I'll Take That Extra Large, Please
After demonstrating P67's ability to keep up with X58 in single-, dual-, and triple-card configurations (with the help of Nvidia's NF200 switch), we're pretty much "over" the idea of paying a premium for X58-based platforms. However, there will always be a market for the best of the best, regardless of how much it costs.
To that end, Gigabyte sent us its huge G1.Assassin motherboard to show off the board's unique features, not the least of which is its ability to host four dual-slot Radeon graphics cards in a CrossFire configuration (or three GeForce cards in three-way SLI). Up until now, this editor hadn’t had any experience with the XL-ATX form factor and its extra-large proportions. So, we invite you to see exactly what we saw when putting together a massive dream machine.
There aren't any benchmarks this time around. We planned a review of this beast in a configuration it'd actually be used for: with a quartet of graphics cards in four-way CrossFire. Unfortunately, the Radeon HD 5870s we were using simply wouldn't run stably in that arrangement. So, we swapped in three Radeon HD 6950s, which worked fine. The problem is that we'd still recommend a P67- or Z68-based config for three GPUs. The only way this was going to go down was with four cards. As we dig around for a fourth 6950, we thought we'd present you with this unique build as it stands (imposingly) today.
Bigger Than The Whole Cosmos
When Gigabyte first offered us the G1.Assassin for review, we planned to showcase the premium board in Cooler Master's Cosmos S enclosure. I admit my surprise when the motherboard didn’t fit in this large EATX case—the G1.Assassin requires the XL-ATX form factor. Note how the board bleeds into space required by the power supply!
The Cooler Master HAF-X is one of a handful of cases able to host an XL-ATX motherboard. Here is a comparison shot, from left to right: Cooler Master CMSTORM Scout (ATX), Cooler Master Cosmos S (EATX, also known as Extended ATX), and finally the Cooler Master HAF-X (XL-ATX). Note that the smallest case in this picture (the CMSTORM Scout) is no pipsqueak; it's a full ATX case with enough room to easily accommodate dual-card CrossFire or SLI configurations.
The Gigabyte G1.Assassin Bundle
Now that we have a case that can accommodate this huge board, let’s consider the Gigabyte G1.Assassin bundle. Included are the usual items, such as SATA cables, manuals, a driver CD, and a faceplate. The three-way SLI connector hints that the board is special, but what really catches our eye is the front-access control panel. Just wait; we'll go into more detail on the next slide.
The Easy Button
The front-access control panel sports two USB 3.0 and one ESATA/USB combo outputs. On the left you can see the Quick Boost overclocking button, which triggers an on-the-fly clock rate boost when it's pressed.
A large sheet of case decals is a nice touch for those who want the world to know they own Gigabyte’s most flagrant premium motherboard. In case your friends miss them, the double-sided poster offers a choice of graphics to force awareness of your extreme taste in hardware.
The G1.Assassin Mug Shot
Here is the colossal board in all of its glory. It’s impossible to miss the firearm-inspired heatsinks and green/black color scheme. The TSA may or may not want to put its hands down your pants if you try taking this through a security checkpoint.
Gigabyte calls the G1.Assassin’s cooler a “locked and loaded heatpipe.” While we question whether or not this is the most efficient design for lowering the temperature of components, you can’t deny that it’s cool to have a magazine on your motherboard.
Note the warning label on the bottom: "Heat Sink. Not a weapon. Cannot be assembled as a firearm." Are there a lot of guys trying to force these into rifles? Gigabyte is being a little overcautious with the disclaimer, methinks.
Stick ‘Em Up!
Here is another shot of the motherboard heatsink as it wraps around the CPU socket. Note the rifle barrel pointing in the direction of the camera, and the large component on the right that’s designed to look like the fore-grip of a firearm. The five LEDs on the large sink glow bright green during operation.
Creative Xi-Fi Onboard
Gigabyte went through great lengths to make the G1.Assassin a one-stop-shop ultimate motherboard (how else will it convince enthusiasts to spend more than $500 on a motherboard?).
Case in point: the Creative Xi-Fi Digital Audio processor, a premium option you would otherwise have to purchase separately, if you want it at all. Creative’s top-of-the-line 20K2 processor features EAX Advanced HD 5.0 effects, and the board qualifies for Dolby Digital Live real-time encoding and DTS Connect certifications.
The G1.Assassin also sports a built in front audio headphone amplifier able to drive 150 ohm loads—this should result in a fuller range of sound with less distortion than a typical line out port. A headphone amp actually is a useful addition; many higher-end cans cannot be appreciated fully unless they're driven by an amp.
Killer e2100 Networking Onboard
The G1.Assassin also sports a dedicated Bigfoot Networks E2100 Network Processing Unit (NPU) with 1 GB of dedicated DDR2 RAM. While our tests have shown that you shouldn’t expect a performance increase from Bigfoot’s NPUs, the bundled network management software can do a good job of prioritizing bandwidth if you’re running multiple applications at the same time.