Need a solid motherboard? The GIGABYTE G1.Sniper Gaming Motherboard can help you out with that.
Need a motherboard that won’t break the bank? Move on. This board isn’t cheap. It is reliable and pretty packed with features to help justify the costs, so read on if you want to build a quality rig.
Now, you may have noticed I’ve mentioned this is a gaming motherboard already. That means the features found on this board are geared more toward delivering sufficient power to an overclocked CPU, plenty of space for GPUs, multiple RAM slots, high-quality audio chips, the works. This board has all of that. Even the theme of the board, a sniper, points toward this board being designed for the more “hardcore” gaming crowd. Let’s take a look at this themed design before getting into the actual useful features of the G1.Sniper.
The first thing you’ll likely notice when looking at this motherboard is the paint job. GIGABYTE was probably going for a camouflage look with the green and black coloring, but quite frankly the board could have just been those colors regardless of the theme and still looked nice. It’s not like there is an actual camouflage paint job on the board which is why I say that. The next three things you’ll notice are the integrated heatsinks. The Southbridge heatsink is designed to look like an ammo clip, complete with a brass-colored “bullet” jutting slightly out of the top. The VRM cooler looks somewhat like a gun barrel and what I’m guessing is supposed to be a scope, though they aren’t quite as obvious as the ammo clip in what they are supposed to be. The box humorously indicates that these parts are not designed for use on actual guns. At the very least, all three parts are secured to the board extremely well so there is no need to worry about breaking them when mounting the board to your case. With the silly aesthetic stuff out of the way, let’s move on to the actual usefulness of the board.
Great audio is absolutely essential in gaming, especially online gaming. You want to be able to hear everything so you know which direction the bullets whizzing passed your head are coming from, your allies pinged a position on the map for you to move to, hearing commands while in Teamspeak or RaidCall or whatever you use. You want quality in your audio. The G1.Sniper has a Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Digital Audio Processor. You may have noticed the X-Fi in the name, and yes it features all the usual X-Fi features you’ve come to expect such as the Crystalizer and EAX Advanced HD 5.0. That is a pretty serious sound processor, and the addition of Nichicon MUSE ES and MW audio capacitors help give the highest quality audio. Seriously, this thing can produce some great sounds. Even if you use headphones, there is a very nice frontal amplifier to keep the quality up. My advice is to use high-quality speakers when using this board to get the most out of the chip. Even using mediocre speakers is fine, but let’s be honest here; if you’re building a high-quality rig, you want high-quality accessories to go with it.
With audio out of the way, let’s get to another essential of gaming: network capabilities. Gamers want the best connections in order to win. Even the slightest bit of lag can mean the difference between scoring a headshot and missing the target entirely. What’s interesting about this board is it boasts an onboard Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 Game Networking chip that claims superior network performances. Unfortunately, I saw no noticeable difference between the network connections of this board and of my own rig’s board which features a Realtek 8111E Gigabit LAN controller. Both rigs were plugged directly into my cable modem and I tried playing a variety of online games to see if there were any improvements in connection quality. After playing a few matches of Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, League of Legends, and Starcraft 2, (obviously this took a little while to do) I ended up with the results mentioned earlier, no noticeable difference. My guess is the chip is just a nice bit of marketing to slap on the box. At the very least, the included software from Bigfoot offers a very nice way of managing your connections and even performing load tests if anything seems to be going wrong. Of course, you’ll have to disable the annoying ads for this speed test software they offer.
I am aware this is supposed to be a gaming motherboard, but I was a little curious about why there are six memory slots. Yes, six, for a maximum of 24GB of DDR3 memory. That’s quite a lot of memory considering 8GB of DDR3 is more than enough for pretty much every game available today. I did however like that the slots are nicely spaced away from the CPU to allow for even larger heatsinks to be mounted without severely hindering memory placement. When mounting an Arctic Cooler Freezer 13 Pro (not a massive heatsink, but a pretty reasonably sized one) I was still able to get a G.SKILL Ripjaws 4GB DDR3 memory stick in the slot closest to the CPU without a problem. It’s nice that there are so many slots and enough room to place them, but I still found it to be overkill.
Likewise, I find the three Crossfire/SLI capability to also be overkill. My own computer uses an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti and can run most games at maximum settings without needing to be overclocked without too much slowdown, and that’s not even a top-of-the-line GPU. I couldn’t possibly imagine needing three of those to get the maximum framerate out of any game, not even GPU killers like Crysis (which mine can run surprisingly well). I know gamers love their graphics and other boards do this as well, but it doesn’t mean I find it any less ridiculous. If you are one of those gamers that absolutely needs three crazy good GPUs running all at once, then this board will in fact fit your needs.
Aside from the overkill of memory and GPU slots, the board does feature quite a bit of expansion potential. It boasts six USB slots build in to the board with the option of adding six more through the case or your own slots. There are two USB 3.0 ports included with this and the ability to connect two more via an included USB 3.0 expansion cable. There are also two eSATA connections, as well as six SATA 3Gb/s connectors and two SATA 6Gb/s connectors. SATA RAID 0, 1, 5, and 10 are all supported with this board so you can have some very nice storage capabilities when building with this board. But all this doesn’t really mean much if the board doesn’t perform, so let’s get to that.
I ran a handful of benchmarks to get an idea of how well the G1.Sniper could actually perform, then did a bit of research comparing the results to other systems using similar and higher-end hardware. The benchmarks included PCMark05, PCMark Vantage, 3DMark06, and 3DMark Vantage (referred to now as FutureMark). In addition, I did a few runs of wPrime’s 32 million integer test and 1024 million integer test. Also, note the following bits of hardware used in the tests:
- GIGABYTE G1.Sniper Gaming Motherboard
- Intel Core i7 975 (4 Core @ 3.33 GHz)
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 Ti w/ 1GB GDDR5 memory
- 8 GB DDR3 memory
The FutureMark tests scored much higher than the average user score when it came to middle-of-the-road PCs. However, in higher-end PCs where this board would be preferable, it scored roughly average. This indicates that while the G1.Sniper is definitely in the upper-end of the spectrum (as it should be at its price), it’s hardly distinguishable from anything else out there boasting superiority. In fact, several users posted scores higher than the ones I achieved using much cheaper motherboards while using roughly the same CPU, GPU, and memory. As I mentioned, however, this doesn’t mean the G1.Sniper is by any means bad. It just isn’t the best nor the cheapest. The following is a general rundown of the scores, where higher numbers indicate better performance:
Hardware has plenty to do with the ratings behind each of these. I also ran a few benchmarks using a crappy GIGABYTE GeForce 210 GPU and every value in the FutureMark benchmarks dropped considerably, even the ones that have nothing to do with graphics. The lesson to learn here is that if you want to have a great system, get all great parts. Don’t spend all your money on a great board only to have to skimp on everything else. The computer will suck, and the benchmarks on the G1.Sniper proved that when so much as a GPU was downgraded. You may have also noticed an asterisk (*) next to the PCMark in the PCMark05 table. The reason for this was I kept getting a strange bug indicating the System Suite, which is required to obtain a PCMark score, was not selected and run despite having done both. There have been various “solutions” to this problem, and none have seemed to work. This is a pretty widespread problem if Google is to be believed, so I would assume it has to do with Windows 7 as that appears to be the common theme among the complaints. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of Windows XP anymore, which PCMark05 was designed for, so I cannot actually fix this problem if the OS is to blame.
The G1.Sniper is however capable of overclocking the CPU to around 4.5 GHz before becoming horribly unstable using the above build, though performing any of the FutureMark tests caused the system to crash. To alleviate this, I toned it down to 4.0 GHz (26x @ 155MHz), Vcore of 1.40 V, and QPI of 1.25 V to allow some manner of comparison with past overclocking benchmarks with this board. Not surprisingly, the G1.Sniper obtains much higher scores from the FutureMark and wPrime tests in terms of the CPU ratings, overall Marks, and Productivity (PCMark Vantage only). What I was disappointed by was how well it handled the actual gaming aspect, but don’t worry, it isn’t terrible.
Playing games is pretty much the entire point of the G1.Sniper, which is why I found it odd that my own tower which uses a much cheaper ASUS P8P67-M Pro motherboard and Core i5 CPU (GPU and memory the same as above) could play games not only at a steadier framerate but load faster. The game I initially tested this on was Crysis (don’t lie, you use Crysis to test your gaming rigs too), but eventually expanded it to the other games mentioned earlier (Battlefield 3, MW3, StarCraft 2, League of Legends) and even tried out some less-intense games such as Bastion to confirm this. It’s not an entirely noticeable difference, though. A few frames per second difference is quite difficult to tell without the numbers displayed for you, and the same goes for loading times which were just shy of a second difference. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker until I discovered there are other cheaper boards that will give similar results of outplaying the G1.Sniper. For a board that proudly claims to be a gaming motherboard from its box down to its aesthetics, it’s disappointing that this isn’t the best gaming board out there. Even overclocking it doesn’t really do much to improve the gaming here, which is equally surprising and disappointing. It is certainly better than other boards, but you can save yourself quite a bit of money and get better results.
Some of you may be scratching your heads and wondering why I said in the beginning you could build a quality rig with the G1.Sniper only to trash it later for its less-than-stellar gaming, to which I point out that I never said you could build a quality gaming rig. I merely said it’s a board worthy of a quality rig in general. However, it is advertised as a gaming board so I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it to someone building a new gaming rig from scratch. The results of the gaming tests just don’t justify the costs, even if it works well as an overall motherboard. My advice is to do a little research and get a cheaper board with better ratings. The money you save will allow you to buy higher-quality hardware to go with it.