The Board - Layout
After many years of people complaining about the rainbow of colors found on Gigabyte products, Gigabyte has taken notice of consumer feedback and now provides several different distinct color themes spread throughout its entire product line, and the G1.Sniper2 is no different. The majority of the board is black, with just two of the PCIe and two of the memory slots in green, with an additional small strip of green anodized metal as well as some green lettering on the MOSFET heatsink. Combined with the packaging, there is a definite military theme going on here in the board's layout, with the heatsinks resembling gun parts. The G1.Sniper2 is a bit oversized, extending a fair distance outside the normal ATX form-factor, a total of 19 mm wider than most other ATX products. From the back of the board we can see that all of the heatsinks are attached to the board using spring-loaded screws, and there is a huge number of pins around the socket as well as numerous little solder circles all over the back in neat little patterns everywhere.
The G1.Sniper2's socket is quite crowded for an enthusiast product, with many capacitors close to the socket on nearly every side. We can see a ton of shiny black chokes, a nice visual touch that is almost hidden from view by the large MOSFET coolers that surround the socket. The socket itself has a center that is completely populated, with its 1155 pins in tidy rows around it, and from the same picture you can see how close some of the capacitors are to the socket, which is going to make insulation for extreme cooling solutions a very difficult task. We already mentioned the pins that are close to the socket on the board's backside; we don't see them interfering with the majority of aftermarket air coolers, but it's something that must be noticed when making cooling choices, for sure.
Like the majority of other Intel Z68 products, there are four total DIMM slots, two black and two green, with each supporting 8 GB DIMMs, bringing memory support up to a total of 32 GB. The six expansion slots start with a PCIe x1 slot up top followed by a x16 slot that will switch down to a x8 link when the second PCIe slot is populated. There is a second PCIe x1 slot plus a PCI slot separating the dual PCIe x16 slots, with another PCI slot at the bottom.
There are a total of seven SATA ports on the Gigabyte G1.Sniper2, with both white ports offering SATA 6 Gb/s connectivity, while the three black ports are SATA 3 Gb/s natively. The upper grey SATA 6 Gb/s ports are driven by a Marvell controller, while the set of white ports, as well as the three black ports, are driven by the Z68 PCH (Platform Controller Hub). The backplate has a combo mouse/keyboard PS/2 port, seven USB 2.0 ports (eight, if you include the combo eSATA/USB combo port, dual blue USB 3.0 ports, and a smattering of both audio and video ports; audio in analog and digital formats, and video relegated to a single HDMI port. We also find an "OC" button, whose function duplicates the "Speed Boost" button on the 5.25-bay device.
Right under the SATA ports we find a fan header, and a header for the "Smart Boost" button, with the front panel header just to the left of it. There is also a TPM header close by, just under the southbridge heatsink. Next to the TPM header is a serial COM header, with three USB 2.0 headers next, followed by another fan header, and audio headers for SPDIF-in and front panel connections. We've mentioned two of the five total fan headers, with two more found nearby the CPU EPS power connector, while the fifth, and final header, is right next to the 24-pin power connector. All five of those fan headers are 4-pin PWM based, and can be controlled via software within the OS, but only the CPU_FAN header can be controlled by the BIOS.
The southbridge heatsink, located at the right edge of the PCIe x16 slots, is very large, shaped like a gun magazine, with a declaration on the bottom edge saying it's "not a weapon, and cannot be assembled as a firearm", an interesting thing that made us laugh a little. (Ed. note: imagine what will happen when your friendly airport security officer sees this on his X-ray machine in your bags). The design is a bit over the top, and isn't going to be for everyone, but when it's hidden by expansion cards, and enclosed in a case, that's not going to be an issue for most people. Below the heatsink is the Z68 PCH itself, clearly marked as an Intel Z68 chipset.