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Gigabyte Z68XP-UD5 LGA 1155 Motherboard Review

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Eldonko

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Coming in as one of the higher-end Z68 models, the Z68XP-UD5 is one of a huge arsenal (now exceeding 20 boards) of Z68 options produced by Gigabyte. Most users will quickly get lost in all of these options but the mantra behind this approach is quite clear: the Ultra Durable series represents a step up from the everyday mainstream units. The UD5 meanwhile sits firmly in the upper reaches of Gigabyte’s lineup but it is still far from the most expensive Z68 board out there.

To help decode Gigabyte’s cryptic model numbers, we have to look at a key difference that separates several boards: the “XP” versus the “X” in the model number. The XP (i.e. Z68XP-UD5) in a Gigabyte Z68 model number simply means the board has a display output for Switchable Graphics and a power phase to run it while a board with an X (i.e. Z68X-UD5) does not. The X-series boards were introduced on the day of Intel’s Z68 launch and looked to be nothing more than an effort to rebrand P67 products in order to catch up with the competition. With that beingsaid, the board we are looking at today includes Switchable Graphics as well as other Z68 features such as Intel’s SSD caching technology.

Coming in at around $260, the Z68XP-UD5 is in the price range of boards like MSI’s Z68A-GD80, and ASUS’ P8Z68 Deluxe while falling between the UD7 and UD4 in terms of price and features.

One of the key differences between The UD4, UD5, and UD7 is power delivery and number of phases. The UD5 has a 20 phase power output while its little brother -the UD4- has 16 and the flagship UD7 has 24 phases plus an NF200 controller chip. Also compared to the UD4, the UD5 has an extra PCI-E slot and four extra USB 3.0 ports, but two less SATA 6Gb/s ports.

With the UD5 firmly sitting in a very popular market segment, Gigabyte needs to get this one right. But did they accomplish this crucial goal?

 
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Eldonko

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Specifications and Features

Z68XP-UD5 Specifications and Features

Before jumping right into photos and testing, let’s take a look at the specifications for the Z68XP-UD5.





A few notable features for the Z68XP-UD5 include:

 
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Eldonko

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Packaging and Accessories

Packaging and Accessories


As you can see the Z68XP-UD5 has a very busy looking box design which is packed with the board’s features. The front of the box has logos for no less than a dozen various features while the back side explains things in more detail and includes a photo of the board so users will have an idea of the color scheme.


Typical to several recent motherboards, the Z68XP-UD5 has secondary box which should provide packaging flexibility and cut down on print costs. Opening the top cover we see the accessories on top and the board in its own compartment beneath. The Z68XP-UD5 comes with a basic accessory bundle and doesn’t include anything out of the ordinary.


Two accessories of interest are the Front Access Control Panel which allows quick access to a pair USB 3.0 ports and the black SATA 3 cables.
 
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Eldonko

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Included Software

Included Software


The first item in the Gigabyte software suite is a utility which overclockers will use the most: EasyTune6. This is a very powerful tool and allows tweaking and monitoring of just about anything. The first tab contains frequency, motherboard, and CPU information such as CPU clock, base clock, board model number, BIOS version, voltage, as well as details on the CPU itself. Tab 2 contains your memory information such as part numbers and SPD info.


Tab 3 is the actual tuner which controls frequencies and voltages. An overclocker will go straight to the advanced area to adjust BCLK and memory dividers under Frequency and the CPU multiplier can be controlled through the Ratio subsection.


Also within the Tuner section is a voltage tab. Here you can control every voltage the UD5 has along with LLC within the relatively friendly OS environment. This can be very useful if you are on the edge of a stable overclock and want to try a slight bump in voltage for increased stability.

The only issue we found with ET6 was within the voltage tab, specifically when changing the level of LLC. You can change LLC with ET6 but it doesn’t take effect when the set button is pressed. We discovered this when completing the voltage and LLC testing section and since ET6 cannot change LLC, several reboots were required.

Moving to tab 4, the video card overclocking options are available. There is a limitation here as well though: if you are running SLI, only the first card is available to overclock with ET6.


Under tab 5, smart fan options are available. Here you can set up your fan speeds according to your desired temperatures. Meanwhile, the sixth tab houses the hardware monitor that charts CPU, RAM and power rails as well as fan speeds and temperatures.


It may not necessarily be a utility but Gigabyte’s Download Center can be found on the included CD as well. This allows users to quickly and easily check if drivers and utilities are up to date without having to search through each one on the Gigabyte website. Although Gigabyte doesn’t really advertise this tool, we have to say that we find it to be very useful and recommend giving it a shot.


LucidLogix Virtu GPU Virtualization utility, common with many Z68 boards allows users to dynamically switch between the built-in CPU graphics and their high-end, 3D discrete graphics cards. This is ideal for gamers who require high-resolution gaming and still want to enjoy the built-in media features of 2nd generation Intel processors.


Intel’s Smart Response Technology utility allows users to set up SSD caching and select which drive to accelerate. To set up SSD caching we used the Gigabyte EZ Smart Response utility which automatically configures Intel’s Smart Response Technology simply by running the utility so it can apply registry updates in a case where a user installed the OS in IDE or AHCI mode.
 
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Eldonko

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Included Software p.2

Included Software


SMART 6 contains six utilities in one which can save a user’s time when installing drivers and utilities: SMART QuickBoot, SMART QuickBoost, SMART Recovery 2, SMART DualBIOS, SMART Recorder, and SMART TimeLock are all included.


First up in the SMART 6 suite is the SMART QuickBoot. This utility does exactly what its name suggests: it speeds speeds up the system boot-up process and shortens the waiting time before entering the operating system. By setting the BIOS to only run through the start up hardware scan once, up to 5 seconds can be saved on the BIOS boot time alone. OS QuickBoot allows you to power down your PC into Suspend Mode (S3) and Hibernate Mode (S4) at the same time which is like putting your PC to sleep, allowing you to maintain your data, while at the same time, saving energy.


SMART Recovery 2 is a backup utility for system settings, applications, documents, photos, music, videos, etc. and allows users to retrieve their data, even if it has been deleted.


Smart DualBIOS can store certain bits of data directly to the BIOS chip, so even if your hard drive fails and you have to reinstall the OS, the data will still be accessible. In order to accomplish this, the BIOS chip's onboard memory has been increased to 32MB to allow for extra storage space. Using SMART DualBIOS you can store up to 12 passwords along with a short description, making it much easier to manage passwords..


SMART Recorder monitors and records activity on your system such as the time when you turn off or on your PC as well as when any large amounts of data have been copied from your PC. Using this utility, you can always know if someone else has accessed your PC without your knowledge.


Smart TimeLock is used for resource scheduling, allowing only certain access times. This is a great tool for parents who want to limit their children’s PC usage. You can allocate certain hours per day or specific times of the day that your PC can be used. Have a child staying up all night gaming or want to limit daily PC use? This utility is for you.


Gigabyte's Dynamic Energy Saver 2 (DES2) utility uses a proprietary hardware and software design to considerably enhance PC system’s energy efficiency, reduce power consumption and deliver optimized auto-phase-switching for the CPU, Memory, Chipset, VGA, HDD and even fans. Basically you just install the utility, and enable DES2 and save yourself some power.


@BIOS is a Windows-based BIOS flash utility which makes flashing your BIOS a quick and easy task and allows for updating BIOS from the Gigabyte server, updating BIOS from a file, and saving BIOS backups. We use @BIOS to flash a newer BIOS on the UD5 and it worked flawlessly.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5

A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5


Above is a map of the Z68XP-UD5 motherboard layout with descriptions of the various parts. From a high level view, it seems like Gigabyte allows for a good amount of PCI-E expansion space with view few obstacles but the Reset and Clear CMOS buttons are placed in an out of the way area which may be hard to access in some situations.


The heatpipe cooling system on the UD5 is similar to some other boards and it usually just varies in color from one product to the next. The heatsink surrounds the CPU socket and rests on the DrMOS to provide cooling for both the chokes and VRMs and is made out of high density aluminum.


Having a look at the back of the board we can see the heatsinks are connected with screws which allows for easy removal and even pressure across the entire mounting area.


The mid section of the heatsink acts as extra surface area for the heatpipe since there is nothing beneath the heatsink. As we already said, Gigabyte uses a standard heatsink for boards so this center section covers the NF200 chip on higher end products like the UD7.


Even though there isn’t a chip below one of the potential contact areas, Gigabyte has installed a heat pad to ensure the heatsink fits tightly. Moving to the bottom part of the heatsink we have the Intel Z68 chipset which controls a number of functions on the board.


The corner of the UD5 contains the 12v power connector and a fan header which can be controlled by Gigabyte included software. Some people –particularly those with larger fingers- may have an issue accessing these areas when the board is installed into a case.


Typical to other Gigabyte boards, the UD5 uses a design with a DrMOS chip and a single choke per phase. The “brain” of the Z68XP-UD5 is the PWM (Pulse Width Modulator) controller chip; in this case an Intersil ISL6366 is used. The Intersil ISL6366 is a dual 6 + 1 phase unit which controls phase switching and output voltage to the CPU. The “cubes” in the VRM area are the ferrite chokes which clean up the high frequency signal noise and in turn produce heat which is removed by the heatpipe cooling system.


The small ICs that you see next to the chokes are called Driver MOSFETs or DrMOS. DrMOS are a 3 in 1 package combining 2 discrete PowerMOS and a SOP-8 Driver IC into a single chip. Compared to a traditional MOSFET, Driver MOSFETs offer faster, smoother transfer of current while maintaining stable voltage and cooler temperatures under heavy loading. One DrMOS along with a choke makes a single PWM phase.

The VRM on the UD5 is a 20 phase design which means the CPU uses 20 phases but there are actually 21 chokes around the CPU area. One of the benefits of moving to an XP model Gigabyte board is this extra phase being integrated into the VRM for integrated graphics. In addition to that, there are 4 more phases for the System Agent/Uncore and 2 more for memory.


The other Intersil chip found on the board marked ISL6322G is a 2 phase PWM controller which runs the uncore power on the UD5. Since it uses 2 channels, phases are doubled which makes for a total of four.

These extra phases are what adds to the cost of the UD5 so what exactly are users getting with this VRM design that they wouldn’t with a UD4 or UD3? For an overclocker, more phases will increase voltage stability at high clock speeds, provide more efficiency, and a lower overall temperature. Basically, more phases reduce strain on the VRM because it doesn’t have to work as hard.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5 p.2

A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5


The DDR3 memory slots are found in the upper right corner of the board. In this case all of the slots are black so ensure you install your memory in the appropriate slots for dual channel configuration. Gigabyte recommends populating the slots furthest from the CPU socket first (slots 1 & 3).


Directly below the memory slots are phase LEDs and a chip marked iTE IT8275E which is a general purpose I/O chip that controls phase switching and LLC. Next to that is an onboard power button while the reset and clear CMOS buttons are located directly above the motherboard’s 24-pin connector.


Just below the 24 pin power connector are two bios chips for the main and secondary backup BIOS. This backup BIOS will take over if the primary gets corrupted.

The SATA ports are found in front of the BIOS chips and there are six in total. The white SATA ports are 6Gb/s and the remaining four black SATA ports are 3Gb/s. Any of these six ports can be used for SSD caching since they all connect directly to the Z68 chipset.

We did not include SSD caching testing in this review since the results will be the same as with other Z68 boards. To see the SSD caching tests please see our G1.Sniper 2 review.


Along the lower edge of the board are the usual front panel connectors as well as headers for USB 2.0 and 3.0. Also nearby is a large ITE IT8728F Super I/O chip which is responsible for voltage and temperature monitoring.


Moving up to the left edge of the board we come to a couple chips of interest: TI TSB43AB23 and Realtek ALC889. The TI chip controls the IEEE 1394 header on the board and the Realtek chip is the board’s audio controller.


To the right of audio codec chip we come to two more chips, Realtek RTL811E and D720200AF1. The Realtek chip runs the boards Ethernet port and the D720200AF1 chip is made by Renesas and is a USB 3.0 host controller.
 
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Eldonko

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A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5 p.3

A Closer Look at the Z68XP-UD5


For expansion slots, the Z68XP-UD5 has three PCI-E x16 slots, two PCI-E x1 slots, and two PCI slots. Two of the 16x slots are usable for SLI or CrossFire and the third is a 4x slot. Like other Z68 boards the PCI-E slots run at 8x when two cards are installed or a single card will run 16x. As we mentioned before, the spacing here is quite good but the topmost 1x slot will only have limited use due to its proximity to the main heatsink. This is unfortunate since this would be a prime location for a PCI-E sound card.


As shown in the block diagram above, the third PCI-E 16x slot runs at 4x and shares bandwidth with the two PCI-E 1x slots. This results in the slot running at PCI-E 1x if the other PCI-E slots on the PCI-E bus are populated.


Back in August, Gigabyte released a press release stating their entire 6 series of boards are ready to support Intel 22nm CPUs and PCI-E gen 3.0 with a BIOS update. Although the Z68XP-UD5 is on the list for native PCI-E 3.0 support, the switches used on the UD5 (ASM 1440) are 16 to 8 channel multiplexer / demultiplexer units that only support up to PCI-E 2.0. Gigabyte claims Gen 3 switches are not required for single card PCI-E 3.0 because when a Gen 3 GPU is installed the Gen 2 switch will be disabled and the lanes will go direct to the Ivy Bridge CPU. That said, technically the UD5 does support PCI-E 3.0 but only at an 8x link and only with single card. At the moment the only Gigabyte board with FULL PCI-E 3.0 support is the G1.Sniper 2 since it has Gen 3 switches.


The last thing to have a look at on the UD5 is the I/O panel. One of the items that is noteworthy is the included HDMI port which is used to output video from the board’s integrated graphics. When using Graphics Switching the monitor must be connected to this port instead of the discrete GPU. The maximum supported resolution is 1920x1200 and the actual resolutions supported are dependent on the monitor being used.
 
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Eldonko

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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In order to test how different hardware combinations will fit onto the UD5, we installed a Zalman CNPS10x Flex, a 4GB kit of G.Skill memory, and two GTX 470 video cards. The Zalman is an average-sized aftermarket CPU cooler so it should provide a good reference and the heatsinks on the G.Skill kit are taller than most so we can see if there any clearance issues.

As we saw with the Sniper 2 and UD7, Gigabyte allows for plenty of clearance between this board’s heatsinks and an aftermarket CPU cooler so we have to conclude that most coolers will fit without any problems. There is also enough room to easily to install or remove the heatsink with a screwdriver.


Looking at memory clearance, we found the UD5 layout to be great and we didn’t find any clearance issues even when installing a cooler with dual fans. When memory is in the closest memory slot to the CPU it is a tight fit but a 120mm fan fits on both sides of the cooler. Also, since Gigabyte recommends using the far slots (slots 1 and 3) first there should be plenty of extra room for typical memory configurations.


After adding two GTX 470 video cards to the UD5 we did not find anything that caused concern in terms of clearance. The SATA ports are side mounted are the GPUs fit over top of them snugly. The USB headers are also accessible with two video cards installed.
 
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Eldonko

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown

2011 is the year of the UEFI BIOS, and similar to several other boards launched this year, the Z68XP-UD5 uses a partial UEFI BIOS. UEFI features capabilities such as support for boot drives above 2.2TB and the potential for faster boot times. In addition to this, UEFI often has mouse support for easy navigation.

Unfortunately, like other Gigabyte boards, the UD5 doesn’t have the dynamic, easy to use interface and mouse support that is an integral part of the UEFI experience. The BIOS screen itself looks like any Gigabyte legacy BIOS from the past several years and instead of adding some user friendly features like ASUS and MSI have, Gigabyte left the BIOS as is and created a Windows interface called Touch BIOS.


Touch BIOS is a utility that contains all of the settings in the board’s BIOS and includes touch screen capabilities. There are of course some questions that popped up: who has a touch screen monitor that would be using a UD5 and second why would someone want to make BIOS changes in Windows? Messing around with BIOS settings in Windows can lead to crashes and the “real” BIOS needs to be accessed before you can even install Windows anyways.

The BIOS version used for this review is version F4 which is available on Gigabyte’s website and needless to say, Gigabyte’s Touch BIOS wasn’t used at all.


The main screen in the UD5 Award BIOS is an index page which contains a listing of the individual sections, the first which is crucial for overclocking: the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.). This area contains essential information such as BIOS version, CPU and memory frequencies, temperatures and voltages.

The Current Status shows more details such memory timings and Turbo Boost information while the Advanced Frequency Settings allows for adjustments of the BCLK by enabling BCLK/DMI/PEG Clock Control and the multiplier by adjusting CPU Clock Control.


There is one submenu under Advanced Frequency Settings titled Advanced CPU Core Features where you will find the Internal CPU PLL Overvoltage option. When enabled, this helps with stability on higher BCLK overclocks. Enabling Real Time Ratio Changes in OS allows for BCLK adjustments in Windows using ET6 while Turbo Boost Ratios and Power adjustments are available in the screen as well. At the bottom of the page you can choose to disable some CPU cores or Hyperthreading as well as set energy saving features such as C1E and EIST.

The Advanced Memory Settings is quite straightforward: it houses X.M.P. profile options, Memory Multipliers, and Timing Settings.


The memory timing options are complete to say the least with both primary and secondary timings available in their own sections. Auto voltages are shown on the left for reference as well.

Within the Advanced Voltage Settings are all voltages that are available on the board with the default setting on the left for reference. The Load Line Calibration has 10 levels you can select from and works to eliminate vdroop but be careful with this as you may get more voltage than you expect.

Dynamic Vcore (DVID) is greyed out in the shot above but you can adjust this instead of Vcore if you set Vcore to Standard. Meanwhile, in the next grouping are the CPU PLL and a variety of memory-related voltages.


The last submenu under the M.I.T. screen is Miscellaneous Settings which contains only two subsets: Isochronous Support and Virtualization Technology. Going back to the main Award BIOS screen we move down to the second submenu which is Standard CMOS Features. Here you find system time and date as well as hard drive configurations.


The submenu below Standard CMOS Features is Advanced BIOS Features for setting things like Hard Disk Boot Priority, Quick Boot, No-Execute Memory Protect, and Onboard VGA. Here you can also set up your boot device sequence under First Boot Device if you want to set the system to boot from a DVD or USB flash drive.

No-Execute Memory Protect enables or disables Intel Execute Disable Bit function. We found that disabling this setting gives a small boost in 2D performance. Init Display First specifies the first initiation of the monitor display from the installed graphics card. Select which slot you want as your first display here. Onboard VGA is where you enable or disable the iGPU. The only way to disable integrated graphics is if you select Enable If No Ext PEG as there is no Disable in the list.

The next subscreen is Integrated Peripherals where USB, LAN, onboard audio, GSATA, and eSATA can be controlled. eXtreme Hard Drive enables or disables the X.H.D function for the SATA controllers integrated in the Intel Z68 Chipset. When set to Enabled, the PCH SATA Control Mode item below will be set to RAID (XHD) automatically. If you plan on setting up SSD caching, remember to install Windows with the PCH SATA Control Mode set to RAID.


The next section is on Power Management Setup and contains things like sleep state setup and resume by alarm. You can set power to be by keyboard, mouse, or alarm here. Next in the main menu is PC Health Status. This page gives all of your temperatures, voltages and fan speeds as well as setup for warnings for a number of things from CPU temp to fans.


As you can see from our two saved profiles above, BIOS Profiles allow for saving and loading BIOS profiles; up to 8 in total. You can save either on the BIOS chip itself or as a file on a flash drive or hard drive to avoid losing profiles when the BIOS is flashed. The Q-Flash Utility is a safe and handy way to flash the BIOS to a later one. Download the latest BIOS, put it on a flash drive, and the utility does the rest. We flashed a BIOS on the UD5 with both Q-Flash and @BIOS and both worked flawlessly.
 
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