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HARDWARE

Gigabyte G1.Sniper M5 2013

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The G1.Sniper M5 is the biggest of all the motherboards we’re looking at in this test, and it still feels strange to be saying that about a micro ATX board. But the times have changed and all the performance you need from a top mobo can be found in the mini-ITX form factor, so why would you consider the increasingly out-of-place halfway house of the mATX?

The biggest reason is that at the moment, for a mini gaming PC, it doesn’t actually matter that much which size board you go for. That’s because there isn’t a chassis around at the moment that can hold a mini-ITX board and discrete graphics card, and doesn’t look like a slightly cut-down tower case. The EVGA Hadron Air and the Bitfenix Prodigy are two of our favourite mini-ITX chassis, but they’re not even close to the sort of dimensions Valve has put out for its inaugural hardware. Let’s keep in mind that the prototype Steam Machine is meant to be just three inches in height. That means the GPU needs to be lying flat next to the mini-ITX mobo, and that’s just not happening right now.


The G1.Sniper M5 is the biggest of all the motherboards we’re looking at in this test, and it still feels strange to be saying that about a micro ATX board.

Extra, extra

Until the blueprint for that chassis is out in the wild and manufacturers start building their own versions, you might as well go for a mATX board in something like the Prodigy M. It’s still the same dimensions as the standard Prodigy model, but is built to house an mATX board as well as a mini-ITX form factor.

Micro ATX boards have more PCB real estate, and can therefore incorporate more extras into their designs. That’s exactly what Gigabyte has done from the outset with the Sniper. We’ve looked at this board a number of times, and its versatility and performance mean it keeps cropping up. It’s very competitive with the Asus RoG board in terms of general performance, in both synthetic processor benchmarks and gaming tests too, and is a good chunk cheaper, too.


Micro ATX boards have more PCB real estate, and can therefore incorporate more extras into their designs.

It also has a number of features that really mark it out against all the other small form factor boards in these pages. The biggest of these is the ability to use multiple graphics cards if you choose. We’d still always recommend buying the fastest single GPU card you can, but having the extra PCIe slots means you can add a second card later on once prices have dropped for a cheap performance boost.

There’s also the audio side of the Sniper to consider as well. Gigabyte has made a big thing about the swappable op amps on this motherboard, allowing you to entirely change the feel of the audio with a simple change of a component.  This is something normally only found on high-end studio equipment, so it’s impressive to find it in what is ostensibly a gaming-orientated board.


Seeing as mini-ITX boards are now as powerful as their bigger siblings, it seems like the mATX boards’ days are numbered at best.

In the end though, when we’re talking about building mini gaming PCs we want to go as small as physically possible. Seeing as mini-ITX boards are now as powerful as their bigger siblings, it seems like the mATX boards’ days are numbered at best. The Sniper is a well-specced performance motherboard, but even the dubious benefits of multi-GPU upgrades and high fidelity audio can’t really push it that far ahead of the teeny, weeny competition on the market.

 

Vital Statistics

 

·         Price: $246.4

·         Manufacturer: Gigabyte

·         Chipset: Intel Z87

·         Socket: LGA 1150

·         Memory: Up to 32GB @ 3,000MHz

·         Memory slots: slots 4x DDR3 DIMM

·         Storage: 6x SATA 6Gbps

·         Ports: 4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 2x HDMI, DVI

 

 

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