Gigabyte G1.Assassin Socket 1366 Motherboard

Posted by on Monday, May 9, 2011 - 6:14pm

Gigabyte G1.AssassinThe G1.Assassin offers all that one could want or need in a gaming system, all on one motherboard. It starts with very uniquely styled heatsinks that would make any first person shooter very happy. For the audio freaks out there you'll be extremely pleased with this next feature, as Gigabyte has embedded Creative's own X-Fi based (CA20K2) gaming sound card. Yes that's right, Gigabyte has quite literally stuffed a complete X-Fi card onto the Assassin and Sniper motherboards! This will  push your speaker system to the limits, or even up to 150Ω headphones thanks to onboard amplifier. To keep you fragging online till all hours of the night and with a very low latency, a Bigfoot Killer 2100 NIC is also featured. That is barely even touching on what all this board packs. So join us as we dig into this truly killer board and provide you all the juicy details!

Introduction to the Gigabyte G1.Assassin Socket 1366 Motherboard

The gaming industry is big business. Originally it was the video game makers who obviously reaped the rewards, but now the hardware/peripheral manufacturers of the products we consumers game with are as well. The trend of specifically targeting gamers started with the likes of the motherboard manufacturers (not counting graphics cards due to that being their market). The two leaders in the motherboard market, Gigabyte and ASUS, have both produced some very powerful and well built boards for the gaming community.

Today, we will be taking a look at one of Gigabyte's excellent and most recent offerings: the G1.Assassin. The Assassin is Gigabyte's top of the line board from their new G1-Killer gaming series motherboards, which also includes the G1.Sniper and the G1.Guerrilla. The entire line offers some of, if not the best components and features in the industry, and offering them all on the motherboard!

The G1.Assassin offers all that one could want or need in a gaming system, all on one motherboard. It starts with very uniquely styled heatsinks that would make any first person shooter very happy. For the audio freaks out there you'll be extremely pleased with this next feature, as Gigabyte has embedded Creative's own X-Fi based (CA20K2) gaming sound card. Yes that's right, Gigabyte has quite literally stuffed a complete X-Fi card onto the Assassin and Sniper motherboards! This will  push your speaker system to the limits, or even up to 150Ω headphones thanks to onboard amplifier. To keep you fragging online till all hours of the night and with a very low latency, a Bigfoot Killer 2100 NIC is also featured. That is barely even touching on what all this board packs. So join us as we dig into this truly killer board and provide you all the juicy details!


Specifications

CPU
  1. Support for an Intel® Core™ i7 series processor in the LGA1366 package ( Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest CPU support list.)
  2. L3 cache varies with CPU

QPI

  1. 4.8GT/s, 6.4GT/s

Chipset

  1. North Bridge: Intel® X58 Express Chipset
  2. South Bridge: Intel® ICH10R

Memory

  1. 6 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 24 GB of system memory
    * Due to Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than 4 GB.
  2. 3/Dual channel memory architecture
  3. Support for DDR3 2200/1333/1066/800 MHz memory modules
  4. Support for non-ECC memory modules
  5. Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Go to GIGABYTE's website for the latest supported memory speeds and memory modules.)

Audio

  1. 1 x Creative CA20K2 chip
  2. High Definition Audio
  3. 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
  4. Support for Dolby® Digital Live/DTS Neo:PC/DTS Interactive
  5. Support for S/PDIF Out

LAN

  1. 1 x Bigfoot Killer E2100 chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)

Expansion Slots

  1. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x16 (PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2)
    * For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16_1 slot; if you are installing two PCI Express graphics cards, it is recommended that you install them in the PCIEX16_1 and PCIEX16_2 slots.
  2. 2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x8 (PCIEX8_1, PCIEX8_2)
    * The PCIEX8_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16_1 slot and the PCIEX8_2 slot with PCIEX16_2. The PCIEX16_1/PCIEX16_2 slot will operate at up to x8 mode when the PCIEX8_1/PCIEX8_2 is populated.
    (The PCIEX16_1, PCIEX16_2, PCIEX8_1, and PCIEX8_2 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
  3. 2 x PCI Express x1 slots
  4. 1 x PCI slot

Multi-Graphics Technology

  1. Support for 3-Way/2-Way NVIDIA SLI technology and 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way ATI CrossFireX™ technology

Storage Interface

South Bridge:

  1. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors (SATA2_0~SATA2_5) supporting up to 6 SATA 3Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10

Marvell 88SE9182:

  1. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3_6, GSATA3_7) supporting up to 2 SATA 6Gb/s devices
  2. Support for SATA RAID 0 and RAID 1

USB

South Bridge:

  1. Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)

1 x Renesas D720200 chip and 2 x VLI VL810 hubs:

  1. Up to 8 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (4 on the back panel, 4 via the USB brackets connected to the internal USB headers)
    * The USB 2.0 signals of the USB 3.0/2.0 ports are from the South Bridge.

Internal I/O Connectors

  1. 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
  2. 2 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connectors
  3. 2 x 4-pin PCIe 12V power connectors
  4. 2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
  5. 6 x SATA 3Gb/s connectors
  6. 1 x CPU fan header
  7. 1 x system fan header
  8. 3 x fan headers
  9. 1 x front panel header
  10. 1 x front panel audio header
  11. 1 x S/PDIF Out header
  12. 2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
  13. 2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
  14. 1 x clearing CMOS jumper
  15. 1 x Quick Boost button header
  16. 1 x heatsink LED power connector

Back Panel Connectors

  1. 1 x PS/2 keyboard port
  2. 1 x PS/2 mouse port
  3. 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  4. 1 x coaxial S/PDIF Out connector
  5. 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
  6. 4 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  7. 1 x RJ-45 port
  8. 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Side Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out)

I/O Controller

  1. iTE IT8720 chip

H/W Monitoring

  1. System voltage detection
  2. CPU/System temperature detection
  3. CPU/System fan speed detection
  4. CPU overheating warning
  5. CPU/System fan fail warning
  6. CPU/System fan speed control
    * Whether the CPU/system fan speed control function is supported will depend on the CPU/system cooler you install.

BIOS

  1. 2 x 16 Mbit flash
  2. Use of licensed AWARD BIOS
  3. Support for DualBIOS ™
  4. PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.4, ACPI 1.0b

Unique Features

  1. Support for @BIOS
  2. Support for Q-Flash
  3. Support for Xpress BIOS Rescue
  4. Support for Download Center
  5. Support for Xpress Install
  6. Support for Xpress Recovery2
  7. Support for EasyTune
    * Available functions in EasyTune may differ by motherboard model.
  8. Support for Dynamic Energy Saver ™ 2
  9. Support for Smart 6™
  10. Support for Auto Green
  11. Support for eXtreme Hard Drive (X.H.D)
  12. Support for ON/OFF Charge
  13. Support for Cloud OC
  14. Support for Q-Share

Bundle Software

  1. Norton Internet Security (OEM version)

Operating System

  1. Support for Microsoft® Windows® 7/Vista/XP

Form Factor

  1. XL-ATX Form Factor; 34.5cm x 26.3cm

Remark

  1. Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors' website or 3rd party website.
  2. Most hardware/software vendors no longer offer support for Win9X/ME/2000/XP SP1/SP2. If drivers are available from the vendors, we will update them on the GIGABYTE website.

Closer look

The Gigabyte G1.Assassin has one of the most interesting layouts I have ever seen. I don’t think any motherboard manufacturer has gone to such an extent to push a theme as Gigabyte has with this G1-Killer series. The theme is pure military in nature, revolving mostly around guns, as Gigabyte intends for the board to be your main "weapon" in gaming. With FPS games being arguably the best selling games, what better way is there to get the attention of gamers by appealing to their fancy? When it comes to the G1-Killer line up, Gigabyte clearly did not cut any corners or take any shortcuts at all. From the LAN controller, to sound chip and accompanying circuit, you get all the best components on one motherboard.

The cooling system on the G1.Assassin is without question the most visually unique of anything we've ever seen. They play the whole military theme very well. The heatsink covering the South Bridge was modeled after a real a magazine clip from an assault rifle, complete with protruding round. While the heatsink covering the X58 and power MOSFETs resemble the optics and and barrel. All portions of the cooling system are link via a single heat pipe for better heat dissipation. The heatsinks are so well designed to look like parts of a weapon that Gigabyte had indicate that they cannot be assembled to become one.

Even with the heatsinks being so cleverly designed, Gigabyte still made sure to provide enough room as to not hinder the mounting of any CPU coolers, which is a good thing. The heatsinks surrounding the CPU socket are cooling the 16 phase power VRM circuit. Such an array should result in good overclocking, as well as stability at those higher clocks, justified by the two 8-pin AUX12V power plugs hidden by the I/O panel. If you had not guessed it yet the G1.Assassin (and entire G1-Killer line) is a socket 1366 motherboard. Currently the available processors are the i7 quad-core 960, and hex-core 970 and 990X. Older models like the 920, 930, 940, 950, 975 and 980X are also supported though as they are still able to be found.

All the full length PCIe x16 slots conform to the PCI Express 2.0 standard. The arrangement of the slots might be a little tricky if intending to use more than GPU, so just in case we will outline their configuration. If using one GPU it is recommended to use the first x16 PCIe slot, which will run at the full x16 bandwidth. If a dual card setup is to be ran then you will place them in the first and third slots; this will result in x16/x16 bandwidth. If looking to run a triple or quad card setup then the second and forth can be used, and if configured as such will result in slots 1 and 3 dropping to x8 to match that of 2 and 4 (which are only x8 electrically). The G1.Assassin does offer two x1 PCIe slots and one standard PCI slot, though with so much incorporated into the board as is we really don't see anyone needing them. The extra Molex connectors above the first x16 PCIe slot and below the last slot are to provide more power to the PCIe slots, to insure stable operation during heavy loads.

 


The integrated memory controller in the socket 1366 processors is only natively rated up to 1066MHz, but the motherboard here supports up to DDR3 2200Mhz when overclocking. The G1.Assassin is a triple channel memory motherboard like that of most X58 motherboards. When installing ram it is recommended to use triple channel kits, but dual channel is also supported, and also to populate the green slots first.

Unlike the P67 and the upcoming Z68, the X58 chipset does not support SATA III. The G1-Killer series does offer SATA III but it is provided via a Marvel 88SE9182 controller. The six SATA II ports are supplied by the X58 chipset which supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10; the Marvel ports supporting RAID 0 and 1.

Normally, I would just list the items on the rear I/O panel at this point, but that will not be the case today as there is way too much to talk about with this board. We will continue with the onboard LAN controller, which is actually a Bigfoot Networks  Killer 2100 gaming NIC, featuring its own 128MB of dedicate memory. Being essentially an integrated "discrete" network card allows it to relieve the CPU of the responsibilities of having to process any task, where by letting it concentrate on higher priority processes, thus lowering network latency. As any serious gamer will tell you, a latency of even 10ms over your opponent can make a world of difference!

The sound card, for lack of a better term, which the G1.Assassin features is from Creative and is packing their CA20K2 digital processor; better known as the X-Fi. Supporting 7.1 channel sound in the highest quality, the G1 will provide you with exceptional audio playback when playing your favorite video games, of even if simply listening to music. The components you see in the second image all contribute to the the sound quality and amplification of audio. 


[Editor's Note: While not something known by all, and admittedly only possessing a rudimentary knowledge myself, the capacitors [caps] play quite an important role in an audio circuit. Like providing stable and clean power to components like our processor, they act in a similar way with audio circuits by filtering audible electrical noise and stray signal interference. Not only that, but they impact the actual sound produced, and response of frequencies being played (deep bass or fuller mids for example). So it's worth mentioning that the caps Gigabyte chose to incorporate on the Assassin's audio circuit are not your typical motherboard grade capacitor that you'd generally find used. Instead they went with high quality audio grade in order to take full advantage of the X-Fi chip, something that sadly not even Creative did until their recent Titanium HD. For those interested it is the Nichicon MUSE ES Bi-Polarized (green) and Nichicon MW Acoustic series (gold) which were chosen.] 

Next, we take a look at the I/O portion of the motherboard:

  1. 2× PS/2
  2. 8× USB ports (4× USB 2.0, 2× USB 3.0 [NEC/Renesas and 2× VIA/VLI VL810 hubs])
  3. LAN port (Bigfoot Killer 2100)
  4. 2× S/PDIF out (coaxial and optical)
  5. 7.1 channel audio (Creative X-Fi CA20K2)

You may notice there are no buttons incorporated for power or reset on the motherboard, nor on the rear I/O.  We suspect this is likely a result of running out of usable PCB real estate as a result of the board being jam packed with every feature but the kitchen sink. As such, the only way to clear the CMOS after a boot failure is to go "old school", by jumping the pins on the black 2-pin header near the mounting hole of the motherboard. This should not need to be done but on the rare occasion, since Gigabyte's Dual-BIOS will kick in to provide a stable boot into the BIOS, should a previous setting not pan out. The strange white 5-pin header next to it is where the front panel box connects to, which we will cover on the next page.


Other Key Features

Front Access Control Panel

Because Gigabyte elected not to include the eSATA on the rear panel of the motherboard, it is present on a front panel device. Also present on this panel are two additional SuperSpeed ports, thanks to one of the VLI hub chips (a USB3 port replicator). However, the real kicker here is the Quick Boost button which will overclock the system on the fly or during boot up.

5 Smart Fans

Gigabyte placed a total of five fan header on this motherboard. All the headers are 4-pin so to take advantage of the PWM function. Each header can be controlled via the Gigabyte Windows-based applications.

Dual CPU Power

Normally, when a load is placed on the CPU all power phases are "all hands on deck", working hard. With Gigabyte's Dual CPU Power the load is placed on just one set of regulators, while the other set take a little break, albeit at a faster pace then it sounds. (Here is a good shot of the dual 12V CPU connectors.)

 


Overclocking

Overclocking on the G1.Assassin was a breeze. With most of the BIOS basically in the same place (just spread out a little and having to page down) we had a head start due to having reviewed so many of the Gigabyte's motherboards over the years.

Our Intel Core i7 960 is a brand new specimen, so we did not know the limitations of the processor when it came time to overclock the system. To begin with we upped the CPU and VTT voltages to 1.35 volts, a level which we feel was ideal for everyday overclocking and stability. The CPU multiplier was left alone to see how much of an overall CPU overclock we could get. We managed to max the CPU at 4.2GHz stable.

With the same voltages we tested for max BCLK, which we were able to net a very healthy 220MHz. Obviously, both of the overclocks could have reached higher levels with more voltages, but considering Gigabyte is marketing this motherboard at the gamers we wanted to overclock with that in mind. These numbers are ideal for 24/7 gaming and computing.

Gigabyte does offer a third method of overclocking as well, which is an automatic procedure and done via the included front panel or EasyTune 6. This method resulted in a very soft overclock of 3.35GHz on the processor and 840MHz for the RAM.


Conclusion

The Gigabyte G1.Assassin is a 'no holds barred' type of motherboard. Gigabyte wanted the best of everything in order to give the gamer all they needed in one package. They did such a good job at this that if you can't tell this motherboard is geared towards the gamer... well, then you might want to set up an appointment with an Optometrist. Wink

It all starts visually with these G1-Killer brand of boards. Fans of FPS-style games will get the theme's message from the get-go. For cooling the main board components, the G1s use heatsinks whose design is inspired by the most recognizable parts of an assault rifle. As unique as these heatsinks may be, they are also very functional. They cool the phase power MOSFETs, the X58 North Bridge. These coolers are not made of cheap light-weight pot metal either, but heavy pieces of aluminum. The LEDs on the middle heatsink may not serve any reals function, but they sure do look cool.

When it comes to the extra onboard bonus features this motherboard is packing quite few, and better yet is those few are pretty big. It begins with the Creative CA20K2 chip. This is a huge plus for those that do not want to also purchase a separate sound card, especially when running quad CrossfireX and blocking the x1 slots, as you have a high quality X-Fi already built in. Surpassing the likes of Realtek or VIA offerings in it's own right, this one also includes a high power per-channel and headphone amp, great for cranking the latest MP3s at louder than normal volume levels

More still is the inclusion of Bigfoot Network's famous Killer e2100 networking chip, which ideal for those that game online often. The low ping advertised by Gigabyte and Bigfoot will get you into games faster and eliminate lag that comes from online gaming services. One of the ways it achieves this is by being a dedicated controller, taking over full control of the networking job from the CPU.

The G1.Assassin is no slouch when it comes to overclocking either. With a modest bump to 1.35 volts we were able to get our new i7 960 to 4.2GHz. Yes, we know that more voltage would lead to a higher overclock, but we looked at who this motherboard was aimed at and tested accordingly. A solid 1GHz over the default speed will no doubt help gaming, especially if you are feeding multiple graphics cards at high resolution

The only real fault of this motherboard is the price you will have to pay to own this piece of hardware. At $500, this motherboard is most certainly not for the budget gamer. It's not that Gigabyte is looking to charge that just to be cruel either, but because they with give the buyer so many high end additional features. Going this route means not having to go out and buy a high end sound card or network card. Factor in the price of an equivalent sound card and Killer NIC and those alone would set you back about $180-$250 (depending on the X-Fi model). Factor those into the equation, plus the fact it's the fastest platform available (X58), and you end up with a real deal here.

The Assassin's form factor is larger then normal, but we did not consider the size a negative. Being an XL-ATX motherboard actually means that there is more spacing between the PCIe slots which means there is better airflow between video cards. You will need a case which features 8 expansion slots outback though, but we've shown you a number of fine choices there as well.

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