The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H is a top mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard targeted to the “Haswell” processors (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
The new Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H motherboard in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H motherboard
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one PCI slot.
The two PCI Express 3.0 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.
The third PCI Express x16 slot is 2.0 and works at x4. If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will have to buy a case with at least eight slots. (Computer cases usually have seven.) One important detail is that this slot shares PCI Express lanes with slots “PCIEX1_2” and “PCIEX1_3” slots, and they can’t be used at the same time.
When installing dual-slot video cards, you “kill” the slot immediately to the left of the slot being used (looking at the motherboard with its rear connectors facing up).
Since the Intel Z87 chipset doesn’t support standard PCI slots, the motherboard uses an ITE IT8892E bridge chip to connect the standard PCI slot to a PCI Express x1 lane.
The PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies. It is important to note that, according to the motherboard’s manual, the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot doesn’t support these technologies and can’t be used to install a third video card under SLI or CrossFireX modes. If more than one video card is installed, you must attach a SATA power connector from the power supply to the motherboard. This connector is located near the SATA ports and will be shown in Figure 4.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1150 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 LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to Gigabyte, the Z87X-UD3H supports memories up to 1,600 MHz.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H, the first and third memory sockets are gray, while the second and fourth are black. When installing two memory modules, use the gray sockets.
Figure 3: Memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard has two additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by a Marvell 88SE9172 chip, supporting RAID 0 and 1. These two additional ports are shared with the two eSATA-600 ports available, so they cannot be used simultaneously.
The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them.
Figure 4: The two SATA-600 ports controlled by the Marvell chip (gray) and the six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (black)
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H offers six USB 2.0 ports through three headers located on the motherboard. From the six USB 3.0 ports provided by the chipset, two are available on a USB 3.0 header and two are connected to two Renesas µPD720210 hub chips, expanding each port to four, for a total of eight USB 3.0 ports. This way, the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H has a total of 10 USB 3.0 ports, four available through two headers on the motherboard and six available on the motherboard’s rear panel.
The Gigabyte Z87X-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 a 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 analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a two-pin header labeled “SPDIF_O”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.
One interesting feature available on this motherboard is an audio amplifier for analog headphones, which is provided by a Texas Instruments DRV632 chip.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
In Figure 5, 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.
Figure 5: Motherboard rear panel
[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.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H has a POST diagnostics display, so you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing your computer from turning on.
Figure 7: POST diagnostics display
The portrayed 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. The motherboard also has a legacy serial port, available through a header labeled “COMA,” but it doesn’t come with the necessary adapter.
In Figure 8, you can see all of the accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator is controlled by an IR3563B integrated circuit, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by an IR3553 integrated circuit, which incorporates the three required transistors (“driver,” “low side,” and “high side”). This integrated circuit provides efficiency up to 93.2%, since it can switch at up to 1 MHz (usually voltage regulator circuits operate at 250 kHz).
Figure 9: Voltage regulator circuit
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H uses solid, Japanese electrolytic capacitors, from Chemi-Con. 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 Z87X-UD3H has voltage monitoring points.
Figure 10: Voltage monitoring points.
The portrayed motherboard has a few overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (F5 BIOS):
- CPU Base Clock: From 80.00 MHz to 266.66 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
- Host/PCIe Clock: Min: From 80.01 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
- Processor Base Clock (Gear Ratio): 1.00x, 1.25x, 1.65x or 2.50x
- CPU voltage (Vcore): From 0.500 V to 1.800 V in 0.001 V increments
- Memory Voltage: From 1.150 V to 2.100 V in 0.005 V increments
- Chipset voltage (“PCH Core”): From 0.650 V to 1.300 V in 0.025 V increments
- CPU VRIN External Override: From 1.000 V to 2.905 V in 0.013 V increments
- CPU Graphics Voltage (VAXG): From 0.500 V to 1.700 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Ring Voltage: From 0.800 V to 1.800 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU System Agent (VSA) Voltage: From -0.300 V to 0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU I/O Analog Voltage: From -0.300 V to 0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU I/O Digital Voltage: From -0.300 V to 0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
Figure 11: Overclocking options
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: ITE IT8728F
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) and two SATA-600 ports controlled by a Marvel 88SE9172 chip (RAID 0 and 1)
- External SATA: Two eSATA-600 ports shared with the two SATA-600 ports controlled by the Marvell chip
- USB 2.0: Six USB 2.0 ports available through three headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: 10 USB 3.0 ports, two controlled by the chipset and eight expanded from two ports controlled by the chipset by two Renesas µPD720210 hub chips; six soldered on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers on the motherboard
- 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, and audio amplifier for analog headphones (Texas Instruments DRV632 chip)
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4), three PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and one PCI slot (ITE IT8892E bridge chip)
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, four four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans, and one three-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
- Extra features: Two BIOS chips, POST diagnostics display, support for TPM, legacy serial port, and voltage monitoring points
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.us
- MSRP in the U.S.: USD 180.00
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H is clearly targeted to the user who wants an above-the-average motherboard based on the new Z87 chipset for the new “Haswell” CPUs (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5 or Core i7 processors).
The highlights of this motherboard include the presence of 10 USB 3.0 ports, six SATA-600 ports, two additional SATA-600/eSATA ports, a decent voltage regulator circuit, a POST diagnostics display, two BIOS chips, voltage monitoring points, a high-end audio codec, independent analog audio jacks, audio amplifier for analog headphones, and more.
There are, however, a couple of drawbacks with this motherboard, but they shouldn’t affect most users.
The first drawback is with the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, which works at x4. This slot shares PCI Express lanes with slots “PCIEX1_2” and “PCIEX1_3” slots, and they can’t be used at the same time. Also, you can’t use it with SLI and CrossFireX configurations, rendering it pretty much useless.
The second drawback we see with this motherboard is the way the USB 3.0 ports are configured. The Z87 chipset supports six USB 3.0 ports, but only four of them are used. Two of them are expanded to eight through the use of two USB 3.0 hub chips. If you use two or more ports that are actually connected to the same USB 3.0 port on the chipset at the same time, the performance will drop. Unfortunately the manufacturer doesn’t label which ports are shared.
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