Gigabyte X58A-UD9 review

One of the most expensive motherboards we've ever seen, but is it one of the best?

Gigabyte X58A-UD9
From this picture, you can see that the board isn't made of money, as its price tag might lead you to believe

Broadly speaking, if the Gigabyte X58A-UD9 wants to justify its silly sticker price, there are three fronts on which it must deliver. Firstly, it needs to be the ultimate platform for high performance gaming. Secondly, it had better overclock like buggery. Finally, the detail specifications ought to be impeccable.

Right out of the box, it fails on the first count.

However, this isn't the fault of Gigabyte. Multi-GPU scaling with more than two GPUs is uncharted territory for all but a very, very tiny number of well-heeled enthusiasts.

GPU scaling mileage tends to vary over time and as driver iterations come and go. But it's fair to say that with AMD's Crossfire platform, going beyond two cards is a bold move.

A few games scale reasonably well three and four GPUs, such as Far Cry 2 and Dirt 2. But most don't, including the one game that might benefit from four GPUs pumping pixels in parallel. Yup, that'll be Crysis in its most recent Warhead trim.

In practice, Crysis performance in Crossfire mode peaks with two graphics cards, much less three or four. As for Nvidia's competing SLI platform, scaling to three GPUs is pretty consistent, but a fourth card gives little or no benefit.

Again, this isn't the fault of Gigabyte. But it does somewhat erode the UD9's raison d'être.

But what about overclocking?

Here the news is better, if a little mixed. There's no doubting Gigabyte has delivered the right oveclocking features. The chipset is extremely well-cooled, and the 24-phase power regulation circuitry is likely beyond reproach.

Indeed, Gigabyte has also installed a pair of eight-pin CPU power connectors instead of the usual one. Put simply, power delivery ain't an issue.

The BIOS is similarly comprehensive, providing all the options you could ever ask for, including baseclock control up to 600MHz and ample voltage tweakery.

Despite all that, the maximum bus speed we could squeeze out of our sample board was 220MHz. That's by no means a bad result. Moreover, it provides as much headroom for CPU overclocking as almost any chip can handle. But it's perhaps not as spectacular we'd hoped.

Finally, if we're being really picky – and in the context of a £400-plus motherboard, we probably should be – the UD9 does fall short on connectivity and storage.

Both SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 are on the spec list, courtesy of Marvell and NEC controller chips, respectively. But you only get a pair of ports for each. Given that many more affordable boards do better, that's really not good enough.

We liked

Plenty of motherboards have bags of PCIe slots, but most flatter to decieve – they're not the real PCIe16 deal. Not so for the Gigabyte X58A-UD9 and its quartet of bona fide 16-lane slots.

The UD9 also offers the best chipset cooling we've seen and a comprehensive BIOS menu. We can think of no better board for maximising the performance of Intel's top chips.

We disliked

At this price point, near-perfection is a must, and the UD9 doesn't quite deliver. The main problem is that multi-GPU graphics performance with more than two cards is patchy.

We'd also like to have seen Gigabyte go to town with the USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps connectivity. Two of each is a bit stingy.

Final word

Gigabyte's UD9 is a quality customer, but it can't quite justify the £400 pricing