Gigabyte launches its G1 Killer series of gaming motherboards

CES 2011: A little bit gimmicky, but loaded with features

ASUS JUST GOT some serious competition for its R.O.G. series of motherboards, as Gigabyte has just announced its new G1 Killer series which have been specifically designed for gamers. Now these boards do have some gimmicks that are meant to be for the target audience, but they also have a lot of features that we think will appeal to a broader market and they’re features that none of Gigabyte’s competitors have, as yet, implemented on a board level.

The new series of motherboards are based on the X58 chipset rather than the new P67 chipset and the reason for this is simply that the P67 chipset is a bit lacklustre when it comes to PCI Express bandwidth, something that doesn’t go down so well when you want to run four graphics card in CrossFireX or SLI mode. We’re looking at an initial launch of three models, although we’ll hopefully see more boards released later this year.

Today we’ll be looking a little bit closer at the high-end model in the series, the G1.Assassin, but Gigabyte will also launch the G1.Sniper and the G1.Guerrilla, although we don’t have a lot of details on those two models at this point in time. We actually snuck over to Gigabyte’s HQ in Taipei for some pictures of the new board ahead of its unveiling today at CES, so we have some pretty detailed pictures of the board, unlike what you tend to get at a trade show.

As you can see, the G1.Assassin is a large board and it’s built in the XL-ATX form factor, so if you have a standard size case, don’t expect it to fit. The board has no less than four x16 PCI Express slots, although when more than two are being used they’re limited to x8 bandwidth. Gigabyte didn’t add an nForce 200 chip or something similar to this board and is instead relying on the 32 lanes of PCI Express bandwidth from the X58 chipset. This means that you’re limited to 3-way SLI on this board, but you can run four AMD cards in CrossFireX on it.

Gigabyte has gone full-on with its killer theme here and the heatsinks look like gun parts. The large heatsink on the X58 chipset even has five LEDs built into it, but at least it’s large enough to passively cool the chipset. All of the heatsinks are connected to each other via heatpipes, but as we haven’t seen the board up and running we can’t say much about how well this unusually designed chipset cooling solution works.

Moving on you can see that the rear edge of the motherboard is cluttered with components, more so than you normally see and there’s a good reason for this. Gigabyte has managed to not only fit an entire Creative X-Fi PCI Express sound card with a headphone amplifier as well as an additional four amplifiers for all of the rear audio connectors, but they’ve also fitted the board with high-end audio grade Nichicon capacitors and let’s not forget 128MB of dedicated memory for the X-Fi chip. There’s also a USB 3.0 controller from Renesas hiding here somewhere.

On top of this, Gigabyte has fitted a Killer E2100 network solution to the board with no less than 1GB of dedicated DDR2 memory. Now we’re not quite sure why you’d need 1GB of memory for your network card, but hey, bigger numbers are better, right?

Around the back the board looks almost empty compared to many boards these days, as the G1.Assassin only sports two PS/2 ports, four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, audio jacks for 7.1-channel audio and an optical and coaxial S/PDIF out.

Gigabyte has connected up two VIA USB 3.0 hubs to the Renesas host controller and as such the board has four rear ports and two pin headers for an additional four front USB 3.0 ports. You’ll also find two pin headers for an additional four USB 2.0 ports. At the front of the board are six SATA 3Gbps ports courtesy of the ICH10 and two SATA 6Gbps connected to a Marvell controller. It’s also worth noting that all five fan headers on this board support PWM fans and although this is starting to become more common, this is the first board we’ve seen where all of the fan headers support PWM fans.

Gigabyte is supplying a drive bay unit which houses two USB 3.0 ports, a powered eSATA connector (which connects to one of the ports on the board) and what Gigabyte calls a Quick Boost button which is meant to overclock the system on the fly when pressed.

As we mentioned, we don’t have the full details of the G1.Sniper and G1.Guerrilla, but both of those models will only feature three x16 PCI Express slots. The G1.Guerrilla also loses the X-Fi audio, but all three models should feature the Killer NIC. Hopefully the team at the launch even should get more details on the other board models. The G1.Guerrilla is the $299.99 board and we haven’t been given any pricing for the other two models, but it’s not hard to guess that they’ll sell for substantially more considering the additional features.

Overall this is an interesting new direction for Gigabyte, as the company has been very focused on overclocking and some of its motherboards haven’t really felt suitable for those that are interested in using their boards for something other than extreme overclocking, yet looking for high-end features. Asus should take note of the new boards, as the company has, so far, had a bit of a niche market with its R.O.G. series, although that quickly moved into more overclocking centric board rather than products for gamers.

That said, Gigabyte’s G1 Killer series of boards will of course overclock, but the target market is gamers, not overclockers. It will be interesting to see what the response will be of this new series of boards from Gigabyte, as beyond the gimmicks such as the cooling and potentially the Killer NIC, they look like very solid products. There’s clearly a market for these kind of motherboards and Gigabyte wants a slice of that market, especially if that slice is currently belonging to one of its competitors.S|A

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