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The least-expensive of Gigabyte’s USB 3.0-equipped X58A-series, the $200 X58A-UD3R packs enough features to compete with high-end parts, while stealing thunder from its low-cost rivals.
This is, for example, the only sub-$300 board in today’s roundup to use a separate controller for eSATA, freeing up two rear-panel ports where competitors have either a single shared port (ASRock) or none whatsoever (Asus). Yet that controller is just one of three that double the number of SATA drives supported.
Perhaps the X58A-UD3R’s biggest advantage over similarly-priced competitors is its two sets of automatic PCIe lane switches that allow the board to change from dual x16 to quad x8 transfer mode whenever cards are detected in the second and fourth blue slots. But while pathway redirection could allow up to four high-end graphics cards to operate at near-peak performance, slot spacing prevents more than three double-slot cards from being inserted.
Unfortunately, Gigabyte didn’t implement a workaround for the issue we found Asus' competing model. Placing three double-slot graphics card on either product results in the third card hanging a full space beneath the motherboard’s bottom edge. Proper support for that third card consequently requires an eight-slot case, whereas the ATX standard only accounts for seven. While high-end office users might view the X58A-UD3R’s quad-graphics-card ability as the ultimate in multi-monitor display support, gamers are probably better-off using two dual-GPU cards to achieve the best performance possible.
Other layout snags that will affect only a small minority of builders are a floppy header located near the back of the X58A-UD3R’s bottom edge and an Ultra ATA connector also near the front of the bottom edge. Anyone who needs a floppy drive for such ancient tasks as installing Windows XP with AHCI drivers will note that, while long floppy cables do exist, they aren’t exactly pretty. Ultra ATA cables, being far shorter, can become a far greater installation issue for anyone who wants to keep an old optical drive.
Marvell’s 88SE9128 provides the two SATA 6Gb/s ports via a single 5.0 Gb/s PCIe 2.0 interface. These are given the same white color code as the JMB363-controlled SATA 3Gb/s ports next to them, forcing builders to pay careful attention to the labels if they want to be certain their modern drives are plugged into the faster interface. Both controllers also support Ultra ATA, but Gigabyte chose a JMicron part for the X58A-UD3R’s single interface connector.
A full seven expansion slots marks the final “features for the money” triumph for Gigabyte’s X58A-UD3R, but heat sink placement limits the top slot’s card length to a maximum of 3.125”. Though this sounds rather restrictive, we have found several expansion cards that fit.
Gigabyte’s well-designed MB Intelligent Tweaker menu hasn’t changed much over the past two or three product generations, as there’s little room for improvement. Primary clock controls and ratio are found at the top of its main menu, while primary voltage controls are farther down the page.
Various submenus bring up advanced CPU and clock settings
The Advanced DRAM Features menu allows timing adjustments beyond those available in the main menu. Users who would like to access these advanced controls but still keep the timings for all channels grouped together should choose “Quick” mode.
We again see the basic four timing controls at the top of the advanced menu, followed by most of the other memory timings experienced tuners occasionally need.
Advanced Voltage Control is also found on a submenu, providing such intricacies as DRAM reference and termination voltage.
Up to eight custom BIOS configurations can be set as user profiles and the motherboard automatically saves three more, just in case an overclocker would like to return to a recent unsaved setting.
Gigabyte’s installation kit is on-par with Asus', with the addition of two feature guides and an Ultra ATA ribbon.