Gigabyte 880GMA-UD2H Review

Matx boards have come a long way since they were introduced.

Buyers at times (even now) are skeptical when they get a system with a matx board because of their “limitations”. But there are certain features that the users don’t even require. End users deem that limitations will always be there because of size (lesser expansion options compared to atx form factor), but manufacturers work really hard to change that state of mind.

Gradually when manufacturers started to expand their ideas using a MATX form factor, a lot of things have been implemented since then- more expansion option (sata connectors, PCI/PCI-E, memory slots), better layout, implementing all bare essentials that a basic user will need but it didn’t stop there- power saving options, better quality capacitors, resistors, phase power, much better onboard graphic and audio chipset & the list goes on to entice enthusiasts and gamers.

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Gigabyte 880GMA-UD2H is a newly launched matx board with a new northbridge and southbridge. Like its predecessor (785GMT UD2H), this board comes with the same message- size isn’t everything. Can it pack more turbo than its predecessor? This remains to be seen as we progress with the review.

Motherboard specs, BIOS and layout

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The board supports dual bios and comes with 2 8Mbit flash and it uses AWARD Bios. All the needed overclocking/tweaking options are neatly organized (no surprises from a Gigabyte motherboard) are under one window- MB Intelligent tweaker (M.I.T.). Unlike certain bios from other brands, one wouldn’t require to go through different options to access CPU/NB clock, Ram freq/latency setup, PCIE frequency, HT link and voltage setups. Newbie/experienced overclockers will be busy experimenting here and have a good time with the board.

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The board comes with an onboard ATi Radeon 4250 DX 10.1 clocked at 800 MHz with features that RV620 has. HTPC buyers might take a look at this board as it comes with Unified Video Decoder 2, a dedicated hardware that supports[FONT=Verdana] H.264, VC-1, MPEG2 decoding[/FONT]. It also supports DVD upscaling upto 1920×1080 and HT 3.0. But dual digital output support is (still) not yet available and therefore you will end up pairing either HDMI or DVI with a VGA output (like the previous chipsets from AMD) for dual display- ouch! It would have been nice to see the new chipset to support dual digital display, especially in this day of age.

Based on the roadmap, the northbridge can be paired with SB 750 or SB 850. Gigabyte decided to stick with SB 850 for very good reasons as it supports SATA 6Gb/s, upto 14 USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet and supports good old IDE.

This board support 1800mhz+ DDR3 rams. But as mentioned on the manual, to use any rams with more than 1600mhz you will have to use 3rd and 4th DIMM slots.

Gigabyte has given its best to implement everything in their arsenal and yet they have made sure that the layout stays as simple as possible. The board shares a similar layout what 785GMT UD2H has. At the end of the day, there’s no doubt that this is another UD2H with a NEC chip, updated features, a new northbridge and southbridge. They even manage to fit in and FDD and IDE connector.

The board comes is based on ultra durable 3 features- all solid caps, Low RDS(on) MOSFETs and 2oz copper PCB layer. These 3 features help the motherboard to be more energy efficient, higher longevity and hence being cooler even when overclocked.These features are pretty generic by Gigabyte standards and all of the newer boards come with them.

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This board uses 8 pin EPS connector and is equipped with 4+1 phase power design with mosfets and solid caps neatly arranged so that it will not be an obstacle for aftermarket heatsinks- especially the large ones with different types of heat pipe designs. Other than that, the board comes with a 7.1 channel Realtek ALC892 with Dolby Home theater support. The board has with 1 Ethernet port, powered by Realtek 8111D chip.

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Usually manufacturers install a low profile mosfet sink to protect it from heat but this board does not come with it nor does it have mounting holes to install any aftermarket mosfet sink. One might give a second thought about installing a tall heatsink, but the mosfets are very well away from its reach so there’s nothing to worry about.

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The board comes with 1 pcie x1, 1 pcie x16, 1 pcie running on x4 mode and a pci slot. If you are using a single card then the pcie x16 will run on x16 mode but when you decide to crossfire, the pcie x4 slot will share the bandwidth with pcie x16, therefore both slots will run on x4. The x4 mode is the limitation of the chipset, but Gigabyte has done the needful and made sure one doesn’t require using any pcie switch card like in certain boards. There is also a CMOS clear header below the pci slot. If people just “happen” to keep a spare Power/Reset header wire, they might just plug it in and manage to get the switch to be out of the case, this way one can clear CMOS by pressing the button rather than opening the case and removing the CMOS battery or using the jumpers.

Most of the mid-to-high end cards, especially the non reference models, occupy dual slots easily. Despite the option to crossfire, one will be skeptical to do so unless the card is a single slot card. Also, if one wants to crossfire, they might take a look at one of the 790FX/890FX chipset boards. S/PDIF, serial, 1394, USB and front panel headers are arranged nicely, although I wish I could say the same for the front audio headers, especially since many matx/atx cases don’t come with long enough cables.

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Except the addition of 2 usb 3.0 ports powered up with a help of NEC µPD720200 host controller chip, the I/O panel is as same as 785GMT UD2H. Users who do end up getting this board will eventually buy usb 3.0 storage devices, enabling them to transfer large volume of data much faster compared to usb 2.0. Gigabyte (and NEC) advertises that this chip transfers upto 10x faster. Unfortunately, due to non availability of USB 3.0 devices (for now), its not possible to test the USB 3.0’s actual speed.

The board comes with D-SUB, DVI and HDMI output, with a p/s2 support for mouse or keyboard, 6 audio jacks, one optical S/PDIF connector, 1394 and an e-sata port.

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Despite the size, the area around the socket has good amount of free space for a matx board. To give you an idea, the above heatsink is a Noctua u12p-se2. Despite how it looks, the heat pipes are away from the DIMM slot. Still, one would prefer to install it on the 3rd and 4th DIMM slot.

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To give a pretty good idea (especially for gamers) of a discrete sound card+ graphic card setup, I installed Asus xonar DX on the pcie x1 slot and Evga 9600gt 1GB DDR3 on the x16 slot.

You install the card on the first slot and cards longer than 10 inch will cover up the 5th sata port. The dual slot cards will be nearer to the second slot.

Speaking of the second slot, certain cards that are long will cover about 2 sata slots easily so the user will end up with a bit of a struggle. Gigabyte tried to fight away the SATA port placement problem that the 785GMT UD2H had by changing the placement of one of the sata port towards the corner of the board, but it would have been a lot better if they just used right angled SATA ports and be done with it.
Below the slot has S/PDIF, serial, system fan, 1394, 3 USB 2.0, front panel and 5 sata connectors. However there’s only one system fan header which doesn’t make sense-irrespective of the cost. Motherboards should have atleast 3 system fan headers- this way one can control the fan speed via bios or using software like speedfan. Users will end up using a fan with a molex connector or a Fan Splitter Cable.

Test setup and benchmarks

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AMD quiet n cool is disabled and to make sure that the benchmarks are as accurate are possible a fresh copy of windows 7 and the new 10.4 catalyst drivers are installed.

Benchmarks
Cinebench 11.5

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Call of juarez

Resolution: 1440x 900 ; Details: low ; shadows: none ; AA: off
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Dirt 2

Resolution: 1680x 1050 ; AA: 2x MSAA ; Night lightning, shadows, mirrors, distant vehicles, objects, trees, vehicle reflection, water, post process: medium ; particles, crowd, ground cover, cloth: low. Skidmark: on
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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat

Resolution: 1680x 1050 ; preset: Medium ; Renderer: enhanced full dynamic lightning (dx10 mode) ; MSAA/SSAO: off.
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x264 HD Benchmark
The frames/second that is shown on the graph is from Run 3 as it did put the system on 100% load most of the time compared to previous 2 runs and other runs gave pretty much the same frames/seconds as Run 3.
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Please do note: The board which I got from Gigabyte is Rev 1.0 whereas the rev version mentioned on their website is Rev 2.0. Judging by the pictures alone there are about 2-3 significant differences between the 2. One could assume that rev 2.0 will be available on retail, but I wasn’t able to confirm that yet. They are:

# Core boost

# On/off technology

# A possibility of one more system fan header which could be present between the 2 pcie x16 slots.
Rev 2.0 has core boost feature which unlocks the cores for you. This is a neat feature especially for those who want to unlock their processor (assuming it is a potent chip) as buyers are tempted to pick up Phenom II x2 550/555 BE and even x3 720BE for the same reason. Whether there is a switch on the board which will unlock the cores or is it something that can be enabled on the bios and if it works as it should is unclear as I got a board without one and there is no option on the bios where I could unlock the cores. Whether an 880GMA-UD2H owner will grab an x2 550BE/x3 720 is another story.

It also has a USB header with the newly introduced ON/OFF technology which not only charges your apple products (i phone/i pod/i touch/i pad) about 40% faster compared to charging via standard usb ports and your apple product still getting charged after system shut down/standby (unlike charging via ordinary usb port where it stops charging after system shut down/standby). While this is not a feature that one will buy this board for, but it’s something that apple product owners will appreciate if they buy a Gigabyte board with this feature. It was only at April 23, 2010 that Gigabyte showcased this new feature on their video, but Gigabyte didn’t hesitate to implement on their newer boards. That explains why rev 1.0 is available for reviewing and rev 2.0 is mentioned on their website which will be put for retail.

Third is a possibility of one more system fan header. Just so that everyone knows, the rev 1.0 comes with 2 fan headers- one for being CPU fan.
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  • The good: The board is good and packs with all the features one will ever need. M.I.T. packs everything to keep an overclocker satisfied. Core boost will unlock the extra cores, assuming it’s a potent processor. The board comes with a metal backplate with plastic pad- exactly as thermalright am3 backplate. The soldered points which come under the plate are flattened.
  • The annoying: Installing sata connectors especially with a long card like gtx 260 core 216/5850 connected will be annoying and one might have to sacrifice front audio if the case cables are short.
  • The bad: No dual display when using both the digital output. Enthusiasts who are interested for a fully loaded crossfire setup would look at 790x/890x.
  • The wishlist: Diagnostic LEDs.

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So who will buy this board?

  • If one needs a HTPC setup, he would consider an H55/H57 chipset board paired with an i3 530 or with an x2 550/620BE with a 785GMT-UD2H. You want USB 3.0 with sata 6Gb/s connectors, you can grab a GA-H57M-USB3 for a street price of approx 8.6k and you still end up getting all features/goodies of the 880GMA-UD2H. But you end up losing an opportunity to unlock your processor, assuming one is enticed to do so and one can get his hands on a potent (or who have a good luck in getting one by randomly picking on up unknowingly). When the price for this board falls down a bit, 880GMA-UD2H will be considered by many.
  • If one simply needs for gaming, many would still stick to grabbing a Gigabyte 785GMT-UD2H board, pair it up with a good graphic card and grab an x2/x3/x4 processor. None of the games out there can take advantage of more than 4 cores- yet. But it has taken a long time since a quad core can be properly utilized by a game since the time of first quad core releases. Again, in the present/future when this board is comes with a reasonable street price, many would take a look at this board.
  • A user with generic needs (occasional archiving, HD movies, music, etc.) will be more than happy with a x2 paired with Gigabyte 785GMT board and call it a day.
  • Enthusiasts who need a good board for overclocking with support for usb 3.0, sata 6Gb/s, auto unlocking option and/or out of the box support for Thuban will grab this board. However, enthusiasts would end up getting a discrete graphic card and would consider an 890FX board provided he can afford it- or look towards the Intel i3/i5 way.
  • Users who want a good system for x264 HD Video Encoding/ transcoding and to use multi-threaded applications, one will consider to buy AMD x6 1055T and an 880G board. x6 are really good overclockers and if they can’t afford a decent/good 890GX/FX board, 880GMA UD2H will be picked by many whereas others might consider an 890GX/FX with a quad/hexa core or p55+ i5 750 setup, again depending on their needs/desires/budget. 785GMT-UD2H doesn’t support hexa core, not any bios update is available. The only Gigabyte 785GMT board from their stable that supports x6 with newer bios is GA-785GMT-USB3. But most might save the hassle and grab the 880G+ to pair with an x6.

Its a classic UD2H board with the classic layout, classic bios, classic expandability options, with a classic set of goodies with newer chipsets and features. At the end of the day, you pay for the 5x sata 6Gb/s, USB 3.0, support for 1800 MHz+, certain additional features (like core boost, on/off feature) and for a out of the box hexa-core compatibility. There’s no surprise that 880G has no significant improvement over the previous generation chipsets as far as onboard GPU is concerned. I’ve being told by Gigabyte India that this board will cost about Rs. 9650. If this is going to be the street price, then some people with certain needs will look the Intel way rather than buying an AMD board for this price. If the street price of this board is pretty reasonable, many will consider grabbing this board, unless a good 890GX/FX board is competitively priced.

Edit (08-01-11): Some people have contacted me via facebook saying that their system have slow boot up issue and also at times odd slowdowns after sleep mode, most commonly found in newer rev versions in 880GM-UD2H and 880GMA-UD2H. All you need to do is disable HPET option in Bios, that’s all. Any further issues, post here and I’ll see what I can do.

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