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GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
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When the new Intel 9-series motherboards were first unveiled it has hard to get really excited about them since the new features and capabilities were promising, but there was no way to actually take advantage of any them. MOre than a month later and the same holds true since there are no serious SATA Express devices ready for primetime and M.2 SSDs are still few and far between. However, now that Intel's upcoming Devil's Canyon chips have been fully unveiled, there is finally a tangible reason to want one of these new Z97 motherboards since they are the only ones with native support for these enthusiast-oriented processors.

With this in mind, today we will be taking a look at the second highest-end model in GIGABYTE's mainstream Ultra Durable Series lineup, the Z97X-UD5H. The UD5H comes with a 12-phase power design, which is more than any of the other 9-Series models, but with slightly less sophisticated MOSFET components than the G1 Gaming or SuperOverClocked models. There are three PCI-E x16 slots and multiple graphics cards support is present in the form of 2-Way CrossFire and 2-Way SLI.

Those who plan on making use of the CPU's integrated graphics will be able to utilize VGA, DVI, and HDMI video outputs. There are eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, one SATA Express port (which utilizes two of SATA ports) and an M.2 slot. When it comes to USB connectivity, there are six USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, and internal headers permitting a mix of six more ports. This model also features two gigabit LAN interfaces courtesy of both a Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 network controller and Intel I217V NIC. Audio is supplied by a modern Realtek ALC1150 eight-channel CODEC, and the sound subsystem is isolated from the rest of the system by audio separation line on the PCB. Rounding things out, you will find small extras like six Smart Fan 4-pin PWM headers, two physical BIOS chips, and a POST code debug display.

Staying true to its high-end roots, this is one of the few GIGABYTE models with the full compliment of user-friendly Quick Buttons on the top-right corner of the motherboard, which consists of onboard power and reset buttons, clear CMOS button, Dual BIOS switches, and the all important voltage read points. These might not be key selling points for your average user, but they are a must for those who run their systems outside of a conventional case or just those who like to tinker.

On the software side, this model features a newly revised triple-mode UEFI BIOS, which introduces the simplistic Startup Guide, while maintaining the eye-catching Dashboard Mode and traditional, option-rich Classic Mode. The well-known EasyTune utility has refocused towards its core functions of automatic overclocking and real-time tweaking of system frequencies, timings and voltages. As a result, EasyTune has been stripped of its monitoring and fan control duties, and that functionality has been transferred to the new System Information Viewer tool that can apparently handle these tasks with much lower latency.

This $190 motherboard certainly looks great on paper, but that is really only half the story, so let's see if it can impress us as much as the flagship Z97X-Gaming G1 Black Edition did.

 
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MAC

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Specifications & Features

Specifications & Features



Before we get up-close and personal with the new Z97X-UD5H through pictures, testing, and analysis, let’s take a look at this motherboard's specifications as per Gigabyte's website.


As mentioned in the introduction, this motherboard has quite a few noteworthy features, and we will be examining some of them in-depth in the coming pages, especially the improved automatic overclocking functionality and a closer look at the audio sub-system.
 
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MAC

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The Z97 Chipset; The Evolution Continues

The Z97 Chipset; The Evolution Continues


By now nearly everyone is familiar with Intel’s tick-tock strategy where every die shrink of a previous microarchitecture is succeeded by a new architectural revision. Hence the recent 22nm Haswell will soon be replaced with Broadwell, a family of chips based on Haswell’s design but built using a 14nm manufacturing process. This pattern of constant updates is realistic within the CPU world but the processor’s partner chipsets have always seemed to lag behind. Many will come to this conclusion when looking at Intel’s latest chipset, the LGA1150-based Z97.

Z97 actually presents an interesting case study in how certain key elements in a motherboard’s toolkit have moved forwards while others have retained the status quo since Z87 was rolled out in 2013. In the course of a year graphics and networking interfaces just haven’t evolved while storage technology has been given a boost of adrenalin through the ratification of SATA 3.2. This means in its most basic form Z97 and its associated H97 sibling are identical to their predecessors but have some additional storage compatibility bolted on to keep pace with current trends.

One interesting aspect of Z97 is its launch timeframe which was pulled forward. Instead of being introduced alongside Broadwell in Q4 of this year, Z97 can be considered a mid-life refresh that preempts (and fully supports) Intel’s upcoming Devil Canyon CPUs. Broadwell compatibility is built in as well.


To many of you the block diagram above will look eerily similar since it’s nearly identical to the one posted in our Haswell / Z87 article. Every Z97 board will board full backwards compatibility with 4th generation Haswell and 5th generation Broadwell processors as well as the upcoming Haswell refresh, code named Devil’s Canyon. This grants the board access to 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes which can be split into two x8 lanes for SLI and Crossfire support or a one x8 and two x4 setup for applications that require more accessory PCI-E lanes. There’s also the usual 1600MHz DDR3/3L compatibility alongside a display output for multi monitor support from the processor’s integrated GPU core.

The Processor Graphics communicates with and ultimately outputs its display signals to the PCH via the FDI or Flexible Display Interface. This runs in parallel with the DMI interface, a link between the CPU and the PCH that features four bi-directional PCI-E lanes that can operate at speeds of up to 2 GB/s. This results in 4 GB/s of aggregate bandwidth if both upstream and downstream lanes are used to their theoretical maximum. These features have been staples within Intel’s chipset design for years now.

Moving down to the PCH itself, we have the usual capabilities for up to six SATA 6Gbps ports, six USB 3.0 ports (or 14 USB 2.0) and up to eight PCI-E 2.0 lanes. The “up to” designation is derived from Intel’s use of a purpose-built Flexible IO interface which we’ll talk more about on the next page. In short, Flex IO allows four of the PCH’s PCI Express lanes to be used for either PCI-E or SATA / USB 3.0 functionality depending on a motherboard manufacturer’s design goals.

While the integrated 10/100/1000 MAC, its partner Ethernet connection and the Intel HD Audio controller aren’t anything new, the addition of Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology support for PCI Express storage devices is a pretty major addition. With it, PCIe-based SSDs will now have access to RST’s broad support toolkit which includes everything from RAID implementation to power management and other key features. Typically many of these were gained through ad hoc drivers from PCIe SSD manufacturers but now Intel is adding compatibility at the chipset level.


The H97’s layout follows very much the same guidelines as Z97 but with features that are targeted towards system integrators and corporate clients rather than enthusiasts. The main differentiators here are a lack of dual graphics card support and no integrated backbone for the optional Extreme Tuning Utility but the addition of Intel’s Small Business Advantage Platform and Identity Protection Technology. Motherboards based around the H97 PCH will likely be seen at significantly lower price points than those using Z97.


Most clients will likely look at both of these platforms’ primary capabilities and overlook a key option being added by Intel this time around: Device Protection Technology. This feature may be optional for motherboard manufacturers but we hope to see it being implemented on more systems. Device Protection and its associated Boot Guard institute a boot block at the hardware level against malware attacks. This prevents repurposing of the platform to run unauthorized software but is only available on Devil’s Canyon CPUs rather than existing Haswell processors.
 
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MAC

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SATA Express & M.2 Through Flex IO

SATA Express & M.2 Through Flex IO


While there may not be many additions to Z97 from a functionality standpoint, the porting of Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology into the PCIe interface has some major implications for the PCH’s storage subsystem. First and foremost, it has allowed motherboard manufacturers to incorporate M.2 and SATA Express onto their boards.

Both M.2 and SATA Express are rolled into the new SATA 3.2 specification which was ratified last year. Both use a combination of standard SATA and a PCI Express bus alongside AHCI and NVMe interface standards for an ultra fast 10 Gbps data pathway. That represents a major performance uplift in comparison to current SATA 6Gbps drives.


The implementation of SATA Express and M.2 has been achieved through the use of Intel’s Flexible IO interface. Essentially, the PCH houses a total of 18 ports which are split into three predominant groups: four SATA, six PCIe 2.0 and four USB 3.0 which make up the main connectivity options. The PCIe ports are typically used for connection to third party controllers or providing secondary PCI Express functionality to supplement the motherboard’s primary x16 slot(s).

Flex IO steps into this equation by providing four additional ports that are configurable. #5 and #6 can be used for either a pair of PCIe 2.0 lanes or USB 3.0 while ports #13 and #14 are either PCIe 2.0 or SATA 6G. The only limitation here is the Flex ports have to be paired up and maximum number of PCI Express lanes can’t exceed eight. This means if #13 and #14 are configured for PCIe, #5 and #6 will need to use USB 3.0 and vice versa.

On some boards, these additional Flex I/O ports will be combined with the six static ports and paired up with a PLX port multiplier to deliver an additional eight PCI-E 3.0 lanes for triple GPU support. This means sacrificing dedicated bandwidth towards Thunderbolt, additional networking capabilities and other controllers


Motherboard builders can use those configurable Flex IO ports and provide a two lane PCI Express 2.0 interface to a compatible SATA Express / M.2 controller. This grants SATA Express and M.2 a theoretical bandwidth of 10Gbps but both interfaces can’t be used at the same time; it’s either one or the other. In addition, due to PCH limitations, there is a lack RAID compatibility, though some boards will use a PCI-E multiplier chip and support up to two SATA Express ports. RAID is still possible through the use of two M.2 drives running in parallel within a secondary enclosure that’s linked to the motherboard via the SATA Express interface.

As you might expect the implementation of these high speed storage standards is completely different when moving from one board to another. For example, some motherboards will disable secondary PCI-E slots when either an M.2 or SATA-E drive is detected while others will use the aforementioned port multiplier approach so the storage interfaces remain independent of other functions.

With all of this talk of high speed interfaces, there are still some limitations here. Since Intel has limited the Z97’s PCI Express lanes’ bandwidth to the 2.0 standard, any SATA 3.2 devices will be granted only a fraction of their available bandwidth without the use of expensive bridge chips and other, more exotic solutions. While dual lane controllers are the norm now, quad lane units which double the available bandwidth will be available in the coming months. This could leave Z97’s version of SATA Express and M.2 at a distinct disadvantage against add-in-board style PCI-E drives which can use more lanes and thus provide significantly higher performance.


Another bit of good news here is the backwards compatibility of SATA Express with the existing SATA 6Gbps standard. Since the SATA-E port is composed of two SATA connectors alongside a plug for the PCIe communications, its two 6Gbps connections can be used for standard drives as well.

M.2 meanwhile is essentially a small form factor version of SATA Express that is compatible with Intel’s Smart Response Technology’s caching or it can be utilized as a primary storage interface. Due to the costs involved in higher capacity M.2 SSDs, we can’t see this being used as a primary means of storage for most systems. However, it could be extremely beneficial in the mATX and mini ITX markets where space is at a premium.

Another big question lies in Z87’s lack of SATA Express and M.2 support. There isn’t anything stopping Z87 motherboards from incorporating either of these but since the SATA 3.2 standard was ratified so close to that Lynx Point’s rollout, the necessary controllers and associated SSDs weren’t available until only recently. That means most Z87 boards didn’t include M.2 ports until the architecture’s final months. SATA Express was left off the table entirely due to Intel’s lack of PCIe-based support in their Rapid Storage Technology software stack. This has all changed with Z97 so we’ll likely see M.2 and SATA Express, both cornerstones of the SATA 3.2 interface, quickly become defining features.
 
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MAC

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Packaging & Accessories

Packaging & Accessories


Now that we have gone over the Z97X-UD5H features and specifications, it is time to examine the packaging and then crack open the box to take a look at the bundled accessories. Let's check it out:



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When compared to their Z87 series motherboards, GIGABYTE have very lightly revamped their packaging. We guess the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" axiom applies here. As always, the Ultra Durable branding is very prominent, and you will find quite a bit of information regarding all of the Z87X-UD5H's specifications and interesting GIGABYTE-specific features on the back.

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



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The Z97X-UD5H comes with a very conventional accessories bundle, which consists of a user manual, installation guide, driver and software DVD, GIGABYTE sticker, rear I/O shield, four SATA 6Gb/s cables, and 2-way SLI bridge connector. The one thing that we would like to see added are colour-coded front-panel connectors, so users don't have to fiddle with invidual wires when first installing the motherboard in their case.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the Z97X-UD5H

A Closer Look at the Z97X-UD5H



Above is a layout map of the Z97X-UD5H which points out the keys parts of the motherboard. As we've come to expect from GIGABYTE, the overall layout is fairly well thought out and there are certainly no critical oversights. All the numerous buttons, connectors, and ports are easily accessible and free from possible obstruction. Fan header distribution is not great though, since there are four system fan headers at the bottom edge. They should be spread out a little more evenly across the motherboard.

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. As you will find on most 9-series motherboards, the new M.2 slot is located between the CPU socket and the first expansion slot, while the SATA Express is intermixed with the standard SATA ports. It should be mentioned that the UD5H is based on the standard ATX form factor (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm / 12.0-in x 9.6-in), so there are no over-sized PCB issues to worry about.

Whether this motherboard is appealing from an aesthetics point-of-view is obviously subjective, but the metallic deep yellow colour that GIGABYTE chose for the heatsinks probably isn't going to winner over those who like to colour coordinate their motherboard with their graphics card(s) and/or memory kit.



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As mentioned in the intro, the UD5H features a 12-phase power design, which is more than any of GIGABYTE's other 9-Series models, but with slightly less sophisticated MOSFETs components than the G1 Gaming or SuperOverClocked models. Neverthless, we are still taking about a very capable digital power design consisting of Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs, 60A rated sealed ferrite-core chokes, and "10K Durable Black" solid electrolytic capacitors. Going back to the phase count for a second, since this model has been outfitted with a 12 phase power design for the CPU, the actual breakdown is 8 phases dedicated to the cores themselves, two for the System Agent (SA), and two phases for the integrated GPU.

The overall CPU socket area is free from clutter, so there shouldn't be any issue with large heatsinks, or water blocks, or even more exotic cooling options (LN2 pots, Cascade heads, etc), but we will take a closer look at that in the Installation Section.


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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 DDR3-3200. 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 this positioning is slightly problematic since you can accidentally hit the wrong button due to them being so close together, especially if you're trying to do so within the confines of a tight case.

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. One of the standout features on this model - since the UD3H doesn't have them - are the eight voltage measurement points, which are obviously indispensable for any serious overclocker.


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As we have iterated in the past, the M.2 slot is one of the cool new features of the Z97 chipset, and as implemented on this motherboard it can provide up to 1GB/s of storage bandwidth. This model supports an impressive three types of M.2 devices, which is to say Type 2242 (42mm length), 2260 (60mm length), and 2280 (80mm length). These M.2 SSDs are all 22mm wide and the M.2 NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) is a standardized form factor, so don't worry too much about compatibility. All Ultra Durable Series models support M.2 SSDs featuring either SATA and PCI-Express based controllers, ensuring compatibility with the SATA-based M.2 SSDs on the market right now and the higher-performance PCI-E based M.2 models that will arrive later this year. It should be mentioned that due to this platform's insufficient number of PCI-E lanes, enabling the M.2 slot will disable the SATA Express port as well as two SATA 6Gb/s ports.

There is an internal front-panel USB 3.0 header, which can be used to connect up to two USB 3.0 ports to the front-panel of any compatible case, and is supplied by the Z97 chipset itself instead of a third-party controller.




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The PCH chipset heatsink is fairly standard, in fact there's some déjà vu here since we are sure that we've seen this exact heatsink before. Either way, it does its job admirably, which isn't hard since the Z97 PCH has a very small 4.1W TDP.

While the Z97X-UD5H technically has eight SATA 6Gb/s ports, there are a few obstacles worth highlighting. Two of the native SATA ports are shared with the 10GB/s SATA Express port. That might not sound like a big deal, but as mentioned above, due to a lack of PCI-E lanes the M.2 slot, SATA Express port, and the two Marvell SE9172-powered SATA ports can only be used one at a time. So if you do plug in a SATA Express device, you will be down to four working SATA ports. On a site note, the SATA power connector to the left of the SATA ports helps supply the PCI-E x16 slots with extra power should they require it for unusually power intensive graphics card configurations.
 
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MAC

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A Closer Look at the Z97X-UD5H pt.2

A Closer Look at the Z97X-UD5H pt.2



Click on image to enlarge

The lower-right corner is where you will find the user friendly colour-coded front panel header, two PWM system fan headers, and two USB 2.0 headers. In fact, the whole bottom of the motherboard is occupied with various ports, namely additional system fan headers, a COM port, TPM header, and the front audio panel header.

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 on the previous page, you can also use the bios switch to manually choose which BIOS chip to boot from, which can be handy for overclockers wishing to quickly alternative between two different bioses.


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As you all know, Haswell processors support 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes for graphics purposes. As a result, the first PCI-E x16 slot will operate at full x16 speed when only one graphics card is installed. In a dual graphics card configuration, the first and second PCI-E x16 slots will operate at the x8 speed (x8/x8). As usual, his model has been for certified for 2-way CrossFire and 2-way SLI. Now the bottom PCI-E x16 slot is a tricky one. Instead of it being powered by the Z97 chipset's own PCI-E lanes, it utilizes the CPU's 16 lanes instead. As a result, when used it actually steals lanes from the other two PCI-E x16 slots. The primary slot drops from x16 to x8, while the secondary slot drops from x8 to x4. This is just one of the compromises that happens when you have such a bandwidth limited platform as this one. You either cut down on storage connectivity or make compromises in the area of expansion slots.

Although they each require a PCI-E 2.0 x1 lane, GIGABYTE have outfitted the UD5H with two old-school PCI slots. These are courtesy of an ITE IT8892E PCI-E-to-PCI bridge chip, since PCI is no longer supported at the chipset level.



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GIGABYTE have outfitted the UD5H with Realtek's most modern 8-channel audio CODEC, the ALC1150 chip. It is combined with a Texas Instruments N5532 op-amp, a handful of 10K Durable Black solid capacitors act as the filter stage, and there is a built-in rear audio amplifier that can supposedly drive headphones with high 600 ohm impedance. Surprisingly, there is no electromagnetic interference (EMI) shield covering the Realtek CODEC, but there is the PCB isolation line surrounds the audio section of the PCB and protects it from the rest of the system in order to ensure a high signal-to-noise (SNR) ratio and deliver the highest possible sound quality.


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This model features two gigabit LAN ports courtesy of both a Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 network controller and Intel I217V chip. The Intel part is widely supported across a large range of operating systems, while the Killer NIC can optimize your gaming or video streaming experienced via the included Killer Network Manager utility. The LAN ports each feature a dedicated protection filter that can protect your system from electrostatic discharge (ESD).


The Z97X-UD5H has some undeniably impressive connectivity on its rear I/O panel. Starting from left to right we have a two USB 2.0 ports, a combo keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, VGA port, DVI port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, gigabit LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, a second LAN port, two USB ports, the five audio jacks, and a optical S/PDIF Out connector. Frankly, the only thing missing is a DisplayPort.


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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. Looking at the back of the motherboard gives us a better look at the audio separation line.
 
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MAC

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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 physically 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 a clearance issue with the memory modules since the fan clips prevented the installation of our tall memory modules in either of the two memory slots nearest to the CPU socket. The solution to this problem is either to use lower profile memory modules, not to use the fan clips, 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. Naturally, none of these are ideal solutions.


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Thanks to the expansion slot layout, there is a large gap between 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 SATA connectors and various headers are still easily accessible. It can even handle two triple-slot graphics if you don't mind losing access to both PCI slots and the bottommost mechanical PCI-E x16 slot. That third PCI-E x16 slot is not for graphics card use since it tops out at PCI-E 2.0 x4, but if you do install a dual-slot expansion card it will block the headers at the very bottom of the motherboard.


The six 90-degree SATA ports are obviously accessible no matter how many graphics cards are installed, as is the SATA Express port (and its two SATA ports).


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

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BIOS Rundown - Startup Guide & Dashboard Mode

BIOS Rundown


As we have recently come to expect from GIGABYTE, with a new generation of chipsets comes a new UEFI BIOS. Although heavily based on the then new BIOS introduced on the Z87 series models, this latest iteration has been polished, has received a new colour scheme, and heralds the arrival of the new Startup Guide.


Startup Guide




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Since UEFI was first implemented, motherboards makers have gone to great lengths to attempt to create a balance between a graphically-enticing GUI, a mouse-friendly layout, and enough options to keep the enthusiasts happy. Thus far, this has largely resulted in two separates BIOS modes, one dumbed down but pretty and another that makes marginal use of the mouse cursor but has all the options that we're used to seeing. It always like a compromise though, and was never particularly well executed. With this in mind, GIGABYTE have unveiled a third mode, the Startup Guide. This is a purely mouse-driven interface that features Windows 8-like tiles and is as simplified as possible.

When you boot into the BIOS for the first time you will be asked to choose a default system language among an impressive 19 possible choices. Subsequently, you are presented with 9 tiles representing various motherboard functions, such as enabling/disabling the Fast Boot option, selecting the boot device order, setting up a password, and even what BIOS mode should be the default every time you enter the BIOS. There is really not much here, but there isn't supposed to be. This is merely to give novice users a quick and easy way to access a few key settings.


Dashboard HD

If the Startup Guide doesn't cut it for you, and you want something with more options but that still puts an emphasis on graphical eye-candy, you will want to hit F2 on your keyboard or click on the little arrow to the left of the Boot Sequence tile. Doing so will bring you to the Dashboard Mode or Dashboard HD if you have a 1080p display...though it also worked on our 1680x1050 monitor (with a few overlapping UI elements).


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The Frequency tab of Performance section is where you are greeted with all the essential system clock control options that a serious overclocker needs: base clock frequency, IGP frequency, 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). This is also where you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.


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The Memory tab 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 voltage, 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 Voltage tab allows for tweaking of 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 Advanced Power Settings sub-menu 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 CPU VRIN, since On or Off simply doesn’t cut it most of the time. By the way, as you will see in the coming pages, in the 3D Power tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


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The Miscellaneous tab is where you can select the data lane configuration for the PCI-E slots and look at two other settings you will never use. The Health Status section is somewhat impressive, at least when it comes to setting warnings. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.


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The new Home section allows users to create their own custom home page, adding the menus and options they tend to use most frequently, as well as displaying whatever mix of system information they want. It basically gives users a fast, up-front access to basic settings of their choosing.
 
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MAC

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BIOS Rundown - Classic Mode

BIOS Rundown - Classic Mode



The Dashboard Mode obviously does not have all the functionality of the Classic 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. With that in mind, GIGABYTE have included the more conventional Classic Mode that we've seen on other recent GIGABYTE motherboards with UEFI BIOSes.


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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, IGP frequency, 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). This is also where you can set the Turbo Boost ratios for each processor core and the Uncore ratio as well.


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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 voltage, 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 Advanced Power Settings 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 CPU VRIN, 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 tab in the EasyTune utility you can do a lot of this tweaking from within Windows itself.


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Compared to past BIOSes, this one actually has a pretty good PC Health Status section since it has readouts for most of the critical voltages and temperatures. BIOS-based fan control has also improved, but the Smart Fan tab in EasyTune does have a little bit richer fan PWM functionality.


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The System Information section displays the motherboard model name, BIOS version, allows users to set the BIOS language, and set an administrator password.


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The BIOS Features section is where you can select the boot device priority, enable/disable the full screen logo, select Windows 8 features and Boot Mode as well.



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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 F12 key. 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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