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When vendors previewed the first X79 motherboards in 2011, we were floored by the boatload of SATA ports. Rather than the wimpy six SATA ports (only two of which were SATA 6Gb/s) Intel chipsets usually gave us, the X79 was a he-man’s chipset with a heaping serving of 12 ports.
The GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI has the most ports we’ve seen on an LGA2011 board.
But when we received production boards months later, the storage ports had been neutered to the same number as Z68! The reason? Incompatibility with some older SATA devices. Sigh.
That’s where Gigabyte’s X79S-UP5-WIFI comes in. Rather than using the X79 chipset to power this brutish board, Gigabyte picked Intel’s C606 chipset (but still calls it X79 for recognition purposes). The C606 can support dual-processor motherboards (on boards with two sockets), but the main distinction is the bundled Intel SAS support. No less than 14 ports pack the front of the board. Two are SATA 6Gb/s, four are 3Gb/s, and eight are SAS, or Serial Attached SCSCI.
Before storage-freaks faint, SAS means they technically don’t support optical drives. And SAS is still touchy. The manual says single disks are supported but we had issues. The 128GB Samsung 840 Pro SSD that we use for storage I/O testing would hang, but a 4TB Hitachi hard drive worked fine on SAS.
Also keep in mind that SAS support is 3Gb/s, so if you had dreams of an eight-SSD RAID 0 config rocking your world at 6Gb/s per device, you’re out of luck. The Gigabyte beta BIOS we used adds the ability to push SAS speeds higher, but we ran into instability at the non-spec speeds. Remember, it’s beta functionality. And disappointingly, running two OCZ Vertex 4 drives in RAID 0 on SAS gave us the same performance as the 840 Pro on SATA 6Gb/s.
If all this has you feeling let-down, there are still several pluses to the board. In performance, it hangs right there with the competition. We set up a matching configuration on an Asus X79 Sabertooth for comparison, and as expected, the performance was damned close. Close enough that we’d say performance should not be a factor in your purchase choice, based on what we saw.
In the physical layout, there are no major problems and the decision to stick with three-way SLI/CrossFireX support makes the board less cramped than those that opt for four-way GPU support. One issue for some might be the relocation of the EPS12V/ATX12V connector about four inches to the right. That could be troublesome for folks who don’t have the cable length to make the run. We successfully ran the board fully loaded with both 64GB of DDR3/1333 and 32GB of DDR3/1866, alternately, with no issues. The board supports ECC RAM with Xeons, but we were unable to test it with our pedestrian Core i7 part. SLI also gave us no issues and disk and USB 3.0 I/O worked as expected. One thing to note: The default installer disc doesn’t seem to like Windows 8, so you should manually load the latest files from the website.
We wish that Gigabyte would put a bit more polish on its OS utilities. Its arch-nemesis, Asus, seems to own the market on refined and responsive utils. The 3D Power Gigabyte tool, for example, is advanced but feels sluggish, as does the mouse control in the UEFI. Fan control on Asus boards is also far superior these days.
While the very old X79 Sabertooth still fetches $360 on the street, the X79S-UP5-WIFI with its dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0 card can be had for $280. Be that as it may, we’d still probably recommend going with a regular X79 mobo because of the X79S-UP5-WIFI’s oddities and the debatable value of its extra features.
Surprisingly affordable; tons of storage options.
SAS is touchy; utilities need performance overhaul.
|Gigabyte GA-X79S-UP5-WIFI||Asus X79 Sabertooth|
|Lightweight Score ||6,092||6,213|
|Productivity Score ||5,154||5,261|
|Creativity Score ||8,802||8,825|
|System Storage Score||5,275||5,383|
|Valve Particle Benchmark (fps)||191||192|
|Sandra Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)||42.4||40.8|
|3DMark Cloud Gate (overall)||19,320||18,970|
|Graphics Test 1||174.8||168.2|
|Graphics Test 2||158.8||153.5|
|SATA 6 performance (read/write)||514.6/492.3||525.3/505.8|
|RAID 0 SAS performance (read/write)||558.9/496.6||N/A|
|USB 3.0 Performance (read/write)||286.5/202.3||330.3/195.4|
Best scores are bolded. Both boards were tested with a 3.6GHz Core i7-3820, 32GB of Corsair DDR3/1866 Dominator DIMMs, a GeForce GTX 580, and a 120GB OCZ Vertex 3 SSD. CrystalDiskMark benchmarks were used for storage tests. A Samsung 840 Pro was used for SATA testing, two OCZ Vertex 4 SSDs were used for RAID 0 SAS, and a USB 3.0 enclosure with Patriot Wildfire SSD was used for USB 3.0 performance.