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GIGABYTE G1.Sniper 2 Z68 Gaming Motherboard Review

First off let's take a look at the upper half of this motherboard. 

We see 12 phases, most likely (8+2+2), with all the MOSFETs being cooled. What is interesting to note is that there is extra room between the CPU socket and the DIMMs, something we haven't see on another GIGABYTE LGA1155  board as of yet. This helps with large air-coolers that gamers might use, and can facilitate some of those tall heatsinks we see on most memory kits. We can see that there are also two fan headers next to the CPU socket; they are in the upper left-hand corner, almost side by side. This is important for us because users who want to use a push/pull fan configuration won’t have trouble plugging in. 

With the lower half of the board we see that our PCI-E layout is arranged well. This being Sandy Bridge we only have 16x available PCI-E lanes from the CPU's PCI-E controller. It doesn't seem like this board uses an NF200 bridge chip, as there are only 2 PCI-E 16x slots. If this board used and NF200 you wouldn't have full PCI-E 3.0 capability, and on Sandy Bridge it seems that 2-way SLI at 8X/8X without NF200 is faster than with NF 200 and 16X/16X. If you want to run 3-way you will need another board like the Z68X-UD7 or Maximus 4 Extreme-Z. Slot arrangement is as follows from top to bottom:

1.     PCI-E 1x

2.     PCI-E 16x

3.     PCI-E 1x

4.     PCI

5.     PCi-E 16x (Electrical 8x)

6.     PCI

With this configuration, if a user has two triple slotted GPUs in place, they can pop their PCI-E 1x expansion card into the upper most spot and not interfere with the GPUs. It is also important to note that the 16X slots will both run at 8X if there are two GPUs. If there is only one then the first slot will run at 16X. You cannot run the second slot at 16X as it only is electrically 8X. It seems that GIGABYTE chose to add two PCI slots through an iTE PCI-E to PCI bridge chip as well. 

Taking a closer look at the memory area we can notice two things. First the memory slots are far enough north that the memory modules can be changed out even with an extra-long GPU in the first 16x slot. The alternation of the green and black color scheme is something you can only find on the G1 series motherboards, before that only DFI would try something so neon. 

To begin our more in-depth analysis of the component on this board, first we take a look at the Audio and NIC which make this board cost as much as it does. We see an actual Creative Audio processor, the Creative 20K2, along with all the components needed to support a standalone audio card built onto the motherboard. The Bigfoot NIC is the same story, everything it needs is right there. Now what is important to note is that the Audio and NIC on this board do not tap into the 16x of PCI-E that is built into the CPU. Still each of these devices needs a PCI-E 1x connection and they use those from the Z68 PCH. The Z68 PCH has 8 PCI-E 1x connections for different devices. 

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