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Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87: gaming motherboard with high-quality sound

11.12.2013, Jan Vítek, recenze
Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87: gaming motherboard with high-quality sound
Hot news in the offer of motherboards by Gigabyte is G1.Sniper Z87, whose name indicates that it is for gamers. Nevertheless, this board provide us high-quality sound with the possibility of replacement of operating amplifiers and other advantages.
Already when we visually compare the motherboard Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H and the currently examined G1.Sniper Z87, it is obvious that our Sniper has its printed circuit far less occupied, which means that its general design is simpler. It is a motherboard of the ATX format, which is designed for processors Intel Haswell into socket LGA 1150. The board is equipped according to the possibilities of the Intel Z87 chipset, at least with respect to the offered basic interfaces.

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Gigabyte has tuned the board in black colour with green accessories, which creates a nice contrast. Bright green are also the capacitors by Nichicon, serving the sound solution by Creative, which is to be the pride of this motherboard, along with the network card Atheros Killer E2201. The bottom part, quite understandably, does not contain much, just the indispensable rear frame under the processor socket and the screws fixing the chipset cooler. The power supply cooler is fixed just by plastic pins, and it looks like eight-phase power supply here.

top - yellow LED path separating the audio circuits - click to zoom in -

G1.Sniper Z87 is clearly a poorer relative of the model G1.Sniper 5, whose equipment is better in all respects, including the doubled 8-phase power supply by means of the chips PowIRStage IR3550. Here, we have eight chips under each heatsink, but I have not been able o identify them. However, G1.Sniper 5 is also the XL-ATX format motherboard, whose price is three times higher than that of our Sniper Z87.

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Let us better have a look at the rear I/O panel, which tries to impress by gold-coated connectors. However, the gold-coating only applies to one of the USB 2.0 connectors. In addition to that, there are display connectors, five 3.5mm audio connectors and a coaxial output S/PDIF. Next to it is an optical S/PDIF, four USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, including the gold-coated one, an Ethernet connector RJ-45, a round PS/2 for keyboard or mouse and also HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.2, both supporting the resolution of up to 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz or 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz, respectively. The rear panel could certainly accommodate more, many people would make use of a DVI connector but, despite of that, this offer of outputs and inputs is still sufficient. Monitors with a DVI input can, naturally, be connected to the HDMI port via an adapter, but monitors with analogue input only have bad luck with the basic equipment of this motherboard.

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The power supply of the motherboard is ensured by a classical 24pin ATX connector and an 8pin EPS, installed between the coolers of the powers supply chips. Apart from those, the motherboard has no additional power supply connector, which could be used in the case of installation of more graphic cards.
As far as memory modules are concerned, there are four DIMM slots designed for modules with DDR3/DDR3L chips, which all together can provide up to 32 GB capacity, and although the chipset itself officially supports the maximum frequency of 1600 MHz, the motherboard is able to handle 3000 MHz, too. Naturally, it also supports Intel XMP, i.e., different profiles for simple setting of higher operating frequencies.

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The memory section includes a two-digit display designed for diagnostics of possible problems with the start of the computer, and recent motherboards accommodate buttons for start, reset and default BIOS settings. If we operate the motherboard just like that, on the desk, we no longer have to short-circuit the pins designated for case buttons or look for and switch over jumpers. The corresponding buttons can be found right next to the main power supply connector in the very corner of the board.

As far as jumpers are concerned, they have been replaced by simple switches, two of them can be found between the power supply connector and the DIMM slots. The first switch serves for activation of the dual BIOS mode, and the other is used for switching between the two BIOSes. So, there is a backup for the case when something goes wrong, for example, during BIOS updating.

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At the bottom section of the motherboard, by the cooler, there are the usual connectors SATA 6 Gbps. There are six of them, all angular, and, therefore, our case must have on this side of the board at least a bit of free space, otherwise the cables could not be connected. This amount of connectors corresponds to the possibilities of the Z87 chipset, and so, there is no additional controller that could offer other connectors, for instance, leading to eSATA.

The headers of this board are, understandably, situated along the lower edge, but not all of them. The headers of the USB 3.0 interfaces are situated a little higher, right under the main power supply connector. But if we look back down and start counting from the right, from the SATA connectors, there is COM, i.e., the serial interface, and next to it there are the mentioned pins for buttons, diodes or PC speaker. Right by these pins, there are also two separate pins, and the text CLR_CMOS assures us that by short-circuiting them we can clear the BIOS. However, it is easier to use the upper button reserved for this purpose.

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The rest of the headers is under the slots. There are two headers for USB 2.0/1.1 and, of course, one for HD Audio. The motherboard also offers ventilator fan connectors, which are all four-pin connectors, i.e., supporting PWM control. Two of them are situated down between the headers, one is next to the upper PCI Express x 1 port and the last one is all the way up and it is white, on the contrary to the others. It is distinguished by colour because it is designated for the fan of the processor cooler.

The extending slots for cards include two green PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots with locks, which can work in configuration x16/- or x8/x8 lines. One connected card, therefore, utilizes the entire length of the slot while two cards share the slot in an equal manner. Between these slots here are three PCI Express 2.0 x1, and in the lower section there are two classical PCIs.

We will finish our examination of the motherboard by its Creative sound solution. Next to the PCI slots, we can see a metal encased chip Sound Core 3D with the Sound Blaster logo. Close to it, there are two main condensers by Nichicon and several smaller ones, shining bright green. Right in between them there are two more switches and a slot with a bug, which is a replaceable operating amplifier OP-Amp for headphones, by means of which we can modify sound. We can simply replace it by another one, but we must first buy it. Gigabyte offers here the corresponding GP-OP AMP kit with three chips. Nevertheless, I have not found this kit in Czech shops. Foreign shops offer it at a price starting from $50. However, we do not have to order the entire kit. We can buy just individual chips, which can already be found in Czech shops.

The basic amplifier supplied with this motherboard is the chip Burr-Brown OPA2134PA (specification). Logically, this should be a universal solution, but, in addition to that, Gigabyte offers within the mentioned kit the chip Burr-Brown OPA2111KP, which should provide the sound with the air of lightness and is designated for instrumental and so-called New Age music. The chip Linear Technology LT1358CN8 is focused on medium range of frequencies and it is generally suitable for vocals. The chip Analog Devices AD827JNZ is designed for symphonies or other "rich" music.

Let us not forget the mentioned two switches that are parts of the function Gain Boost. By means of them we can set 2.5x or 6x gain, which can be handy for high-impedance earphones.

Article in Czech: Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87: herní deska s kvalitním zvukem