The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH is a high-end socket LGA1150 motherboard targeted for the fourth-generation Core i processors, coming with two Thunderbolt 2 ports, IEEE 802.11ac interface, five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (four of them can be used at the same time), overclocking buttons, and more. Check it out!
The 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-UD7 TH motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the E-ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 10.4” (305 x 264 mm).
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH comes with five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
Usually, on motherboards based on the Z87 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 (x4 or x1) and only compatible with 2.0 specifications, which offers half of the 3.0 bandwidth. On this motherboard, however, the four slots are controlled by the processor, using a PLX PEX8747 switch chip, thus all slots are PCI Express 3.0.
The second PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX16_2) bypasses the switching chip, so it must be used if you are installing only one video card. But if one of the other PCI Express x16 slots is in use, it is disabled.
The third PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX8_1) shares bandwidth with the first one (PCIEX16_1), which means that the first slot works at x16 speed if the second one is not used, and at x8 if there is a video card installed in the second one. The same happens with the fourth and fifth slots. So, the possible slot configurations are x0/x16/x0/x0/x0, x16/x0/x0/x16/x0, x16/x0/x0/x8/x8, and x8/x0/x8/x8/x8.
All the PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies.
The PLX PEX8747 chip, which allows the high-end slot configuration, is shown in Figure 3, without its heatsink.
[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-UD7 TH supports memories up to 3,000 MHz.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH has four memory sockets. You can install 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-UD7 TH, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are gray. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.
[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). The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH comes with four additional SATA-600 ports, controlled by one Marvell 88SE9230 chip (supporting RAID 0, 1, and 10). The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH offers four USB 2.0 ports, available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are 10 USB 3.0 ports, all of them controlled by the chipset. Two of them (available through a header) are connected directly to the chipset, while the other eight (six located at the rear panel and two available through a header) are connected to four USB 3.0 ports from the chipset by way of two Renesas μPD720210 hub chips.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH doesn’t support FireWire ports.
The portrayed motherboard has two Thunderbolt 2 ports at the rear panel, controlled by one Intel DSL5520 chip.
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 analog audio outputs are independent only if you use a 5.1 analog speaker set. If you install a 7.1 analog speaker set, you will need to use the “line in” jack. There is an optical SPDIF output.
The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, controlled by two Intel I217V chips.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH comes with a Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module. This module supports IEEE 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0.
In Figure 7, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, six USB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort output, HDMI output, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, optical SPDIF output, and the analog audio jacks.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
This motherboard comes with a POST diagnostics display, so you can see, through a two-digit code, which component is preventing your computer from turning on. There are also a clear CMOS, reset, and power buttons, besides a set of overclocking buttons. The motherboard brings also voltage monitoring points.
The Z87X-UD7 TH comes with two BIOS chips, selectable by the switches shown in Figure 9, and a set of switches that disable each individual PCI Express x16 slot, so you can test is a particular video card is causing problems without physically removing it.
In Figures 11 and 12 you can see the remaining accessories that come with the Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH has 16 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses an IR3563B controller chip (digital design). This controller provides eight phases, and each of these phases are connected to a phase doubler integrated circuit, creating the final 16 phases. One IR3550M chip (which combines the low side and the high side transistors in a single package) is used per phase.
The voltage regulator circuit has an active cooler, with one heatpipe and a 40 mm fan. It is also prepared for a liquid cooling system.
Figure 13 reveals the voltage regulator circuit without the cooler.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH uses high-end “black” solid capacitors (a.k.a. “10K capacitors”) and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones. If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking options”]
The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (F2 BIOS):
- 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 Graphics Clock: from 400 MHz to 4,000 MHz in 50 MHz increments
- CPU voltage (Vcore): from 0.500 V to 1.800 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU voltage (Vcore) offset: from -0.300 V to +0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Graphics Voltage: from 0.500 V to 1.700 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Graphics Voltage Offset: from -0.300 V to +0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Ring Voltage: from 0.800 V to 1.800 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Ring Voltage Offset: from -0.300 V to +0.400 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU System Agent Voltage Offset: 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
- CPU VRIN External Override: from 1.000 V to 2.905 V in 0.010 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 0.005 V increments
- Chipset interface voltage (“PCH IO”): from 1.050 V to 1.900 V in 0.005 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: ITE IT8728FE
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) and four SATA-600 ports controlled by a Marvell 88SE9230 chip
- 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 on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers; eight of the ten ports are controlled by the chipset by the way of two Renesas μPD720210 hub chips
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: Two Thunderbolt 2 ports, controlled by an Intel DSL5520 chip
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; one DisplayPort and one 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 two Intel I217V chips; Bluetooth 4.0 adapter
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Five PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x0/x16/x0/x0/x0, x16/x0/x0/x16/x0, x16/x0/x0/x8/x8, and x8/x0/x8/x8/x8), and two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, PLX PEX8747 switch chip
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-3000, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: Two four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, five four-pin connector for an auxiliary fans, and two three-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
- Extra features: Two BIOS chips, POST diagnostics display, voltage monitoring points, overclocking buttons, and block on the voltage regulator ready for liquid cooling solutions
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: Two
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities and drivers
- More Information: https://www.gigabyte.com
- Average Price in the U.S.*: USD 430.00
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH is a real high-end motherboard targeted to the enthusiast user who wants to build a high-end computer using one a “Haswell” CPU (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors) and wants all the possible bells and whistles.
The highlights of this motherboard include the two Thunderbolt 2 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, Bluetooth 4.0, IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi, 10 USB 3.0 ports, 10 SATA-600 ports, five PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots (four can be used at the same time), a high-end voltage regulator circuit with 16 phases, active cooler for the voltage regulator supporting liquid cooling out of the box, hardware overclocking buttons, and more.
Another important feature of this motherboard is the presence of a PCI Express switch chip, which makes it possible for the motherboard to have many additional features and the ability to switch bandwidth automatically to the device that is requiring it. Because of this, all PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, supporting CrossFireX and SLI arrays with up to four video cards, which is impressive.
The only 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 the manufacturer wanted to add ten. While two of them are connected directly to the chipset, the other eight are connected to four USB 3.0 ports of the chipset, by way of two 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.
Another constructive criticism is regarding the audio codec: Gigabyte could have used the Realtek ALC1150 chip instead of the ALC898. Afterall, we are talking about a motherboard that costs more than USD 400.