Auto-overclocks well; Core3D sound system; CrossFire/SLI support.
Finicky overclocking utility; could use more USB 3.0 and SATA ports.
Gigabyte’s G1.Killer series of motherboards have always been love-it-or-leave-it affairs. While some laud the gun-shaped heatsinks of the series, others think them garish or just plain tacky.
With the G1.Sniper M3 , Gigabyte does away with the gun-sinks (though you still get a sheet of stickers riddled with faux bullet holes). More importantly, the board isn’t some budget microATX jobbie designed to get the price under or near $100. It’s based on Intel’s performance Z77 chipset and features Lucid Logix’ Virtu as well as CrossFireX and SLI support out of the box.
The highlight of the board is the Creative Core3D sound chip using a CA0132. That’s the same part used in Creative’s new line of USB and PCIe audio devices. The most notable feature of the Core 3D is probably its “scout mode,” which reduces some sound effects (like explosions) and amplifies footsteps so you can better discern someone approaching you in a game. If you think that’s cheating, then Steve Austin was cheating with his bionic hearing, too. There’s also more to the audio: The audio circuits feature a low-profile metallic RF shield, and an additional pre-amp is integrated to help gamers who run headsets from the front-panel connector. The result is very clean sound and a possible advantage in gaming.
The G1.Sniper M3 gets you SLI and CrossFireX in a compact package
Space is at a premium on microATX boards, so many features are kicked overboard. The most notable is the lack of a Killer NIC controller, a prominent feature of the original Killer motherboards. An Intel network card is included instead. Also gone are surface-mounted power switches, and secondary USB 3.0 and SATA controllers. As we said, SLI and CrossFireX are there, but like all performance microATX boards we’ve tested, the second card sits over the USB, audio, and front-panel connectors. That will make it a very tight squeeze if you run dual cards. Since a multicard config would leave the second card also hanging over the edge of the board, you’ll want a case that’s designed for it.
In performance, the G1.Sniper M3 performs on par with the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H from our Z77 roundup but the Asus P8Z77-V board from that same roundup slightly leads in performance, especially in USB 3.0 mode with Asus’s Turbo Mode activated. The G1.Sniper M3 auto-overclocked the furthest, though. The board’s auto-tune successfully took the CPU to a stable 4.6GHz overclock, which is higher than what we saw from all previous Z77 boards. We did hit a snag trying to get the board back to stock speeds, however—the utility would not revert the speeds to stock no matter what we did. We had to finally load the defaults in the BIOS to get it back to its original state.
Overall, it’s a good board for someone looking to work within the constrained spaces of microATX. Yes, we really wanted more USB and SATA ports, but frankly, when you’ve made the decision to go microATX, you’ve already made a compromise, so just suck it up.
|Gigabyte G1.Sniper M3||Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H||Asus P8Z77-V|
|3DMark 11 Overall||P6,015||P6,052||P6,308|
|3DMark 11 GPU||5,542||5,570||5,856|
|PCMark 7 Overall||3,644||3,549||3,739|
|Valve Particle (fps)||204||203||208|
|SISoft Sandra 2012 (GB/s)||19||21||21.3|
|SATA 6Gb/s Read / Write (MB/s)||499 / 223||497.9 / 230.4||509.9 / 247.1|
|USB 3.0 Read / Write (MB/s)||252 / 184||250.2 / 177.5||429.9 / 181.9|
|SLI Compliance ||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Best scores are bolded. We used a Core i7-3770, 8GB DDR3/1866 set at DDR3/1600, a WD Raptor 150, a GeForce GTX 580, and 64-bit Windows 7. SATA 6Gb/s speeds were measured with CrystalDiskMark and a Patriot Wildfire SSD in a USB 3.0 enclosure using an ASMedia controller. 32GB compliance was checked with four 8GB DDR3 modules and SLI was run using two GeForce GTX 580 cards.