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If you've forked out £800 for Intel's mighty Core i7 980X six-core processor, why not unload another £400 for seven slots' worth of PCI Express action? It's big numbers all round, and the Gigabyte X58A-UD9 is quite literally large.

Measuring 345 x 263.5mm, the UD9's form factor is officially known as XL-ATX. There's something else that's official: it won't fit in most PC cases. Fortunately, Gigabyte has provided a list of compatible cases. Anyway, odds are you'll need a new housing for it.

To get the most out of the UD9, you'll probably also need a new PSU.

The biggest potential power draw, of course, are the seven (count 'em!) full length PCI Express slots. Four are the real 16-lane deal, a configuration enabled courtesy of a pair of Nvidia NF200 bridge chips. The remaining three are full length, but only eight-lane in electrical terms.

Gigabyte has sensibly arranged the slots alternately. Slots one, three, five and seven are 16-lane, allowing for four dual-slot graphics cards to be daisy chained.

For the record, both AMD's Crossfire and Nvidia's SLI multi-GPU platforms are fully supported. Indeed, the UD9 comes with the graphics card connectors required for both technologies.

Another UD9 highlight is chipset cooling.

The X58 I/O controller chip gets the most attention in this area. For starters, Gigabyte has bolted on a block with connectors and pass-throughs for water cooling.

It's also provided a novel air-cooling solution composed of a screw-on heat pipe cooler that sits vertically in the first PCI slot. It's possible to run both cooling solutions in parallel.

Elsewhere, the UD9 scores points for it's uber-spec 24-phase power regulation kit. The fact that the PCB itself also has a thin layer of copper to help prevent hot spots and generally improve cooling just goes to show how much detail Gigabyte has paid to the overall design.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.