If there’s one thing we know about Gigabyte, it’s that the mobo maker loves USB 3.0. We mean, it loves USB 3.0. How much? The company has been pushing USB 3.0 as its number one feature for a while now, and this tact has apparently worked. The company claims that it’s the No. 1 USB 3.0 motherboard company, whatever that means.
The GA-P67A-UD7 is the pinnacle of USB 3.0 boards to make it in to our hands. Most USB 3.0 boards sport two ports, which is the maximum a single NEC USB host controller will support. Newer boards add another two more ports with a second NEC controller.
Gigabyte goes plumb crazy with six USB 3.0 ports in back plus two USB 3.0 headers for a total of ten possible ports. Gigabyte does this by using two VIA USB 3.0 hub controllers. To be fair, Gigabyte isn’t the only company to do this – we saw a pre-production Asus board with the same hub chips too. But this development still safely consolidates Gigabyte’s position as the king of USB 3.0.
Besides a new color scheme, the UD7 features a ton of USB 3.0 ports and an nForce 200 chip
We’re not just being smart asses either. Despite using the same NEC controller, the GA-P67A-UD7 actually pulled in noticeably better (180MB/s vs 156MB/s) USB 3.0 performance than the MSI P67A-GD65 and Asus P8P67 Deluxe boards that we reviewed in March. IO on the Marvell and Intel 6Gb/s ports was also better.
In other benchmarks, the UD7 ran just about even with the Asus and MSI. As we’ve said before, the competition usually boils down to features and not pure numbers for boards using the same chipset. In features, the UD7 is a mixed bag. Boot up the board, and you’ll not be greeted by a pretty-as-hell UEFI interface. Instead, it’s what Gigabyte calls a “hybrid UEFI.” It has UEFI underpinnings but the company said it stuck with its tried and true (and boring) BIOS interface. Whether you’re into UEFI or not, the most important feature today is the support of booting from partitions larger than 2TB and the UD7 is fine. Thankfully, the board booted fine from our WD 3TB Caviar drive.
Overclocking on the board was straight-laced. While the Asus would only overclock via Turbo Boost multipliers, the UD7 was old fashioned and allowed us to crank the CPU multiplier up and reboot. Like all P67 boards, we performed a mild overclock and took our 3.4GHz Core i7 2600K to 4.5GHz using a stock heat sink. All went fine, and it’s really hard to say which method works better. But we’d prefer options to do both.
Perhaps the most eye-opening feature of the GD7 is its nForce 200. Standard P67 boards can’t run more than two GPUs effectively but using the nVidia nForce 200 chip, you can run up to three GeForce cards. Standard P67 chipset boards are best suited for two GPUs, but by integrating an nForce 200 chip, the UD7 can run three double-width GPUs. We tested the UD7 using three GeForce GTX 580 cards and we weren’t disappointed. We actually found the three cards scale nicely if you run either brand new, taxing DX11 games, or if you run older games at super high resolution.
Despite its somewhat boring BIOS, there’s little to dislike on the UD7. If we were to pick something to ding Gigabyte over, it’s the lack of USB 3.0 dongles. Both MSI and Asus give you either additional rear USB 3.0 ports that plug into the onboard header or a front bay adapter with ports. Gigabyte gives you none. Considering its steep price of $320, that’s a bit of a burn.
Tons of USB 3.0 ports, Tri-SLI support
No UEFI and no USB 3.0 adapters
PCMark Vantage 64-bit Overall
Everest Ultimate MEM Read (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Write (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Copy (MB/s)
Everest Ultimate MEM Latency (ns)
SiSoft Sandra RAM Bandwidth (GB/s)
3DMark Vantage Overall
3DMark Vantage GPU
3DMark Vantage CPU
Valve Particle Test (fps)
Resident Evil 5 low-res (fps)
HAWX low-res (fps)
HD Tune Pro Sustained Write w/ Marvell 6GB/s Controller (MB/s)
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s) (Marvell)
HD Tune Pro Sustained Write w/Intel 6GB/s Controller (MB/s)
HD Tune Pro Burst (MB/s) (Intel)
HD Tune USB 3.0 (MB/s)
We tested the board using an Intel 3.4GHz Core i7 2600K, 4GB of Corsair DDR3/1333, GeForce GTX 280, 64-bit Windows 7 and WD Raptor 150GB hard drive. USB 3.0 performance testing used an OCZ Enyo drive. SATA 6Gb/s testing used a Crucial C300 SSD.