Z77X-UD3H Review and OC TestingFor the first time since the beginning of GIGABYTE’s history we have a UD3H with overclocking features. While that might not seem amazing to some, for me it is pretty great! If there isn’t something I admire more than overclocking features, it is overclocking features on a board which most people can afford! We aren’t talking about a motherboard which costs more than some laptops; we are talking about an entry level enthusiast board with an extreme level overclocking feature set. We have to ask ourselves, what sets motherboards apart? Is it the connectivity like SATA6 and USB3 count? Is it the layout? The looks? The price? The unique features? Well the answer is all of the above, and the Z77X-UD3H fulfills most of those requirements.
So I will begin as I always do, with a thorough investigation of the layout and circuitry analysis and then I will move on to benchmarking efficiency versus the other boards in GIGABYTE’s Z77 lineup, but before I look at the benching efficiency, I will show you guys what happened when I added some liquid nitrogen to the mix and tested the board’s max OC parameters. Needless to say this board is very strong.
- Box and Accessories
- Board Layout and Design
- Circuitry Analysis
- Overclocking on Water and LN2
- Test Setup and Benchmarks
- Included Software
Box and Accessories:
The box is white, it is pretty nice.
The back of the box has all the features listed as well.
The accessories are sufficient for the board, this is an entry level enthusiast board, which means it isn’t basic, but it also isn’t extravagant. Everything you need is provided, so you aren’t paying for stuff you won’t use. The backpanel is black and labeled as well.
The motherboard is laid out almost identically to the UD5H, however the OC features are in a bit different position, and the VRM is configured differently. Also the UD3H doesn’t’ have as much connectivity as the UD5H. However even without the stuff the UD5H has, this board still offers more than the basic platform configuration can offer. The phase count is a total of 9 phases for a 6+2+1 phase VRM. This is more than enough power, and we will talk about why in the Circuitry Analysis power section. Needless to say if you plan to do LN2 OC with the UD3H, you will have zero issues with power delivery. There are a total of five 4-pin PWM fan connectors, but only 1 is near the CPU area.
This is the back panel, as you can see there is a TON of USB 3.0, and this is both a blessing and a curse because not all of these can come from the PCH, as the PCH only supplies 4 native ports, this means that just on previous platforms you will need to install a driver to use the extra 4 USB 3.0 ports in Windows. Also Intel USB 3.0 won’t work in Windows XP at all while the extra ones will after driver, so that leaves the question of how the heck you can get keyboard and mouse support in windows XP, and the answer if PS/2 or xHCI. There is a setting in the BIOS called xHCI, by default it is set on “smart auto” and the user can just change it to “auto” and then you will have the Intel USB 3.0 ports act as USB 2.0 ports in Windows without a driver, so just make sure you change that setting in the BIOS before Windows XP needs to be installed, or else you will have to use PS/2. This is actually what Intel recommends doing as they decided not to provide support to Windows XP.
Layout and Design:
Starting in the upper right-hand corner we can see that only half the VRM has a heatsink on it. However there is nothing to worry about since each phase here can output much more than that of the phases on the past, thus the MOSFETs will run very cool on operation, and GIGABYTE even used 3 MOSFETs per phase to lessen the load per MOSFET. The 8-pin power connector is placed in the correct position, the batter for the CMOS, is placed nearby too, which allows for it to be changed even with GPU’s installed. We can also see an mSATA connector which can be installed with GPU’s in place as well. The layout of this board was well thought out.
Here we have the DIMMs, they are adequately placed so that there is enough but not too much room between the socket and the DIMMs to make sure performance is up to par. We have the OC features neatly put in this position, this is a very optimum position of benchers, as they usually use the board form this angle, and having them up north makes no issue for when you run multi-GPU systems. However if you have a memory POT for LN2 you might want to use the front panel pins, but this way there are two options for you to take advantage of. In this position we also see that there is a USb 3.0 port located in the correct position for a front panel USB 3.0 hub. There is also a SATA power connector, and this is for extra PCI-E power for when extreme OCing.
Here is a close up of the OC features, they are my favorite part of the UD3H including the POST Code display, dual BIOS switch, and SATA/PCIE power plug. They add a lot of extra value to the motherboard. While on the UD5H the POST code display is here too, on the UD3H it is not, however I prefer the POST Code display in the UD5H’s location. I like to keep everything together, however not so close as the CMOS and Reset buttons are, I feel that one of them, preferably clear CMOS should be moves closer to the 24-pin connector so it isn’t accidentally hit when the user goes for the reset button.
It is also important to mention that the DIMMs can be replaced even with an extra-long GPU installed. I like this kind of attention to detail for the motherboard layout.
Here we can see the POST code display, however I would have preferred it farther north as on the UD5H, but for most this makes no difference. We can also see a switch near the front panel pins, and this is to switch between the main and backup BIOS.
Here we have the PCI-E slots, this layout is almost identical to the UD5H, except that the last 16X slot is wired to the PCH instead of to the CPU like on the UD5H. This means that the last 4X slot won’t take away PCI-E lanes from the GPUs, however it will also only run at PCI-E 2.0 instead of at 3.0 like on the UD5H.
This shot shows us the SATA ports, the white are Intel SATA6GB/s and the black are Intel SATA3GB/s. The SATA power connector here is for extra PCI-E power for OCing extreme GPUs.
That is the PCI-E a lot layout, the last 4X slot is actually from the PCH, while on the UD5H it is from the CPU. Thus here the last 16X(4X wired) is PCI-E 2.0 and on the UD5H it is PCI-E 3.0, but on the UD5H it will reduce the bandwidth of the first two slots, while it will not on the UD3H.
The back of the board is clean.
My favorite part of the motherboard review is the analysis of the circuits. I just really like when I can see a motherboard without the heatsinks, that way I can find out how everything works. So this time and next time I do the circuit analysis, I will lay out all the major ICs in a large chart, perhaps it is will make it easier to see what they do.
First however we need to cover the most important part, the PCH:
The Z77 PCH, BD82Z77 PCH, has a 6.7W TDP which is 0.6W higher than the Z68 PCH! This would account for the higher temps with Z77 on the PCH, however this is nothing to be alarmed about. This PCH seems very capable to dealing with a heatsink with no active cooling. So the new Z77 chipset has the same number of SATA 6GB/s ports as the Z68, in fact most everything is the same except for the fact that the Z77 Chipset new supports 3 independent displays, as well as some newer Intel technologies like rapid start and rapid connect. This PCH provides 4 native USB 3.0 ports, which Intel says cannot work in Windows XP as USB 3.0, so users much switch their xHCI mode to “auto” from “smart auto”. This is very simple to do in the UEFI under the integrated peripherals section in advanced mode.
Now the CPU VRM:
Now the VRM on the Z77X-UD3H is a total of 9 phases for the CPU alone. It is all digital power, so the PWM is a digital one from International Rectifier(IR). Each phase is directly hooked up to a dual driver/doubler, but in this case the doubler mode isn’t engaged, instead both drivers are being used as if the single chip as in fact two chips.
On the UD5H and the Sniper3 the doubler and two drivers are used as they are on the image on the right. On the Z77X-UD3H and the Sniper M3 for instance the doubler/drivers is instead used as two drivers in one chip. This conserves the switching frequency. IR3598 DataSheet
MOSFET Each Phase Consists of:
ONE X MOSFET uPI 4921N DataSheet
TWO X MOSFET uPI 4935NDataSheet
In the chart above you can see what each of the parts of the VRM does. The PWMs used are both Digital and they support all the switching power supplies on the motherboard, thus this board is fully digital powered as GIGABYTE advertises. This VRM on the UD3H is very capable; each of its phases has the same capability as 2 phases on most other motherboards. We are talking about up to 60A per phase under LN2 conditions, and an easy 30-40A during normal use per phase here. The inductors are also new compared to what GIGABYTE has used in the past, they are made by the same company who custom made the chokes on the X58A-OC. These chokes seem to support very high current output to be able to sustain high OCes like those seen on this motherboard. There is also sufficient output capacitance to support large transients, and their low-ESR allows for lower ripple.
Next we will take a look at all the other ICs on this motherboard.
Test Setup and Overclocking:
So please take a look at this guide to learn to OC with Z77 and Ivy Bridge: Ivy Bridge and Z77 OC Guide
So some air overclocking is really good with Ivy Bridge compared to previous platforms, except Sandy Bridge perhaps. However while my max OC with Ivy on air was higher than with my 2600K was for max valid, but Ivy isn't going to be stable just 100mhz less than max such as Sandy Bridge is. (5.3 on IB versus 5.2 on SB), my max stable ran hotter and about the same as my SB.
For this review I used this kit from Kingston, a 1600mhz Cas9 16GB kit:
This kit can actually validate 2200mhz on the memory with all four DIMMs, which is pretty good considering it's price and stock speed.
I also used the brand new Zalman AIO Liquid Cooling:
All together now:
First for the OC section I will go over some very important OC points, such as max Voltages provided for extreme OC:
VCore MAX: 1.9v
VCore Increments: 5mv
VTT MAX: 1.4
VTT Increments: 5mv
IMC MAX: 1.4
IMC Increments: 5mv
CPU PLL MAX: 2.2
CPU PLL increments: 5mv
DDR Max: 2.1
DDR Increments: 5mv
Memory Multiplier MAX: 32X
Max OC on Water:
Above was only done for validation.
Max air wPrime 1024 Stable:
Max OC on 16GB 4DIMMs occupied with the Kingston 1600mhz Cas9 Kit:
Max CPU Clock:
Some PI (NOT Tweaked yet ):
Some wPrime (NOT Tweaked yet ):
The board works pretty well under LN2, this CPU has no CB, and has a CBB if you don’t start up after shutting down quick enough. So if you have to shutdown or the system crashes, then you need to hurry and start up really quick and you might not trigger the CBB. However i did trigger the CBB often, but it isn't a big deal because you go into Windows and increase with the GTL software and all is good.
Don't worry guys, this LN2 section is to be continued in the Xtreme OC Section
Test Setup and Benchmarks:
Audio and USB 3.0 Testing:
That is the VIA audio control panel.
Seems like it performs well. It is only slightly worse than ALC898, however still is very good, much better than ALC889 and especially ALC892.
USB 3.0 tests are TBC, I just bought a USB 3.0 SSD enclosure, so I have to test that in the next day or two and post back.
Here is some of the included software:
For my benching I used GTL: GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher:
I :party: :party2: :party3: GIGABYTE Tweak Launcha!
EasyTune6 is also present and working!!!
There is also a LAN optimizer.
And of course this board is fully licensed for Virtu MVP:
The GIGABYTE Z77X-UD3H really is one of the bet values out there for the Z77 chipset. GIGABYTE has always prided themselves in having the best signal quality and build quality, and with Z77 we see this come through even on their mid-range enthusiast boards. An easy way to measure motherboard signal quality is to simply push the bus speeds (apart from being limited by Intel) and the amount of effort the engineers put into tuning the signals will shine through. When I drop down to -80C I can just type in 110.00 BCLK and increase the VCore a slight bit and the system will boot right up.
It is so simple to hit more BCLK than you will need for even the highest overclocks it isn’t funny. I maxed out at 115MHz and it only took me one try to go at it. The amount of effort that has gone into making sure the Z77X-UD3H is ready for extreme overclocking is nothing short of exciting! Not only has GIGABYTE got you covered on the basics, but they also took it a bit further with the GTL and BIOS. They have made sure that their UEFI this time around is prepared for Ivy Bridge extreme overclocking, there are no silly issues such as with the X79 and Z68 boards when it comes to extreme OC. One huge thing with Ivy Bridge is being able to tune the clocks up in Windows when doing extreme overclocking, and GTL is a perfect application for that. You can change the BCLK, the Multiplier, all the voltages, and memory timings from GIGABYTE’s own software! No need to try and grab some 3rd party software which you aren’t sure is fully compatible and no need for some bulky software. If you need to read your CPU Core temperature and do in-window’s tuning at the same time, then EasyTune6 is still there and functional as well. Their UEFI has come a long way since X79, not only in terms of overclocking, but also in terms of the features and settings the user can change. The SMART fan controls are easy to use, and we finally have the ability to name profiles, and we can even save the BIOS profile to a USB drive!
Now I read a “preview” in where the reviewer went and said that he thought 6 phases wasn’t enough for extreme OC, well he should take a look at HWBot and see the UD3H holding its own against the competition. Now of course everyone has their doubts about a 6-phase VRM, but then again why the hell would GIGABYTE ever add voltage read points, on-board buttons, dual BIOS with switch, extra PCI-E power for only 2-way GPU setups, and a POST code display to a board that couldn’t do over 6.5GHz? The answer is GIGABYTE would never add those features to a board that isn’t capable of extreme LN2 OC, as it would backfire. While this board is great for a long life in a case, it can also call a bench table home sweet home. Each one of the phases on the Z77X-UD3H can provide almost twice the current to the CPU as the phases on the Z77X-UD5H, and the Z77X-UD5H provides more than you would ever need on any platform. We are talking about an easy 180+A from the Z77X-UD3H under air, and over 300A under LN2 as the limit MOSFET is rated 58.8A at 25C (you would have a lower temperature under LN2). The limiting factor isn’t the phase count, more so the CPU. The CPUs in existence today cannot pull that much power; 180A is insane and 300A is outrageous. GIGABYTE is finally putting the cork in the bottle with the phase wars, so guys, get ready to see some extremely high quality VRMs with lower phase counts! I just hope other manufacturers follow suite so that I can stop answering questions about the viability of 6 and 8 phase motherboards from Tier 1 companies, and so that more people are educated about phase quality over quantity. I guess this must be a first for a 6-phase board :
Great Air and Memory Overclocking
Top notch VRM quality
Great to see OC features on sub $200 board
UEFI is much better than X79
Fully functional OC software (GTL and ET6)
Extreme OC behavior is very good
Strong SuperPI efficiency
All Video outputs for Virtu
Reset and ClearCMOS buttons are a bit too close
Intel’s USB 3.0 in Windows XP requires xHCI changed from “smart auto” to “auto”
I would like full cover VRM heatsinks for aesthetics purposes
Bottom Line: This board will serve everyone from the average Joe up to the extreme LN2 overclocker with everything they could want in a Z77 board at a very reasonable price, unless you want more connectivity, in that case go with the UD5H.