The Z77X-UD5H review you’re reading today will have been published several months after evaluating it thoroughly. This isn’t something we usually do, but in this case, the board immediately became our test bench for everything from CPU reviews, to SSD reviews, and even a model for some heatsink and case reviews.
In other words, the Z77X-UD5H was so good for us, that it immediately became the “Editor’s Choice”. Literally.
I’m happy to finally be able to post our full review, as Haswell is just around the corner, and we’ll have a whole batch of new motherboards to look at soon. It may be a spoiler to tell you that the Z77X-UD5H is so good, but please continue reading – you’ll find that our motherboard reviews are as in-depth as they come.
Note: This review is of the original revision 1.0 version of the Z77X-UD5H. The one you’d buy in stores today is revision 1.1. A few minor changes have been made, mainly a few of the onboard peripherals that have been updated. We’ll explain as we get to that portion of the review.
In this review, we will be looking at:
- Motherboard layout – is the Z77X-UD5H designed well for enthusiasts?
- VRM details – the most important part of a motherboard, and we look into everything in detail. The Z77X-UD5H features a 12 phase VRM and a digital main PWM controller.
- Component Tour – We will go over the Z77X-UD5H with a fine tooth comb, and look at just about every component on the board in full detail.
- Gigabyte software – We review all the software that comes with the Z77X-UD5H, including the tweaking and monitoring software, and the BIOS
- Overclocking – although not a part of Gigabyte’s wild overclocking lineup with their flashy designs, the Z77X-UD5H is more about providing solid overclocking performance on air for a decent price. We’ll find out how far we can take our 3770K with it.
- Software performance – since chipsets are highly integrated nowadays, we will quickly go over performance numbers to make sure everything is running correctly. There is no need to do anything more, unless something is not working properly.
- Peripheral performance – More importantly, we test every integrated component in the motherboard thoroughly. This includes ethernet performance and efficiency, and audio quality.
Here are HCW, we pride ourselves on our motherboard reviews especially. We don’t think that it’s enough to simply take some pictures, run some benchmarks that result in identical scores with the same chipset, cut and paste the specs page, then give it an award of some sort. By the end of this Z77X-UD5H review, you’ll know for sure if it’s worth your hard earned money.
With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the layout of the board. Instead of wasting a page showing you the specifications, we’ll tuck them away in this toggle box. Check them out if you’re interested, or head over to the official product page for the official yet not as detailed specs.
|Chipset||Intel Z77 PCH|
|Memory Slots||Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB|
Dual Channel, 1066-2400 MHz
|Video Out||DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D, D-Sub|
|Onboard Ethernet||Intel intel WG82579v|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek 898|
|Expansion Slots||3 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (x16, x8/8, x8/x4/x4)|
3 x PCIe x1 Gen2
1 x PCI
|Onboard SATA/RAID||2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10|
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
3 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172) Support for RAID 0, 1
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172)
1 x mSATA (shares PCH port SATA2-5)
|USB||10 USB 3.0 ports (4 back panel, 6 from headers)|
6 USB 2.0 ports (2 back panel, 4 from headers)
|Internal Headers||5 x SATA 6 Gbps|
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
3 x USB 3.0 Header
2 x USB 2.0 Header
5 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x FP Audio Header
1 x Trusted Platform Module Header
1 x IEEE1394
Power/Reset/Clear CMOS Buttons
Voltage Measurement Points
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX connector|
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x SATA PCIe Power connector
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)|
4 x SYS Fan Header (4-pin)
|Rear Panel||1 x D-Sub|
1 x DVI-D
1 x HDMI
1 x DisplayPort
1 x S/PDIF Optical
2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394
1 x eSATA
1 x Intel GbE
1 x Realtek GbE
4 x USB 3.0
The Z77X-UD5H has the matte black PCB we love so much – including the extra layer required to make it look truly black rather than brown under bright lights. They continue to use blue heatsinks though, switched over from the matching matte black ones on their Z68 series boards. This is all personal preference of course, so I’ll just say that I really preferred the black or grey heatsinks. In any case, this board looks fantastic with a be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2 installed.
Starting with the PCI-E slots, we have three full length slots in total, coming from the integrated controller in the CPU. When an Ivy Bridge CPU is used, these are PCI-E 3.0 capable. We call them “full length” and not “x16″ because the size of the slot does not indicate how many lanes it has. In fact, if you look closely, you can see the connectors inside each slot. The top slot is fully lined with them, meaning it is an X16 slot at most. The second slot is half populated with them, meaning it’s an X8 slot at most. Note that if the second slot is used, the top slot becomes an X8 slot as well. Finally, the bottom full length slot is about 1/4 populated with connectors, which means it is an X4 slot by default. When this slot is used, the middle x8 slot becomes x4. In addition, there are three X1 slots coming from the PCH (and therefore capable of PCI-E 2.0 only) and, yes, a there’s even a PCI slot. These are still handy for those with fully functional WiFi cards and such.
Moving over to the SATA ports closer, the Z77X-UD5H offers eight ports in total. The four black ports are Intel SATA-300, the two white ports are Intel SATA-600, and the grey ports are controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 which we’ll take a closer look at later. There is one more SATA port along the bottom row header cluster which connects to a second identical Marvell controller (the second port of which goes to the rear panel)
The SATA style power header you see is labeled ATX4P, and is to be used when two video cards are installed. This is to delivers an extra 3.3V rail (the orange cable; this is why a SATA power header is used. Aside from the main 24 pin header, none of the other ATX headers have a 3.3v rail attached to it) to the PCI-E bus, which according to Gigabyte helps keep the system stable under high load.
Finally, you can see one of the three USB 3 headers placed awkwardly between the heatsink and DIMM slots. As you can guess, this can lead to a sloppy system installation if you need to use it. I would say that this isn’t a huge issue, since there are two more 2 port headers at the bottom of the board:
The awkwardly placed internal USB 3.0 header connects directly two of the four ports available on the PCH USB 3.0 controller The other 2 Intel ports are sent to a pair of VIA USB 3.0 hubs (VLI810), each one giving the board four more USB 3.0 ports – the four on the rear panel, and these two internal headers.
We’ll get to performance later, comparing the direct Intel port to the VIA ports. We have had issues with VLI800 series hubs in the past, but those problems have been addressed with updated drivers. This brings us to the first revision 1.1 update – the new revision uses VLI811 instead of VLI810. What this new version does is allow full speed data transfer even when outputting high current charge. With the old version, the port sending a high current charge would not be able to transfer at full speed.
As for the rest of the internal header layout, Gigabyte places everything neatly along the bottom of the motherboard, making for a very neat and tidy installation. You probably don’t need me to list out all the headers, as they are labeled so clearly. I will point out the switch you see, which is to switch between the two BIOS chips on the board.
The DIMM area has some handy features, including three onboard buttons that make open bench testing easy. The power switch is a nice big red button, and the Clear CMOS and Reset switches are smaller. Since they are the same type of button, you will want to read carefully before using them. It is easy to hit the Clear CMOS switch instead of the Reset switch if you’re not careful!
Next the buttons is the debug LED display. This shows the POST code during boot. I have to admit, ever since I saw EVGA use this as a temperature display on their EVGA Z75 SLI motherboard, I feel like something is missing when nobody else does the same. Not that I like it when companies copy each other, but it really is a brilliant idea.
Below the LED display are a series of voltage measurement points for use with a multimeter. While I find this feature to be extremely helpful, the points on the Z77X-UD5H are tiny, and care must be taken to make a solid connection. I greatly prefer the solution used on the MSI FM2-A85XA-G65.
The rear panel looks just how we like it, with ample USB connectivity and display ports. Despite the fact that most people will be using a higher end board like this with an auxiliary video card (or two), Gigabyte includes four ways to output the onboard video. Of course you could still use these to display your GeForce or Radeon’s output using the included Virtu software, performance is better overall without it.
The LAN ports are handled by Intel and Atheros controllers – we’ll get to them later in the review.
Finally we have the bundled items, which unless you consider the price of this board, might seem somewhat sparse on first glance. The main “extra” is the external USB 3.0 header that fits into a 3.5″ bay. You also get six SATA cables, half of which have 90 degree connectors.
That does it for the overview of the board layout, but we’re not going to stop there. On the next page, we’ll fire up the macro lens and take a much deeper look at the Z77X-UD5H. We’ll go over just about every auxiliary chip this board has, and pay particularly close attention to the most important part of any motherboard – the VRM.