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Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 (AMD 990FX) Review

Rating: 9.0.

We have already reviewed several 990FX motherboards, but today we are looking at one of the latest boards from Gigabyte, the Bulldozer supporting 990 FXA-UD7. The UD7 series has a great reputation among enthusiast users, so we have high expectations today that this will continue the success story for Gigabyte.

For those who don’t already know, the 990FX range of motherboards are backwards compatible so you can use your current Athlon II or Phenom II X4/X6 without a problem … which is just as well as the AMD Bulldozer range of processors has yet to be released.

The Gigabyte 990FXa-UD7 is fully loaded, offering support for DDR3 memory up to 2000mhz and 2,3 and 4 way AMD CrossfireX and Nvidia SLI configurations. The board also includes support for SATA 6GB/s, IEEE 1394a and USB 3.0 devices.

A list of full product specifications can be seen over here.

The Gigabyte 990FXa-UD7 motherboard ships in an attractively designed box with a picture of the dramatically designed heatsink in the center. There is also a list of key specifications along the bottom.

Inside are two half height boxes which contain the peripherals and the motherboard.

The bundle is comprehensive, including a manual, driver and software disc, I/O backplate, SATA cables and several stickers for a case. Additionally, there are a plethora of SLI and Crossfire cables in the box: 3 way SLI bracket, 4 way SLI bracket, single SLI cable and two Crossfire cables. For some reason we received a manual with only chinese text.

I have to say I was surprised that Gigabyte didn’t include a few more SATA cables with this product.

The 990FXA-UD7 is a very attractive board which is finished in a black livery.

The heatsinks on the board are very attractive, with shiny gold accents highlighting the dark overall colour scheme.

The board has 6 PCI E x16 slots. Two of them run at x16, two x8 and two x4.

Gigabyte say “For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16_1 slot; if you are installing two PCI Express graphics cards, it is recommended that you install them in the PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots. The PCIEX8_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16_1 slot and the PCIEX8_2 slot with PCIEX16_2. The PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2 slot will operate at up to x8 mode when the PCIEX8_1/PCIEX8_2 is populated.”

Along the bottom of the board are three USB 2.0 headers, a single USB 3.0 header, a FireWire header and the front I/O audio connector. There are only three CPU fan headers on the board, which seems a little shortsighted.

Along the bottom of the board are 8 SATA ports. All of these ports are SATA 6GBp/s capable. The two grey ports on the right are handled by the Marvel 88SE9172 controller while the other six are powered by the onboard AMD SB950 South Bridge controller.

The motherboard can support memory with speeds at 1066mhz/1333mhz/1600mhz/1866mhz and 2000 mhz (OC). A total of 32GB of memory can be installed and obviously it is a dual channel memory architecture.

Next to the SATA ports is a diagnostic debug readout which is used for troubleshooting in case of any problems. Gigabyte include a cover over the reset CMOS button to prevent accidental activation. They have also included a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header to aid with hardware based security.

The back panel connectors include: 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector, 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector, 1 x IEEE 1394a port, 7 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports, 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports, 1 x eSATA/USB Combo connector, 1 x eSATA 6Gb/s connector, 1 x RJ-45 port, 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone).

The overall board design is very attractive and it looks great inside a windowed case.

The Gigabyte bios is a ‘traditional’ design, not one of the newer UEFI implementations. That said, it is fully loaded and offers a wealth of fine tuning and overclocking options. Most of the enthusiast audience will be spending the majority of their time in the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) panel.

Above are a selection of screenshots taken from the bios. We tested the bios with both the Phenom II X4 980 Black Edition and the Phenom II X6 1100T Black Edition and there were no problems to report.

Overclocking via this board is as good as any of the other 990FX boards we have tested in the past. With a Noctua NH D14 fitted we managed to push the 980 and 1100T to 4.4ghz and 4.3ghz respectively. These are basically the limits of the specific chips with air cooling and as good as we could expect without moving to high end watercooling or phase change.

Test System

Processor: AMD Phenom II X6 1100T
Motherboard: Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7
Cooler: Noctua NH D14
Memory: 4GB (2x 2GB) Kingston 1600MHz
Graphics Card: AMD HD6970 and Nvidia GTX580
Power Supply: Corsair AX1200
Optical Drive: Asus BluRay Drive
Chassis: Antec Dark Fleet DF85
Monitors: 3x Ilyama ProLite E2472HDD
Boot Drive: Intel 80GB SSD
Secondary Drives: Intel 510 SSD 250GB & OCZ Vertex 3 MAX IOPS 240 GB (For CrystalDiskMark)

Software

Windows 7 Enterprise (64-bit)
FRAPS Professional
SiSoft Sandra
VLC Player
CPUz
GPUz
CPUID Hardware Monitor
Cinebench R11.5 (64-bit)
Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 Ultra
Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5
CrystalDiskMark
3DMark Vantage
3DMark 11
PCMark 7

Games
DiRT 3
F1 2010
Total War: Shogun 2
HomeFront
Left4Dead2
BattleForge
Devil May Cry 4

All the latest BIOS updates and drivers are used during testing. We perform under real world conditions, meaning KitGuru tests across five closely matched runs and averages out the results to get an accurate median figure.

Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.

Overall scores are healthy, with the GTX580 scoring over 25,000 points and the HD6970 over 21,000 points.

3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.

After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.  We used performance settings for this benchmark.

If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.

Final scores of 5,876 points and 5,202 points for the GTX580 and HD6970 respectively indicate that the board is delivering very strong levels of performance. We don’t rely solely on synthetic benchmarks, but they are useful to include before the real world testing.

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.

Sandra is a (girl’s) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.

It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.

Native ports for all major operating systems are available:

  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)

All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:

  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit

At 4.3ghz, the X6 1100T really comes to life, delivering great performance results.

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.

CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.

Very good results, especially when in an overclocked state, scoring 7.56 points. This CPU is ideal for rendering duties in a main system.

Crystalmark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using V3.0 x64.

Drive performance is very impressive, scoring over 500 MB/s in the sequential read test and over 280 MB/s in the sequential write test.

Our good friends at Cyberlink kindly supplied the software for our BluRay and conversion tests.

Cyberlink PowerDVD 11 is one of the finest solutions for the BluRay experience on Windows and we found this software to work perfectly with this chipset. We tested with the Blu-Ray Disc of The Day The Earth Stood Still starring Keano Reeves. We are using the hardware acceleration of the HD6970 to help reduce overall processor load.

The system has absolutely no problem powering through 1080p bluray content, averaging 8 percent time at reference clocks, dropping to 6 percent when overclocked.

Many people who have media systems will be familiar with the Matroska (.mkv) file format which is often used for high definition video.  In this test we will be using VLC Media Player to play a 1080P MKV file of Tron Legacy (ripped from our BluRay disc) while recording CPU usage.

Performance is great, even at reference CPU speeds. The overall load drops several percentage points when we increase the clock speeds.

Many people using this system will be enjoying Flash related content so we feel it is important to test with some of the more demanding material available freely online. Full hardware acceleration is enabled.

The Phenom II X6 1100T is an excellent processor for hardware accelerated media playback as can we can see from the graph above. When overclocked, the demand drops by a couple of percent.

We are now going to test the USB 3.0 and 2.0 speed, so we used one of the fastest drives we have, the Kingston HyperX Max 3.0 128GB, which is an Toshiba based SSD product within a USB 3.0 capable enclosure.

We copied a 3.9GB MKV file to and from the Kingston and Intel drives.

Great results across the USB 3.0 bus, achieving almost 190 MB/s when reading the data from the external drive.

CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.

Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.

New and Improved Features

  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.

We are using a 3.3gb MKV file today at 2 hours and 12 minutes in length. We are converting to a final output for an Apple Media Player, a real world situation facing many people.

The system is able to power through the 2 hour+ video file in under 17 minutes at reference clock speeds. When overclocked by 1ghz, this time improves by around 5 minutes.

DiRT 3 was only released about a month ago but has received much praise from gamers and reviewers across the globe.  It is the latest iteration of the Colin McRae Rally series, despite Codemasters dropping the Colin McRae branding.  It supports DirectX 11 which enhances detail and brings a number of other visual enhancements to the gaming experience.

Dirt 3 runs great with this system and high end Nvidia graphics card.

F1 2010 is the first multi format high def Formula one title, having been in development for almost 2 and a half years now you can tell Codemasters are not messing around when it comes to releasing the best game they can. F1 2010 is packed with everything, from fine tuning your car setup, practising laps with goals to achieve, detailed stats, various difficulty settings for newbs and pros and even a helmet selection!

F1 2010 is a great game and one we really enjoy playing. This hardware is able to power through the engine at high settings, with AA cranked.

Shogun 2 is set in 16th-century feudal Japan, in the aftermath of the Ōnin War. The country is fractured into rival clans led by local warlords, each fighting for control. The player takes on the role of one of these warlords, with the goal of dominating other factions and claiming his rule over Japan. The standard edition of the game will feature a total of eight factions (plus a ninth faction for the tutorial), each with a unique starting position and different political and military strengths.

All settings are pushed to mixed high/ultra settings as shown below.

Shogun 2 is an intensive game with a demanding engine but this system has no problem powering through it with image quality cranked at 1080p.

Homefront is speculative fiction, set in a near-future, post peak oil world that features a significantly diminished United States, and a united Korea that has built a massive alliance in East Asia. The Gate Corporation (a major private military company) also plays a minor role. The game focuses on the collapse of the United States, subsequent occupation by the Greater Korean Republic—a united Korea under the rule of Korea—and the American Resistance that fights said occupation. The player is invited to join the American Resistance, “using guerrilla tactics, commandeering military vehicles, and utilizing advanced drone technology”.

Homefront’s PC version has been outsourced to Digital Extremes, a Canadian developer responsible for numerous Unreal Tournament games and Bioshock ports. Frank Delise, the executive producer of the PC version has stated that the PC version of the game will feature exclusive content and dedicated servers. Additional exclusive features include clan support, DirectX 11 graphics, and first person vehicle cockpits.

Home Front was slated when it was released, but we played it right through and thoroughly enjoyed it. It is also a pretty good test of hardware. The HD6970 had no problems powering through these settings, delivering great frame rates.

BattleForge is a video game developed by EA Phenomic and published by Electronic Arts. It was released on Windows in March 2009. A demo was released in the same month. BattleForge is a card based RTS. It revolves around trading, buying and winning through means of micro-transactions. Micro-transactions are not required for playing the game, only for buying new cards.

It supports DirectX 11 providing full support for hardware tessellation.

Across three screens, this is a demanding engine to power, although the Gigabyte 990FX-UD7 with HD6970 maintain playable frame rates throughout.

Devil May Cry 4 is an action game that was published and developed by Capcom in 2008 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Windows platforms. The game is the fourth installment to the Devil May Cry series.

In the game, the player controls both Nero and Dante, the game’s protagonist and the series’ title character as they fight enemies in close combat using firearms, swords, and other weapons. The characters Lady and Trish from previous games in the series makes an appearance, along with new characters Nero, Kyrie, Credo, Gloria, and Agnus. The game is set after Devil May Cry but before Devil May Cry 2.

We used Super high settings with HDR on high and 8aa and 16af to improve the image quality as much as possible.

This isn’t a demanding game, but it is fun to play. Across three screens the performance is extremely good, never dropping below 40 frames per second.

Left 4 Dead 2 is a cooperative first-person shooter game. It is the sequel to Valve Corporation’s award-winning Left 4 Dead.

Like the original, Left 4 Dead 2 is set during the aftermath of an apocalyptic pandemic, and focuses on four survivors fighting against hordes of the infected. The survivors must fight their way through levels, interspersed with safe houses that act as checkpoints, with the goal of reaching a rescue vehicle at the campaign’s finale. The gameplay is procedurally altered by an artificial intelligence engine dubbed the “Director” that monitors the players’ performance and adjust the scenario to provide a dynamic challenge. Several new features have been introduced: new types of infected, melee weapons, and a story-arc that connects the game’s five campaigns together.

The Source engine doesn’t prove a problem, even at 5760 resolution. Great all round performance from the hardware on test today.

There is no doubt that the Gigabyte 990FXA-UD7 is a well designed motherboard that makes a fantastic partner for AMD’s flagship Phenom II X6 1100T processor.

That said, until AMD’s new Bulldozer processors are unleashed into the public domain these 990FX motherboards aren’t quite the attraction they could be. Those currently with a 890FX board will not find it a ‘must have’ upgrade, although current AMD users who demand SLI configurations will find it desirable.

As we expected from Gigabyte, the build quality of the 990FXA-UD7 is top drawer and the board itself is one of the most attractive designs we have seen in recent years. There are no performance related concerns and overclocking is very straightforward, reaching the maximum air cooled limits of our Black Edition processors.

Gigabyte certainly haven’t cut any corners, making this one of the finest boards on the market for AMD performance oriented users. With six PCI E slots for four way multi GPU configurations, as well as native SATA 6 Gbps, USB 3.0 and eSATA ports, the vast array of connectivity will appease a wide cross section of the enthusiast userbase. The ‘PC off’ option to charge USB devices is also handy, even if it isn’t exclusive to this particular product.

The only negative point we can really mention is the lack of UEFI, which has been included on all ASUS boards we have reviewed in recent months. Documentation indicates that the motherboard does natively support 3TB drives however.

If you are in the market for a new AMD motherboard, with an eye on upgrading to a Bulldozer processor when they are released, then this should definitely be right at the top of your shortlist.

Pros:

  • Great build quality
  • multi GPU configurations
  • fully loaded feature set
  • overclocking is a strong point
  • looks are great

Cons:

  • lack of UEFI

Kitguru says: One of the finest AMD boards we have tested.

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