD3R has more features than can be mentioned in a review, and has a couple of new Gigabyte unique features that I haven’t seen before. I usually pick out a couple of features to go into more detail with. The primary differences between this board and the earlier X58 motherboards are the inclusion of USB 3 and SATA 6GB/s. Since both are very new and there are only a handful of devices available for them at the time of this writing, I thought I’d spend a little time featuring them.
USB 3.0 is the latest version of USB (Universal Serial Bus if you didn’t know what it stood for), and has been named SuperSpeed USB. There are two chief differences between it and HiSpeed USB 2.0. First, USB 3.0 has a theoretical max transfer rate of 5Gbps (gigabit per second), as opposed to the 480Mbps of USB 2.0. That’s just over 10 times faster! No, it isn’t the 40x difference we saw between USB 1.1 and USB 2.0, which was pretty incredible if you were around then, but 5Gbps is a huge amount of bandwidth. And the second difference between the two more than makes up for it.
The real difference between USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 is data transfer efficiency. USB 2.0 utilized half-duplex data transfer…that is, data could only be sent or received, as it could travel in only one direction at a time. So there was always data just sitting there waiting its turn. USB 3.0 is full-duplex, data can travel in both directions at the same time, so both the PC and the USB device can send and receive data at the same time.
USB 3.0 does require a special cable as there are more wires and contacts required. But, the USB 3.0 port itself is backwards compatible to USB 2.0, so your current USB devices will not become obsolete when motherboards begin having all USB 3.0 ports.
If you didn’t know, mechanical hard drives generally have a tough time saturating the 1.5GB/s data transfer rate of SATA 1.0, much less the 3GB/s theoretical rate of SATA 2.0. But SSDs are coming very close to saturating SATA 2.0’s bandwidth. The third revision of SATA, known as SATA 6GB/s takes care of the increased bandwidth of SSDs and will for some time to come. Utilizing RAID 0 with SATA 6GB/s can give you a theoretical speed of up to four times that of SATA 2.0.
As I mentioned, overclocking with the Gigabyte X58A-UD3R is the same as with their earlier X58 motherboards. Of all the X58 boards I’ve reviewed, Gigabyte has the best BIOS layout with respect to overclocking.
The basics are the same…raise the BCLK, and the memory speed, QPI, and Uncore all go up accordingly.
I always make sure that the memory speed is much lower than its max, to ensure that isn’t an issue causing a failed overclock. Whatever you do, DO NOT RAISE THE MEMORY VOLTAGE HIGHER THAN 1.65V! That is Intel’s recommended max, any higher than that will damage the i7’s onboard memory controller. Having said that, the memory voltage on the Gigabyte X58 BIOS allows only even numbers, so you have to choose between 1.64V and 1.66V. I have been ensured by Gigabyte that 1/100 of a volt will not damage the memory controller. I have tested a lot of memory with the X58-UD4P and the difference between 1.64V and 1.65V makes a lot of difference.
The Uncore should be twice the memory speed, due to a logic thing in the processor. The QPI voltage will need to be increased as the QPI frequency is raised. Enable loadline calibration, and raise the CPU voltage.
As I have overclocked this processor before, I knew it was capable of a 4.0gHz overclock, and the X58A-UD3R attained it. It wasn’t quite as stable as I would have liked, which didn’t surprise me because not every 4.0 overclock I had in the past was totally stable. I settled on a 3.9gHz overclock which is one that worked very well before. That’s a 39% overclock.