Gigabyte 990FXA-UD3 Layout
I said it in our Z68XP-UD4 review, and it bears repeating once again – the current lineup of matte black motherboards being released by Gigabyte lately are among the most beautiful pieces of PC hardware I’ve seen in a while. They carry just the right amount of aggression, without looking over the top with gimmicks and doo-dads like gun shaped heatsinks and the sort. They use an extra layer of PCB to get a true matte black look, unlike Asus’ black motherboards, which look brown under bright lighting.
One might say that there is no colour scheme at all, but for me, this is one gorgeous piece of hardware. Now let’s take a closer look at the layout. (note that you can click on any image to view it in high res)
The 990FXA-UD3 is equipped with four full length PCI-E slots, which are supplied with x16, x4, x16, x4 lanes going from top to bottom. A pair of x1 slots are also provided, along with one old school PCI slot. Because of this layout, 3 way SLI and CrossfireX are not supported. As far as I can tell, this is the only way this board is arbitrarily limited due to its intended price range.
Along the bottom of the board is where Gigabyte almost always does a very good job – and they do it again here. With everything neatly laid out rather than placed all over the board, cable routing is easy, and with everything clearly labeled and easy to see, installation is a breeze.
Gigabyte uses their standard Southbridge cooler, which is wide and flat, and stays well out of the way of even the longest video cards. A standard six ports of SATA 6 Gbps are provided, powered by the SB950 chip, so no extra ports are provided. That’s probably for the better, as auxiliary SATA controllers rarely match AMD and Intel’s performance and stability.
Moving to the top of the board, you can see that the small-ish Northbridge heatsink is not connected to the VRM heatsink, like we’re used to seeing on more expensive boards. Aside from that, nothing stands out as extraordinary here. Unlike the Crosshair V Formula, which has plenty of bells and a whistle or two here, this board is all business.
I love seeing these red USB 2.0 ports on Gigabyte boards, because it means they are outputting high power – up to 1.5 Amps, compared to 0.5 A called by the standard USB 2.0 spec. Similarly, they boosted USB 3.0’s power up to 2.7 A, up from 0.9 A. That means that you would be able to charge an iPad on this motherboard as fast as you could with the 2 Amp wall adapter. By using Gigabyte’s “On/Off Charge” software, you can charge at this high charge even when the PC is sleeping or powered down completely.
Aside from that, I always love seeing so many USB ports on the rear panel header – eight USB 2.0 ports, and a pair of USB 3.0 ports is great. And it comes at no expense to the audio headers, of which there are 6 analog ports and an optical output. Although we only saw the standard six SATA 3.0 ports internally, Gigabyte provides a pair of eSATA ports here.
As you can see, the 990FXA-UD3 doesn’t carry a lot of frivolities. Although some of those things can be useful – for instance I like having a CMOS reset button whenever possible – a lot of the time it just drives the price up.
On the next page we will take one of our famous Motherboard Component Tours, looking at the components that hide throughout the motherboard. You may find that while a lot of features are missing compared to more expensive boards, the 990FXA-UD3 packs quite a bit of decent hardware underneath the surface…