Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H Overview

In our review today, the Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H comes in under the radar.  On the face of it we have a motherboard that does not to attempt to strike the user visually like some of the others; however it does run our gamut of benchmarks with very few issues.

In terms of connectivity we get an Intel NIC, a total of eight SATA 6 Gbps ports (6 Intel, 2 from controller), ten USB 3.0 ports (four Intel, six from controllers), a Realtek ALC898 audio codec, six fan headers and a PCIe 3.0 x8/x8 + PCIe 2.0 x4 layout of the GPU slots.  All the motherboards in our review have variations on these numbers due to Flex IO, or decide to go with x8/x4/x4 PCIe layouts.

With the Z87X series from Gigabyte we also get a new visualization of the BIOS and a new version of EasyTune (hurrah!).
 - We are out with the 3D BIOS which, at the beginning, suffered from sluggishness (it was admittedly getting better over time), and in with a new BIOS which allows customization.  Users can fill up menus with their own options from the BIOS and then have easy access to what they need to control most (CPU settings, fan controls).  Users with 1080p monitors also have a BIOS surround which gives plenty of detail about the system at hand.  The older BIOS is still there (the new BIOS is essentially a skin) for users that prefer it.
- The new version of EasyTune aims for simplicity with a deep contrast ratio and a variety of options not too dissimilar from the BIOS.  We get a new upgraded fan control system with internal testing of power-to-fan detection, as well as overclock options to suit almost every processor.  While I initially tested a beta version of the software, it is continually being improved so expect to see better versions in the weeks after launch.

There were a couple of hiccups in the early beta BIOS I was testing with, which have all been forwarded to Gigabyte in order to be fixed in future public releases.  Since then the DPC Latency, which fluctuates on the early BIOSes, is now fixed as of F5 to give 164 microseconds - also Software Update for installing system files works flawlessly, although it still does ask if you want to install Norton.  One issue that Gigabyte and I are split on is whether automatic OC options should be translated in the BIOS options, and if EasyTune/BIOS should be in sync, but that ends up being a company choice.  When manually overclocking, we had no issue getting to 4.6 GHz with our sample, and the automatic overclock options adjusted the memory unlike some others.

The sticking point of the UD3H is going to be that other motherboards in this review have a few exclusive features – the MSI has a Killer NIC, the ASRock has 802.11ac support, and the ASUS has Dual Intelligent Processors IV.  Another kicker is that they all have an ALC1150 based audio system.  In the end it comes down to the price-to-functionality ratio – the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H is $20-$50 cheaper than the other motherboards reviewed today.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H Visual Inspection

At first glance the Z87X-UD3H looks like any regular motherboard.  We have slightly new Gigabyte styling compared to the Z77 range of motherboards, with the VRM heatsinks getting a small facelift and making sure that Ultra Durable is the main advertising point.  Being the middle of the range motherboard, it contains all the features that for Gigabyte are must-haves (such as Dual BIOS), with room for a few extra controllers, but nothing explosive near the high end gaming or OC boards.  Gigabyte is now using the 40A PowIRStage ICs for the majority of the channel range, which should offer a greater longevity with respect to the power delivery over some cheaper variants.

Starting with the socket area, the power delivery chokes and heatsink are right up against the Intel specification limits, as well as the memory slots, meaning that large coolers might reach over and not allow tall memory to be installed (such as G.Skill TridentX).  The LGA1150 socket mechanism is exactly the same as 1155 and 1156 before it, meaning be careful when placing the CPU in and out – careful not to drop the CPU into the socket!  The CPU is powered by a single 8-pin 12V CPU connector, which will be the most common type of connection in this price range.  The socket area has access to four fan headers – two CPU headers to the top right of the socket, a 4-pin SYS header to the bottom left and a 3-pin SYS header next to the 24-pin ATX power connector.  The other two headers on board are located under the SATA ports (SYS, 4-pin) and to the left of the TPM on the bottom of the board (SYS, 4-pin).

The DIMM slots used are double-sided latch, rather than the single-sided latch we are starting to see higher up the price range.  To the top right of the DIMM slots are power/reset/Clear_CMOS buttons, all different colors and the power button is bigger to make sure you are pressing the right one.  Beside these are a pair of switches for work on the DualBIOS – the one on the right tells the system to recognize either one BIOS or two (useful if one BIOS is corrupt and needs to be overwritten) and the switch on the left tells the system which BIOS to choose.  It seems slightly odd given that the actual BIOS chips are in the middle of the board.  Next to these switches are a set of voltage check points for users to monitor voltages themselves rather than rely on software.

Going clockwise around the board we reach the two-digit debug display, which personally I find a must on any motherboard.  This is next to a fan header and the 24-pin ATX power connector.  Below we have a USB 3.0 port powered by the Intel chipset, and a SATA power connector to supply extra power to the PCIe slots.  Of all the variations of possible VGA power additions (4-pin molex, SATA, 6-pin PCIe), I tend to prefer the SATA power connectors just because it tends to be out of the way compared to the others.

The chipset heatsink is of a reasonable size, and next to the SATA ports: Gigabyte are using six SATA 6 Gbps from the Flex IO of the chipset and then adding in an additional SATA 6 Gbps controller for a total of eight ports.  Given that Gigabyte are using four Intel USB 3.0 ports on this motherboard, this would mean the Flex IO leans to eight PCIe 2.0 from the chipset to bring the total of SATA6/USB3/PCIe2 to 6+4+8=18, the magic number.

The bottom of the board contains our usual array of front panel audio, TPM, USB 2.0 ports, and front panel headers.  We also get a second Intel USB 3.0 header, as well as a COM port.  The audio on the Z87X-UD3H is the Realtek ALC898, compared to most of the other motherboards in this review which use an ALC1150 derivative.

The PCIe layout on the Z87X-UD3H is one that is going to crop up time and time again on the Z87 motherboard range, with three full length PCIe slots in an x16/-/x4 or x8/x8 + x4 configuration (meaning the final four lanes are from the chipset, and are CrossFireX compatible with questionable scaling onto a third GPU).  Most manufacturers not using a PLX bridge chip have a choice between the PCIe 3.0 x8/x8 + PCIe 2.0 x4 or the PCIe 3.0 x8/x4/x4, with the latter being in general better for tri-GPU gaming but will disable two-way SLI with anything in the third slot due to the x8 limitation of SLI.  The Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H can do two-way SLI when a non-GPU card is in the third slot, although AMD tri-GPU scaling is not as efficient as it could be due to the PCIe 2.0 x4 – this being the tradeoff.

The rear IO of the Z87X-UD3H points to video outputs and USB 3.0.  From left to right we have a PS/2 port, two USB 3.0 (controller), D-Sub, DVI-D, SPDIF output, HDMI, DisplayPort, four more USB 3.0 (controller), two eSATA 6 Gbps, Intel GbE and audio outputs.

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H Board Features

Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H
Price Link
Size ATX
CPU Interface LGA-1150
Chipset Intel Z87
Memory Slots Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Up to Dual Channel, 1066-3000 MHz
Video Outputs D-Sub
DVI-D
HDMI
DisplayPort
Onboard LAN Intel
Onboard Audio Realtek ALC898
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16/- or x8/x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x4
3 x PCIe 2.0 x1
1 x PCI
Onboard SATA/RAID 6 x SATA 6 Gbps (PCH), RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Controller), RAID 0, 1
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Shared PCH)
USB 4 x USB 3.0 (PCH) [2 headers]
6 x USB 3.0 (Renesas) [6 rear panel]
6 x USB 2.0 (PCH)
Flex IO
x+y+z = 18
SATA 6 Gbps 6
USB 3.0 4
PCIe 2.0 8
Onboard 8 x SATA 6 Gbps
2 x USB 3.0 Headers
3 x USB 2.0 Headers
6 x Fan Headers
1 x TPM Header
1 x COM Header
Front Panel Header
Front Panel Audio Header
Power/Reset/Clear_CMOS Buttons
Two Digit LED Debug
Voltage Check Points
Power Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX Power
1 x 8-pin CPU Power
1 x SATA VGA Power
Fan Headers 2 x CPU (4-pin)
4 x SYS (3 x 4-pin)
IO Panel 1 x PS/2 Port
6 x USB 3.0
D-Sub
DVI-D
HDMI
DisplayPort
SPDIF Output
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps
Intel NIC
Audio Jacks
Warranty Period 3 Years
Product Page Link

In terms of our 18 port Flex IO, the Z87X-UD3H splits this for six SATA 6 Gbps, four USB 3.0 and eight PCIe 2.0 lanes.  In terms of controllers on the board, while we do get a healthy number of USB 3.0 ports total (ten!) and SATA 6 Gbps ports (eight!), other motherboards in our test today in a similar price bracket are using Realtek ALC1150 audio and/or an EM shield to help improve SNR and quality.  Nonetheless, the ALC898 does well in our tests by comparison.

The Z87 Chipset and Flex IO Gigabyte Z87X-UD3H BIOS
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  • ShieTar - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Is there a special reason not to test the POST times and DPC latency of the Gigabyte Board? Its power consumption is quiet impressive, and whatever design measures have been used to achieve it do not seem to negatively affect the overall performance. So it would be interesting to complete the picture with the two measurements which are missing. Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    DPC Latency on the Gigabyte during testing was jumping around a fair bit, hitting 800+, though that is more likely due to the early BIOS revision. I need to run the POST test (as the results are strangely missing from my database) as well as the DPC test on a newer BIOS. Since I started testing almost every manufacturer has released newer BIOSes (as is always the way coming up to a launch) and I really have to lay the hammer down as testing a whole new BIOS takes a good 30 hours or so start to finish, so when I'm locked in that's it. That in a way does give an unfair advantage to the board I test last, but there's not a lot else I can do. I am still getting emails of BIOS updates for these boards as of yesterday.

    Ian
    Reply
  • tribbles - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Am I wrong in thinking that Gigabyte hasn't been doing well in the DPC Latency Test since Z77? If so, that's kind of surprising, since Gigabyte seems to be a "go-to" brand for digital audio workstation builders. Reply
  • IanCutress - Wednesday, July 10, 2013 - link

    I retested the UD3H on the F5 (public) BIOS, and it scored 164. The two next boards I have in for review got 160 and 157, which points fingers to the DPC on Haswell being 150+ regardless of motherboard. This might be a fundamental issue. Reply
  • Timur Born - Saturday, July 27, 2013 - link

    Run Prime95 (or turn off CPU power features) while measuring DPC latencies to see how much CPU power saving features affect DPCs. Reply
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  • Rick83 - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Maybe a bad choice to use two different ways of graphing the Rightmark results.
    Being consistent with regard to cutting off the irrelevant bit of the graph makes it a much easier read.
    Now it appears at first glance as though the Gigabyte board is much better in THD+N, simply because the differences were so minuscule in the dynamic range bit.

    On another note: Shouldn't it be more interesting to use a standardized input instead of the input of the board? In the current protocol a good output could be handicapped by a bad input, and conversely. For most users the output is much more important than the input, so it might be better to test it independently? I would recommend using a USB soundcard as an easy means of doing this test on the same machine, without changing the setup protocol too much.

    And finally - I seem to remember Rightmark results for earlier reviews - it would be interesting to have those (or maybe a reference soundcard?) as comparison in the same graph. After all, for DPC you maintain a large cross-platform table as well.

    Nice thorough initial review, those nitpicks withstanding.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Unfortunately I can't adjust the engine to represent from 0 for negative values, I don't have access to the low level options. I forwarded it on as an issue.

    I'd love to use a standardized input with RMAA. I guess it would be good to get a sound card with an input that supercedes the output of the motherboard and put it through that way, and hopefully there won't be a driver conflict along the line. I'll see what I can do to get in the hardware for that, although many soundcards are designed more for output and the input dynamic range/distortion might be the limiting factor as is the case on motherboards. Something like the Xonar Essence STX has a 118 dBA input with -113 dBA THD+N which might be a good starting point.

    Our RMAA testing for Z87 has changed a little from Z77 to make it more of an efficiency test rather than an out-the-box test as audio is such a varied playing field. RMAA is very sensitive to certain windows settings and volumes for example such that with the right combination it was very easy to show A>B or B>A depending on how the OS felt it should be set up. The new testing regimen for RMAA should iron out those issues but the results are not exactly comparable to Z77 for that reason. There are so many wrong ways to set up RMAA it can be difficult (and a learning experience) to get it right.

    Ian
    Reply
  • popej - Thursday, June 27, 2013 - link

    Nice to see you are planning steps in right direction. Using reference card for measurements is a proper solution. Be aware, that separate card add complications to the test, for example you will have to take care about ground loops and signal level matching. Professional card with balanced input could help a lot. Reply

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