Gigabyte Z77-HD4 Reviewby Ian Cutress on May 19, 2013 10:00 AM EST
Gigabyte Z77-HD4 In The Box
Motherboards on the low end of the price scale have only one focus – the motherboard itself. While the $180-$400 packages might have those extras and bonus, we would not expect a $120 motherboard to produce much. That being said, in the past we have been pleasantly surprised in $140-$160 packages, either ATX or mITX, which have included a USB 3.0 panel in the past. That was when USB 3.0 was ‘an extra’, rather than a standard of the chipset – meaning that we are unlikely to get one of those as most cases now have a connector. But in the Gigabyte Z77-HD4, we do get:
Rear IO Shield
Four SATA Cables
I am surprised we have four SATA cables in the box – previous motherboards from Gigabyte have had two, so users wishing to have the additional storage have some extra headroom (as long as you are not blocking the SATA ports with a second GPU).
Gigabyte Z77-HD4 Overclocking
Note: Ivy Bridge does not overclock like Sandy Bridge. For a detailed report on the effect of voltage on Ivy Bridge (and thus temperatures and power draw), please read Undervolting and Overclocking on Ivy Bridge.
Experience with Gigabyte Z77-HD4
To be honest, when dealing with a motherboard at a low price point, I was not sure what to expect regarding the overclocking. A lot of the marketing fluff around the big launches and the high-end products is all about power delivery and overclocking prowess. If the hullaballoo surrounding overclocking capabilities of the more expensive motherboards was blown away by smaller models, it just represents another angle that should prioritize feature set over overclocking. Alternatively if a cheaper model falters, then the marketing surrounding overclocking could be considered justified – the other factor could also be longevity. With a more substantial phase design, components are stressed less. The cheaper motherboards often have cheaper phases, leading to potential heat generation issues – on the flip side more phases means more things to go wrong.
Overall however, the overclocking experience on the Z77-HD4 was better than expected, matching some of the other motherboards we have tested, despite our poor CPU! In previous motherboards we have achieved 4.6 GHz with reasonable temperatures (albeit rather high voltages), and the Z77-HD4 matched this with ease. In terms of manual overclocking options, we have Gigabyte’s three CPU Level Up options in the OS software, which performed with mixed results, with the top options placing too much voltage into the CPU.
Our standard overclocking methodology is as follows. We select the automatic overclock options and test for stability with PovRay and OCCT to simulate high-end workloads. These stability tests aim to catch any immediate causes for memory or CPU errors.
For manual overclocks, based on the information gathered from previous testing, starts off at a nominal voltage and CPU multiplier, and the multiplier is increased until the stability tests are failed. The CPU voltage is increased gradually until the stability tests are passed, and the process repeated until the motherboard reduces the multiplier automatically (due to safety protocol) or the CPU temperature reaches a stupidly high level (100ºC+). Our test bed is not in a case, which should push overclocks higher with fresher (cooler) air.
For automatic overclocking, the three options available to users are located in the EasyTune6 software in the OS. These options are labeled in a traffic light system, and 1, 2, 3 with 3 being the highest overclock. There is also an option for ‘Auto Tuning’, which should perform a stress test style analysis to find the best overclock. Here are our results:
For CPU Level 1, the system attempts to apply a 41x102 overclock (4182 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.335 V and a 0.150 V offset. In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.380 volts, a PovRay score of 1532.10, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 83C.
For CPU Level 2, the system attempts to apply a 43x103 overclock (4429 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.340 V and a 0.150 V offset. In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.392 volts, a PovRay score of 1619.67, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 84C.
For CPU Level 3, the system attempts to apply a 45x104 overclock (4680 MHz) with a BIOS voltage setting of 1.345 V and a 0.150 V offset and LLC set to High. In the OS, this leads to a load voltage of 1.380 volts, a memory error during PovRay, and a peak temperature during OCCT of 101C.
The Auto Tuning option in ET6 failed to load.
Starting with our base settings (40x100 and 1.100 volts), we test for stability and increase voltage until stable. When stable, the multiplier is increased and the process repeated. Here are our results:
Software and BIOS
Unfortunately due to the timing of this review (very close to Haswell), we have not had time to write an extensive run-down of the BIOS and software on the Z77-HD4. After playing with the software and BIOS, it performs identically to that of the UD3H and UD5H which we have reviewed, meaning a couple of thousand rehashed words with a slightly different twist related to the HD4. If you wish to read up on the BIOS and software of a similar motherboard, please follow this link for the UD3H rundown.