Gaming series, second innings. But is now the right time to invest in the G1.Sniper2?
GIGABYTE introduced its new range of gaming-oriented motherboards in January to a guarded audience. Would there be enough of a distinction between its normal enthusiast or high-end boards to dedicate to a gaming series? ASUS has done well with its Republic of Gamers series, but it really includes all of their premium offerings and doesn't differentiate between gaming and overclocking boards, for example.
The G1.Killer boards (the Assassin, Guerrilla and Sniper) differentiated themselves by adding in gamer-specific functionality. Specifically Bigfoot Networks Killer E2100 network adaptors rather than the usual Intel or Marvell solutions, plus gaming-optimised audio from Creative Labs with its X-Fi offering with advanced headphone support.
So now, only months later, we're looking at the introduction of the replacement for the X58 version of the G1.Sniper motherboard to the newer Intel Z68 chipset. It's an interesting sidestep, considering the X58 is a premium chipset where the Z68 sits more in the mainstream. Thankfully Intel's Z68 performance mainstream chipset brings a lot to the table for gamers, especially SSD caching Smart Response Technology (SRT). SRT lets you use a low-capacity but fast SSD to act as a cache for a mechanical HDD; high capacity but slow. It's a simple but effective implementation.
Files you access on your hard disk drive are loaded into the SSD, so the second time you access a file it comes straight from the SSD and not the slower mechanical drive. For gamers, think of it this way – the first time you load a level in a game it will be "normal" speed from a mechanical drive, but the second time it's loading – as from a save game, new gaming session or a respawn, it will be much, much faster.
Beyond SRT, the Sniper2 adds in the aforementioned Bigfoot network controller designed to lower latency and prioritise network traffic to your games. That means better pings and hopefully more headshots. Due to the vagaries of internet traffic as soon as it leaves your own modem, we're not confident to announce whether we can really test and show the difference in performance objectively; but subjectively, it seems faster for us, even on low ping servers.
The feeds and speeds of the Sniper2 mirror the functionality of the best Z68 motherboards. There are two full-length PCI-E x16 slots, running at 16x and x8 respectively, or x8 and x8 electrically when two cards are installed. There are two internal and two external USB 3.0 options and two SATA 6Gb/s ports. The physical layout puts heaps of room between the two graphics slots, so there's plenty of space for big coolers. Interestingly, the Sniper2 officially supports PCI-E 3.0; potentially doubling the bandwidth available to PCI-E slots, however the CPUs are not yet available to enable the functionality.
Like all current GIGABYTE Z68 boards, the Sniper2 uses Hybrid UEFI BIOS, bringing the same level of hardware and standards support UEFI enables (like 3TB hard disk drives), but without the pretty interface.
Any downsides to this board? Not really. Its design might not appeal to everyone, especially with the ammo clip chipset cooler and bright green stylings, but that's easy enough to get past. Everything we expect from a gaming-oriented board is represented. In terms of features and functionality, the Sniper2 is a good choice for keen gamers, but if you're interested in building a truly massive rig, then hang on for X79.Available from GIGABYTE, retailing for $439
.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)