Overclocking with the Z77X-UD5H
We showed you the results of auto overclocking earlier in the review, and although it resulted in a decent overclock, people reading this site will probably want to do it themselves.
The approach I always take to overclocking is to first find out how a board’s Load Line Calibration acts. This is very important, as the first thing that needs to be addressed is Vdroop. Vdroop is built into a CPU’s design to have it running at as low a voltage as possible. This keeps performance high within the TDP, and also helps conserve energy overall. When we’re overclocking though, we are far exceeding the TDP, and don’t care about energy conservation. What we want is a fast running CPU. Load Line Calibration takes care of that by preventing a CPU from dropping its voltage under load. However sometimes it can work a little too well, causing voltage to increase beyond what you set it. So the first thing you need to do with a new motherboard is try a moderate overclock with various LLC settings, so you know what to expect.
Sometimes you have to disable LLC completely (on the Z77X-UD5H that means setting it to “Extreme”) but that can sometimes lead to the voltage going too high under load, or the temperature getting completely out of hand. I found the best setting for this board to be “Turbo” which allows for some slight vdroop. This kept temperature in check under load, while sustaining a solid voltage that didn’t drop, causing the overclock to fail.
Overclocking was done using our Intel 3770K ES, but this time with the be quiet! Dark Rock Pro 2, which would be our favourite air cooler if not for the price.
We have never been able to hit 5 GHz with this CPU, and unfortunately the Z77X-UD5H didn’t change that. In fact, our end result was identical to that of the EVGA Z75 SLI with a Phanteks cooler – 4.7 GHz with a voltage of 1.19. We could boot at 4.9 GHz @ 1.3v, but the CPU temperature was too hot for day to day use (over 100 celsius in a pretty warm room).
That is what makes overclocking so subjective – some people might be fine with a high temperature to be able to squeeze out an extra 200 MHz. For me, I want to keep the Ivy Bridge CPU at as low a voltage and temperature as possible. Especially since we need it for future testing!
At the beginning of this review, I said that the Z77X-UD5H was truly the “Editor’s Choice” of this site. The fact that we have been using it for all our reviews over the last several months proves this. The question is, would I recommend it to anyone looking to build an Ivy Bridge system around?
The answer to that is, emphatically yes! The best thing about the Z77X-UD5H at $180 is that Gigabyte don’t try to stuff the box with useless features to jack up the price, while cheaping out on the motherboard itself. Instead, it feels like every penny of that $180 is going towards a solid, stable, capable board that will overclock as far as you want on air. The extras that it does have come in the form of quality onboard components, not stickers and flashy decorations. The VRM is absolutely rock solid – possibly the best you can get for this price. The onboard peripherals like the audio controller, ethernet, USB 3.0 hubs – everything performed very well, and was reliable through many months of use.
So yes, the Z77X-UD5H is our Editor’s Choice, both in what we want to use when we need to test hardware, and our top recommendation for an air or water cooled full ATX Ivy Bridge system.