The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 is an entry-level socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). 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).
Being an entry-level motherboard, the Z77-HD4 doesn’t support the Virtu Universal MVP technology, which is present on more expensive products and allows you to combine the performance of the integrated graphics processor available in the CPU with the performance of any video card installed.
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|
You can see the Gigabyte Z77-HD4 motherboard in Figure 1.
The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots.
Usually, on motherboards based on the Z77 chipset, the first two PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, and 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 bandwidth. On this motherboard, however, only the first PCI Express x16 slot is connected to the CPU, therefore always working at x16, using the 3.0 specification if you install an “Ivy Bridge” processor. The second PCI Express x16 slot is connected to the chipset, working at x4 and using the 2.0 specification. This configuration clearly shows that this motherboard is an entry-level model.
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.
The PCI Express x16 slots support the CrossFireX technology. SLI is not supported.
[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 Z77-HD4 supports memories up to 2,800 MHz.
The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 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. On the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7, the first and third memory sockets are white, while the second and fourth are blue. When installing two memory modules, use the white 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).
On this motherboard, the SATA ports are installed facing up, meaning that the installation of a video card in the second PCI Express x16 slot will make access to them very difficult, and you will need to use SATA cables with connectors placed at a 90° angle. (The motherboard comes with such cables.)
The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 offers eight USB 2.0 ports: four on its rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard; and four USB 3.0 ports, two on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one headers on the motherboard.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 doesn’t support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1 audio. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC887 codec, which is a mainstream solution, providing a 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 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. These specifications are perfect for the average user. However, if you plan to convert and edit audio from analog sources (such as VHS tapes, vinyl records, and cassette tapes) you will need to pick a motherboard with an input SNR of at least 100 dB.
Even though the audio codec supports the 7.1 format, this motherboard is only compatible with 5.1 analog speakers. The motherboard has only three audio jacks, it doesn’t come with an SPDIF output, and it doesn’t have a header for you to install one.
As it only has three analog audio jacks, you will have to kill the “line in” and “mic in” jacks when installing a 5.1 analog speaker set. This is, in our opinion, the major drawback of this motherboard.
On the other hand, you can use the HDMI output to get 7.1 audio.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip.
In Figure 5, you can see the motherboard rear panel with four USB 2.0 ports, shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, VGA output, DVI-D output, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, two USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, 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. This is a really nice feature to be seen on an entry-level motherboard.
The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 has a serial port, available through a connector labeled “COMA.” You will need to buy an adapter to use this port. The motherboard supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), in charge of storing encryption keys in order to increase the security of the computer.
In Figure 7, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z77-HD4.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z77-HD4 has four phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), one for the CPU VSA (a.k.a. system agent) voltage, and one for the embedded GPU (VAXG). Therefore, it uses a “4+1+1” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3564 integrated circuit, which uses a digital design. Each phase uses three RJK0393DPA MOSFETs, which present a maximum RDS(on) of 5.9 mΩ.
The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 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 Z77-HD4 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 1,600 MHz in 50 MHz increments
- CPU core voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.900 V in 0.005 V increments
- CPU graphics voltage: From +0.000 V to +0.200 V in 0.005 V increments
- CPU VTT (“I/O”) voltage: From 0.770 V to 1.440 V in 0.010 V increments
- CPU PLL voltage: From 1.545 V to 2.205 V in 0.020 V increments
- Memory controller (“IMC,” “System Agent,” VCCSA) voltage: From 0.690 V to 1.250 V in 0.010 V increments
- Memory voltage: From 1.140 V to 2.100 V in 0.010 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte Z77-HD4 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)
- External SATA: None
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Four USB 3.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board v
ideo: Controlled by the CPU; VGA, DVI-D, DisplayPort, and HDMI connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC887 codec (7.1 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs)
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by a Realtek RTL8111F chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: One PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot (working at x16), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and two PCI slots
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-2800, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and three four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Two BIOS chips, support for TPM, and serial port
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.us
- Average Price in the U.S.: NA
The Gigabyte Z77-HD4 is clearly targeted to the average user, coming only with the feature set provided by the chipset, such as two SATA-600 ports and four USB 3.0 ports.
However, there are several smaller yet important features that set it apart from other entry-level motherboards. These include the use of four video connectors (VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort), the presence of a second PCI Express x16 slot (even though it is 2.0 and works at x4), a digital voltage regulator circuit, the use of only solid capacitors, the presence of two BIOS chips, and three four-pin fan connectors for auxiliary fans, allowing you to use PWM fans (which can be programmed to change their speed by software).
The only drawback of this motherboard, in our opinion, is the presence of only three audio jacks. So, if when installing a 5.1 analog speaker set, you will have to “kill” the “line in” and the “mic in” jacks. This should not be a problem if you use a USB headset, though.