Gigabyte Z77-HD4 In The Box

Motherboards on the low end of the price scale have only one focus – the motherboard itself.  While the $180-$400 packages might have those extras and bonus, we would not expect a $120 motherboard to produce much.  That being said, in the past we have been pleasantly surprised in $140-$160 packages, either ATX or mITX, which have included a USB 3.0 panel in the past.  That was when USB 3.0 was ‘an extra’, rather than a standard of the chipset – meaning that we are unlikely to get one of those as most cases now have a connector.  But in the Gigabyte Z77-HD4, we do get:

Rear IO Shield
Driver Disk
Manual
Four SATA Cables

I am surprised we have four SATA cables in the box – previous motherboards from Gigabyte have had two, so users wishing to have the additional storage have some extra headroom (as long as you are not blocking the SATA ports with a second GPU).

Gigabyte Z77-HD4 Overclocking

Note: Ivy Bridge does not overclock like Sandy Bridge.  For a detailed report on the effect of voltage on Ivy Bridge (and thus temperatures and power draw), please read Undervolting and Overclocking on Ivy Bridge.

Experience with Gigabyte Z77-HD4

To be honest, when dealing with a motherboard at a low price point, I was not sure what to expect regarding the overclocking.  A lot of the marketing fluff around the big launches and the high-end products is all about power delivery and overclocking prowess.  If the hullaballoo surrounding overclocking capabilities of the more expensive motherboards was blown away by smaller models, it just represents another angle that should prioritize feature set over overclocking.  Alternatively if a cheaper model falters, then the marketing surrounding overclocking could be considered justified – the other factor could also be longevity.  With a more substantial phase design, components are stressed less.  The cheaper motherboards often have cheaper phases, leading to potential heat generation issues – on the flip side more phases means more things to go wrong.

Overall however, the overclocking experience on the Z77-HD4 was better than expected, matching some of the other motherboards we have tested, despite our poor CPU!  In previous motherboards we have achieved 4.6 GHz with reasonable temperatures (albeit rather high voltages), and the Z77-HD4 matched this with ease.  In terms of manual overclocking options, we have Gigabyte’s three CPU Level Up options in the OS software, which performed with mixed results, with the top options placing too much voltage into the CPU.

Methodology:

Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows.  We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with PovRay and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads.  These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.

For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed.  The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+).  Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.

Automatic Overclock:

For automatic overclocking, the three options available to users are located in the EasyTune6 software in the OS.  These options are labeled in a traffic light system, and 1, 2, 3 with 3 being the highest overclock.  There is also an option for ‘Auto Tuning’, which should perform a stress test style analysis to find the best overclock.  Here are our results:

For CPU Level 1, the system attempts to apply a 41x102 overclock (4182 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.335 V and a 0.150 V offset.  In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.380 volts, a PovRay score of 1532.10, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 83C.

For CPU Level 2, the system attempts to apply a 43x103 overclock (4429 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.340 V and a 0.150 V offset.  In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.392 volts, a PovRay score of 1619.67, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 84C.

For CPU Level 3, the system attempts to apply a 45x104 overclock (4680 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.345 V and a 0.150 V offset and LLC set to High.  In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.380 volts, a memory error during PovRay, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 101C.

The Auto Tuning option in ET6 failed to load.

Manual Overclock:

Starting with our base settings (40x100 and 1.100 volts), we test for stability and increase voltage until stable.  When stable, the multiplier is increased and the process repeated.  Here are our results:

Software and BIOS

Unfortunately due to the timing of this review (very close to Haswell), we have not had time to write an extensive run-down of the BIOS and software on the Z77-HD4.  After playing with the software and BIOS, it performs identically to that of the UD3H and UD5H which we have reviewed, meaning a couple of thousand rehashed words with a slightly different twist related to the HD4.  If you wish to read up on the BIOS and software of a similar motherboard, please follow this link for the UD3H rundown.

Gigabyte Z77-HD4 Overview, Visual Inspection, Board Features Test Setup, Power Consumption, POST Time
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  • DanNeely - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    Sata 6GB and USB3 both take significantly more die space on the chipset to implement; since most users only have at most a few devices that need the extra bandwidth most of ports offered on the chipset are still the older models. Haswell will probably be all Sata6GB on the chipset, although i wouldn't be surprised if some budget mobos add sata3gb ports via external controllers.

    The USB2/3 mix will probably last for a few more years on the desktop; this is both because of the much larger total number of ports involved, and because the internal headers aren't directly compatible (afaik you can buy adapters) and there're lots of cases which only have USB2 on the front panel; and lots of people with USB2 based cardreaders in a drive bay. I suspect one or two mobo headers for those will be with us for a long time; and wouldn't be surprised if a few linger as onboard/embedded device connects too like the pair of USB1 ports AMD chipsets still have (notionally for laptop keyboard/touchpad connects; but in both the desktop and mobile chipsets). I doubt the next generation of laptops will have any external USB2 ports; but might continue to use them internally.
    Reply
  • maximumGPU - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    haha those spam comments actually made me laugh. Reply
  • cjs150 - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    This is a weird board.

    Full ATX but with 2x PCI slots. What do people use 1 for now, nevermind 2.

    SATA sockets upright and in just the place that will ensure you lose the use of one of the SATA 6G sockets as soon as you put in a graphics card.

    Spend a bit more a get a decent M-atx board with better layout
    Reply
  • Wall Street - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    Since the second x16 slot is powered from the x4 from the southbridge, I think they did this because they ran out of PCIe lanes. Also, some people use PCI for legacy devices. For example, I have a PCI TV tuner that I still use because a 4 year old tuner is just as good at HD as a new one. Reply
  • kasakka - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    FireWire cards are actually still a good choice for using PCI slots, because most PCI-E FW cards cost 2x more and are essentially a PCI-to-PCI-E bridge chip + the PCI card's components. The few natively PCI-E FW cards are 3x more expensive than their PCI counterparts.

    Yes, FW still matters since most of the better audio interfaces use it so a big thing for studios or home recording, now that most motherboards don't come with a built-in FW chip.

    It's the x4 full size PCI-E slots that make no sense to me.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    raid cards, or a second gpu for extra (non gaming) monitor outputs all need more than a single 1x lane; but 4 is plenty for anything they'd be asked to do. Some 4 port USB3 adapter cards on newegg are more than just 1x (though not explicitly marked I think they're 2x); presumably if you tried loading all 4 ports at once on the 1x cards you'd be bottlenecking on the PCIe bus. Reply
  • Wall Street - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    You can install a PCIe x16 card in an x16 physical slot that is electrically PCIe x4. You also can install an PCIe x4 card in a x16 physical slot that is electrically x4. You cannot install a PCIe x16 card in a physical x4 slot. This is why they put an x16 physical slot for an x4 interface. An x16 physical slot is always at least as good. Reply
  • jabber - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    X4 slots are hard to come by (I havent had a board with one fitted in years) so it may be they don't really make them anymore and just use a standard 16x slot instead. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 20, 2013 - link

    I think the second PCI slot is as much about the limited number of PCIe lanes available as anything else. IIRC 7 series chipsets don't have native PCI support instead requiring a bridge chip, and only 8 PCIe lanes on the SB. That's 4 for the x4 slot, 2 for the 2x slots, 1 for the bridge, and 1 for the realtek nic (if I'm reading the specsheet right, the audio connects to the chipsets audio out and not over PCIe). That uses up all 8 available lanes; leaving the choice of only having 5 expansion slots filled, or spending more for a PCIe mux to add more available lanes. The latter is what I think many higher end boards do, but is cost-prohibitive in the value segment where every dollar counts. Reply
  • Cerb - Tuesday, May 21, 2013 - link

    Awhile ago, I came across some audio books on cassette tape, and wanted to transfer them. My best input choice, by far, was an existing PCI sound card, with an external ADC. There you have it. For someone else, it may be an old but high quality plotter or scanner using SCSI, or a special serial card, or firewire card, or some other little thing.

    Like serial and parallel ports, PCI will be with us for awhile yet, though there is no good reason to need more than 1 of them, except that they would have had an unfilled slot, otherwise.

    That 2nd slot is there, almost certainly, to fill space, due to using up the PCIe lanes available. Even MicroATX boards do this, giving 2 PCI slots, but an extra PCIe with more lanes, instead of several 1x PCIe slots.
    Reply

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