Here we are a few weeks to a month into Haswell and a lot can be said about this "new" platform.
By me saying a lot, I mean what we see on Hwbot is not what us average users are going to see in terms of benchmarks.
I held off buying a chip for awhile and the question would be asked, Why did you hold off XtremeCuztoms?
Well to be totally honest, aside from the memory overclocks on air that I've been seeing I wasn't all that Impressed with the new platform. Watching the new motherboards coming to the market and seeing what was offered I was blown away with some of the new features that these company's were offering.
But daily average overclocks were sub-par to me.
With something new coming out, I'd expect to see forums flooded with posts of members 4770k's doing 5.0Ghz + on a nice custom water loop.
I mean, there are a few posts of decent clocks on a CLC setup or custom water cooling solution but it seems these posts are few and far between.
Aside from the lack of the "wow" factor of seeing what is posted in the forums I parted ways with a great 3770K to grab a mediocre Haswell and join the crowd on a new platform. Will my chip be great, Will it be subpar? Let's just say I'll still be enjoying my stock 2600K and Z68X-UD4 for now.
So let's get onto the good stuff with this amazing motherboard and it's amazing price point.
What the Z87X-OC is based on is tried and true Overclocking. The monikor "OC" has been used since the inception of the X58-OC which set the bar for other OC branded motherboards. Where this board fits in line with the current lineup makes it a killer deal of a board, but not to everyone due to some of it's features.
This board and it's bigger brother the Z87X-OC Force aren't really designed to bring in the gamers or the 24/7 everyday users, these boards are designed and marketed to a smaller crowd of folks. While I can say there are many gamers that enjoy pushing their systems to it's limits from time to time, these guys and gals aren't going to benefit from items like the OC Touch or OC Brace Kit. But what I think Gigabyte did here with this Z87X-OC was gear it towards beginners, gamers and serious overclockers alike due to it's price point. I mean, you don't really need to go drop $400.00 on An overclocking motherboard because you got all that you need here in this nice package.. Unless you need 4 way SLI, Then you're going to have to drop some additional cash..
I'll save you all from the boring review of Haswell and the processors as I'm sure there are a lot of reviews out there on the processors at this point. We are going to dig into the board and it's features.The Goods:
Marketing and designers did a fantastic job on the box. The front is plain and simple and right to the point.. Like a steel chair to the head, Hey look at me !!!
On the back we see all the needed information about what this beast is made of and it's detailed features.
When opening the box we see a white cardboard flap that we lift up and under that the board all wrapped up and secure. The box inside is the same as what we've all seen in the past few years.Contents:
1 x User guide
1 x Software manual
1 x I/O shield
4 x SATA 6 Gb/s cable
1 x SLI bridge
1 x Crossfire bridge
1 x Gigabyte case badge
1 x Driver disc
12 x Probe headers
1 x OC brace kit
It's wonderful to see Gigabyte including a SLI and Crossfire Bridge in the package.
Since this is an "OC" motherboard there are voltage read points and enough probes to fit all 12 connectors.
The OC Brace is a wonderful idea as it's there to hold your video cards but can also be used as a motherboard stand.. Well done HiCookie and Gigabyte.
One small interesting thing I found when I opened my OC Brace is the packaging is nice, the bags that the items come in are self sealing, so you can open the bags
Without destroying them and then store the stuff away in their original bags, wonderful small detail I like.
Although my OC Brace had one small issue, 1 of the threaded holes in the brace wasn't threaded all the way through so getting the thumb screw started was a PITA.. But all good now.Specs:
Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1150 package
L3 cache varies with CPU
(Please refer "CPU Support List" for more information.)
Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
4 x 1.5V DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
* Due to a Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than the size of the physical memory installed.
Dual channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 3000(O.C.)/2933(O.C.)/1600/1333 MHz memory modules
Support for non-ECC memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
(Please refer "Memory Support List" for more information.)
Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor:
2 x HDMI ports, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160
* Support for HDMI 1.4a version.
1 x DisplayPort port, supporting a maximum resolution of 3840x2160
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version.
Maximum shared memory of 1 GB
Realtek® ALC892 codec
High Definition Audio
Support for S/PDIF In
Support for S/PDIF Out
Intel® GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
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
Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFire™/2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology
Storage Interface Chipset:
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0~5) supporting up to 6 SATA 6Gb/s devices
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
Up to 2 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (available through the internal USB header)
Up to 8 USB 2.0/1.1 ports (2 ports on the back panel, 2 ports onboard, 4 ports available through the internal USB headers)
Chipset + 2 Renesas® uPD720210 USB 3.0 Hubs:
Up to 8 USB 3.0/2.0 ports (6 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Internal I/O Connectors
1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x OC PEG power connector
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling fan header (CPU_OPT)
6 x system fan headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
1 x S/PDIF In header
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x serial port header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x Gear button
1 x OC Turbo button
1 x OC Tag button
1 x CPU BCLK Down button
1 x CPU BCLK Up button
1 x CPU Ratio Down button
1 x CPU Ratio Up button
1 x Memory Safe button
1 x Settings Lock button
1 x Direct to BIOS button
1 x OC Trigger switch
1 x OC PCIe switch
1 x Clear Battery button
2 x BIOS switches
1 x onboard voltage measurement module
Back Panel Connectors
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x OC Ignition button
6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
2 x HDMI ports
1 x DisplayPort
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
1 x RJ-45 port
6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out/Rear Speaker Out/Side Speaker Out/Line In/Line Out/Microphone)
iTE I/O Controller Chip
System voltage detection
CPU/System/Chipset temperature detection
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed detection
CPU/System overheating warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan fail warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed control
* Whether the fan speed control function is supported will depend on the cooler you install.
2 x 128 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AMI EFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.6, ACPI 2.0a
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress Install
Support for APP Center
* Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
Norton Internet Security (OEM version)
Intel® Rapid Start Technology
Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Intel® Smart Response Technology
Support for Windows 8/7
ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cmPrice at time of review
$199.99 w/ free shipping
The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC follows it's traditional color scheme with the Black and Orange colors. The back of the board is all black and all heat sinks are help on with screws for easy removal.
Since this is a board marketed towards the "OC" crowd we can see that the socket area is well planned out, free and clear of items to make room for good insulation for some subzero cooling.
The Intel Z87 chipset integrates several capabilities to provide flexibility for connecting I/O devices. By default the PCH can support up to 8 PCI-E 2.0 lanes, 6 USB 3.0 ports, and 6 SATA6GB/s ports, However you have to decide how you want them lanes to run. 1/x16, 2/x8, or 1/x8 or 2/x4.
three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots that connect to the CPU and a single PCIe 2.0 x16 slot. The first, second, and third slots are connected to the CPU as they would be on most Z87 boards, with varying electrical connectivity based on which ones are populated.
The first and third slot are both electrical PCIe 3.0 x8 which is perfect for dual-card users.
The fourth PCIe x16 slot is connected to the Intel Z87 through a PCIe 2.0 x4 electrical link.
The latest Intel Rapid Storage Technology 11 driver enables the full Serial ATA (SATA) interface speed of up to 6 Gb/s to support next-generation SSDs and traditional HDDs. Intel Rapid Recover Technology provides a fast, easy-to-use method for the end user to recover their data and return their system to an operational status.
In addition, the Intel Z87 chipset drives lower power, through enhanced link power management of the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI), enables easier expandability with support for native hot plug, and boosts boot and multitasking performance with Native Command Queuing (NCQ).
Dynamic Storage Accelerator unleashes the performance of your SSDs, It maximizes storage I/O per performance by dynamically adjusting system power management policies to deliver up to a 15 percent 12 performance boost as compared to default power management.
Close up of the Z87 Chipset !
There are four DIMM slots on the Z87X-OC. Each supports up to 8 GB in density per slot.
In this picture we can see the OC PCIE Switches as well to turn off PCIE Lanes.
Powering the memory slots we have an IR3570. More than enough power for the DIMMs and the PCH as well.
The front panel connection area is nothing new, all the connections are common in this area.
The Z87X-OC does have 4-pin PWM headers and two are 3-pin.
While the Z87X-OC is powered on there is a LED to the right of the front panel connectors that indicates what Bios you are in.
The rear I/O has DisplayPort and dual HDMI for video outputs, two USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports, and LAN and audio ports. You also have a PS/2 Keyboard/mouse combo port. The interesting item here on the rear i/o is the OC Ignition.
Hitting the OC Ignition button allows continuous, uninterrupted power to all the motherboard’s connected drives and system fans, without powering the CPU.
This is very useful for testing water cooled systems, cycling water pumps on and off and in ‘cold bug’ situations.
Gigabyte decided to go with IR3553 along with the 60A chokes that are based off the previous years board.
The Z87X-OC is a 8 phase VRM with the use of the IR3553, IR3563B and 60A Chokes. And with the new design and features Gigabyte went with black capacitors from Nippon Chemi-Con that are guaranteed for flawless operation for 10,000 hours at extreme temperatures of 105c.
When we look at the heatsinks on this Z87X-OC we notice that they are smaller in design and pushed back away from the socket area.
This is for two main reason:
First the motherboard is so efficient by design there isn't a ton of cooling needed on the VRM's, Second is based on what the board is designed for..... Extreme Overclocking.
With the heat sink pushed back further there is more room for large coolers or prepping for insulation for subzero fun.
This motherboard comes with an 8 phase design VRM and uses the IR3553 PowIRstages.
With the use of these IR3553's Gigabyte was able to lower the price point while still maintaining excellent design.
While the IR3553 are rated for 40A and the IR3550 are 60A this does provide a slight overkill effect for the board but it does help
with providing diode emulation feature which avoids negative current in the synchronous MOSFET and improves light load efficiency.Heat sinks / Cooling:
The heat sinks on this Z87X-OC are small compared to some other boards but with the efficiency Gigabyte offers on this motherboard there is little cooling needed.
As we see there is good contact on the sinks and they are all held down with screws for easy removal.
The new bios design now allows for 128MBit which is double that of the Z77 platform. With the larger space comes a lot of new features like:
Dashboard Mode, Fully Customizable UI, Choose Your Own Landing Page and Real-time Overclocking.
With Real-time Overclocking overclockers can adjust CPU clock, frequency and voltage settings in real-time within BIOS.
This massively saves time, allowing users to find optimal settings without having to reboot.. Very cool !!
The onboard audio CODEC of the Z87X-OC is a normal Realtek ALC892 which isn't anything too special, but it's has provided some pretty decent audio in the past through an acceptable circuit design. With the design of this board being geared towards overclocking there wasn't a need for a price increase with the onboard audio by using the ALC898 or ALC889.
The Z87X-OC has these Renesas Electronics USB 3.0 Hub chip is various places throughout the motherboard.
These are NXP PCI-E 3.0 switches, they can each handle 2 lanes. They allow for 16x to be changed into 8x/4x/4x or 8x/0x/8x.
Here are a pair of NXP TMDs are responsible for managing the dual HDMI ports.
Here we have a nice touch that was added called OC Connect.
OC Connect positions two USB connectors on the near side of the motherboard facing the overclocker.
This makes it easier to save data, flash the BIOS or install software in open bench testing platforms.
Whether for extreme overclocking or simply pretesting the PC before final component installation inside a case scenarios where accessing the rear panel IO can be an inconvenience.Easy Tune:
One item that needs to be looked at here is something that was well overdue for a make over.
Everyone has at one time or another have fun or headaches with Easy Tune.
And here it's been totally worked over and redone. Nicely done Gigabyte !OC Touch:
GIGABYTE OC Touch includes a range of easy to use buttons and switches featured exclusively on GIGABYTE OC motherboards.OC Peg:
OC Peg adds auxiliary power to the PCIe slots of your motherboard, improving system stability in extreme configurations.
This is especially useful in power-hungry 4-way graphics configurations.
On a final note before looking at the setup.......... We Have Gold !!!
GIGABYTE Overclocking motherboards feature gold plated connectors for the CPU and 24-pin ATX power connectors.
Gold provides superior conductivity and signal transmission than standard implementations,
also providing far better reliability and stability over time by resistance to metal corrosion caused by frequent use overtime.
GIGABYTE 8 series motherboards come equipped with gold plated hardware for the most crucial areas where your motherboard has contact with other components;
gold plated CPU socket, gold DDR3 slots and PCI Express slots.
Using gold plated CPU socket and slots means that enthusiasts are guaranteed absolute reliability and longevity for the CPU, memory and graphics cards, no matter how many times you switch them out.Setup:Setup:
CPU - i5 4670K
Memory - Team Group TXD34096M2400HC9N-L 9-11-11-28
Cooling - Prolimatech Megahalems & Custom Water Cooling Loop.
Motherboard - Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC Bios F5q
Harddrive - Crucial M4 64GB SATA 6 Gb/s SSD
Video - MSI HD 6970 Lightning
Power Supply - Antec HCP-1200
Case - Dimastech
OS - Windows 7 64 Bit
Once I had a nice fresh Windows 7 install and was able to install all the needed files everything seemed pretty smooth and straightforward.
It was nice to see that the Drivers Disc layout has had some nice changes to it as well. The layout was nice, easy and simple.Power Consumption:
I know most people aren't worried about power consumption and anything along those lines when they purchase a motherboard like the Z87X-OC, but I thought it should be added since this a new platform. I was surprised to see what were the real world power draws since I had never tested this before in my previous reviews.
The two methods used were, a Fluke DMM on the voltage read points and an inline meter on the 8 pin ATX connector.
While this testing will not show what the total power consumption is It gives us a good indication of VRM and CPU power draw and usage. In order to test the voltages and seeing that I'm an overclocker at heart the first thing I did was install some 2D benchmark programs. I tested between wPrime 1024M and CineBench R11.5 (CPU TEST) and used the average between the two.
The Stock Idle voltages on the Z87X-OC were better than I expected and the Stock load voltages were about what I thought they would be.
The way Gigabyte implemented VRM mangement and Turbo Profiles assist in lower power consumption while still maintaining performance.
What Intel had done with the Haswell Platform is provide the flexibility and total customization for the end user and we can all see this with the BIOSes on this Z87X-OC and other Gigabyte motherboards. As many of us know, when it comes to low power usages we all see performance numbers drop.
Well Gigabyte has provided us with a wonderful layout and features to overcome this lower power and still maintain good performance.
Delivering the power to this beast is a 8 pin ATX 12V 2X4 and a 4 pin ATX 12V.Bios Settings:
The BIOS for the Gigabyte Z87X-OC is brand new for this Z87 platform and there are "tons" of changes.
I saw the screen shots online of the bios and thought it was a very cool design.
I was pleased that once I was finally able to get a processor and see the BIOS myself I was happy to see the changes first hand.
For those of you that like the older style you can hit F2 and go to what we had last year.
One option in the new BIOS/UEFI is the implementation of user defined "Custom BIOS" settings that can be added to one page.
This is awesome for those of us that overclock, so we no longer have to dig through multiple screens and settings to find one small item we need to tweak for our overclocks.The one odd caveat that I noticed is that the mouse in the UEFI is still a tad jumpy and laggy.
Don't get me wrong, it's by far better then the Z77's were but I'm just pointing it out.
One feature I can't pass up on in the new BIOS/UEFI is the option for "Update BIOS From Internet".
I tested the 5 servers that were listed and received a error saying they cannot connect to the servers. Let's hope this is just a bug that will be fixed when new BIOS versions come along.Included Software:
The included software has been updated and there is a totally new GUI that is very pleasing to look at.
The Smart Fan option is Easy Tune DOES work now. I tested all the settings on 3 fans on my radiator that are all hooked up to different headers on the board and every fan and setting worked. Hat's off to Gigabyte for the totally revised Easy Tune.CPU Clocks and Performance:
I really only spent about a day with the i5 4670K and a little more time with the Z87X-OC.
I was able to read the other reviews posted on this motherboard by some awesome reviewers out there and they know who they are
Sin0822 posted an awesome write up on Haswell overclocking on Overclock.net and I spent a fair amount of time reading the post.
After reading the post a few times my head began to spin with the huge intake of information that he posted. So, I'm not going in depth on overclocking as cooling was and is a factor with Haswell. I was able to do 4702.61 MHz pretty easy and was able to push my memory fairly well. So, if you would like detailed info please see this post.
Hat's off to Sin00822, HiCookie, Dino and YoungPro who I understand goes by a new name... Final Thoughts:The Good
- Good overclocking motherboard which is normally reserved for high-end boards
- Wonderful high-end features to keep your system stable
- Good stock and overclocked performance
- Excellent power consumption
- Good accessories package, including OC Brace, SLI Bridge and Crossfire Bridge
- Wide-open BIOS ready for tweaking--both of the system and the BIOS itself
- Fans that can be controlled individually
- Excellent memory overclocking
- Fully functional AMI Dual UEFI BIOS
- Not the most ideal location for OC Touch and other needed switches
- No Support for Tri- or Quad-SLI
- A board designed towards a small genre of users
- Still buggy mouse in UEFI/BIOS
Gigabyte to me has done something good here with this Z87X-OC. There are a few other company's out there that offer a super high end boards and then the same version is a slimmed down form to cut costs but they "usually" implement this other board as a Micro ATX. I was glad to see that Gigabyte stepped to the plate and offered this board as a standard ATX while still offering the bigger brother the Z87X-OC Force. Over the years Gigabyte has been getting better and better with customer support, end user support, forum support and RMA's. Other company's need to take what Gigabyte has done over the past few years and try and follow in their footsteps. While this motherboard is directed to a very select market of people it still offers a "TON" of things that still could be Used for the end user such as a gamer or everyday individual.
This Z87X-OC fit's my needs well since I usually like to push overclocks. What doesn't fit me well is how I arrange my setup on my bench and with the reset button, OC Touch and other items near the 24 Pin connector they are not in the best place for me, I'd love to see them in the front panel area. But, with that being said it sure meets the financial needs for an awesome board for overclocking.A special thanks to Gigabyte for making this review possible and offering a wonderful product to everyone.
A BIG thanks to Overclock.net, Sin0822, cadaveca and the rest that make this hobby fun.... !!!