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Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3

Three AMD 990FX-Based Motherboards For Enthusiasts
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For $5 less than its competition from Asus, Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD3 provides similar hardware features. The firm loses the rarely-needed but somewhat-pricy USB Flashback processor, and instead adds a somewhat-outdated but less-costly FireWire controller.

Gigabyte doesn’t place one of its internal SATA ports on the upper half of the board to ease front-panel eSATA cable access, but instead puts both eSATA ports on the rear I/O panel. Buyers get the same total number of SATA ports, the same total number of USB 3.0 ports, and the same total number of USB 2.0 ports on both Gigabyte and Asus products (though only Asus claims UASP support under Windows 7).

Both similarly-priced, competing products offer the same PCIe x16 slot configuration, as both are designed primarily for two-way SLI. Both primary slots are permanently connected to 16 pathways each, and both secondary slots are permanently connected to four pathways each. Gigabyte adds an x1 slot above the top x16 slot, however, and uses a cut-away northbridge sink to allow installation of longer expansion cards in this location.

Gigabyte moves its CPU power connector behind the voltage regulator sink and turns it sideways, which could be a benefit or detriment, depending on case and cooler configurations. The latch on Asus’ top-edge connector faces upward, making it hard to reach in cases that rout its cable over the top edge of the motherboard tray, while Gigabyte’s alternative placement could be boxed in by rear-panel liquid cooling radiators, such as the Enermax ELC120 and Zalman LQ-320.

The 990FXA-UD3’s front-panel audio connector is found in the bottom-rear corner, where we're accustomed to finding it. But some cases occasionally enter the market with a cable that’s around half of an inch too short to reach that corner. Older cases might also have hard drive cages that block cable access to the forward-facing SATA ports. On the other hand, while a video card in the bottom slot might also block access to the front-panel USB 3.0 header, that problem is mostly theoretical on a board not practically designed for three-way CrossFire or SLI.

Four SATA cables, a single SLI bridge, and a case badge put Gigabyte’s 990FXA-UD3 installation kit on-par with its closest competitor, though the ends of Gigabyte’s cables are black. The badge might just be more important than the color of the cables, as it indicates that this board ships with Dolby Home Theater software. The software adds on-the-fly Dolby 5.1 digital encoding, multi-channel synthesized expansion, environmental correction, and various other audio manipulation technologies.

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