There are several LGA 2011 motherboards out there today with rather enticing prices in the low-$200 range, and on the surface appear to have similar specs to the Gigabyte GA-X79-UD3. The similarly-priced ASUS P9X79 has 8-DIMM slots, more rear panel USB 3.0 ports, and an additional fan header, but the X79-UD3 has an external USB 3.0 header, more SATA 6GB/s ports (albeit 4 are slower than the PCH equivalents), and greater PCI-e port flexibility. In terms of performance, we didn't see anything that scares us away from the X79-UD3 or makes us flock towards it, which puts it, in terms of mere numbers, on a solid playing field in its price range. However, we had no compatibility issues with the latest F9 BIOS, and Gigabyte's suite of software proved very easy to use and it worked great. It enables a wide array of added functionality, and for the casual overclocker, one-click options for a quick and easy 31% clock boost at everyday temperatures and voltages on basic air cooling. Ease of use, for many, can make or break the choice to purchase an item, and we have nothing but good things to say about the stability and compatibility we've seen from the X79-UD3. We also wonder if the choice to only include 4 DIMM slots reveals a mentality in the design of the board, as a recognition that the consumer-level user who wants "in" on the Sandy Bridge-E bandwagon probably won't populate all 8 slots, which may also then follow through to the reasoning for the omission of on-board switches, which is that most mainstream consumers use them, at most, sparingly.
One of our two biggest gripes with the X79-UD3 are the lack of features enthusiasts have come to expect, such as onboard switches for resetting the CMOS, reset, power, automatic overclocking, and, most glaringly, diagnostic LEDs. We're not sure Gigabyte's reasoning for the omission of these features, perhaps the mentality is a board geared toward "entry-level" users to the enthusiast platform that may be using the capability of the LGA 2011 platform for rendering or other tasks, and are not particularly concerned about onboard overclocking tools. However, users at any level certainly notice the absence of diagnostic LEDs when their awesome new rig won't POST. The only other issue we ran into was the rather tight space around the CPU socket, which led our CPU cooler to simultaneously be butted up against the right inner RAM module, as well as the GPU. An all-in-one cooler ships with Intel's highest-end i7-3960X, and that would be a great fit for the X79-UD3 because of these space concerns. Although most tower air coolers should work in the X79-UD3, you should be wary of the size constraints when choosing a cooling solution to accompany the X79-UD3. We also don't foresee any top-flow coolers fitting, as the pipes tend to protrude out one side, which isn't a problem on past chipsets, where the RAM slots are only on the right side of the motherboard.
Overall, what you get with the GA-X79-UD3 is performance which is on-par for its price range and its immediate competitors, with added features such as 7 PCI-e slots and Quad SLI/Crossfire capability, six 6GB/s SATA ports, and an internal USB 3.0 header. It will perform better with overclocking tasks than some of the other boards with plunging price tags, and the software, stability, and compatibility we've experienced make a strong case for it. Gigabyte's X79-UD3 blurs the line of it's "place" in the market and really settles into its own between the budget and enthusiast feature sets, with only 4 DIMM slots but the capability for Quad-SLI/Crossfire. As long as you're careful with the cooler you'd like to use, and can allow yourself to get over the lack of diagnostic LEDs on the GA-X79-UD3, we feel that it's a rock-solid choice and a good value at its current spot in the market, and definitely has a unique feature set.
- Quad-SLI/Crossfire capability
- Intelligent x16 PCI-e placement
- Six 6GB/s SATA ports
- Internal USB 3.0 Header
- Intel NIC
- Latest BIOS stable
- Automatic OC features worked great
- Claustrophobic working area around CPU Socket
- Lack of diagnostic LEDs
- No CMOS-clear button
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