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Gigabyte G1.Sniper Z87 Motherboard Review

board-1 board-2 board-rear

Measuring in at 30.5cm x 23.3cm Gigabyte’s G1.Sniper Z87 uses the ‘narrow’ ATX form factor. The motherboard still fits perfectly inside an ATX-capable chassis but the right-hand column of stand-offs are not required.

The G1.Sniper Z87 uses the eye-catching black and bright green colour scheme that has become one of the trademark features of Gigabyte’s G1.Killer series motherboards. The far more attractive matte black, not semi-brown, PCB is used.

ram-and-buttons

Up to 32GB of dual-channel DDR3 memory can be installed in the four DIMM slots. Gigabyte claims support for memory frequencies up to 3GHz, but the possibility of such numbers will be heavily related to the strength of a CPU’s IMC.

An outwards-facing internal USB 3.0 header neighbours the 24-pin connector in its easy-to-reach location. Given the motherboard’s shortened width, we would have liked Gigabyte to switch the USB 3.0 header to the right-angled orientation which helps ease cable management efforts.

Onboard buttons for power, reset, and clear CMOS, are located in the motherboard’s top-right corner, as well as a 2-digit debug display. A pair of BIOS switches is also located behind the 24-pin connector.

CPU-area

Eight power delivery phases feed an LGA 1150 CPU. Two attractive heatsinks cool the MOSFETs. Gigabyte uses black solid capacitors as part of the G1.Sniper Z87 motherboard’s power delivery system.

CPU-headers

A 4-pin CPU fan header and the 8-pin power connector are located along the motherboard’s top-edge.

Gigabyte’s decision to omit a secondary CPU fan header is not a good one. Users of dual-fan CPU coolers will be forced to make use of splitters or route their cables to the motherboard’s opposite end, as we did.

pci-slots

A pair of full-length PCI-E x16 slots provides the G1.Sniper Z87 with 2-way SLI or CrossFire capabilities. PCI-E lane distribution to the full-length PCI-E 3.0 slots is x16/x0 or x8/x8. Slot spacing is smart; two dual-width cards are given a 1-slot cooling gap between them.

Operating from the Z87 chipset, Gigabyte provides users with three PCI-E x1 slots. At least one of the slots will be blocked by a gaming-calibre graphics card. Keeping support for ageing peripherals, two legacy PCI slots are found beneath the lower full-length PCI-E slot.

Quite frankly, a single PCI slot is likely to be enough for the small proportion of users who are looking to carry forward a legacy device. But with Gigabyte’s decision to opt for the Z87 chipset’s FlexIO configuration consisting of six PCI-E 2.0 x1 lanes, a potentially-useful PCI-E 2.0 x4 expansion slot could not have been squeezed out of the board’s remaining lanes.

front-panel-connections

Headers are found in their typical locations along the motherboard’s bottom-edge – audio to the left and front panel connections to the right.

Gigabyte opts for a dual-BIOS implementation which provides a secondary BIOS chip for redundancy against motherboard-bricking corruptions.

SATA

All six of the right-angled SATA 6Gb/s ports operate from the Z87 chipset.

audio-2 audio

Audio-wise, Gigabyte packs the G1.Sniper Z87 to the brim with audiophile-grade components and design choices. From a particularly high-end Texas Instruments OP2134 operational amplifier to the quad core Sound Core 3D audio processor from Creative, the G1.Sniper Z87’s sound system is impressive.

High-end audio capacitors from Nichicon, a pair of gain switches, isolated circuitry, and gold plated connectors act as further evidence of the G1.Sniper Z87 motherboard’s audio prowess.

And if the default system is not high-end enough, Gigabyte allows users to easily change their OP-AMP. The electrical component is placed in a location which makes it easy to remove and replace with a higher-quality amplifier.

rear-IO

The G1.Sniper Z87’s rear IO panel is a fairly standard affair. All four USB 3.0 ports operate directly from the Z87 chipset. Killer’s E2201 NIC provides the Gigabit Ethernet connection.

Called DAC-UP by Gigabyte, the right-angled USB 2.0 port is fed by an isolated power line allowing it to provide signals with minimal fluctuations to the controllers of USB headsets.

Gigabyte uses gold-plated connectors to enhance the likelihood of a clean connection between the motherboard components and connected devices.

An inexcusable omission from the rear panel is the ever-useful clear CMOS button. The button would have fit on the rear section without issues. Its ease-of-access will be sorely missed by many overclocking gamers.

Motherboard rear ports:

  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  • 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  • 1 x DisplayPort
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 4 x USB 3.0 ports
  • 3 x USB 2.0 ports
  • 1 x RJ-45 port
  • 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out, Headphone/Speaker Out)

fan-headers

Circled above are the locations of the G1.Sniper Z87 motherboard’s four 4-pin fan headers. General positioning of the headers is good. Moving one of the bottom headers nearer to the board’s right side would have made hiding the cable of a front fan an easier task.

One huge oversight was the inclusion of only one CPU fan header. Users with a dual-fan CPU cooler (many of whom will fall into this board’s target audience) will be forced to adopt a 4-pin fan splitter.

The alternative option would be to route one of the cables across half of the motherboard to the next nearest connection (assuming a case’s rear fan is forced to use the header nearest its location). Whichever way you look at the situation, the cable management outcome is likely to be less-than-ideal.

As we were using a Corsair H100i CPU cooler, this problem resulted in one fan using the CPU header and the other fan (with an extension cable) being forced to trail across the motherboard and graphics card to operate from one of the bottom headers. The pump unit’s short cable forced it to use the header nearest the rear IO ports.

Needless to say, such a workaround would have negative effects on a system’s cable management.

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