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Old 27th January 2012, 1:38 PM   #1
Sin0822 Thread Starter
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Default GIGABYTE G1 Assassin 2 Review (New Diagrams, Sin's Gaming Performance, BF3)

GIGABYTE G1.Assassin 2 Review

The G1 Assassin 2 is a 3rd generation G1 Killer. Itís a gaming board, but the best of the best gaming boards. Sure other boards might have some overclocking features like buttons, voltage read points, and cool sub-zero temp meters but what gamer is ever going to use those while gaming? I am not saying that this board doesnít overclock, it in fact does overclock great, but it is more geared towards gamers and thus you only pay for gaming features. Itís built upon the basic GIGABYTE X79 design of the UD3, but souped up just like the UD7, instead with different goodies. GIGABYTE has kept basic cost structure the same, with their G1 series being ~$150 more than their mid-range offering of the UD3 or UD4 in some cases. The reason why it is higher is because of some very nice parts used on the board. When we say XF-I and G1 in the same sentence, we arenít talking about the Realtek ALC889 codec paired with software emulation which most if not all current motherboards labeled with XF-I have(excluding G1 Killer series), but we are talking about a real XF-I setup hardware wise as well. We are talking about a Creative 20K2 processor, 128MB DDR memory, 5 AMPs for outputs, some very nice DACs and ADCs, and some sexy audio capacitors. When we talk about a gaming NIC we arenít talking about a Realtek or Intel NIC, we are talking again about a Bigfoot e2100 implementation, along with its own resources as to not eat into those of the CPU. If you add in the advanced fan and temperature control that all the G1 carries $150 more is not much if you already were going to get those other things. Even if you just wanted a sound card the idea still sounds good as you will have un-obstructed SLI as well as more freed up resources.


So many resources are off-loaded from the main system, you could put the G1 Assassin 2 up against any of board in the GIGABYTE X79 line up and run some gaming benchmarks and you might be surprised as to the gains. Sure a few FPS might not sound a like a lot to most of you, but there are people who upgrade from Z68 to X79 just for a few FPS in BF3. If you take that amount of FPS gained by going Z68 to X79 and then use the G1 Assassin 2 and you can increase that margin of improvement by almost 30% extra compared to going from one platform to another! Todayís review is going to be just as in depth as my others, but I am introducing some new cool diagrams that will interest some of my readers who want a cooler technical feel to reviews. Just remember you might have to click on them, as some are too big to fit on the screen.

GIGABYTE Website for product specs

Here is the review at my website if you want higher res images as well as better formatting.
  • Box, Accessories, Overview
  • The Digital PWM and VRMs
  • Closer look at Audio, NIC, and Fan/Temp
  • Closer look at the boardís ICs
  • Heatsink Overview
  • BIOS
  • Overclocking and OC Tips
  • Benchmarks (BF3, BFBC2, COD included)
  • Conclusion and Sin's Gaming Skillz


Box, Accessories, Overview

Here we have the typical G1 Assassin box, green is reserved for the Assassin while beige is reserved for the Sniper and Guerilla models which are not part of the X79 lineup.

Sinís Take: It is a very big box, but what is inside is really cool.



A lot of accessories, 4 SATA6GB/s cables, with nice black SLI bridges, a stylish backpanel, and even USB 3.0 front panel bay. We also have a large assortment of stickers to go along with everything. We have a small little surprise that wasnít with us on previous GIGABYTE boards, that is the Bluetooth 4.0 and Wifi add-in card. It comes with its own adapter for USB, as well as two nice antennas, which we are very glad GIGABYTE included.

Sinís Take: I am glad GIGABYTE included antennas, as ďsometimesĒ PCs are put under desks and then their signal reception is cut in half. This way one can replace and even extend the antennas to their liking. Currently there is no BT 4.0 to PCI-E bridge chip, so we have to currently deal with USB internal header. The cable is included.



Now you see three new buttons on the G1 Assassin 2, only one of which was on a previous G1 board. The G1 Sniper 2 had and OC button, and so does this board. The OC button will clock your CPU to 4GHz no matter its make or model, it doesnít discriminate. Then we have a brand new switch, this switch is dual color and is the dual BIOS switch. Hit the switch while the computer is turned off and you can load into the backup BIOS at your own will, no more hitting ATL+12 just to flash the backup, now you can actually get into it! Horray! Underneath that we welcome a ClearCMOS button, something missing from all G1 series board up to now.

Sinís Take: GIGABYTE has always been about the quality, what they might not have had in features they always made up for in quality. Now they arenít cutting back quality, but rather including some simple features that motherboards should have with a $300+ price tag, like ClearCMOS buttons and Dual BIOS switches.



We will take a closer look at the sections of the board, but this picture is meant to give you a general idea of the color scheme and layout. The socket area seems to be shifted away from the back panel, and the DIMMs are on both sides to increase performance of the memory to allow for more bandwidth in quad channel.

Sinís Take: Some people complain about losing DIMMs, but performance should be greater by having less. When I see a green and black motherboard, I am reminded of DFI boards. When I was a small overclocker, about 8 years ago, all I wanted was one of those cool DFI boards. Not only because they were great overclckers, but because they looked so damn cool! They had UV reactive slots, something GIGABYTE should think about!



We have the Bigfoot NIC, and the Creative solution in the same area as on all G1 boards. You see a lot of chips between those DIMM slots and the back panel.



The memory slots are very close to the CPU on purpose, they have to be to provide good performance and overclocking potential. The CPU heatsink is shaped like a gun barrel; it has a metal shroud on it with GIGABYTE written on it. As well as holes, this is required for good airflow, something that is required around the CPU socket area on every X79 board if you are going to overclock over 4.0 GHz.

Sinís Take: You see two capacitors between the CPU and each side of the DIMMs, keep an eye out for the number of capacitors you see put in this position, it can hint towards quality of the electrical design of the memory sub system.



The PCH heatsink is connected to the VRM heatsink by an 8mm copper heatpipe. The gun is decorative, and it a bit too much for some people. We have 6 SATA ports from the Intel PCH, the white ones are SATA6G from Intel, while the black are SATA3G from Intel. The gray SATA ports are SATA6G from Marvell SE9172. We have a USB 3.0 front panel header in the perfect position to service a front panel USB 3.0 bay, like the one provided.

Sinís Take: Sometimes we take for granted the positioning of our SATA and USB headers, but GIGABYTE has been doing it right consistently. Now a lot of you donít enjoy the gun on your motherboards, here is the deal, my G1 Assassin and G1 Sniper 2 both have AR-15s and now I have a G1 Assassin 2 with a nice 8mm handgun. If we went to gaming war and I lost to you, I could at least use my heatsink to try and shoot you, but then again maybe that is why they have that warning written on the heatsink ďnot meant to be used as a weapon, cannot be used as a weaponĒ. Being serious for a second, the gold emblem is pretty nice, it is not some cheap plastic (as in it will actually dissipate heat), and if you have one or more high powered GPUs it/they will cover the heatsink anyway. To each their own, but after messing with this board for a while, I have become attuned to its radical qualities. If we are going to complain about appearance, why donít we complain about how most boards that have ďblackĒ PCBs actually look brown? At least this board is actually black and doesnít bleed copper through its PCB like those so called black boards.



This PCI-E slot arrangement is optimal, as the first slot is 16X and so is the last 16X Slot. The middle one is 8X. All of the 16x slots are directly wired, no multiplexers (switches) required. This should increase overall performance by a very small amount. It is good that GIGABYTE included a PCI slot, as the X79 Express chipset supports this natively. At this angle we can also see that if you only have 2 GPUs, each will have a great amount of breathing room. The XF-I high-tech audio capacitors are also well positioned.



Here is a diagram of the PCI-E:



As you can see the 1X slots are driven by the PCH, as the X79 Express chipset has 8X PCI-E lanes. Many are connected to other ICs, like for extra SATA and USB 3.0 as well as the Creative audio and Bigfoot NIC.



The back of the board carries a few MOSFETs and that is about it.

Sinís Take: Letís talk about why those MOSFETs arenít heatsinked. The reason is because they are low-side MOSFETs, but that two Low-Side MOSFETs are used instead of just the standard one on this board. So half the Low-Side FETs are on the back of the board, meaning when these FETs are switched on along with those on top of the board, these FETs are doing half the work they normally would if there was just the standard 1 low-side FET. They donít get that hot at all, not enough to warrant a flat piece of metal, of course physical protection wouldnít be bad. In this case the 2oz Copper PCB absorbs much of the heat.



G1 board spacing makes sure that nothing is too close together, especially the memory and PCI-E slots.


The Digital PWM and VRMs

If you havenít noticed already I love VRMs, kind of a weird thing to say, but I think they are the one most important parts of the motherboard, and that is a reason I tend to always take a closer look at them. Their VRMs are top notch, no corners are cut like I see on many value oriented brands from Tier 2 companies.



The CPU VRM is 8+1+2 (CPU+VCCSA+VCCIO). The CPU VRM is run by a 6+2 phase IR 3567. This is a VRD 12/12.5(SNB, SNBE, IB, IBE, Haswell) certified fully digital PWM. Now what makes a Digital PWM? The error correction loop has to be corrected digitally for a PWM to be considered Digital. Just being able to work with SVID doesnít make a true PWM digital. For example, some MSI boards which state ďHybrid-DigitalĒ are really using analog PWMs and consider being able to use SVID which is an LGA1155 requirement as making the PWM digital. SVID is a 3-wire digital bus between the CPU and the PWM which allows the CPU to change the VID itself depending on the frequency, in analog PWMs the digital signal is immediately converted to analog to be processed. The G1.Assassin 2 uses 4 of the 6 PWM phases which are then doubled to 8 through an IR specific X-Phase (doubler) chip. This chip takes a PWM input, and then divides it into two outputs, but the chip also has two driver chips. In the end you input a PWM signal and get two sets of driver signals from one tiny IC. Each set of driver signals can run a single phase, so two phases per one chip. Each chip can run 2 phases, and we have 4 for the CPU Vcore VR, and 1 for the CPU VCCSA(IMC) which gives us 8 phases for the CPU VCore, but only 1 phase from the doubler is used for the VCCSA. The doubler improves efficiency compared to not using it, and it has integrated drivers and that is the only reason I could think of as to why GIGABYTE would use one just for one phase other than the fact that it has a driver in it already. The diagram below explains this for those of you who like visuals.

Please Click to Enlarge Diagram


Here is a closer shot of the components:


This board uses the same IR MOSFETs as the UD7, but while the UD7 has 16 phases, each composed of 1 high-side and 1 low-side MOSFET, the Assassin 2 has 8 phases using 1 high-side and 2 low-side MOSFETs. This is done to make sure that the 8-phases provide enough power to the CPU. So this board has a Tri-MOSFET design compared to the UD7.

The MOSFETs used for the High-Side are IRH8330, and for the low-side IRH8318


IR recently bought Chil, and thus have now started developing their own Digital PWMs. The IR3567 is the master PWM of the board. This board also has two smaller slave PWMs, used for the DDR and VCCSA outputs. Two IR 3570s are 3+2 phase Digital PWMs.


Here is one side of the DRAM VRM. Now here we have no obvious MOSFETs, instead we have an IR power-stage. A power-stage consists of 2 MOSFETs (one high and one low side) and a driver. They are basically DrMOS just with a different operating protocol. These offer higher efficiency and output compared to the traditional power stage. Each of these is capable of 40A continuous output, more than enough for 2 or even 4 DIMMs, but each set of 2 DIMMs has one.


Compared to the UD3, the Assassin 2 has two VCCSA phases instead of just one. Run by the same power stages are the memory, and using one of the IR3570ís PWM outputs, these provide a total of 80A output for the IMC.


Finally we have a single phase analog PWM made by Intersil ISL6545 for the PCH, same as found on all Z68 GIGABYTE boards. It uses Renesas MOSFETs.

Closer look at Audio, NIC, and Fan/Temp


Here we have removed the heatsink, and you can see the rest of the heatsink a bit later.

Sinís Take: Donít boards just look so much better when you can see the entire thing? I love being able to tell how everything works, and nothing is hidden.


Letís take a look at the the Audio, I have diagrams for you to feast your eyes on! Enjoy them!

Please Click Picture to Enlarge


The Creative 20K2 is supplied power by its own VRM! It has its own BIOS as well as its own 128MB DDR SDRAM. The audio subsystem is only as good as its weakest component, same goes for every system in a computer. In the case of audio systems the weakest output component in terms of processing rate and output quality is the DAC (Digital to analog converter), but in this case the DAC is high quality. The digital output of the APU (Audio Processing Unit) is turned from 1s and 0s into electrical signals for our ears by the DAC. Then the output is taken to 5 different Amplifiers to boost the output. There is one AMP per output. The signal is then filtered through different sets of high quality Nichicon capacitors and then to the TOSLINK outputs made by Lottes. The Front panel header is also supplied audio in this way, and even the front panel header and its own AMP! Audio input can be delivered to the APU by two separate ADC (analog to digital converters). The electrical signals are converted to 1s and 0s, and then fed to the APU just like the audio output is given to the sockets. The DAC is made by Cirrus Logic and the ADC is made by Wolfson, both components you would find on the high quality sound cards made by creative. For more details please look at the diagram, make sure to click it to see it in full view.

Sinís Take: I love ICs, and I love figuring out how each fits into the big picture. This audio layout is so cool just to look at and try to understand, while it has been the exact same components from the first G1 series board I have to the most recent, the layout has also slightly changed. Now we have some EMI shielding, the one thing that was missing from the first G1 series boards. You can see the shield around the audio capacitors.

The Bigfoot NIC:

Below you can see how the NIC works.
Please Click Picture to Enlarge


The Bigfoot NPU (Network Processing Unit) provides excellent control over the operations of your NIC. The Marvell physical layer device is what actually connects the Bigfoot processor to the jack. The NPU needs a lot of power, so it is provided by 2 VRMs, each a single phase. A Spansion flash ROM provides updates to the NPU when necessary. 1GB DDR2 provides the NPU with a lot of resources.

Sinís Take: While you cannot control the speed of the internet after your modem/router, you can control how networking is done within your computer, and this is what the NPU is good at. It will throttle internet to other programs when you play games, and you can control this on every level. If you have Verizon FIOS, please set priority for Steam games to level 2 instead of level 1.
Please Click Picture to Enlarge

First letís go over the Super I/O the iTE IT8728F which provides most fan support and all the voltage monitoring and even PS/2 keyboard and mouse port. This chip is paired with a Winbond W83L786NG which provides the rest of the fan and temp monitoring. The picture above demonstrates each chipís domain.


Closer look at the boardís ICs

Please Click Picture to Enlarge


The above diagram displays what all the chips that provide extra connectivity as well as the connectivity provided by the PCH. The X79 Express chipset a very powerful platform controller hub, it does almost all the work, yet it is helped by various USB 3.0(2xFresco Logic FL1009) and SATA6GB/s(2x Marvell SE9172) controllers. We did expect 4 extra SAS-SATA6GB/s ports from the X79 PCH, but Intel cut them out at the last minute.


Dual 64Mbit/8MByte BIOS ROMs provide a very powerful UEFI interface. So powerful even that the button for OC works with the BIOS. It can change the CPU frequency in real-time.


An iTE8725E is a particularly tricky IC, most likely specifically made and programmed for what GIGABYTE needs. I believe it controls phase switching, as well as hardware overclocking support in many respects that other chips do not cover. On LGA1155 boards this chip controlled LLC, but now that and overvoltage of various parameters are integrated into the Digital PWM.


Dual Clock generators, one of them provides the 100MH/z base clock for PCI-E and the other provides support for the dividers I believe. The quality of these two chips can enhance BLCK OC.


Heatsink Overview

Removed from the board we can see a nice heatsink, it has a gun so to some of you its not that cool. I tend to agree it is a bit much, but it does kind of grown on you.


GIGABYTE has used a high quality mounting system for both the VRM and the PCH heatsink, no plastic push pins here


A heat pad for the VRM heatsink, and some thermal paste for the PCH.


Remember this isnít a weapon, too bad though.
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Old 27th January 2012, 1:39 PM   #2
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BIOS
A very powerful UEFI graphical interface, this BIOS is GIGABYTEís pride when it comes to X79. They have delivered better than expected, of course there is always room for improvement. As far as looks and organization goes I am very pleased. I would however like to name profiles.













Overclocking

With BIOS F7 I came to the following results with my 3960X (it is an ES so clocking will be worse than retail counter parts)

Max clocks with BIOS F7:

CPU: 4800MHz

Memory: 2133MHz

BLCK: 131MHz




Here are some OC Tips for this board:
Here is my OC Guide for SBe
  • Use Turbo mode but set all cores to the same value, TDP to 500W, TDC to 300A
  • You can disable all power saving
  • BLCK divider of 1.67 should be tried first with 90BLCK
  • Under 3D Power from top to bottom: Performance: eXm Perf, Vcore Response: Fast, LLC 60%, OCP: +128%, OTP: 140C
  • Under memory settings, setting to quick will allow you to change one set of timings for all DIMMs, expert will allow individual setting of each DIMMís timings, auto will allow board specific or XMP.

Benchmarks (BF3, BFBC2, COD included)

Now with my X79-UD7 review I had run 3DMark Vantage and 3DMark 11 with C1E enabled, I figured this out because my 3DMark 11 score was 500 points higher on the Assassin 2 than on the UD7. I retested all benchmarks run, most of my benchmarks for that review were fine but 3DMark benchmarks were not. Since then I decided to re-run some tests on all boards in this comparison. I also introduced a few new benchmarks, such as Battlefield 3. To make sure the GPU was not the bottleneck I ran all GPU benchmarks at resolution of 1280x1024 with the standard settings the program set, as long as they were not on ultra-high. For 3D benchmarks such as games the average FPS is spit out by FRAPS after 20 minutes (1200 seconds) of game play on each system. Second level on most games was used.

I feel as if a lot of sites compare at stock, but some use turbo mode and other donít. This introduces CPUs at their stock speed, and since my readers are overclockers and since both platforms OC to about the same amount, I started with LGA1155 and continue with LGA2011 to run all benchmarks on all systems in the test at:

ALL BENCHMARKS RAN AT 4.5GHZ WITH 1333MHz MEMORY SPEED ON ALL SYSTEMS!

That way you can get a good feel of OC performance and clock for clock performance across platforms.











Sinís Take: It is pretty obvious that in all the gaming situations the G1 series are ahead of the others within the same platform, and we see that to some extent here. Yet if you want to benchmark or want crude CPU and memory performance the UD7 is for you. The G1 Assassin 2 has a lot of resources normally provided to on-board NIC and Audio already supplied internally by the Creative and Bigfoot sub-systems. No need to give some memory and CPU power to those things, thus you will get better performance when there is some program that produces sounds.

Conclusion and Sin's Gaming Skillz
As I do in every review I will go over the strong points of the product and then some of the things I think can be done better, because the truth is no product is perfect. This board is built to the highest standards, I believe that GIGABYTE always puts their most into the G1 series, because gamers expect a worry free product, and thus you pay for higher reliability standards like fuses on every USB port and longer lasting capacitors. Surprisingly from the X79-UD3 up the boards are all built to the same standards still abiding by Ultra Durable 3 standards, which make GIGABYTE boards strong. The UD7 and the G1 Assassin 2 both have the extra chip which provides extra temperature and fan control, this is something I would like to see on all GIGABYTE boardís but it is getting much better with the introduction of control over 3 fan headers in the BIOS on all X79 GIGABYTE boards. The BIOS on this board is just great, it is very strong, and GIGABYTE is making it better and better with every release, something we really didnít see consistently happening with Z68/P67 boards. The features are endless and the support in the BIOS is there.


I personally always wanted one of those colorful DFI boards, and with the G1 Assassin 2 you get one of the best color schemed boards on the market, if neon is your thing then GIGABYTE has something in store for you. I really love the audio on these boards, it is just fantastic, and if you have headphones, then you are in luck because those amps are built to drive headphones. The OC button is a nice touch for newer overclockers, yet I still would have liked to see a higher overclock than 4GHz from the button, 4GHz on all cores is still a nice improvement over stock. The PCI-E spacing is just great, and the layout of all the boardís ports are excellent, if you are like me and like to overclock with those buttons hooked up to the jumpers, then they even provided the clear CMOS jumper for you. PCI is something many board makers are doing away with, and on some forums I see users complain that boards have PCI. As to why users complain I have no clue, because gamers still have good use for PCI, and it really doesnít cost you that much more because it is native (not provided by bridge chip).

Now to what I think can be better. I think it would be better if that OC button had a higher OC. I also think the BIOS could use some more tweaks to increase my OC a little bit, because I was able to achieve a slightly higher max OC on the UD7. I also think that for this board they could have provided 8-DIMMs, but in the end if you need more than 16GB, and would rather spend more money on memory than GPUs then maybe the UD5 is better for you. GIGABYTE could have also given this board the UD3ís 4-way SLI capability, but they might have had to sacrifice not using multiplexers, as that last 8x would have to be switched. Personally I liked the older front panel bay provided with the G1 Sniper 2 and G1 Assassin. The front panel USB 3.0 bay provided with the Assassin 2 is great, donít get me wrong a free $15 USB 3.0 bay is something good because I use USB 3.0 on my front panel, but I enjoyed having the OC button at the front of my case. As the most expensive GIGABYTE X79 board, it is going to hurt some peopleís wallets and I feel for them, I think it is worth the money if you want the sound card and NIC. If you want the best as a gamer, then this board is for you, the target market for this board is small so donít expect on a price drop anytime soon.



Sin's Take: "Shouldn't a gaming board be reviewed by someone who actually games?", some have asked. Many might not know this, but I do in fact play some computer games, and I can show off a bit below. In the end this board is now in my 24/7 rig displacing the Sniper 2 into my second rig, and I really donít game with anything other than a G1 series board. There is a reason to this, because I have my 24/7 computer on 24/7, it doesnít sleep, it miss a beat either, it just runs. I feed it electricity, and yet I depend on it to do everything. I must say though that nice audio allows me to hear around corners, as I can hear footsteps and that is one of the biggest advantages to a G1 board. Of course a top-notch sound card can do the same, but I never bought a sound card after my Audigy2 ZS. While Battlefield 3 is growing on me, I have something to show you guys about my Battle Field Bad Company 2 Game Play. Ever since I received my first G1 board, the G1 Assassin X58 I started playing FPS games, BFBC2 in particular. Ever since I have been getting better and better, take a look below!

Bottom Line: If you enjoy gaming and you are in the market for a new motherboard, maybe even a new gaming rig and you want an upgrade in terms of audio and networking devices, buying a G1 Assassin 2 with a 3960X or 3930K will give you some the best performance available at the moment. That is if you can afford to dish out a large chunk of cash and you can deal with the gun and you wont be doing any extreme overclocking. If you are a hardcore gamer then this board is for you, for everyone else it really depends on your needs, but this board does fill a bunch of them. A easy 4.5GHz to maybe even 5GHz OC for 24/7 is possible with this board if you have the right CPU and cooling.

Below are 7 Screenshots of me being first place, I am not a sniper, instead an engineer with an automatic shotgun and a nice trigger finger. Sometimes I play Sniper so I can get the motion sensor and then figure out where people are in a bunch and confuse the heck out of all them and kill all of them with the shotgun. It isnít that hard, but the G1 Assassin 2 will continue giving me the performance I need to kick ass. BTW I have more screen shots, a lot more. If you want to play me log on, but I recommend you play in my squad and not against me!



I would like to thank GIGABYTE for making this review possible.

Please post a comment or PM me if you have any questions. Also please let me know how you like the new diagrams, better than paint, right?
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Old 27th January 2012, 10:42 PM   #3
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Thanks for the review. I just moved the video card to the center slot. Oh Oh!
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Old 12th February 2012, 7:09 PM   #4
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Awesome review!

will you do a comparison of this vs the UD7?

and where can i get that case...
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Old 12th February 2012, 11:22 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Jimba86 View Post
Awesome review!

will you do a comparison of this vs the UD7?

and where can i get that case...
He actually has included both ud7's in this comparason. After seeing difference im tempted to replace mine and get it.


Edit

Hang on i realised its x79 socket. May be i might not get it
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Old 12th February 2012, 11:30 PM   #6
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Fantastic review, and i agree the gun heatsink is a little too much.
if I was to get one, id slap a waterblock on it A-SAP!
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Old 13th February 2012, 10:20 AM   #7
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2 issues with the board or I'd be all over one...

3 PCI-E slots when previous Assassin had 4 - and this time you could actually have used them for 4-way SLI!

Slightly suspect VRMs - Not sure if the issues with those have been resolved but it's practically turned me off Gigabyte for X79.
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