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Orange and Black…..

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Gigabyte Z87X-OC

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There is a 2 way Crossfire connector, a 2 way SLI bridge connector included in the package.

To help stabilize the massive GPUs available today when using the board on a bench, Gigabyte have included the OC Brace. Unfortunately my Ghetto bench setup would not allow me to use it. But I can see the value in keeping multiple GPUs with LN2 pots from putting excessive stress on the PCIE slots.

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There are two versions of the OC series in this round. This is the more price conscious version that carries with it a legendary reputation and a price that is actually pretty reasonable considering the performance potential! It lacks the PLX chip which allows 4 way SLI. Technically it does allow 4 way Crossfire, but with only at 4X PCIE lanes for 3 of the cards.

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Introduction

The Gigabyte Z87X- is part Gigabytes new series of Ultra Durable 5 PLUS labeled boards. Building on the previous Ultra Durable 5. Additional features and in depth explanation can be found here:

GIGABYTE 8 Series Ultra Durable Motherboards


This board is aimed at the sub zero and extreme enthusiast overclocker, someone who wants to get the most out of their CPU and memory. They plan to squeeze every last ounce of performance from the board, the processor and the memory. Target market is the benchmarking crowd. Those who measure performance victories with the tiniest of margins. For these guys, they need every advantage they can get.

The website for the Z87X-OC is located here:

GIGABYTE - Motherboard - Socket 1150 - GA-Z87X-OC (rev. 1.x)

And the OC Micro Site is located here:

GIGABYTE 8 Series Overclocking Motherboards

But this is also a new platform, Z87. This is socket 1150, which has replaced the socket 1155 of Ivy Bridge/Sandy Bridge, and brings us the new 4th generation Core processors from Intel named Haswell.

Haswell and Z87 bring with them a few changes and updates from the previous generation. The six SATA ports are now all SATA 3(6Gb/s) and there are more flexible options with the PCH PCIE lanes now and the motherboard manufacturer can choose how to allocate the 8 available PCIE 2.0 lanes. For more USB3.0 ports or more PCIE slots depending on the motherboard configuration.

Physical changes to the socket itself means that if you want a Haswell processor, then you need a new 8 series motherboard to go with it. And if you want to overclock, you will need a Z87 based board and a K series processor.

The new Haswell processor is an evolutionary product and there are improvements in the integrated graphics core as well as slight improvements in efficiency which generally work out to about 10-15% improvement per clock.
The other change that some overclockers will be interested in is the ability to change base clock settings. The gear ratios selection includes options 1.00x, 1.25x or 1.67x as BCLK “multipliers”, giving you an offset of 100MHz, 125MHz or 167MHz. Just like in X79. This can allow some fine tuning of memory frequencies to get the most out of your system.

Board Layout

Orange and Black. It’s a handsome board in my opinion. Not everyone may like it but it makes it instantly identifiable as an OC series board.

IR3553 PowIRstage® ICs promise to provide superior power output as well as lower overall temperatures and offer higher overall efficiency and fewer overall components on the board due to their single package design.
These are the little brother to the IR3550 PowIRstage® ICs used on the higher end OC Force board. These were chosen as a way to help keep the costs down while giving up little in the way of practical performance.

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Gigabyte use of black PCBs and orange highlights are further accented on this board with just the right amount of gunmetal grey and polished aluminum on the black heat sinks. Overall the board has the look and feel of high quality and careful manufacture.

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The board is CrossfireX compatible up to 4-way. And SLI Compatible up to 2 way.

Expansion port layout is as follows:

1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one expansion card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.

1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. It will operate at up to x8 mode when the PCIEX16 is populated.

2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)
* The PCIEX4_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 and PCIEX8 slots. When it is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode and the PCIEX8 slot will operate at up to x4 mode.
* When installing a x8 or above card in the PCIEX4_1 slot, make sure to set PCIE Slot Configuration in BIOS Setup to x4. (Refer to Chapter 2, "BIOS Setup," "Peripherals," for more information.)
(The PCIEX16, PCIEX8, and PCIEX4_1 slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)

1 x PCI Express x1 slot
(The PCIEX4_2 and PCIEX1_1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

2 x PCI slots

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There is an additional OC PEG power connector just below the CPU socket to help provide additional power to the PCI-E slots when running SLI or CrossfireX.

There are 2 internal headers for additional USB 3.0 front ports. One just between the DIMM slots and ATX power connector. This one is red in color and indicates that it is On/Off Charge ready and can provide charging to devices even if the system is shut down. The other one is located at the bottom just to the right of center on the board. There are also headers along the bottom of the board for an additional 4 USB 2.0 ports. There even two additional USB ports on the front edge of the board. These are handy when benching as you do not have to reach around to get to the back panel when connecting a thumb drive. There is no shortage of USB connectivity here.
There is a large diagnostic LED panel beside the ATX power connector. This can point you in the right direction in the event of a boot failure.

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There are also COM (serial) and front audio headers located at the bottom left of the board.

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There are 6 SATA ports on the board, grouped together along the right edge. The black headers are the native Intel SATA connections and they are all SATA 3 (6Gb/s). They can be configured for Raid 0, 1, 5 or 10.
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The socket area feels very reminiscent of socket 1155 boards with plenty of space for even very large CPU coolers. And you wont need a new cooler if you have a socket 1155 compatible one. Finally Intel changed a socket without changing the heat sink mount spacing!

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On the upper right hand side of the board we find Power and Reset buttons.

There are also a group of switches and buttons for overclocking.

OC Tag-
Load your customized settings at the touch of a button. Instantly apply your OC profile without having to manually adjust all your settings.

OC Turbo
One touch overclocking button automatically loads the most optimized GIGABYTE overclocking configuration for your processor and memory.

OC Touch Buttons
Manually raise and lower the CPU ratio, change BCLK settings, and even change BCLK stepping ratio. Make changes at any time and quickly find your CPU's maximum frequency.

OC PCIe Switch
Manually turn on or off each installed PCIe lane of the motherboard.

OC Trigger Switch
Jump between low and extremely high frequencies in an instant. Use a low frequency during boot and OS optimization, then engage the Trigger Switch to instantly hit the target frequency.

BIOS Switch
User can select which BIOS they want to use. This feature allows user to 'compare' different version of BIOS in performance or bug solving.

DualBIOS™ Switch
Enable or disable GIGABYTE DualBIOS™

Settings Lock
Automatically remember your last successful settings, even after clearing CMOS.

Direct to BIOS (DTB)
Enter BIOS menu instantly after reboot without hitting the 'Del' button.

Memory Safe
Reduces DDR3 module timing to eliminate memory compatibility issues.

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There are 8 fan headers on the board.


Rear Panel

There are 2 different options for video out... Dual HDMI and Displayport. No legacy display connections are available for using the onboard graphics core.


There are 6 USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports on the back panel as well as a LAN port and an optical digital audio port. Filling out the back panel are the typical 6 analogue audio jacks as well.

Plus the addition of a new button..

OC Ignition
There are occasions as an overclocker when you want to shut down the system without turning off the power to other parts of the system, for example the drives and system fans. This is where OC Ignition is really useful. Here is a summary of what it can do:

• Powers fans and drives without booting or powering the CPU
• Active fans help to reduce moisture build-up when using LN2
• Maintain continuous uninterrupted power to drives
• Safely powers water cooling systems for safe leak checking
• Test demo and case mod systems without needing to boot the system

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This board packs a punch when it comes to overclocking features.


BIOS

Gigabyte has also chosen the Z87 series of boards to launch their new 3D BIOS with Dashboard Mode. Dashboard mode is a high resolution interface that is fully customizable. This makes it easy for you to make custom screens with all the settings you want laid out in a way that works for you. Very cool! The options are many and the overall look and feel is a vast improvement over their previous 3D Bios in past generations. Gone is the mouse lag that could be annoying

Test System Setup:

Case: Open Bench
Power Supply: OCZ ZT750W
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z87X-OC CPU: Intel i5 4670k
CPU Cooling: XSPC RASA 750 water cooling
Memory: 8 GB (2x4GB) Gskill Ares DDR3 2133
Video Card: 1X Gigabyte AMD HD7750
System Hard Drive: Corsair Force 3 60GB SSD
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit


Overclocking

Maximum Clock: Validated 5300.26Mhz

HWBot Link: kirbster`s CPU Frequency score: 5300.26 mhz with a Core i5 4670K
CPU-Z LINK: CPU-Z Validator 4.0

This was only stable long enough for the validation.
Memory Overclocking has vastly improved on the new platform. And the OC board has a reputation of very high memory clocks. I was able to take my Gskill Ares 2133 RAM up to 3084Mhz! This exceeded even my best on the mighty OC Force! This is nearly 1000 Mhz faster than stock speeds

HWBot Link: kirbster`s Memory Clock score: 1543 MHz with a DDR3 SDRAM
CPU-Z LINK: CPU-Z Validator 4.0

Bclk Overclocking.
This returns to Intel's mainstream once again. The board can use divider ratios to help you achieve optimal memory speeds. The best I was able to do with mine was 179.06mhz.

HWBot Link: kirbster`s Reference Clock score: 179.06 MHz with a Z87X-OC
CPU-Z LINK: CPU-Z Validator 4.0


Conclusion

Gigabyte have once again outdone themselves. This boards feature list and component quality are first rate. Overclocking on this board is a treat. And there are even alternate bios files out there developed by enthusiasts that are able to help achieve even higher clocks with some expertise and some patience. The community has accepted the Z87X-OC as a premium overclocking board and many records have fallen to it.


The Gigabyte Z87X-OC has more than lived up to the high standard established by it’s predecessors. It provides a platform for the serious enthusiast overclocker. With LN2 or DICE, this board is capable of world record breaking performance.
I was able to post some pretty fast benchmarks. Pretty much the fastest water cooled 4670K according to HWBOT. Even beating some of my previous bests with the OC Force.
If you find yourself feeling the need to run out and get 20 liters of LN2 after purchasing this board, I promise you are not alone. This board just seems to beg you to keep on trying . Keep on pushing that envelope a little further.

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