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GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H Motherboard Review

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
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Included Software

Included Software



APP Center


The APP Center utility is a new centralized hub for all the in-house utilities that GIGABYTE bundles with their motherboards. It permanently resides in the notification area/icon tray in the right corner of your screen. Not only does it give you one location from which to open or even uninstall all motherboard-related pieces of software, but it also feature a Live Update feature that lets you know if the there's a new version of the software available.


EasyTune

The sleek EasyTune system management utility has been 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. Having said that, when you launch EasyTune the new Hardware Monitor automatically pops open like a widget on the right side on the screen, and it shows you all the vital system voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.


Click on image to enlarge

As in previous versions, the Smart QuickBoost section is really the most interesting one. First, it contains the Quick Boost feature, which allows automatic overclocking at the touch of a button. Simply pick which one of the three Smart QuickBoost overclock presets that best suits your needs, reboot the system, and voila! Overclock achieved. If you're more interested in seriously reducing power consumption, the Energy Saving preset with underclock the processor to 800Mhz and tweak a bunch of settings to maximize efficiency. Of particular interest to us is the smart Auto Tuning functionality that will automatically overclock your system by going through various tweaking and stability testing phases. As you will see in our Overclocking Results section, we preferred the presets over this supposedly intelligent OC'ing feature. Last but not least is the Advanced sub-menu that allows you to manualky set specific frequency, multiplier, voltage, and memory timing settings.


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The Advanced CPU OC section is where you can play around with key CPU clocks, ten important system voltages, and even the operating frequencies of your graphics cards.


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The Advanced DDR OC section of the EasyTune app is where you can set the memory multiplier, enable or disable your memory kit's XMP profile, or just tweak a wide range of primary and secondary memory timings. It is basically everything you could want from an on-the-fly system tweaking tool.


Click on image to enlarge

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, while PWM frequency, Load-Line Calibration (LLC), and phase control are all things that knowledgeable overclockers might tweak, these are all settings that the overwhelming majority of users will never ever have to use.


System Information Viewer

In order to make the utility more responsive, all the monitoring and fan control duties were stripped from EasyTune and transferred to a new application, the System Information Viewer. This might seem like a step backwards since usually the aim is to consolidate as many features as possibly into one program, but GIGABYTE claims that by doing this they have managed to greatly reduce the deferred procedure call (DPC) latencies that could interfere with EasyTune's primary functions, i.e. real-time tweaking and overclocking.


Click on image to enlarge

The System Information tab is pretty straightforward, it really just shows some very basic information regarding the system clocks and a few details about the system's CPU, memory, and motherboard.



Click on image to enlarge

In this new implementation, manual and automatic fan control options have been split into two separate tabs. Smart Fan Auto is where you find four standard fan speed presets, while Smart Fan Advanced is where you will find the auto-calibration feature and where you can manually fix fan speed or have it vary based on temperatures.


Click on image to enlarge

The System Alerts tab is where you will find the Hardware Monitor, which display some basic system frequencies, a bunch of system voltages, system temperatures and fan speeds. We would like to see some additional voltage readouts, for the System Agent and Ring Bus for example. System Alerts, is as its name implies, is also where you can set system temperature or fan speed limits, and if those thresholds are crossed you will be alerted.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
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Included Software pt.2

Included Software pt.2



@BIOS


If you don’t want to bother formatting a USB flash drive to FAT16/32 in order to use the Q-Flash feature in the BIOS, you can simply use the @BIOS utility to download the latest version directly from GIGABYTE's servers and flash from within Windows.


EZ Setup


As its name clearly implies, Disk Mode Switch tool allows users to quickly and easily switch from the IDE, 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. This particular utility also 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.


Smart Recovery 2


Smart Recovery 2 is kind of like Windows Restore/Apple Time Capsule function, where you can roll-back system settings to a previous working status. Users can select just about any day, week, or month to roll-back from, without having had to manually tell the program to create a backup flag.


Smart TimeLock


Smart TimeLock is a feature all kids will despise, as it allows parents the ability to schedule time limits for their children to use the PC. Parents can even make different usage time rules for weekdays and weekends.


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.


Fast Boot


The Fast Boot utility basically streamlines the bootup process, and starts loading the operating system immediately instead of waiting around to see if you want to access the BIOS. It makes entering the BIOS impossible, but that is easily fixed by just clicking on the "Enter BIOS Setup Now" button.


Cloud Station


The new Cloud Station utility is a function-rich program if you take the time to learn about it...and install the associated GIGABYTE Cloud Station mobile app (available on Android & iOS) on your smartphone or tablet.

The HomeCloud feature allows your mobile devices to access files on Gigabyte-powered system from a Wi-Fi or cellular network. The Remote function turns your mobile device into a remote keyboard and mouse from which you can control and navigate your PC. Remote OC gives you basically all the functionality of the EasyTune and System Information Viewer utilities on your mobile device. As a result, you can remotely overclock, tweak, monitor, or even shutdown your system. Auto Green is actually potentially pretty neat, it automatically suspends the system if you and your Bluetooth-paired smartphone walk more than 10 meters away. Obviously, you will need to bring your own Bluetooth adapter since this motherboard doesn't lacks that particular connectivity option. As its name suggests, the HotSpot utility can turn your internet connected system into a Wi-Fi hotspot, assuming you have a W-Fi adapter or card installed.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Test Setups & Methodology

Test Setups & Methodology



For this review, we have prepared eight different test setups, representing all the popular platforms at the moment, as well as most of the best-selling processors. As much as possible, the four test setups feature identical components, memory timings, drivers, etc. Aside from manually selecting memory frequencies and timings, every option in the BIOS was at its default setting.

Intel Core i7 LGA1150 Haswell Test Setup​

For all of the benchmarks, appropriate lengths are taken to ensure an equal comparison through methodical setup, installation, and testing. The following outlines our testing methodology:

A) Windows is installed using a full format.

B) Chipset drivers and accessory hardware drivers (audio, network, GPU) are installed.

C)To ensure consistent results, a few tweaks are applied to Windows 7 and the NVIDIA control panel:
  • UAC – Disabled
  • Indexing – Disabled
  • Superfetch – Disabled
  • System Protection/Restore – Disabled
  • Problem & Error Reporting – Disabled
  • Remote Desktop/Assistance - Disabled
  • Windows Security Center Alerts – Disabled
  • Windows Defender – Disabled
  • Screensaver – Disabled
  • Power Plan – High Performance
  • V-Sync – Off

D) All available Windows updates are then installed.

E) All programs are installed and then updated, followed by a defragment.

F) Benchmarks are each run three to eight times, and unless otherwise stated, the results are then averaged.

Here is a full list of the applications that we utilized in our benchmarking suite:
  • 3DMark Vantage Professional Edition v1.1.0
  • 3DMark11 Professional Edition v1.0.132.0
  • 3DMark 2013 Professional Edition v1.2.362
  • AIDA64 Extreme Edition v3.00.2536 Beta
  • Cinebench R11.529 64-bit
  • SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP
  • MaxxMEM² - PreView v2.01
  • Sisoft Sandra 2014.SP2 20.28
  • Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark v1.0.0.0
  • wPRIME version v2.10
  • X3: Terran Conflict Demo v1.0

That is about all you need to know methodology wise, so let's get to the good stuff!
 
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MAC

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Joined
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Location
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Feature Testing: Onboard Audio

Feature Testing: Onboard Audio



Since there has been so much talk about the audio sub-system with this new generation of motherboards, we figured that it was appropriate to take a closer look at just how good the analog signal quality is on the three Z97 motherboards that we have on-hand. We are going to do this using both quantitative and qualitative analysis, since sound quality isn't really something that can be adequately explained with only numbers. To do this we have turned to the RightMark Audio Analyzer, basically the standard application for this type of testing. Since all the three motherboards support very high quality 24-bit, 192kHz audio playback we selected that as the sample mode option. Basically, what this test does is pipe the audio signal from the front-channel output to the line-in input via a 3.5mm male to 3.5mm male mini-plug cable, and then RightMark does the audio analysis.


As you can see, despite having proven components and what looks to be a thoughtful design, the Z97X-UD5H falls behind the competition in quite a few areas. The signal-to-noise ratio, dynamic range, an even stereo crosstalk clearly are not up-to-par with what ASUS have accomplished on their motherboards. A lot of this seems like it might be related to interference, so we have to question whether the lack of EMI shield over the Realtek CODEC was a good decision. For your information, both of the ASUS models have shielding. Maybe this is an issue that a simple BIOS update can fix, we will keep you up-to-date.

Now having said all of this, in actual listening with a mix of Grado SR225i and Koss PortaPro headphones, Westone UM1 IEMs, and Logitech Z-5500 5.1 speakers, there was no audible "problem" with the UD5H's sound quality. Also, back to back to back there was no discernible difference in output quality between the three motherboards. Now we aren't experts in this area, but we suspect that your average user will likewise be perfectly content with this motherboard's audio capabilities.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
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Location
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Auto & Manual Overclocking Results

Auto & Manual Overclocking Results



It wouldn't be an HWC review if we didn't include some overclocking results, so we thoroughly tested out this motherboard capabilities, especially with regard to its auto-overclocking functionality. Though it features a new chipset, the Z97X-UD5H is still fundamentally an LGA1150 motherboard, and as a result there is nothing new to report on how to overclock on this motherboard. Therefore, if you want to read some really in-depth information regarding how to overclock Intel's Haswell processors, take a look at Eldonko's advice in his comprehensive review of the ASUS Z87 Deluxe motherboard.


Auto Overclocking


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The Z97X-UD5H features two types of automatic overclocking. Within EasyTune there are Smart Quick Boost presets and the newer Auto Tuning feature. The Quick Boost feature is super simple; you just select one of the three overcloking presets, the system reboots and the overclock is applied. Obviously, we went straight to the Extreme preset, and as you can see below it worked as described.


Click on image to enlarge

From 3.9Ghz to 4.5Ghz in the time it takes to reboot is very impressive if you ask us. The preset even managed to recognize our memory kit's XMP profile and set the appropriate memory frequency as well as timings. Voltage-wise things are mixed. The CPU core voltage ranges from between 1.265V under single-threaded workloads to a fairly high 1.377V when all the cores are fully loaded. This is to be expected from a preset settings that has to account for both good and bad overclocking processors. Users can easily manually decrease that a few notches at will. Most importantly of all, the system passed our stability tests so clearly it was a stable overclock.


Click on image to enlarge

The second automatic overclocking feature is known as Auto Tuning. This is a "smart" auto-overclocking feature in that it does not utilize presets. Instead, Auto Tuning slowly increases the system frequencies and does some stress testing at each level until it finds the limit, and then reboots to lock-in the overclock. This new implementation is slightly faster than previous ones, but it still takes about 5 to 10 minutes. That sounds like a positive improvement, but frankly that means that it is running a shorter stress test at each level, so long-term stability could be an issue. Let's see what result Auto Tuning gave us:


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As we have come to expect from Auto Tuning, although it achieves very solid results, the vCore is selects is always far too high. The overclock was stable during SuperPI, wPrime, and 3DMark but temperatures were in the 90°C range and the processor would obviously start overheating and throttling during any heavier stress tests. Also, with this much voltage you are risking some potential CPU degradation. We definitely think that users should err on the side of caution when using this feature.


Click on image to enlarge

With the overclocking left to our hands, we were able to hit the well established limits for this processor and memory kit combo. The 4.8GHz CPU core clock, 4.6GHz Uncore, and DDR3-2400 memory speeds are exactly the same overclocks that we have acheived on the ASUS Z97-A and past GIGABYTE Z87 motherboards. Remember, you do need a high-end heatsink - preferably one with two fans - if you plan on pushing Haswell chips this far. Low ambient temperatures certainly help too!

Overall, the Z97X-UD5H proved very capable in the overclocking department. No weird issues or random reboots, perfect system recovery when we did push things too far, and a mature bios with all the overclocking settings we needed. The Quick Boost presets are great for those looking for an easy overclock or just a great starting point for further tweaking. Having said that, we do obviously recommend that users avoid using the Auto Tuning feature since the overly high voltage issue is a potentially serious one, no matter what type of CPU cooling is being used. GIGABYTE have fallen a bit behind ASUS when it comes to how "smart" their intelligent automatic overclocking feature really is.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
System Benchmarks

System Benchmarks


In the System Benchmarks and Gaming Benchmarks sections, we will show a number benchmark comparisons utilizing the Core i7-4770K and ASUS Z97-A at default clocks, with the TPU Extreme preset applied, and using own our manual overclock. This will illustrate how much performance can be gained by overclocking the i7-4770K using this motherboard. For full comparisons of i7-4770K versus a number of different CPUs have a look at the Intel Haswell i7-4770K & i5-4670K Review.


SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP


When running the SuperPI 32MB benchmark, we are calculating Pi to 32 million digits and timing the process. Obviously more CPU power helps in this intense calculation, but the memory sub-system also plays an important role, as does the operating system. We are running one instance of SuperPi Mod v1.9 WP. This is therefore a single-thread workload.



wPRIME 2.10


wPrime is a leading multithreaded benchmark for x86 processors that tests your processor performance by calculating square roots with a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sqrting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum. This is a highly multi-threaded workload.



Cinebench R11.5


Cinebench R11.5 64-bit
Test1: CPU Image Render
Comparison: Generated Score


The latest benchmark from MAXON, Cinebench R11.5 makes use of all your system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene using various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. This particular benchmarking can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.



Sandra Processor Arithmetic and Processor Multi-Media Benchmarks

SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. The software suite provides most of the information (including undocumented) users like to know about hardware, software, and other devices whether hardware or software. The name “Sandra” is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means "defender", "helper of mankind".

The software version used for these tests is SiSoftware Sandra 2013 SP4. In the 2012 version of Sandra, SiSoft has updated the .Net benchmarks and the GPGPU benchmarks have been upgraded to General Processing (GP) benchmarks, able to fully test the new APU (CPU+GPU) processors. The two benchmarks that we used are the Processor Multi-Media and Processor Arithmetic benchmarks. These three benchmarks were chosen as they provide a good indication of three varying types of system performance. The multi-media test shows how the processor handles multi-media instructions and data and the arithmetic test shows how the processor handles arithmetic and floating point instructions. These two tests illustrate two important areas of a computer’s speed and provide a wide scope of results.






MaxxMem Benchmark

Created by MaxxPI², the MaxxMem benchmark tests your computer’s raw memory performance, combining copy, read, write and latency tests into one global score. This memory benchmark is a classic way to measure bandwidth of a memory subsystem.

MaxxMem uses continuous memoryblocks, sized in power of 2 from 16MB up to 512MB, starting either writing to or reading from it. To enable high-precision memory performance measurement, they both internally work with multiple passes and averages calculations per run.

Further, the main goal was to minimize (CPU) cache pollution on memory reads and to eliminate it (almost completely) on memory writes. Additionally, MaxxMem operates with an aggressive data prefetching algorithm. This all will deliver an excellent judge of bandwidth while reading and writing.


 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Gaming Benchmarks

Gaming Benchmarks




Futuremark 3DMark (2013)


3DMark v1.1.0
Graphic Settings: Fire Strike Preset
Rendered Resolution: 1920x1680
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark is the brand new cross-platform benchmark from the gurus over at Futuremark. Designed to test a full range of hardware from smartphones to high-end PCs, it includes three tests for DirectX 9, DirectX 10 and DirectX 11 hardware, and allows users to compare 3DMark scores with other Windows, Android and iOS devices. Most important to us is the new Fire Strike preset, a DirectX 11 showcase that tests tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. Like every new 3DMark version, this test is extremely GPU-bound, but it does contain a heavy physics test that can show off the potential of modern multi-core processors.




Futuremark 3DMark 11


3DMark 11 v1.0.5
Graphic Settings: Performance Preset
Resolution: 1280X720
Test: Specific Physics Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score


3DMark 11 is Futuremark's very latest benchmark, designed to tests all of the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading. At the moment, it is lot more GPU-bound than past versions are now, but it does contain a terrific physics test which really taxes modern multi-core processors.




Futuremark 3DMark Vantage


3DMark Vantage v1.1.2
Graphic Settings: Performance Preset
Resolution: 1280X1024

Test: Specific CPU Score and Full Run 3DMarks
Comparison: Generated Score

3DMark Vantage is the follow-up to the highly successful 3DMark06. It uses DirectX 10 exclusively so if you are running Windows XP, you can forget about this benchmark. Along with being a very capable graphics card testing application, it also has very heavily multi-threaded CPU tests, such Physics Simulation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which makes it a good all-around gaming benchmark.




Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark


Valve Particle Simulation Benchmark
Resolution: 1680x1050
Anti-Aliasing: 4X
Anisotropic Filtering: 8X
Graphic Settings: High
Comparison: Particle Performance Metric

Originally intended to demonstrate new processing effects added to Half Life 2: Episode 2 and future projects, the particle benchmark condenses what can be found throughout HL2:EP2 and combines it all into one small but deadly package. This test does not symbolize the performance scale for just Episode Two exclusively, but also for many other games and applications that utilize multi-core processing and particle effects. As you will see the benchmark does not score in FPS but rather in its own "Particle Performance Metric", which is useful for direct CPU comparisons.




X3: Terran Conflict


X3: Terran Conflict 1.2.0.0
Resolution: 1680x1050
Texture & Shader Quality: High
Antialiasing 4X
Anisotropic Mode: 8X
Glow Enabled

Game Benchmark
Comparison: FPS (Frames per Second)

X3: Terran Conflict (X3TC) is the culmination of the X-series of space trading and combat simulator computer games from German developer Egosoft. With its vast space worlds, intricately detailed ships, and excellent multi-threaded game engine, it remains a great test of modern CPU performance.


 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Voltage Regulation / Power Consumption

Voltage Regulation / Power Consumption



Our voltage regulation testing will focus on the various voltages and the differences encountered between what is selected in the BIOS and what is measured by a digital multi-meter (DMM). Thanks to the onboard voltage measurement points we didn't have to go poking & prodding everywhere, since all the voltage read points are located in one convenient spot. Users can either take their measurements straight from the voltage read pads, or by attaching the DMM leads to the voltage headers via cables.

Now that we have established where the read points are, let’s have a look at the results. These measurements were taken at stock system speeds and with C1E, C-STATE, Enhanced SpeedStep, and Turbo Boost enabled in the BIOS. Just to clarify, the VRIN (LLC) section is the CPU VRIN External Override voltage with Load-Line Calibration enabled and set to Extreme mode. By the way, SIW stands for System Information Viewer, GIGABYTE's new voltage monitoring applications. Here are our findings:


As you can see, the Z97X-UD5H has very good voltage regulation output. What you set in the bios is pretty much exactly what the board outputs, whether idling or under full load. The only exception to this is the VRIN, where there is a very minimal amount vDroop under heavy workloads. There is a standard amount vDroop under heavy workloads in the VRIN (ie: the CPU Input Voltage), but that's to be expected and it doesn't actually represent the voltage within the CPU itself. The droop is well within reference specifications, and you basically eliminate it by enabling Load-Line Calibration (LLC) and setting it to Extreme mode.


Power Consumption


For this section, every energy saving feature was enabled in the BIOS and the Windows power plan was changed from High Performance to Balanced. For our idle test, we let the system idle for 15 minutes and measured the peak wattage through our UPM EM100 power meter. For our CPU load test, we ran Prime 95 V27.9 64-bit In-place large FFTs on all available threads for 15 minutes, measuring the peak wattage via the UPM EM100 power meter. For our overall system load test, we ran Prime 95 In-place large FFTs on all available threads for 15 minutes, while simultaneously loading the GPU with OCCT v4.4.0 GPU DX11 stress test at 1680x1050 with a 300 FPS Limit.



The Z97X-UD5H features very similar power consumption numbers to the ASUS Z97-A. They are slightly higher, but then again it is a more fully-feature motherboard. Under full load, the overall numbers are very much inline we what we have seen from similar Z97 motherboards. With an overclocked system the power consumption is really in the hands on the user, and it can be easily managed by just paying close attention to the vCore level and making use of advanced features like optimized VRM phase control.
 
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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,087
Location
Montreal
Conclusion

Conclusion



The GIGABYTE Z97X-UD5H – like all Z97 motherboards – is a motherboard that was designed with the future in mind. It features the high-speed M.2 and SATA Express storage interfaces, support for Intel's Devil’s Canyon processors , and even the future Broadwell CPU’s. Having said that, we are one month into the launch of these new Z97 motherboards and what was true then is still true now. There are no SATA Express devices available for sale, and worthwhile M.2 SSDs are still few and far between. None of this is GIGABYTE’s fault, obviously, but it has temporarily tempered our and the public’s excitement over this next-generation platform.

With that bit little bit of gloominess out of the way, let’s go over the many things that the Z97X-UD5H does right…and the few areas that still need some improvement. For $190 USD, you are getting a motherboard with solid 12-phase CPU power design, a high-speed M.2 slot and SATA Express port, a ton of SATA and USB 3.0 connectivity, two-way CrossFire and SLI capabilities, two gigabit LAN ports (with Intel and Killer NICs), DVI/HDMI/VGA video outputs, a good UEFI BIOS backed up across two physical ROMs, a Realtek ALC1150 audio CODEC, and a feature-rich software suite. Frankly, the only thing missing is Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. If you are going to include and promote an application like the GIGABYTE Cloud Station, then you should include the means to make use of that wireless-powered feature. We would gladly give up one of the GbE LAN ports in exchange for some type of wireless connectivity.

While all these features sound good in theory, there are some issues. Due to the shortage of PCI-E lanes on the LGA1150 platform, the UD5H forces users to choose between using the M.2 slot, the SATA Express port, or the two Marvell-powered SATA 6Gb/s ports. Only one of three can operate at a time. Also, there is a compromise when it comes to the third PCI-E x16 slot, which natively operates in x4 mode. When that slot is in-use it actually borrows 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 obviously not ideal if you’re planning a two-way CrossFire or SLI setup. These issues aren’t GIGABYTE’s fault, they are just compromises that happen when you have such a bandwidth limited platform as this one. However, different manufacturers and even different models feature different compromises, so buyers will need to do some research to see what motherboard works best for their exact needs.

Aesthetically, this motherboard is attractive enough, but obviously the yellow good heatsinks aren't going to go over well with those who like to build a colour coordinated system. The overall layout of the UD5H is very good, except for the fan headers. For some reason, there are four system fan headers at the bottom edge of the motherboard. They really should have been spread out a little more evenly in order to prevent some ugly cable management problems. When it comes to hands-on use, the onboard backlit power button is a nice touch for those users whose systems aren't confined within a traditional case. The voltage measurement points are a great help when it comes to serious overclocking endeavours, as is the venerable LED POST code display. The onboard BIOS switcher is useful for those who like to run multiple BIOS profiles and a lifesaver when something unexpected happens. Speaking of which, we suspect that the new UEFI BIOS, with its three different modes, will be quite daunting at first for novice users. However, once you spend some time with it - and maybe check out the manual once or twice - the learning curve should dissipate pretty quickly. For more seasoned users, just hit the F2 key as soon as you can, and you will be transported to the venerable Classic Mode.


The stock performance of the Z97X-UD5H was competitive, which is to say that it was slightly slower than the ASUS Z97-A in single-threaded workloads, but slightly faster in multi-threaded benchmarks. The reason for this motherboard’s advantage in multi-threaded benchmarks is because it does not adhere to reference Intel-specified Turbo Mode profiles. Instead of allowing the multipliers to vary based on the workload, GIGABYTE locks the multiplier to the maximum CPU multiplier no matter the load, which is to say 39X in the case of our Core i7-4770K. There is no negative side effect to doing this, but it would be nice if it was an option instead of a default setting. Moving on, we were once again able to achieve some sizeable performance increases by overclocking our i7-4770K to 4.8Ghz, which this motherboard handled with aplomb. Our overclocking endeavours were flawless and we didn't experience any unusual BSODs or random reboots.

Just like we did with the Z87 series models, we once again have some concerns about the auto-overclocking Auto Tuning feature. While it does a very good job of overclocking the processor, it is far too aggressive when it comes to voltage. In our case, the vCore skyrocketed to 1.54V at 4.7Ghz, which is far too high for day-to-day use. There is simply no way to air or even liquid cool a chip with that much voltage going through it. Therefore, stay away from Auto-Tuning, just use the very good Smart QuickBoost Extreme preset. This setting overclocked our chip to 4.5GHz in the time it took to do one reboot, and it set fairly reasonable voltage levels as well. Obviously, if you have the skills and knowledge, we recommend just taking the overclocking efforts into your own hands, and in that scenario this motherboard definitely won't let you down.

When we reviewed the ASUS Z97-A we criticized the use of an older audio CODEC, but mentioned that wasn't reason enough not to recommend it since the audio output sounded great to us. On this motherboard GIGABYTE are using the very latest CODEC, but the audio isn't quite as good as it could be - from a purely technical standpoint - yet that's still not a reason enough not to recommend it, since once again the actual sound quality is very good.

In conclusion, the Z97X-UD5H is a motherboard that takes full advantage of the Z97 chipset, and although it’s not yet perfect, it is a worthwhile offering in a crowded field. With this model you are getting a solid combination of cost, enthusiast-friendly additions and expansion capabilities. Having said that, for $10 more here in Canada you can buy the Z97X-UD5H Black Edition, which is not only pre-tested from the factory, but features a longer 5-year warranty, and sleek black heatsinks. Frankly, it's a no-brainer.


 
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