It’s pretty clear that an awful lot of companies regard gamers as a cash cow market, just sat there waiting to be milked. There seems to be an unending wave of products targeted at this thought-to-be lucrative segment and they’re usually marked by their bright colours, ‘celebrity’ endorsements, superfluous features and inflated price tags.
Riding the crest of this wave has been Asus’ Republic of Gamers range of motherboards which has had this elusive ‘gamer’ motherboard market all to itself for the last few years.
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As such, it’s surprising that it’s taken this long for another manufacturer to follow suit and create its own gaming sub-brand aimed at relieving gamers of some of their hard earned cash - step forward Gigabyte and its £360 G1.Sniper X58 motherboard.
Bedecked in striking black and green, the G1.Sniper wears its gaming credentials on its sleeve - one of its first features you’ll notice is the ammo-clip-shaped Southbridge cooler and gun-barrel-inspired VRM cooler.
Whether you think these are cool or tacky is a personal call, but we thought they were a little bit try-hard. Having said this, they're very well made and solidly bolted to the board so they don’t feel as tacky as they look.
Once you’ve got past the superficial paint job and heatsinks, though, there is a lot to like about the G1.Sniper. For a start, it comes with some serious sound processing hardware in the shape of the Creative 20K2 Digital Audio Processor chip, which supports all the usual X-Fi features such as the Crystallizer and EAX HD 5.0.
Complementing the Creative processor is a cluster of brightly coloured Nichicon dedicated high-end audio capacitors, a nice touch that we've not seen on a motherboard before. The board even offers a dedicated wide-bandwidth, low-noise, high-slew-rate front audio amplifier to ensure that plugging your headphones into your case's front panel jacks doesn’t degrade the sound quality.
Also built into the G1.Sniper, and of slightly more questionable use, is a Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 network processing unit (NPU) similar to that seen in the Killer 2100. This chip is responsible for the motherboard's single LAN port and bypasses the standard Windows networking stack. This, Bigfoot claims, enables the chip to reduce lag and increase frame rates in games by prioritising gaming network traffic and removing CPU overheads. In reality, though, we’ve struggled to find any tangible benefit to using one of these processors.
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At least the E2100 brings the excellent Bigfoot network management software with it, which gives real-time information on network usage, NPU usage and frame rates. It can also be used to rank the various draws on your network to make sure that less important programs, such as Windows Update, can be pushed to the back of the bandwidth queue.
Chipset Intel X58
CPU support LGA1366 Core i7, Core i7 Extreme Edition
Memory support 6 slots: max 24GB DDR3 (2,000MHz)
Expansion slots Three 16x PCI-E slots (Two 16x or one 16x and two 8x), one PCI slot, two 1x PCI-E slots
Sound Dolby Digital Live and X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity with Advanced HD 5.0 via Creative CA20K2 chip with 8-channel support
Networking Bigfoot Killer E2100 Gigabit Ethernet LAN
Overclocking CPU clock 100-600MHz; max voltages: CPU 1.9V, RAM 2.6V, IOH 2V, ICH 2.38V, QPI/VTT 2.015V, CPU PLL 2.52V
Ports 6x SATA 3Gbps, 2x SATA 6Gbps, 2x PS/2, 10x USB 2, 4x USB 3, LAN, 4x surround audio outputs, line in, mic, optical and coaxial S/PDIF out, 2x powered eSATA 3Gbps