The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 is a high-end socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors), with a 37-phase voltage regulator. Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
The Intel Z77 is an upgraded version of the Z68 chipset with the same basic features (Intel Smart Response Technology and Virtu video switching technology), plus native support to four USB 3.0 ports. It also includes the addition of two new technologies: Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode) and Rapid Start (faster boot times).
In addition, the Z77X-UP7 supports the Virtu Universal MVP, which allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed. This is similar to what occurs with the Hybrid SLI and ATI Hybrid Graphics technologies, with the notable difference of not being limited to GPUs from a specific manufacturer.
Gigabyte has launched 21 different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset; we list the differences between them in the tables below. We won’t describe the Z77X-UD5H-WB WIFI and the Z77X-UD3H-WB WIFI models, as they are simply a version of the Z77X-UD5H and the Z77X-UD3H models bundled with a PCI Express x1 expansion card containing IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n wireless networking and Bluetooth 4.0. This card is also included with the Z77X-UP7 and with the G1.Sniper 3 motherboards. Prices were researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this article.
|PCI Express x16 3.0||4 (x16/x0/x16/x0 or x16/x0/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8)||4 (x16/x0/x16/x0 or x16/x0/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8) + 1||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||1|
|PCI Express x16 2.0||0||0||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)|
|PCI Express x1 2.0||2||2||3||3||3||3||2|
|BlueTooth||Yes, 4.0||Yes, 4.0||No||No||No||No||No|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, a/b/g/n||Yes, dual-band 802.11b/g/n||No||No||No||No||No|
|Price||USD 280||USD 400||USD 190||NA||USD 160||USD 145||NA|
* The motherboard has only four “real” USB 3.0 ports that are expanded to eight using hub chips.
|Specification||Z77-HD3||Z77-D3H||Z77-DS3H||Z77P-D3||Z77X-UP4 TH||Z77X-UP5 TH|
|PCI Express x16 3.0||1||1||1||1||3 (x16/x0/x0 or x8/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x4)||3 (x16/x0/x0 or x8/x8/x0 or x8/x4/x4)|
|PCI Express x16 2.0||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||0||0|
|PCI Express x1 2.0||2||3||2||2||3||3|
|Wi-Fi||No||No||No||No||No||Yes, dual-band 802.11b/g/n|
|Thunderbolt||0||0||0||0||Two ports||Two ports|
|Voltage Regulator||6+2+1||6+1+1||4+1+1||4+1+1||10 phases total||12 phases total|
|Price||NA||USD 120||USD 105||NA||USD 185||USD 250|
|Specification||G1.Sniper M3||X77MX-D3H||X77MX-D3H TH||Z77M-D3H||Z77M-D3H-MVP||Z77N-WiFi|
|PCI Express x16 3.0||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)||1||1||1|
|PCI Express x16 2.0||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||1 (x4)||0|
|PCI Express x1 2.0||1||1||1||1||1||0|
|Wi-Fi||No||No||No||No||No||Yes, dual-band 802.11b/g/n|
|Price||USD 180||USD 135||NA||USD 115||USD 110||USD 130|
Figure 1 shows you the Z77X-UP7 motherboard.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 comes with five PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one mSATA slot.
Usually, on motherboards based on the Z77 chipset, only the first two PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the CPU. The other PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the chipset, operating at a lower speed (almost always x4) and only compatible with the 2.0 specification, which offers half of the 3.0 bandwid
th. On this motherboard, however, the five slots are controlled by the processor, using a PLX PEX8747 switching chip.
The second PCI Express x16 slot (“PCIEX16_2”, the black one) bypasses the PLX chip and must be used when a single video card is installed.
The PCIEX8_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16_1 slot, and the PCIEX8_2 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16_3 slot. The first PCI Express x16 slot (“PCIEX16_1”) operates at x16 if the third slot (“PCIEX8_1”) is unused, but they will both work at x8 if the third slot is populated. The same occurs with the last pair of slots. The fourth PCI Express x16 slot (“PCIEX16_3”) operates at x16 if the fifth slot (“PCIEX8_2”) is unused, but they will both work at x8 if the last slot is populated.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 supports the configurations listed below.
When installing dual-slot video cards, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up) of the slot being used. If a fourth dual-slot video card is installed (in the fifth PCI Express x16 slot), you will need a case with at least eight expansion slots. (Computer cases usually have seven expansion slots.)
The PCI Express x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies with up to four video cards.
The mSATA slot is not a Mini PCI Express slot, meaning you can’t install a Wi-Fi card in it. It is designed specifically for SSDs using the mSATA form factor. This slot is connected to the “SATA2 5” port, so you can’t use this SATA port when an mSATA SSD is installed. This slot uses a SATA-300 connection.
The PLX PEX8747 chip, which allows the high-end slot configuration, is shown in Figure 4, without its heatsink.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1155 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,333 MHz (“Sandy Bridge” CPUs) or up to 1,600 MHz (“Ivy Bridge” CPUs). According to Gigabyte, the Z77X-UP7 supports memories up to 2,800 MHz.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GB, you can have up to 32 GB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. When installing two memory modules, you will have to “skip” one memory socket. On the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7, the first and third memory sockets are orange, while the second and fourth are black. When installing two memory modules, use the orange sockets.
[nextpage title=”On-Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z77 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip supports two SATA-600 ports and four SATA-300 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The SATA-300 ports and the SATA-600 ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°.
The portrayed motherboard also offers four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvell 88SE9172 chips, supporting RAID 0 and 1.
The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 offers four USB 2.0 ports available through two headers located on the motherboard; and 10 USB 3.0 ports, six on the motherboard rear panel (two controlled by the chipset and four controlled by a VIA VL800 chip) and four available through two headers on the motherboard (two controlled by the chipset and two controlled an EtronTech EJ168 chip).
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 doesn’t support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC898 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. This means you are able to capture and edit analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) with this motherboard without adding any background noise.
The motherboard has on-board optical SPDIF output. A header labeled “SPDIF_O” also provides SPDIF output for you to install a coaxial SPDIF output or to route digital audio to older video cards that require this physical connection in order to have digital audio output in their HDMI connectors.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 comes with a PCI Express x1 card including Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n networking (supporting 2.4 GHz/5 GHz dual-band connection, which offers higher bandwidth than single-band devices) and a Bluetooth 4.0 interface.
The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by the chipset and using an Intel WG82579V chip to make the physical layer interface, and t
he other controlled by an Atheros AR8161 chip.
In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard rear panel with shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, six USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, optical SPDIF output, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
This motherboard has two BIOS chips, so if the main BIOS chip is corrupted by a virus or a bad BIOS upgrade, you can still recover the motherboard. There is a switch on the motherboard where you can choose the active BIOS.
The motherboard comes with a 3.5” panel containing two USB 3.0 ports.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 has a POST diagnostics display that shows through a two-digit code which component is preventing the computer from turning on.
In Figure 11, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 is one of the motherboard’s highlights. It has 32 phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VSA (a.k.a. system agent) voltage, and three for the embedded GPU (VAXG). Therefore, it uses a “32+2+3” configuration. The voltage regulator uses a full digital design, with each phase driven by an IR3550 integrated circuit, which combines the three required transistors (driver, low side, and high side) in a single package, providing higher efficiency.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 uses solid electrolytic capacitors. All coils on this motherboard are ferrite-core models, which can provide up to 20% improvement in efficiency.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones:
- Base clock: From 80.00 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
- CPU graphics clock: From 400 MHz to 3,200 MHz in 50 MHz increments
- CPU core voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.850 V in 0.005 V increments
- CPU VTT (“I/O”) voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.700 V in 0.005 V increments
- CPU PLL voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.200 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory controller (“IMC,” “System Agent,” VCCSA) voltage: From 0.715 V to 1.400 V in 0.005 V increments
- Integrated graphics processor (“VAXG”) voltage: From +0.000 V to +0.350 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.100 V to 2.100 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory termination voltage: From 0.695 V to 0.810 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory reference voltage: From 0.695 V to 0.810 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset (“PCH”) voltage: From 1.050 V to 1.395 V in 0.005 V increments
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 also has voltage monitoring points for you to monitor the chipset (“PCHIO”), memory (“VDIMM”), CPU PLL, integrated video controller (“VAXG”), integrated memory controller (“IMC”), CPU VTT, and CPU core voltages using a voltmeter.
Another feature that shows the vocation of the Z77X-UP7 for overclocking are the buttons that allow the user to increase or decrease the base clock and the multiplier on-the-fly, shown in Figure 18. The upper buttons adjust the CPU clock ratio, while the lower buttons adjust the base clock. The “Gear” button sets the base clock increments to either 1 MHz or 0.1 MHz.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 include:
- Socket: LGA1155
- Chipset: Intel Z77 Express
- Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Four SATA-300 ports and two SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0,
1, 10, and 5) and four SATA-600 ports controlled by two Marvel 88SE9172 chips (RAID 0 and 1)
- External SATA: None
- USB 2.0: Four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: 10 USB 3.0 ports, six soldered on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard, four ports controlled by the chipset, four controlled by a VIA VL800 chip, and two controlled by an EtronTech EJ168 chip.
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; VGA, DVI-D, DisplayPort, and HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC898 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 110 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: Two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by the chipset using an Intel WG82579V chip to make the physical layer interface, and one controlled by an Atheros AR8161 chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Four PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (x16/x0/x16/x0 or x16/x0/x8/x8, or x8/x8/x8/x8), one PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot connected directly to the CPU and bypassing the PLX PEX8747 chip, two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one mSATA slot (shared with one internal SATA port); PLX PEX8747 chip
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2800, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Two BIOS chips, POST diagnostics display, voltage monitoring points, overclocking buttons, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth PCI Express x1 card
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: Two
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.us
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 400.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 is a dream motherboard for any overclocker who is building a computer based on a socket LGA1155 processor. Its main highlight is the powerful voltage regulator circuit, with an astonishing 32+2+3 design. Other features will attract overclockers, such as the buttons to adjust the base clock and the CPU multiplier.
Extreme gamers will love the capacity to install up to four video cards in SLI or CrossFireX configuration without bandwidth loss, thanks to the PLX PEX8747 swtich chip. As if this were not enough, the Virtu Universal MVP can combine the video performance of the CPU-embedded GPU as well.
Additionally, the Z77X-UP7 comes with a high-end audio codec, an mSATA slot, six SATA-600 ports, Wi-Fi card, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, dual BIOS, debug display, and a beautiful design. The only drawback of this motherboard is its price tag of USD 400, but it is worth every cent.