Not content with just launching a brand new range of mostly black P67 motherboards, Gigabyte has introduced a whole new brand, dubbed G1-Killer.
We’ve already seen teasers about this new board, but this time we got a chance to sit down with the team to not only photograph its new board, but also to discover what Gigabyte is planning for this year.
Gigabyte is launching two new product-lines under the G1-Killer brand. The first is its gaming series, which will feature three boards with the overly masculine monikers of Assassin, Sniper and Guerilla. The second product line is under wraps at the moment, but we’re told that it will feature at least one overclocking-orientated board, and maybe as many as three.
All of the boards will use Intel’s LGA1366 socket and X58 chipset, until LGA2011 replaces this platform in the fourth quarter 2011. This is despite the awesome power of Intel’s new Intel’s Sandy Bridge chips.
Both of the G1-Killer ranges will have a distinctly different colour scheme, most of which appears to be borrowed from the defunct DFI LANParty series of boards. As such, the gaming series is clad in lime-green and black, while the ‘OC’ range is styled in orange and black.
The Assassin (shown here) launches first, with the Sniper and Gorilla following later in the year. The Assassin features Creative (PCI-E) audio, with five sets of amplifiers built into the board. There’s even a Killer NIC built in too, which Gigabyte claims is better than its discrete alternative, but that remains to be tested.
It’s interesting to note that Gigabyte pays about $15 for the Killer NIC hardware, rather than the $80 Bigfoot Networks charges for the discrete product. Some of this saving comes from Gigabyte only needing to buy the chip rather than a whole PCB, with the other ICs, capacitors and so on.
The Assassin is slightly longer than a standard ATX board, so we’re not sure if it will fit into every ATX case, although it’s certainly not XL-ATX-sized either. It also supports four-way ATI CrossFire, but only 3-way Nvidia SLI, as it doesn’t have an extra Nvidia NF200 chip, or PLX PCI-E multipliers. Gigabyte claims that this is because the X58 chipset provides enough lanes, and few people want Quad SLI anyway. However, we’d like to point out that a similarly small number of people want four-way CrossFire, yet Gigabyte has gone beyond the ATX spec to include it.
Meanwhile, there’s 16-phase Driver MOS power circuitry for the CPU, eight SATA ports (two are SATA 6Gbps) and support for up to 24GB of memory via the six DIMM slots.
On the back, however, the rear I/O panel is pretty sparse compared to Gigabyte’s typical offerings. There are four USB 2 ports, four USB 3 ports (using a single NEC chip, with the connections split by a VLI hub), 7.1-channel audio outputs, optical and coaxial S/PDIF outputs and one Gigabit Ethernet port. We’re surprised that there are two PS/2 ports, though. This old port appears to be remarkably resilient, despite the fact that we haven’t seen a non-USB gaming mouse or keyboard for about five years.
There will also be a separate overclocking panel for the board, which will provide front-mounted USB 3 ports, an eSATA connector and an ‘OC button’ – the board has a small white header for this already. However, it’s worth noting that Asus has already released a similar front panel add-on for its ROG boards already, in the form of the OC Station.
The board certainly looks stylish enough, playing on the success of FPS titles such as Call of Duty with its gun-sight-esque heatsinks and magazine-shaped Southbridge heatsink. It even has a bullet-half popping out of the top.
Is this taking the gaming theme to a whole new level of integration and design-fun, or is it merely an overly ostentatious cash-in too far? We like the fact that Gigabyte has gone to the effort to do something different in its styling, in a market that’s overwhelmed with black-and-blue or black-and-red boards. We’re sure it will divide opinions, so let us know your thoughts.
Gigabyte is clearly building on a very firm foundation and growing sales – there’s an argument that the company should have done something like this G1-Killer range years ago, just like its now-black PCB. Furthermore, these extra brands will only increase Gigabyte’s presence in online stores.
In some ways that will create artificial competition, as they are still Gigabyte boards, but Asus’ ROG, WS and new TUF series aren’t immune from this criticism either. That’s also not forgetting that if the competition had been better years ago, we wouldn’t be left with so few dominant companies anyway.
However, we have to question some of the hardware choices. Given our recent reviews of the Killer 2100 gaming network cardand Killer Xeno Pro gaming network card review gaming network cards, and the fact that EAX is arguably no longer relevant in PC gaming, we doubt whether many people will find this hardware genuinely useful.
On the other hand, now we have more bespoke choice than ever: instead of the same Realtek, VIA and NEC chips on every single board, we’ll actually have a real decision to make about which technologies we really want.
The decision to base the board on Intel’s moribund X58 chipset and LGA1366 socket seems misguided as well. With the cheaper LGA1155 Sandy Bridge CPU range dominating everything but the extremely pricey Intel Core i7-980X, it hardly seems worth buying an LGA1366 motherboard unless you’re a professional media creator.
There should be an LGA1366 Core i7-990X coming out soon, but this looks like a simple speed-bump rather than a radically new CPU. What’s more, according to Intel roadmaps, we’re unlikely to get an ‘affordable’ six-core LGA1366 chip any time soon, which would give us reason to look at X58 boards a bit more seriously again. Even then, games don’t need six-core/12-thread hardware to run at their best – games will typically only address up to four execution units, and favour IPC and frequency over thread-count.
Gigabyte says it used the X58 chipset because it has the most PCI-E lanes for multi-GPU setups, so it didn’t need to use a PCI-E multiplier chip (either an NF200, a Lucid Hydra or a more conventional PLX). However, we’ve seen such multiplier chips cut 2-3fps from your frame rate, and very few people will want to build machines with three or four graphics cards. Besides, we’ve never been sold on the qualities of multi-GPU setups anyway. Waiting for a driver update to actually use the second card in a new game and hoping it won’t break support for an old favourite is not our definition of a ‘premium experience.’
Maybe Gigabyte can cash in on the market for those looking to spice up an aging X58 system. There are plenty of people who already have LGA1366 CPUs but, outside of catastrophic failure, would you upgrade the board without upgrading the CPU?
Gigabyte’s attitude is close to that of Asus’ ROG range, in that it will have boards for overclockers (Extreme boards, in ROG-speak) and boards for gamers (Formula boards in ROGese). Gigabyte claims that ‘gamers don’t want to overclock; if you want to overclock you should buy a UD7.’ This isn’t quite the case – we overclock our PCs to get maximum gaming performance, for example, but we believe the G1-Killer gaming series is solely trying to tap into the core gaming crowd with a better motherboard. The Assassin is trading on the brand strength of Creative EAX and ‘gaming’ network cards, and game-heavy looks back this up too.
We may have lamented Asus for its mixed gaming/overclocking message on its ROG boards in the past, but we prefer PC games that push the graphical, aurally and visually beautiful and immersive experience of gaming. To get that, your PC needs as much processing power it can muster, and so overclocking is an essential part of what we look for in every PC component. Let’s hope that the G1-Killer Assassin can deliver on this front.