Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH Motherboard Review


Last month we saw some of Gigabyte’s upcoming Z77 motherboards at Computex which feature their latest Ultra Durable 5 technology.  We have been very impressed by all the existing Gigabyte Z77 motherboards we’ve tested so we are quite excited to see what the new range has to offer.
Today we are going to look at the Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH which is aimed at the mainstream market.  It boasts an impressive feature set which includes dual thunderbolt connectors and Gigabyte’s latest Ultra Durable 5 technology.  The ‘P’ in the model number tells us that it features the Ultra Durable 5 technology which differs from the ‘D’ used for Ultra Durable 4.
Other interesting features include a full complement of USB 3.0 ports, PCI Express 3.0 and various overclocking technologies that should let us squeeze a lot more power out of the i7-3770K that we’ll be using for testing today.
Features
  • Supports Intel 3rd Generation CPU’s – Socket 1155
  • Ultra Durable 5 - Super high rated Ferrite Core Chokes (60A). 2x Copper PCB and IR3550 IC’s in the CPU power zone for the coolest temperatures ever.
  • Lucid Virtu MVP – Producing faster frame rates, with sharper visuals and reduced tearing.
  • nVidia SLI and AMD CrossfireX - For multi display or ultimate performance gaming.
  • UEFI DualBIOS – A superior graphical BIOS interface, based on the trusted and secure GIGABYTE Dual BIOS technology.
  • Onboard mSATA Connector Mount a low capacity mSATA SSD onto your motherboard to take advantage of INTEL SRT and RAPID START.
  • USB 3x Power Boost – Delivering greater device compatibility and faster charge times
  • Super Speed USB3.0 – Super fast transfer rates of up to 5 Gbps, 10x faster than USB2.0
  • Super SATA3 Native Support – Supporting super fast 6 Gbps link speeds
  • PCIe GEN 3 – Designed to take full advantage of the next generation high bandwidth graphic card solutions
  • ON/OFF Charge Technology – Allows you to charge your iPad, iPHone, or iPod even if your PC is off
  • Dual Thunderbolt – Dasiy chain up to 12 devices + 2 display monitors and transfer 1 TB of data in just 5 minutes!
The Z77X-UP4 TH is supplied in a standard motherboard box which carries and attractive white livery.  On the top of the box there are a series of badges which illustrate various features of the motherboard within.
Turning the box over reveals a vast amount of information about the motherboard, including a series of diagrams and a detailed list of specifications.  The box is made from reasonably thick cardboard which should do a good job of protecting the motherboard in transit.
We aren’t overwhelmed by the extent of the included bundle but the Z77X-UP4 TH is only a mid range motherboard so we can’t expect too much.  It consists of four SATA-600 cables, a series of user guides, a driver CD, an I/O shield and a SLI cable.
The colour scheme of the Z77X-UP4 is very similar to what we’ve seen from Gigabyte in the past.  The motherboard features a black PCB with a combination of black and grey fittings.  There are also a few blue highlights on the heatsinks.
We think that this is much more attractive than the blue and white Gigabyte motherboards of old and it makes it a lot easier to colour co-ordinate components.
Considering that the Z77X-UP4 is a mid-range motherboard, there are some fairly substantial heatsinks surrounding the CPU socket to cool the power regulation circuitry.  This is an early indicator that the board has overclocking prowess. The 8-pin CPU power connector is nestled just behind these heatsinks.
There are four RAM slots in total which are located along the right hand side of the motherboard in the usual place.  The motherboard supports up to 32 GB of non-ECC DDR3 dual channel memory modules at speeds of 1600/1333/1066 MHz.
Alongside the memory modules we find the 24-pin motherboard power and the internal USB3.0 header.
Moving further down the right hand side of the motherboard we find the six SATA connectors which are all mounted at 90 degrees to the motherboard to facilitate tidy cable routing.  The two SATA-600 ports are coloured white and the four SATA-300 connectors are coloured black.  These are all connected to the chipset and support RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10.
The Z77X-UP4 also features an mSATA connector which lets the user install a low capacity SSD on the motherboard.  This is ideal for use with Intel Smart Response technology.  When an SSD is installed in the mSATA slot, the SATA2 5 connector is disabled.
Gigabyte has included a plentiful array of expansion slots.  There are two PCI Express x16 slots but these are reduced to 8x bandwidth when graphics cards are installed in both.
There is a third PCI Express x16 slot at the bottom of the motherboard which can only run at x4 and reduces the other two slots to x8 when a device is installed. This slot is only enabled when an Ivy Bridge CPU is used in the system.  The motherboard also features three PCI Express x1 slots and a single legacy PCI slot.
Most of the internal headers are located along the bottom edge of the motherboard.  From left to right we find the HD Audio, SPDIF, a 4-pin fan header, TPM, 3x USB2.0, a further 4-pin fan header, the front panel header and COM.
The rear I/O panel supports:
  • 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
  • 1 x D-Sub port
  • 1 x DVI-D port
  • 1 x HDMI port
  • 6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
  • 2 x Thunderbolt ports
  • 1 x RJ-45 port
  • 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
  • 5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
Gigabyte use their attractive 3D BIOS on this motherboard which is reasonably easy to navigate.  We don’t feel it’s quite as logically laid out as the BIOS interfaces we’ve seen from Asus and ASRock though.
We have separate pages for the frequency, memory, and voltage settings as well as PC Health Status, miscellaneous settings and BIOS status.  These contain all the settings we need to overclock with the motherboard.
Under the second tab we’re able to see some basic information about the BIOS.
The third tab contains all the boot configuration options.
On the peripherals page we find some more configuration options for the SATA controller and other onboard devices.
We find the power management settings under the fifth tab.
The final tab of the software contains options for boot overide and lets us load optimised defaults.
Pressing F1 in the BIOS brings up the 3D mode brings up a large image of the motherboard which lets us analyse areas of the motherboard we are configuring with different settings.  This will be quite educational (and useful) for novice users.
Overclocking
We were able to achieve an impressive overclock of 4.8 GHz with our i7-3770K using a baseclock of 100 MHz, a multiplier of 48x and a core voltage of 1.36V.  This are the settings we used for our overclocked testing.  We managed to boot the system at 4.9 GHz but this required over 1.4V which wouldn’t really be safe 24/7.
See validation here.
In this review we are going to benchmark the i7-3770K at reference clock speeds and when overclocked to 4.8 GHz. We used a Phanteks PH-TC14PE Cooler for our tests.
Test System:
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770K
Motherboard: Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH
Cooler: Phanteks PH-TC14PE
Thermal Paste: Arctic Cooling MX-2
Memory: 8 GB G.Skill @ 1600 MHz 9-9-9-24
Graphics Card: AMD Radeon HD 6950
Power Supply: Thermaltake ToughPower XT 750W
System Drive: Intel 520 Series 240 GB
Monitor: Viewsonic VX2260WM
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Software:
PCMark 7
3DMark 11
SiSoft Sandra 2012 SP3
Cinebench R11.5
CrystalDiskMark
Cyberlink MediaEspresso 6.5
VLC Media Player
Performance Monitor
Unigine Heaven Benchmark
Super Pi 1.5 Mod
CPUID Hardware Monitor
CPU-Z
DiRT 3
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista. The benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.
Here we see a good boost in performance when the system was overclocked.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.
In this test we see similar results to 3DMark 11 as there is a sizable boost in performance when the system was overclocked.
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.
In this test we can see the system wide benefits of overclocking.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
This test is heavily reliant on the graphics performance of the system so there is only a very small improvement in performance when the system is overclocked.
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software. Sandra is a (girl) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit
An impressive set of results all round.
Cinebench R11.5 is the newest revision of the popular benchmark from Maxon. The test scenario uses all of your system’s processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene (from the viral “No Keyframes” animation by AixSponza). This scene makes use of various different algorithms to stress all available processor cores.
In fact, CINEBENCH can measure systems with up to 64 processor threads. The test scene contains approximately 2,000 objects containing more than 300,000 total polygons and uses sharp and blurred reflections, area lights and shadows, procedural shaders, antialiasing, and much more. The result is given in points (pts). The higher the number, the faster your processor.
Here we can see that there was a greater than fourfold increase in performance when the test was allowed to run with multiple threads.  This is the advantage i7 chips have over i5, as they feature hyper threading.
Super Pi is used by a huge audience, particularly to check stability when overclocking processors. If a system is able to calculate PI to the 2 millionth pace after the decimal without mistake, it is considered to be stable in regards to RAM and CPU.
This test only examines the single threaded performance of the CPU but we still see a sizable performance advantage when overclocked.
CrystalDiskMark is a useful benchmark to measure theoretical performance levels of hard drives and SSD’s. We are using V3.0 x64.
Today we are testing with the Samsung 830 Series 256 GB solid state drive.
Unfortunately there are only two SATA-600 ports on this motherboard but this should be enough for most mainstream users.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6.5 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 1.09GB 720p MKV file (44mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version of this program with full hardware acceleration enabled.
Here we can see the real world performance benefits of overclocking as it reduced the time taken to convert the video file substantially.
Many people who have media systems will be familiar with the Matroska (.mkv) file format which is often used for high definition video. In this test we will be using VLC Media Player to play a 1080P MKV file while recording CPU usage using Performance Monitor.
In this test the system didn’t break a sweat, recording a very low average CPU usage both at stock settings and when overclocked.
DiRT 3 was released quite recently and has received a lot of praise from gamers and reviewers across the globe. It is the latest iteration of the Colin McRae Rally series, despite Codemasters dropping the Colin McRae branding. It supports DirectX 11 which enhances detail and brings a number of other visual enhancements to the gaming experience.
We see a slight improvement in performance when the system is overclocked in this test.  This shows how real world gaming performance can benefit from overclocking.
Grand Theft Auto: Episodes From Liberty City is a standalone compilation of the DLC episodes forGrand Theft Auto IV, containing both The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony on one disc. It was released alongside the DLC release of The Ballad of Gay Tony on 29 October 2009 for the Xbox 360 and released on 13 April 2010 for Microsoft Windows and Playstation 3. It does not require a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV to play, nor is an Xbox Live or PSN account necessary (except for multiplayer).
The engine is still extremely demanding for this game – even now for the newest hardware. The latest version changes some of the rendering calls and is used partially within the latest Max Payne engine. The settings we used to test this game are displayed in the screenshot below.
We see a bigger performance difference from overclocking in this test as it’s more CPU intensive than DiRT 3.
We measured the power consumption of our entire test system at the wall while loading the CPU using Prime95 and GPU using FurMark. We recorded results with the system at reference clock speeds and when overclocked to 4.7 GHz.
These results are exactly what we would expect from the test system.
Everything considered, we are very impressed with the Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH as it offers pretty much everything we could ask for from a mid-range motherboard. It boasts an impressive feature set which includes dual thunderbolt connectors … something we’ve yet to see on a mid-range motherboard.
Without doubt the most interesting feature of this motherboard for us is the overclocking capability.  We managed to overclock our i7-3770K to 4.8 GHz using a voltage of 1.36V which was very easily attainable.
We would recommend a good cooler if you plan to overclock a system to this level, though, as most budget models just wont cut it.
Gigabyte have given the motherboard a neutral colour scheme which will make it very easy for you to colour code with other components.  There are also six USB3.0 connectors on the rear I/O panel with a further two available through the internal header.
If you’re looking for a motherboard with very good connectivity, then the Z77X-UP4 TH doesn’t disappoint.
The Z77X-UP4 TH can be yours for a shade under £160 from Overclockers UK.  At this price it’s a little more expensive than other mid-range motherboards out there but then we have to consider that it offers more than most.  The overclocking performance is very good and it also features dual thunderbolt connectors which will help future-proof the system.
Pros
  • Decent overclocking performance.
  • Attractive design.
  • Dual thunderbolt connectors.
  • Good BIOS.
Cons
  • Asus BIOS is easier to navigate.
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