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The Intel Z77 chipset will be released by the end of this month, but we had the privilege of getting the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H for a “first look” article. It will be a top mainstream socket LGA1155 motherboard targeted to the forthcoming “Ivy Bridge” processors (third-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors) and also supporting the current “Sandy Bridge” models (second-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). Let’s see what the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H will have to offer.
The Intel Z77 will be 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 will also include 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 Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 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 already announced 12 different motherboard models based on the Intel Z77 chipset. With so many models, it is difficult to compile a single table that fits our layout. Therefore, we are breaking down the models into two tables, one with the XL-ATX and ATX models, and another with the microATX models. 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 G1.Sniper 3 motherboard.
|PCI Express x16||4 (x16/x0/x16/x0 or x16/x0/x8/x8 or x8/x8/x8/x8)||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||2 (x16/x4)||2 (x16/x4)||2 (x16/x4)|
|PCI Express x1||2||3||3||3||3||2||2|
|Price||NA||USD 200||USD 170||USD 150||USD 125||USD 120||NA|
* The motherboard has only four “real” USB 3.0 ports that are expanded to eight using hub chips.
|PCI Express x16||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||3 (x16/x0/x4 or x8/x8/x4)||2|
|PCI Express x1||1||1||1|
|Price||NA||USD 140||USD 115|
Figure 1 shows you the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H motherboard.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H comes with two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.
0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot, and two standard PCI slots.
The two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed. Since these slots are controlled by the CPU, they will offer PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth (8 GB/s at x16) when a “Sandy Bridge” CPU is installed, but PCI Express 3.0 bandwidth (16 GB/s at x16) when an “Ivy Bridge” CPU is used.
The third PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the chipset and always works at x4, offering PCI Express 2.0 bandwidth. If you want to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will need to use a computer 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.
When more than one video card is installed, you must install a SATA power connector from the power supply to the “ATX4P1” connector present on the motherboard.
This motherboard comes with a mini PCI Express slot, which only supports SSD devices based on this form factor (“mSATA”); therefore, you can’t install a wireless networking card on it.
Since the Z77 chipset doesn’t support standard PCI slots, these slots are connected to PCI Express x1 lanes using an ITE IT8892 bridge chip.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1155 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, which 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). Differently from other manufacturers, Gigabyte doesn’t claim that this motherboard supports memory speeds above the official ones.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 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. Unfortunately, Gigabyte used the same color for all the memory sockets (black) instead of using two different colors, which would certainly help users detect which sockets to use. Installation must start from the bottom-most socket, i.e., the socket closest to the main power supply connector. When installing two memory modules, you will have to “skip” the second memory socket, and install the second memory module in the third memory socket.
[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). These ports are located at the motherboard’s edge and rotated 90°, so video cards won’t block them.
The mSATA slot is connected to the SATA2 port 5, so they can’t be used at the same time. This also means that the mSATA slot is SATA-300.
This motherboard also has two eSATA-600 ports, which are controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip.
The Intel Z77 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and four USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H offers six USB 2.0 ports, available through three headers located on the motherboard; and eight USB 3.0 ports, six located on the motherboard rear panel and two available on a header located on the motherboard. The four additional USB 3.0 ports located on the rear panel are controlled by a VIA VL800 chip.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 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 VIA VT2021 codec, which is an outstanding solution, providing an impressive 110 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 100 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 an optical SPDIF output, and you can add a coaxial SPDIF output or route digital audio to old video cards that require a physical connection in order to have digital audio on their HDMI output by using the “SPDIF_O” connector available.
The analog audio outputs are completely independent, so you won’t have to kill either the “mic in” or the “line in” jacks when installing an analog 7.1 speaker set.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Ateros AR8151 chip.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 connector for keyboard and mouse, six USB 3.0 ports, VGA output, DVI-D output, optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, two eSATA-600 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 motherboard also has a POST diagnostics display, where you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing the computer from turning on.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), a module that encrypts data in order to increase the computer’s security level.
In Figure 9, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H has six phases for the CPU main voltage (Vcc a.k.a. Vcore), two for the CPU VSA voltage (memory controller), and one for the CPU VTT voltage (PCI Express and DMI interfaces). Therefore, it uses a “6+2+1” configuration. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3567A integrated circuit, using a digital design.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H 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-UD3H has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones:
- Base clock: From 80 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 1.900 V in 0.005 V increments
- Integrated graphics processor (VAXG) voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.500 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
- 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 voltage: From 1.100 V to 2.100 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory termination voltage: From 0.593 V to 1.934 V in 0.007 V increments
- Memory reference voltage: From 0.425 V to 1.385 V and from 0.593 V to 1.934 V, in 0.005 V increments
The motherboard also has voltage monitoring points, where you can monitor the CPU (Vcore, VTT, VSA, and PLL), memory (“VDIMM”), memory termination (“DDRVTT”), and chipset (“PCHIO”) voltages.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H include:
- Socket: 1155
- 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: Two eSATA-600 ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip
- USB 2.0: Six USB 2.0 ports, available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Eight USB 3.0 ports, two soldered on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header on the motherboard controlled by the chipset and four soldered on the motherboard rear panel controlled by a VIA VL800 chip
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- On-board video: Yes, controlled by the CPU, VGA, DVI-D, HDMI, and DisplayPort connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a VIA VT2021 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 110 dB SNR for the outputs, and 100 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Ateros AR8151 chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4, all slots supporting SLI and CrossFireX), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, one standard PCI slot, and one mSATA slot
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 32 GB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler and four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: POST diagnostics display, TPM support, voltage monitoring points
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.us
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 170.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on 04/08/2012.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H is a top mainstream motherboard, meaning it is targeted to the average user who wants “something extra.” This comes in the form of an additional PCI Express x16 slot (allowing you to install up to three video cards under SLI or CrossFireX modes), eight USB 3.0 ports (motherboards based on the Z77 chipset usually come with four), an mSATA slot (for you to install a small SSD unit based on this form factor), two independent eSATA-600 ports, a high-end audio codec (which allows you to work professionally editing analog audio with this motherboard), overclocking in 0.01 MHz increments, voltage monitoring p
oints, two BIOS chips, and support for four PWM fans.
The only negative we see on this motherboard is the voltage regulator circuit, as competing products use a design with more phases.
In summary, it is a terrific option if you want the extra features brought by this motherboard. If you don’t need so many fancy features, you can pick a more affordable product. Conversely, if you need more SATA-600 ports, you will also need to pick a different product, as this motherboard comes only with two of them.