Z77X-UD5H uses Gigabyte’s well laid out but laggy UEFI interface. It has two modes – basic, and advanced. “3D mode” has a neat interface that shows you a 3d-ish looking motherboard, through which you can navigate through its peripherals to change settings. Advanced mode basically brings you back to the text BIOS era, something I greatly prefer. Since the mouse is so laggy with this interface, I prefer to go back to using the keyboard to change settings. That makes it seem like Gigabyte wasted a lot of effort in their design, but I am glad they give the end user the choice to go back.
We’ll briefly cover the main software that is included with the Z77X-UD5H:
Gigabyte 3D Power
As mentioned in our Motherboard Tour, the use of a digtial PWM allows Gigabyte to offer more control over its power system compared to their older analog solutions. “3D Power” is their software bundle, and offers access to all three D’s -Phase control, voltage, and frequency.
There are various settings that you can play around with, and we have seen phase control before. This allows the PWM to shut down phase more or less aggressively, depending on whether your goal is low power consumption, or overclocking and performance. This “D” also allows you to adjust the CPU’s over-current protection level, and PWM thermal protection.
The Voltage “D” allows you to change the LLC on various components – this ensures that the voltage remains stable, by preventing vdroop. This is very important during overclocking – when the CPU is clocked higher than stock, it may try to lower the voltage when under load. LLC is what prevents this, and with a digital PWM, it should be pretty stable.
You can also adjust the turbo voltage response and overvoltage protection settings.
The third “D” is Frequency control, which quite frankly most people will not ever look at. You can increase or decrease the PWM frequency to various power phases (CPU, VTT, DIMM, and Graphics).
The interface here is somewhat overdone, with animations that are not at all necessary, and sometimes they make you sit and wait for a second or two while the animations complete. Still, it is nice to be able to have access to so many settings without having to go to the UEFI, which is even less responsive.
Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2
As you may have noticed after looking through various motherboard reviews, the performance and quality of onboard audio has almost reached parity by this point, at least on non budget boards. If two motherboards use the exact same codec, they need something to make their product more appealing. What can make a huge difference is using a licensed software suite. This allows the user to tune their audio to make it sound pleasing to their individual tastes. I personally think this is a pretty big deal – my speakers sound like crap when not tuned well – and I’m glad Gigabyte is including such software in their midrange boards like the Z77X-UD5H.
The Z77X-UD5H uses Creative’s Sound Blaster X-Fi MB2 suite, which you can find details about here. Its features include:
- THX TruStudio Pro Surround – a virtualized surround sound algorithm that works with headphones
- THX TruStudio Pro Crystalizer – One of the most touted features of the original X-Fi, this gives audio a ‘brighter’ sound, without degrading levels, depending on how strong you enable it. It is touted to restore the quality of compressed MP3s.
- THX TruStudio Pro Speaker – aka “bass boost”
- THX TruStudio Pro Dialog Plus – aka “treble boost”
- THX TruStudio Pro Smart Volume – dynamic range compression. This automatically boosts quiet sounds, while attenuating louder sounds. Basically this allows you to watch movies without disturbing others.
Personally I continue to use similar software from Creative Labs, mostly for the equalizer, crystalizer, and virtual surround sound settings. It is very nice to have, and will make the Realtek Crab really sing compared to those running it in bare stock mode.
(the following portion is from our Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H review – the information and results of auto tuning were identical)
Since so much of Gigabyte’s software (and even hardware) was updated with the move to the 7 series chipsets, I had hoped to see a newer version of their ‘Tweak’ software, EasyTune. Unfortunately, they are still using EasyTune 6, which doesn’t exactly have a great interface. For instance, only two of its five fan headers get full control. And even then, you only get two points to work with.
The hardware monitor isn’t very easy to read, since the bars and font are so small.
Before moving onto performance, we’ll check out the auto overclocking features:
Z77X-UD5H Auto Overclocking
There are several ways to auto overclock on the Z77X-UD5H – we’ll look at manual overclocking later in the review. The easiest is to simply fire up EasyTune 6, and use one of the presets:
From the default of 3.50 GHz base / 3.90 GHz turbo, the Z77X-UD5H offers us three overclocking options – 4.18, 4.43, or 4.68 GHz. A combination of frequency and BCLK settings are tweaked, and the voltage is adjusted on the fly. If you have sufficient cooling, a 4.68 GHz overclock is as easy as clicking a big red button.
Easy Tune 6 Auto Tuning
EasyTune 6 also has an auto overclock function, which will attempt to take the CPU as far as it can go, using built-in stress tests to find the crashing point, and back up a bit from there. With an Intel Liquid Cooling System heatsink installed on our i7 3770K, we let it run its course, and this is what it came up with:
I have to admit, I was pretty shocked when I saw this result! I am so used to seeing motherboards auto overclocking acting like… well, complete wimps. Gigabyte’s software has balls though, and was able to take our CPU all the way to 4.92 GHz. The problem with this is, it doesn’t seem to be aware of the temperature of the CPU. At 4.92 GHz, the CPU easily surpasses 100 ceslius under stress test loads. That is way to hot to use as a day to day overclock.
We’ll look at manual overclocking later in the review. First, let’s find out how it Z77X-UD5H performs!