Today we have the opportunity to test GIGABYTE's latest high-end AM3+ socket motherboard featuring AMD's latest 990FX chipset. While this UD7 is the most premium model in Gigabyte's AMD range it comes in at a affordable price, balanced to be in-line with AMD's processor pricing. But most surprisingly, it only carries a small price premium over their nearest 800-series version upon initial release, allowing AMD supporters keen on upgrading to the latest Bulldozer based processors to be ready to go with just a BIOS update and replacing the existing CPU. But let's move on to the features GIGABYTE have packed into this board!
GIGABYTE's 990FXA-UD7 is ready for the latest Bulldozer based AM3+ FX-series processors (that have yet to be released), as well as supporting current AM3 based Phenom II and Athlon II processors. It features eight SATA 3.0 ports (six native, two via third-party controller) with RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 support, an 8+2 power phase design, four DDR3 memory slots with support for speeds up to 2000MHz, four SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports (two rear, two front), GIGABYTE DualBIOS technology, integrated Realtek RTL8111E gigabit network and Realtek ALC889 audio processor with Dolby Home Theatre support. It also has six full sized PCI-Express 2.0 slots, allowing for true 4-way CrossFireX and SLI configurations, all tightly packed into an ATX form factor measuring in at 30.5cm x 26.3cm.
In the box we find two sets of SATA cables (four in total), two 2-way CrossFire bridges and one 2-way SLI Bridge, one 3 and 4-way NVIDIA SLI Bridge, as well as a set of manuals, a few stickers and a driver/software DVD and motherboard I/O back-plate. Overall a healthy set of accessories - enough to get your started with almost any configuration you choose. Thankfully they have made sure all the accessories match the black theme of the motherboard itself since our last motherboard review.
GIGABYTE's 990FXA-UD7 motherboard layout and system block diagram:
A full set of GIGABYTE 990FXA-UD7 product specifications can be found via the official website here.
The GIGABYTE 990FXA-UD7 includes a healthy array of connections including ten USB 2.0 ports, two being USB 3.0 ports with blue highlights and one an eSATA/USB combo plug. A combo PS/2 keyboard and mouse connector is present in addition to gigabit Ethernet connectivity via Realtek's RTL8111E network processor, as well as one coaxial and optical S/PDIF connector and a set of six analogue 3.5mm outputs driven by Realtek ALC889 high definition chip integrated onto the motherboard. The back panel also includes one IEEE 1394a firewire port, as well as a total of two eSATA ports, one being SATA 3.0 compatible and the other able to be utilised as a USB port as previously noted.
The motherboard layout has been well thought-out and is quite an achievement by GIGABYTE's engineers. They were able to allow up to four dual slot video card to be utilised in SLI or CrossfireX without the need to move to a larger and less-common E-ATX form factor. I'm not saying you won't need a spacious case to fit such a setup, but it removes the need to limit yourself to only a handful of E-ATX compatible cases on the market.
Focusing on common issues with multiple and large video cards, GIGABYTE have made sure the heatsinks are of a low profile nature, as well as having the SATA connections facing off to the side of the motherboard rather than an upright configuration. But you may encounter some issues while utilising the top PCI-E slot while trying to swap over RAM, as there is little room to move when opening the RAM clips. In addition, all the power and internal connections are placed in a familiar locations and clearly labelled.