The motherboard scene contains around fifty shades of grey – whatever size, whatever feature set, if a user cannot get what they exactly want, something similar should be available.  The only questions that follow are: does it work properly, and is it worth the money?  Today we are looking at the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H (or the Z77X-UD5H, depending on location), a motherboard with dual NIC, up to ten USB 3.0 ports, mSATA, three-way GPU without a $30 PCIe enhancing chip, TPM, extra SATA 6 Gbps and the full array of video outputs for only $180.

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H Overview

Ever since I started reviewing, I have been critical of Gigabyte – they seem eager to put out a product that works and quickly bring it to market, as shown by the number of 'first to market' features Gigabyte like to advertise.  The usefulness of these new features can sometimes be questionable, or could intially lack the grade of finesse we see on these features several months down the line.  Gigabyte is a very sales-driven company, with a strong marketing ethic, thus it sells a good number of motherboards, and is a top-tier motherboard manufacturer with hands in many markets.

Competition, as always, comes from all sides – users are perhaps moving away from the standard desktop scene into mobile devices, or other motherboard manufacturers want a slice of Gigabyte’s large pie.  The motherboard business, while growing, is not growing as fast as it once was – in order to gain market share it has to be taken from someone else.  This has caused companies like Gigabyte to knuckle down hard and find ways to remain competitive.

One Gigabyte tactic (of late) is to take its motherboard lineup and attempt to push it down one price point.  This is either through manufacturing costs, bundling, special deals and presumably a myriad of other ways internally to achieve this.  We saw this on the X79-UD3 especially.  The potential downside of perhaps scrimping to meet a lower price point is sometimes the perception of the absence of effort, particularly when there is a lack of substance to a motherboard bundle – it needs to feel that the board is good value, rather than just be good value.

Here steps in the Z77X-UD5H.  On paper it has a range of included extras – dual NIC, extra SATA 6 Gbps ports, three-way PCIe 3.0 GPU gaming without a $30 expansion chip,  an mSATA port, TPM, up to ten USB 3.0 ports and a full range of video outputs, all in a $180 (MSRP $200) bundle.  Competition at this price point comes from the ASUS P8Z77-V LE Plus, the ASRock Z77 Extreme6, the MSI Z77A-GD65, Gigabyte’s own G1 Sniper M3, and a for a little more, the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe and Maximus V Gene.  All these boards fall in the $170-$200 window on Newegg at time of writing.

Performance wise, the Z77X-UD5H gets a high grade across the board.  It benefits from having MultiCore Enhancement, giving an extra 200 MHz when fully loaded compared in Intel Turbo specifications – this helps the Gigabyte push the board in CPU related benchmarks.  IO benchmarks are mid range, reaching the upper echelons on occasion.  The single flaw in Gigabyte’s rather nice deck of cards is the DPC Latency test, which suffers initially at the hands of the EasyTune6 monitoring software (3000 microseconds+), but when this is disabled it hits a value double that of any other Z77 board.  Judging by other manufacturers who have had this issue, a simple BIOS update should fix it.

The Gigabyte BIOS has slowly grown on me since its inception in graphical form.  When I first covered the BIOS, it was slow and unresponsive and was not nice to play with.  On the Z77X-UD5H though, it is smooth sailing with almost all the options easy to hand.  The software supplied with the motherboard, in the form of EasyTune6 and 3D Power, really needs a swift kick in the rear to bring it into the 21st century.  In addition, users who want in-depth fan controls will need their own solution.

The Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H comes with a three-year warranty in North America, and for an extra $30 comes with an included WiFi card and antenna in the form of the Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi.  Overall, the Z77X-UD5H lights up the $180 price point like a beacon and is placed well for significant sales.

Visual Inspection

Gigabyte have three different aesthetic styles for the range of motherboards they produce – green and black for their gaming series, blue and black for their channel boards, and blue/white for their budget SKUs.  The Z77X-UD5H is placed firmly in the midrange of Z77, resulting in a blue and black visual:

The power delivery sections are covered by some beefy heatsinks, both of them connected via a heatpipe down to the chipset heatsink, which comes with fins to aid cooling.  The socket itself is sized to Intel specifications, with power delivery coming close on two sides, mSATA on the south side and memory on the right.  Users of large air coolers may struggle to deal with the heatsinks, as they measure approximately 32mm high from the PCB.  There are three fan headers found around the socket area – one 4-pin to the top right of the socket, one 4-pin to the top left near the power connector, and another 4-pin the other side of the memory near the power button.

Down the right hand side, we have a trio of power/reset/clear CMOS buttons.  The latter two are of similar size and shape, leading to perhaps a few four-letter profanities by enthusiasts using this board to overclock should they hit the wrong button, but the power button is big, red, and thus easy to hit first time.  Under these is a two-digit debug LED, useful for troubleshooting POST issues, and a 4-pin fan header.

Gigabyte motherboards typically have a very busy motherboard between the right hand edge and the memory slots, and this is true here also.  Continuing down the right hand side, we have the 24-pin ATX power connector, a USB 3.0 header (VIA VL810), and a SATA power connector (to give the PCIe extra juice).  Typically, the PCIe extra power header is found above the PCIe, but I prefer it here as it makes cabling easier.  Underneath these are eight of the SATA ports – four SATA 3 Gbps in black from the chipset, two SATA 6 Gbps in white also from the chipset, and two SATA 6 Gbps in grey from a Marvell 88SE9172 controller.  The other SATA 6 Gbps ports on the motherboard are split between the single grey SATA port on the bottom, and the eSATA port on the IO panel.

Along the bottom of the board are the headers – from right to left we have a pair of USB 3.0 headers (good for four more USB 3.0 ports from VIA controllers), the SATA 6Gbps port, a BIOS switch (for the dual BIOS system), the front panel connectors, two USB 2.0 headers, an IEEE1394 header, and a Trusted Platform header.  This TPM is here as Gigabyte insists that a number of their customers request it, especially in business scenarios.

The PCIe layout is designed to work around the board design – due to the mSATA port between the socket and PCIe (on other boards we see the mSATA near the chipset, or between the PCIe slots), we start with a single PCIe x1.  The rest of the PCIe are an x16 (x8 in multi-GPU), x1, x1, x8 (x4 in tri-GPU), PCI, x4.  The Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H is different to all the other Z77 boards we have tested so far due to the PCIe layout for multi-GPU setups:

With the Ivy Bridge platform and Z77 chipset, we have the following possibilities for separation of the sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes from the CPU:

x16 or
x8/x8 or
x8/x4/x4

We see the first two options on most of the motherboards on sale today.  This is combined usually with four lanes from the chipset of the PCIe 2.0 variety.  Manufacturers can also add a PLX 8747 chip (nominally another $30-$40 increase on the cost of the board) to increase the PCIe 3.0 lanes to 32.

What makes the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H different is that it takes the third option – x8/x4/x4 on the PCIe slots, all PCIe 3.0.  In dual mode, the system will act x8/x8, and in single mode we get one x16.  As our previous reviews use the x8/x8 method with an additional four lanes from the chipset for the third GPU, our gaming tests show the difference between these two setups.  We also have some PLX 8747 boards coming up for review shortly to see how they affect the rankings.

On the back panel, Gigabyte have pushed the boat out as much as possible without putting a WiFi module on the back panel (note the Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi version of this board comes with an add-in card for WiFi and is $30 more MSRP).  We have the full range of video outputs, an optical SPDIF output, two USB 2.0 (red), IEEE1394, eSATA 6 Gbps, an Intel NIC, a Realtek NIC, four USB 3.0 ports (all from the chipset), and audio jacks (from Realtek ALC898).

Board Features

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H
Price Link
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1155
Chipset Intel Z77
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-2400 MHz
Video Outputs DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D, D-Sub
Onboard LAN Intel
Realtek
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 3 x PCIe x16 Gen3 (x16, x8/8, x8/x4/x4)
3 x PCIe x1 Gen2
1 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 2 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
4 x SATA 3 Gbps (PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
3 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell Controllers)
1 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Marvell)
1 x mSATA (shares PCH port SATA2-5)
USB 10 USB 3.0 ports (4 back panel, 3 from headers)
6 USB 2.0 ports (2 back panel, 4 from headers)
Onboard 5 x SATA 6 Gbps
4 x SATA 3 Gbps
3 x USB 3.0 Header
2 x USB 2.0 Header
5 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x FP Audio Header
1 x Trusted Platform Module Header
Power/Reset/Clear CMOS Buttons
BIOS Switch
Voltage Measurement Points
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x SATA PCIe Power connector
Fan Headers 1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
4 x SYS Fan Header (4-pin)
IO Panel 1 x D-Sub
1 x DVI-D
1 x HDMI
1 x DisplayPort
1 x S/PDIF Optical
2 x USB 2.0
1 x IEEE1394
1 x eSATA
1 x Intel GbE
1 x Realtek GbE
4 x USB 3.0
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

For our money, the inclusion of all those USB 3.0 headers and dual NIC will get a lot of attention.  Then there is also the mSATA and extra SATA ports also to consider, alongside the PCIe 3.0 three-way GPU support.  There is a lot of bang for your buck in this board just on functionality alone.

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H BIOS
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  • Belard - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    Its in the BIOS POWER settings. I've been building some systems with its smaller sister boards. You can go to gigabyte, track down the manual and look it up... it should be there. Also, it gives you the option to power up with a mouse.

    Even a wireless USB keyboard manage to power up the system (cool).
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I know intel is capable of doing on chip video and there have been boards with onboard video for forever but the trend of putting 9001 video ports on the back of the thing instead of oh say 1 is disturbing.

    Lets be honest if youre a gamer and you want 3 way SLI you dont need onboard video. Likewise if youre not a gamer and you want to plug your monitor into the motherboard you dont need 3way pci-e 3.0 sli. Pick one and go with it!

    Plus if you wanted to you could include a couple of adapters to go from dvi to vga or dvi to hdmi and have 1 plug on the board itself which will save space on the back i/o panel and allow for more important things like more esata or usb3.0 or even that wifi that the review alluded to.

    This is a case of a motherboard manufacturer trying to please everyone with 1 board instead of making a gamer board and a HTPC board and a file server board. Saves them money but screws the consumer.
    Reply
  • shin0bi272 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    oh and if usb 3.0 is backwards compatible with 2.0 ... why include 2.0 at all? Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    USB 3.0 support is still a little bit hinky; a fresh install of Windows 7 may not recognize your keyboard if it's plugged into a USB 3.0 port without drivers.

    And uh...I use two of the display outputs on the back of my motherboard. Multi-monitor isn't that uncommon these days.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    Each USB 3.0 controller has an associated Bill of Materials cost. You only get 4 USB 3.0 from the chipset, but 12 USB 2.0. USB 3.0 as Dustin says is a bit flaky at times - technically the Intel USB 3.0 should work at boot but they do not always, depends on how the motherboard traces are routed.

    Regarding boards and video outputs. If the CPU has the capability to, motherboard manufacturers get slammed if they don't include at least one or two video outputs just in case a user wants them. Imagine I had this board and strapped in a few NVIDIA GPUs for CUDA programming. If I could, I'd use the onboard IGP for my display, then have the GPUs purely for computational needs, and still have all the PCIe 3.0 bandwidth I would need.

    Ian
    Reply
  • Grok42 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I don't think I've ever agreed and disagreed with a post so much before.

    I think it is about time that motherboards ship with the ability to run multi-monitor setups out of the box. Hopefully all four can drive a monitor at once! What is crazy is that they are shipping with 3-4 DIFFERENT connectors! I think all graphics connectors are completely terrible. Not one of them could drive an iPad3 screen even if the DVI was dual-link. This is why Apple is moving to thunderbolt I think but it still isn't clear to me that a Thunderbolt port could drive a hi-res display like an iPad. The next connector should have the ability to drive an 16k display so we can live with one connector for a decade. Monitors last 2x-4x the lifespan of a computer. Build a connector that will last!

    Of all the things we need more of, USB isn't one of them. At work we drive 24-48 USB devices on standard low end dell computers. Most DIY motherboards like this support at least 6 and more typically 10. If you need more than that a simple hub which you already have in your monitor/keyboard/mouse/toaster will give you all you need.

    Now the part I think you're spot on is that they are trying to please everyone with one board. I would expand this to the entire industry. If you've seen any of my screeds about computer cases you know that there is really one one type of case for sale, the one that sorta works for everyone but isn't great for anyone. The MB market is better but still a mess. Right now they have lines that are broken into feature grades with each higher level board simply adding more stuff. Instead they should be aimed at what consumers want to build.

    If you are making a highly overclockable board with support for 3 PCI-E graphics boards do you really need/want 10 SATA ports? Who is overclocking their file server and run an SLI console? The problem is if you back off to a lower grade board you lose something you do need so your file server has SLI support even if you don't want it.
    Reply
  • epobirs - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    You are completely wrong. The iPad3 display is merely 2048x1536. Not a big deal for dual link DVI which has been used to drive 2560x1600 displays for many years before the 'Retina' designation came out of Apple's marketing department. The idea that the iPad3 display is somehow the bleeding edge of screen tech is laughter inducing. The only thing remarkable about is the small size. Such resolutions are old news for large displays, especially in the professional markets. Keep in mind, the Retina designation is about pixel density, not just resolution.

    The only port on that panel that cannot drive a Retina display without breaking a sweat is the legacy VGA. DVI is showing its age but we have two successors already in HDMI and Display Port. Both of those are capable of driving 4K displays that won't be common in the consumer sector for several years. More importantly, the on-board GPU tops out at 4K, so equipping the board to drive anything greater is an utter waste.

    The newer ports are already designed with monitors most people won't be able to consider buying for a very long time. Nor do today's displays have the same longevity as CRTs did. Fortunately, they compensate by rapidly improving in bang for the buck. When my $300 1680x1050 22" monitor, which seemed an amazing bargain when first purchased, died after a bit over three years, I replaced it with a 27" 1080p screen for around $250. On another desk I put in an ACER 32" HDTV as the monitor for $250, just because I could. (I remember paying close to $1,000 for my first 17" CRT that weighed close to 80 pounds.)

    Trying to design for what will be called for a decade from now is just a waste of time. Extremely few consumers will benefit and there is a good chance NOBODY will benefit because something came along that changed things so much as to render your long term plan badly obsolete. The payoff just isn't there. VGA has been around since 1987 but there aren't any displays from that era or ten years later that are worth the trouble to use today.

    I'm reminded of back in 1999 when A certain type of Apple snob loved to go about how the original 128K Mac had no Y2K issues. Who cares? If you were still relying on an 80s Mac in 1999 your life would have to be so miserable as to make Y2K terribly low on your list of troubles.

    As for USB and SATA ports, in a full sized ATX board I'd far rather have ports going unused than have to add more later. If I want minimalist I'll build with a smaller board and case. They each have their place.
    Reply
  • aaronb1138 - Wednesday, September 05, 2012 - link

    Even VGA can drive up to around 2560x1600 @ 60 Hz, but cable quality and length becomes a factor (you need a $15-30 shielded cable instead of a $5 one). I run a Sony FW900 at 2048x1280 @ 85 Hz over VGA cleanly (BNC or VGA connectors, both are equal with good cables).

    Dual link DVI can run 2560x1600 @ 60 Hz at 10 bits per color (30 bit color).
    Reply
  • Belard - Thursday, July 26, 2012 - link

    This is not a true 3X SLI board. It has the slots, but not the lanes to do full blown 16x16x6 or even 8x8x8. At $140~170, its a upper mid-range board.

    I build system with Gigabtye mATX boards... it'll support 8x8 SLI or two Cross-fire boards, it also has 3 16x slots. Not bad for $80 (Microcenter discounts).

    So having the various types of video ports is very good for typical people who only use a single monitor. With the 4 types, everyone is covered. For a dual monitor with DVI inputs, I used a DVI-DVI cable and spent $15 for a HDMI>DVI cable... not a big deal.

    Even $400 video cards will require adapter cables to use in multi-monitor setups.
    Reply
  • rickon66 - Wednesday, July 25, 2012 - link

    I still think that this board has great bang for the buck, especially since itis often available for $139.99 at Micro Center. Reply

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