Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WiFi Reviewccokeman -
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After seeing what Gigabyte has to offer with the Z77 platform when I looked at the GA-Z77X-UD3H, it looks like Gigabyte has improved upon the feature set. Improvements are seen from the PCB with its dual 2oz copper layers and new glass fiber design in the core that makes it more difficult for moisture to infiltrate the PCB causing shorts in humid locales to the large integrated cooling solution that covers the heat generating components of the PCH and 12+2+1 phase VRM on the PCB. Visually not much has changed on the PCB other than the noted larger cooling solution. The PCB is jet black and does not wash out and turn brown when you put a bright light over it. The layout of the board is similar to most Z77-based boards with the exception of the mSATA socket located between the CPU socket and first 16x PCIe slot. An mSATA drive fits and does not create any interference concerns.
Now when it came to overclocking, the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H-WiFi will allow your processor and memory to scale almost effortlessly when manually tweaking the settings. Up to the limits of your hardware at least. I was able to pull a 1.2GHz overclock out of the CPU and run the 2133MHz rated memory at up to 2400MHz by adjusting the timings and tweaking the voltages a bit for stability. Manually tuning in the 3D BIOS is not the only avenue to increase the performance of your installed hardware. Using Easy Tune 6 you can overclock from within the operating system to see what works and what does not. The utility does not come by the Easy Tune name just the sake of calling it something. Using the Auto Tuning feature of the Tuner section of ET6 you can choose a few preset options to overclock your hardware from a mild 4.18GHz using a 102MHz bclock to a more aggressive 4.68GHz using a 104MHz bclock.
Although my hardware will run the number, the 4.68GHz option proved a bit aggressive in terms of the settings applied in the BIOS with the end result being a reset of the CMOS to get back into the 3D BIOS. Essentially a non recoverable error; not the type of recovery option seen on today's high end boards. After tweaking voltages in the BIOS the 4.68GHz option would work. That being said the 4.43GHz Level 2 option was spot on when it came to stability even though the applied voltage was higher than what my chip needs to run that speed.
What makes all this possible is the use of Ultra Durable 4 technology. Gigabyte is using an all digital power circuit on this board for the CPU, DRAM, and IGP that uses Japanese-made solid capacitors, Ferrite core chokes, and Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs on top of the PCB equipped with 2oz copper power and ground layers. This design gives better control over the applied voltages than a traditional analog design with the end result a solution that runs cooler and delivers higher power efficiency. Lower temperatures and higher efficiency both help deliver excellent overclocking results on top of an increased lifespan. Additionally Gigabyte uses ICs that have a higher ESD tolerance as well as special anti surge ICs that prevent static discharges from killing onboard components; a problem all of us have from time to time plugging in USB devices.
Gigabyte has equipped this board with a pretty solid feature set that includes an mSATA slot to take advantage of all of the Intel technologies associated with the Z77 PCH including Intel Smart Response, Rapid Start and Smart Connect Technologies. With prices still relatively high on mSATA drives at around $1 per GB, adoption rates may be slim although the benefits are there for those who do step up and use the feature. On this version of the Z77X-UD5H Gigabyte has included a Bluetooth 4.0/Dual Band WiFi expansion card to allow the user the ability to take advantage of a wireless solution. This device has the ability to stream data to DLNA certified devices, share files with wireless devices including smart phones, laptops, tablets and notebook PCs, and, last but not least, provide an access point for a shared Internet connection saving the cost of a wireless router.
Lucid LogiX Virtu MVP software allows the user to increase graphics performance and improved visual quality by teaming the IGP with the discrete GPU. The software bundle included with this board is functional and delivers added value in terms of ease of use and functionality including Easy Tune 6, LAN Optimizer, 3D BIOS, EZ Setup, Auto Green, and On/Off charge. Navigating through Gigabyte's 3D BIOS is seamless using a combination of mouse and keyboard strokes to get the job done. BIOS enhancements continue to be rolled out by Gigabyte showing continued support.
All in all I would have to say that Gigabyte has put a solid combination out providing a well rounded feature set that covers the concerns of a large swath of the user base looking to step into a Z77-based motherboard. When you look at the Z77-based market place it all comes down to feature set and price as performance is going to fall into a similar envelope any way you cut it. With the GA-Z77X-UD5H-WiFi you get a motherboard that is priced at just over the $200 mark. For that amount of coin you get a board that overclocks as well as any out on the market, a comprehensive software and hardware bundle, and the tools to deliver comparable performance.