If you’ve been reading HCW over the years, you know how often we have praised Gigabyte’s Intel motherboards in their “Ultra Durable” range. While their entry level boards are what they are, the mid-range ones have been fantastic for us just about every time. They seem to get just the right combination of high end, durable components with just enough extra features to make them more useful than other products.
Today we’ll find out of they continue that trend into the Intel 8 series, with our Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H review.
The Z87X-UD4H sits near the top of the latest version, called “Ultra Durable 5 Plus”. This refers to various features such as 10 USB 3.0 ports, switchable dual BIOS, and the VRM heatsink design. Mostly though, it refers to a VRM design that is specifically based around International Rectifier components.
The difference between the Z87X-UD4H and UD3H is only in the VRM design; we’ll discuss that in great detail later in the review. The UD5H takes things further with extra onboard components such as dual Ethernet, dual FireWire, a slightly better SATA controller, and better audio software.
In this Z87X-UD4H review, we will cover the following aspects:
- Motherboard layout – is theZ87X-UD4H designed well for enthusiasts? We’ll consider clearances, how well it can accommodate multiple cards, etc
- VRM details – Although not as much as it used to be with Haswell, the VRM is still the most important part of a motherboard, and we look into everything in detail.
- Component Tour – We will go over the Z87X-UD4H 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 Z87X-UD4H, including the tweaking and monitoring software, and the BIOS. Everything has been updated for the Z87 series.
- Overclocking – Sitting in the “Ultra Durable” lineup, this board is aimed at moderate (air based or LCS) overclocking. Haswell isn’t exactly known for its overclocking ability, but we’ll see how far we can take our 4770K.
- 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 on the Z87X-UD4H thoroughly. This includes ethernet performance and efficiency, USB performance, and audio quality.
If you weren’t sure about whether to consider the Z87X-UD4H before, you should know a lot about it after reading this review!
We made a list of the most important motherboard specs in a table below. For full details, visit Gigabyte’s product page.
|Chipset||Intel Z87 PCH|
|Memory Slots||Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Dual Channel, 1333-3000 MHz
|Video Out||HDMI, Single Link DVI-D, D-Sub, DisplayPort 1.2|
|Onboard Ethernet||Intel i217v|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek 898|
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x8 Gen3 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x4 Gen2 (Full Length)
3 x PCIe x1 Gen2
1 x PCI
|Onboard SATA/RAID||6 x SATA 6 Gbps (Intel PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9172)
|USB||10 USB 3.0 ports (6 back panel, 4 from headers)
6 USB 2.0 ports (0 back panel, 6 from headers)
|Internal Headers||8 x SATA 6 Gbps
2 x USB 3.0 Header
3 x USB 2.0 Header
6 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x FP Audio Header
1 x Trusted Platform Module Header
1 x SPDIF In
1 x SPDIF Out
1 x Serial
Power/Reset/Clear CMOS Buttons
2 x BIOS Switches
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x SATA Pin connector (for PCIe AUX Power)
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
1 x CPU_OPT Fan Header (4-pin)
4 x SYS Fan Header (4-pin)
|Rear Panel||1 x D-Sub
1 x DVI-D
1 x HDMI
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Realtek GbE
4 x USB 3.0
Gigabyte usually changes up the colorway for their Ultra Durable motherboards with each new chipset, lately with a true matte black PCB. In the Z77 era, they used blue heatsinks that looked good but it was the Z68 era before that which I found to be the best looking motherboards around with their all-black heatsinks and PCB.
This time, they use a variety of heatsink colours, depending on the model. The Z87X-UD3H has blue heatsinks, and the UD5H has yellow. This UD4H uses very sharp looking red heatsinks that match this site quite nicely.
Starting with a look at the expansion slots, the Z87X-UD4H has three full-length slots. The first two slots share 16 lanes of Gen3 PCI-E from the CPU. When only the top slot is used, it gets 16 lanes. When both are used, they get 8 lanes each.
The third full-length slot gets 4 lanes of Gen2 PCI-E from the PCH, sharing with the two x1 slots in the middle; you can only use it when those two are left untouched. Finally, the x1 slot at the top gets its own unshared Gen2 lane from the PCH.
As we often see, Gigabyte smartly places most of the Z87X-UD4H’s internal headers along the bottom edge of the board. This keeps any cables being used along the bottom of the chassis, out of the way of any components or fans installed in the system. Everything is clearly labeled, including a fully color-keyed front panel header.
All of the SATA ports on the Z87X-UD4H are angled 90 degrees; some boards use a combination of face-mounted ports. I guess it’s a matter of preference for some people, but I think face mounted ports cause a lot of extra clutter.
The two grey ports on the end connect to a Marvell controller, which we’ll talk about later in the review. These ports are shared with the eSATA ports on the rear panel, so cannot be used at the same time as eSATA drives.
The SATA power header you see is to deliver extra power to the PCI-E slots, in addition to the standard 24-pin connector. This is only needed when using multiple graphics cards, and even then you can probably get away with not using it most of the time. It was added for the few cases where the board would need to deliver more power to the slots than the standard 24 pin ATX power can provide.
Looking at the CPU and DIMM area of the Z87X-UD4H, we get to see the intelligently designed VRM heatsink that is big yet angled so it stays out of the way of large CPU coolers. The DIMMs are placed about 5mm away from the border of the CPU area (those white lines). Some motherboards put them right up against that line, which can cause issues with larger coolers. Also, by putting an x1 slot above the main PCI-E slot, there is plenty of room between the graphics adapter and CPU cooler and DIMMs. Overall, Gigabyte is doing everything we like to see in designing this area of the board.
It’s worth taking a closer look at the heatsinks, because they are very well designed. The VRM heatsink consists of two blocks connected by a single nickel plated copper heatpipe. As mentioned, these are angled to stay out of the way of large CPU coolers, and designed to fit just within the tight area around the VRM. The PCH heatsink is huge and flat, not getting in the way of anything on board, or anything installed on the board.
The Z87X-UD4H’s rear panel is full USB 3.0, with 6 ports coming off a pair of Renesas hubs (which we’ll talk about on the next page). Analog audio gets 6 outputs which is good to see, and there is an optical output as well.
Some interesting features of Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable 5 Plus” lineup take place right here on the rear panel. Each USB port and the LAN port has its own ESD shield, preventing accidental static discharge shorts that can happen when plugging devices into these ports in certain environments. Also, each USB port has its own dedicated fuse, so if one port goes down, it won’t take any others with it.
Inside the Z87X-UD4H box, you’ll find nothing more than you need to get your system running. This motherboard isn’t about fancy extras.