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GIGABYTE Z77X-UD4H LGA1155 Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
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With the Ivy Bridge launch almost eight months behind us, many of the first generation of Z77 LGA1155 specific motherboards have now come and gone. What we are left with is the second wave which is always a little more polished and bit more feature-rich. With this is mind, we are excited to get our hands on the GIGABYTE Z77X-UD4H.

This new model has just about everything that you could want from a mainstream Z77 LGA1155 motherboard with a retail price of around $165. It features a digital 3D Power 8+2+1 phase power design, six USB 3.0 ports, an internal USB 3.0 header, four SATA 3Gb/s ports, four SATA 6Gb/s ports, two eSATA 6Gb/s ports, three PCI-E x16 slots (x16/x8/x4), 2-way SLI and 2-way CrossFireX, LucidLogix Virtu MVP virtualization support, a single gigabit LAN port, 8-channel HD audio codec, a dual-mode UEFI BIOS with two physical BIOS chips, and a revamped software package. That's all pretty standard stuff though.

The neat additions are the distinctive red onboard power button, voltage measurement points, POST code display, onboard BIOS switcher, ON/OFF Charge USB feature, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header, and full complement of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs.

To keep the price reasonable, GIGABYTE have had to trim the fat in one area, and that's in the more niche connectivity features like Bluetooth, mSATA, Thunderbolt, and WiFi, which we haven't exactly seen a overabundance of enthusiasm for amongst the mainstream community. Having said that, with a Z77 LGA1155 motherboard roster that is an impressive, if not overzealous, <i>twenty-one</i> models deep, GIGABYTE definitely have those features available on other products.

For now though, the Z77X-UD4H is the center of our focus, so let's take a close look.

 
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MAC

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Messages
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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features



Before getting into the nitty gritty of pictures, testing, and analysis, let’s take a look at the specifications for the Z77X-UD4H, as per GIGABYTE's website.


As mentioned in the introduction, a few of the really noteworthy features are the distinctive red onboard power button, voltage measurement points, POST code display, onboard BIOS switcher, ON/OFF Charge USB port,Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header, LucidLogix Virtu MVP virtualization support, and full complement of VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort outputs.

Below are some of the GIGABYTE-specific features that the company have built into this model, and which we will examine in the coming pages.

 
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MAC

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Messages
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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z77X-UD4H's features and specifications, it is time to take a look at the packaging and the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:



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The Z77X-UD4H's packaging features essentially the same design aesthetic as was introduced with the X79 series models. It's a more traditional all-white design with a new cube logo, which is supposed to represent the new 3D Power and 3D BIOS features that were highlighted on the previous page. The packaging is also adorned with logos illustrating this model's numerous features and specifications, and you will find quite a bit of additional information about all of the interesting GIGABYTE-specific features on the back.



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Once you remove the outside packaging, you are greeted with an inner box that contains two separate sections, the top half contains the accessories and the documentation while the bottom half holds the motherboard in an anti-static bag.




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With regard to accessories, the Z77X-UD4H comes with a user manual, multilingual installation guidebook, installation guidebook addedum, driver DVD, GIGABYTE sticker, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, 2-way SLI bridge connector, and an I/O shield.
 
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MAC

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Location
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A Closer Look at the Z77X-UD4H

A Closer Look at the Z77X-UD4H




Above is a layout map of the Z77X-UD4H with labels of the keys parts of the motherboard. As we've come to expect from GIGABYTE, the overall layout is well thoughout and there are certainly no show stoppers from our point-of-view. All the numerous buttons, connectors, and ports are very easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. There is also a good amount of spacing between two main mechanical PCI-E x16 slots, so there won’t be any issues fitting thick dual-slot graphics cards on this motherboard. It should be mentioned that the UD4H is based on the standard ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so no over-sized issues to worry about.



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This motherboard features a total eleven-phase power design consisting of Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, high-quality sealed R36 ferrite core chokes, and solid electrolytic capacitors. More precisely, it has been outfitted with an 8+2+1 phase power design for the CPU, so 8 phases dedicated to the cores themselves, two for the System Agent (SA), and one phase for the integrated GPU. While that might not sound like much compared to the huge phase numbers that we have seen in the past, it is still more than sufficient for any possible scenario. Specifically, this is a new all-digital VRM design that GIGABYTE first outfitted their X79 lineup, and it allows for adjustable frequency/phase/voltage control via an International Rectifier PWM controller, all of which fall under their new 3D Power marketing lingo.

When it comes to cooling, the MOSFET heatsinks are actually pretty bulky given the fact that the VRM really doesn't output much heat under normal or heavy overclocking scenarios. As you can see here, there is no heatpipe connecting the two heatsinks, but again that is not really an issue in this case.


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The four DDR3 memory slots are fed by a standard 2-phase power design, and support overclocked memory frequencies up to DDR3-2800. While this might seem like pie in the sky, given how insanely capable Ivy Bridge processors are at handling memory frequencies this is actually an easily attainable speed with the right memory kit.

The 24-pin ATX power connector is in its usual spot, and the onboard power button that GIGABYTE puts on many of their motherboards has moved up to the far-right corner of the motherboard. The onboard reset button and clear CMOS buttons are there too, and it's slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button since they are so close together. One of the unexpected standout features of this model is definitely the seven voltage measurement points, which are obviously indispensable for any overclocker.



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To the left of the aforementioned 24-pin ATX power connector is the internal front-panel USB 3.0 header, which can be used to supply up to two USB 3.0 ports to the front-panel of any compatible case, and is supplied by the Z77 chipset itself instead of a third-party controller.

Another surprise is the OC-PEG, a SATA power connector that can be used in order to ensure that the PCI-E slots get all the power that they require for particularly power hungry CrossFire or SLI configurations.




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Here we get a good look at the adequately-sized chipset heatsink, which is held down by two metal screws. It is a little boring looking, but it does blend in nicely with the rest of the motherboard's matte black aesthetics. Cooling-wise there are no issues since the TDP of Z77 Express chipset is only 5.9W or 6.7W with the IGP enabled.

Pictured above is the Marvell 88SE9172 PCI-E controller that supplies the two grey SATA 6Gb/s ports, which are RAID 0/1 capable, and the two eSATA 6Gb/s ports on the rear I/O panel. The two white ports support SATA 6Gb/s, while the four black are limited to SATA 3Gb/s. All those ports support RAID 0/1/5/10 courtesy of the Z77 chipset.
 
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MAC

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Location
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A Closer Look at the Z77X-UD4H pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z77X-UD4H pt.2




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An improvement over previous years, GIGABYTE have finally started including helpful debug LED display on many of their mainstream and higher-end motherboards, such as on this model. The user-friendly colour-coded front panel header is always a welcome addition.

GIGABYTE have implemented a bios switch which allows users to choose which BIOS chip they are booting from, and thus they can manually activate the backup BIOS or simply switch between an ‘every day’ and overclocked ROM profile.


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The Intel Z77 Express chipset supports 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. The first PCI-E x16 slot will operated at full x16 speed when only one graphics card is installed. In in a dual graphics card configuration, the first and second PCI-E x16 slots will operate at the x8 speed (x8/x8). The bottom PCI-E x16 slot operates at x4, and it shares bandwidth with all the PCI-E x1 slots, so when in use the x1 slots will be deactivated. This model has been for certified for 2-way CrossFire and 2-way SLI, and also supports LucidLogix Virtu MVP. If you want to know more about how Virtu MVP works and how well it performs, please take a look at the extensive testing we did in the ASUS Maximus V GENE review.

As we have come to expect, the DualBIOS feature is still present in the form of – you guessed it – two individual BIOS chips, ensuring instant recovery in the case of an improper BIOS update or a particularly nasty virus. As mentioned above, you can also use the bios switch which allows users to choose which BIOS chip to boot from.




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Starting clockwise from top-left, we have the ITE IT8892E chip which is an PCI-E x1 to PCI bridge controller responsible for the lone legacy PCI slot. port. The Realtek ALC892 is an eight-channel HD audio codec, while the Realtek RTL8111F is the Gigabit LAN controller.The VLI VL800-Q8 chip is a USB 3.0 host controller for the USB 3.0 ports on the rear I/O panel. The ASMedia ASM1442 controller is one of the two responsible for the HDMI and DVI ports. The Marvell 88SE9172 PCI-E controller is responsible for the two eSATA 6Gb/s connectors.


The Z77X-UD4H has some undeniably impressive connectivity on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right we have a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA port, DVI port, HDMI port, optical S/PDIF Out connector, DisplayPort port, two USB 3.0 ports, two eSATA 6Gb/s connectors, Gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, and the six audio jacks.


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There are no VRM components on the backside of the motherboard. There are also no push-pins to be found on this motherboard, metals screws are used to secure both the MOSFET and chipset heatsinks.
 
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MAC

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Location
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Hardware Installation

Hardware Installation


In the Hardware Installation section we examine how major components fit on the motherboard, and whether there are any serious issues that may affect installation and general functionality. Specifically, we are interested in determining whether there is adequate clearance in all critical areas.


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When installed in the East-West or North-South orientation, our Prolimatech Mega Shadow had no issues clearing the MOSFET heatsinks, and we don't foresee any obstacles with even the largest of coolers.


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In the traditional North-South orientation, we did however have clearance issue with the memory modules since the fans clips prevented the installation of our tall memory module in either of the two Channel A slots. The solution to this problem is either to use lower profile memory modules or to simply install the fan on the other side of the heatsink, thereby blowing hot air to the front of the case instead of the back.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is an adequate gap between the memory clips and the back of the graphics card, so there is no need to take out the GPU before installing/removing memory modules. The 24-pin ATX power connector and the 8-pin CPU power connector are both ideally placed, so that makes assembling and disassembling the system just a tad easier.




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This board will hold two dual-slot graphics cards without issue. The cards overhang the motherboard, but the edge-mounted connectors and headers are still easily accessible. It can even handle two triple-slot graphics if you don't mind losing access to the middle PCI-E x1 slot, the bottom x4 slot, and all the headers at the bottom of the board.



The eight 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed or how long they are.


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The Prolimatech Mega Shadow's large mounting bracket installed perfectly, but it did come pretty close to a pin from one of the chokes mounted on the top-side of the motherboard.
 
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MAC

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BIOS Rundown

BIOS Rundown



First introduced with their X79 series motherboards, GIGABYTE's modern UEFI-based 3D BIOS has two distinct modes: 3D and Advanced. The 3D Mode really makes great use of the graphical user interface (GUI) and was designed to be used with a mouse. It obviously does not have all the functionality of the Advanced mode, but it is not meant to. It simply gives novice users an easy way to visualize and alter some of the most common settings.


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As you can see above, the thoughtful design of the 3D Mode should definitely help less advanced users interact with the bios easier. Lots of novice users have historically been afraid of tinkering or even entering the BIOS due to fear of a catastrophic mess-up, and this new GUI approach should alleviate those fears. Having said that, it is a little <i>too</i> basic. We would like to see GIGABYTE add some more settings, but obviously without jeopardizing the ease-of-use.

While a great tool for beginners,, we are sure that fellow enthusiasts are obviously much more interested in the Advanced Mode:


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In the UEFI BIOS, the MB Intelligent Tweaker (M.I.T.) section has been broken down into six main sub-menus. This is where enthusiasts should expect to spend 99% of their BIOS time. First and foremost, we have M.I.T Current Status sub-menu which contains a convenient overview of all the system frequencies, memory sizes and timings.


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When you open the Advanced Frequency Settings sub-menu, you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, Gear Ratio, CPU multiplier, and memory multiplier.

The Advanced CPU Core Features sub-menu is where you can enable or disable the various CPU-specific settings like Turbo Boost, C1E, C-STATE, Thermal Monitor, and Enhanced SpeedStep (EIST).


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As its name suggests, the Advanced Memory Settings section is where you will find all the memory-related settings. Within this section you can select the memory multiplier, change the performance profile, monitor the memory + VTT voltages, and obviously tweak the memory timings. Each memory channel has its own section, within which you can alter the primary and secondary timings. It had just about every memory setting that an enthusiast or overclocker will need to fine-tune their memory modules.



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The Advanced Voltage Settings sub-menu is where you can fine tweak the new digital VRM or simply adjust the primary and secondary system voltages. We wish there were more drop-down menus in this section. As it is you can manually type in whatever you want, but that is not particularly useful when you don't know or don’t remember what the default voltages are.

The 3D Power Control section is particularly interesting for those who like to tweak since it allows a great deal of control over all elements of the VRM. We really liked the granular Load-Line Calibration (LLC) options for the vCore and IMC, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time.

By the way, as you will in the coming pages, with the 3D Power utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


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Compared to their past BIOSes, this one actually has a half-decent PC Health Status section since it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures. BIOS-based fan control is still relatively minimal, but the EasyTune6 does have a little bit richer fan PWN functionality.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
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Messages
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Location
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BIOS Rundown pt.2

BIOS Rundown pt.2




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The System section displays the CPU type, CPU frequency, bus speed, RAM size, BIOS version, the connected SATA storage devices, and of course the date and time.


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The BIOS Features is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, and also save the BIOS image to a hard drive.



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The Peripherals section is where you can enable or disable all of the various onboard devices (FireWire, GbE LAN, audio codec, USB 3.0, RAID, etc). This is also where you set SATA devices to IDE, AHCI, or RAID mode.


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The Power Management section contains the power management settings linked to the power-saving sleep modes. The Save & Exit section is pretty self-evident, however you can also save or load BIOS profiles from within this area.


This last screenshot is of the Q-Flash utility which is accessed via the F12key. Since Q-Flash is built right into the BIOS and it can read files directly from a USB flash drive, BIOS flashing is a simple and quick procedure. Remember that your USB flash drive must be formatted in the FAT16/32 file system in order to be supported by Q-Flash, otherwise the utility won't allow you to update the bios or save the existing bios to a flash drive.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
Montreal
Included Software

Included Software



EasyTune6

EasyTune6 is a system management utility that displays system clock speeds, voltages, temperatures, and fan rotation but more importantly it allows users to overclock from within Windows. Anyone familiar with past EasyTune iterations knows that although this utility has always contained a fair bit of functionality, its ease of use left much to be desired. Thankfully Gigabyte went back to the drawing board and created a brand new EasyTune version from scratch. Let's check it out.


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The CPU and Memory tabs are somewhat reminiscent of the widely used CPU-Z utility, and provide some basic information about your processor and memory sticks.


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The Tuner section is really the only one that's important. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick the Quick Boost level that best suits your needs/courage, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved. A relatively new feature is the Auto Tuning functionality will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, Auto Tuning proved to be quite capable of extracting higher clocks than the Quick Boost 3 preset.

If you click on Easy or Advanced mode, three additional tabs appear: frequency, ratio, voltage. The Frequency tab allows you to tweak the BCLK, memory, and PCI-E frequencies. Within the Tuner section, the Ratio tab allows you to independently set the multiplier on every individual CPU core, even the 'virtual' logical cores...which is unnecessary to be honest.

The Voltage tab is arguably the most important one since it allows complete control over every voltage option that is found in the BIOS. This is a great tool to fine tune an overclock. The Graphics tab can be used to manipulate your graphics card’s core/memory/shader clock speeds. Unlike past versions of ET6, this section no longer allows you to control the GPU fan, nor monitor the GPU temperature.


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The Smart tab gives you access to the Smart Fan feature and its finely-tuned control over the CPU and system Smart Fan headers.


3D Power







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The 3D Power utility has the same capabilities as the 3D Power section in the BIOS, and there is a lot of functionality here. Having said that, these are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use. Furthermore, while PWM frequency, Load-Line Calibration (LLC), and Over-Voltage Protection (OVP) are all things that elite overclockers will tweak, they are never going to bother installing this program, instead favouring to do their work within the BIOS itself.


@BIOS



If you don’t want to bother formatting a USB flash drive to FAT16/32 in order to use the Q-Flash Utility in the BIOS, you can simply use the @BIOS utility to flash from within Windows.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



While the previous page contained the standard suite of utilities, GIGABYTE also has some more advanced tools that you have to download from their website.


GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher


The GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher (GTL) utility was quietly introduced for the company's Intel 7-series chipset motherboard. It is small and portable, and features a very simple UI design, unlike the most graphically intense one found in EasyTune6, and allows for easy on-the-fly manipulation of system frequencies and timings. Basically, it is a fantastic tool for overclocking from within Windows.


Disk Mode Switch


As its name clearly implies, Disk Mode Switch tool allows users to quickly and easily switch from theIDE, RAID and AHCI disk modes from within Windows, and more importantly, without having to modify or re-install the OS. This is particularly important for those who want to make use of Intel’s Smart Response Technology, since it requires AHCI mode. This leads us to the next utility.


GIGABYTE EZ Setup


This particular utility allows users to more easily install and enable the various Intel storage technologies like Intel Smart Response, Intel Rapid Start, and Intel Smart Connect. Instead of having to go through a somewhat complex procedure, this utility makes it a one-click process for each feature.


USB Blocker


If you're building a computer that will be used in a public setting, or you simply don't trust your friends/roommates/family. Once you set up a password, USB Blocker will allow you to prevent certain devices from functioning when plugged into your system's USB ports. All you need to do is set a password in the utility and select which devices to block.
 
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