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GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP7 Extreme Overclocking Motherboard

Reviewing another Z77 motherboard sure is pointless… not this one, though. GIGABYTE has sent us their flagship Z77 motherboard to play around with and there ain’t nothing better to spend my birthday with than to test out this bad boy. Billed as a legend by GIGABYTE, this motherboard takes a different path away from its G1 brother, focusing on the overclocking crowd as its main audience. Brandishing an insane 32-phase VRM, this motherboard is made to kill records and set new ones. We’re back in the land of extreme with GIGABYTE so read on and let’s make this extremely showy!

Amongst the current motherboard makers, GIGABYTE surely isn’t following any definite path with its product lines. With the UD product line now cohabited by the UP line, GIGABYTE is aiming at a lot of segments with its highly varied products. With the gaming line obviously handed to the prestigious G1.Killer line, it certainly comes as a surprise for GIGABYTE to release another champion in their Z77 portfolio but alas they did. Enter the GA-Z77X-UP7: an eATX overclocking motherboard bred from the likes of the X58-OC and X79-UD7 line of boards. Clad in the series’ distinct black and orange and souped up with a power conditioning system that puts to shame anything that tried before it, this motherboard has big shoes to fill. Let’s take the usual tour around the board and move on to performance.

Specifications

Check out GIGABYTE’s Z77X-UP7’s specs over the product page, here. Or you can check out the microsite here.

Here we have GIGABYTE’s current flagship model for their Intel Socket 1155 line of product: the GA-Z77X-UP7. The board certainly has immediately distinct features in its layout most noteworthy is the amount of driver MOSFET’s around the socket area which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s well aware of what this board is designed for. Another thing noteworthy is the two ATX+12v connector. You will need a power supply that has these connectors.

Rear I/O connections include an all USB3.0 layout, featuring 6 USB3.0. The first row is coupled with a PS/2 combo port for use with legacy keyboards and mice. This should come in handy for overclockers. Display connectivity include DSUB, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. Dual Ethernet ports are provided and the board’s audio is an 8-channel solution provided by a Realtek ALC898 onboard audio solution.

The board features five x16 PCI-e slots with 2 x1 slots. The orange slots are capable of full x8 speed when all are populated. PCI-e 3.0 is dependent on GPU and CPU.

Here we can see a closer look of the PCH and lower right edge of the board. Aside from the regular front panel connections, we have an MB and SB switch and a reset tack button over here. The switches control what BIOS to run and if DualBIOS will be enabled.

The board features 10 SATA ports. The 4 black ones are SATAII and the white pair are SATAIII and are all natively powered by the chipset. GIGABYTE includes 4 more SATAIII connections via Marvell 88SE9172 controller.

One of the loveliest corners of the board, the upper right corner near the DIMM slots is home the overclocking features of this board. The onboard power and CMOS reset switches are present as well as the Frequency adjustment and ratio adjustment buttons. The gear button toggles frequency adjustment to decimal increments from whole numbers. Voltage checkpoints are present on this side also. You can use the provided lead connectors or test directly via the board’s test points. There’s also that LN2 switch which drops the system to x16 frequency.

There’s that massive VRM GIGABYTE has been flaunting. They’ve been recently switching to a new board heatsink style in the UP line using fin arrays with a heatpipe. This board features cooling from the PCH all the way to the VRM area with a heatpipe connecting all the heatsinks.

And a bonus shot of those probes.

This motherboard certainly makes a statement and knows how to attract attention. The front of the box alone is eye-catching, with a dark and glossy theme highlighted with orange trims and text. The model name of the board as well as an artistic product shot headlines the front along with a bevy of marketing icons.

On the back we can see a shot of the board with its main features highlighted and a lot of marketing text and images.

Plenty more marketing text on the front flap of the box. You can flip over the the front flap to get a glimpse of the motherboard inside.

Here’s a closer shot of that front flap. This is the part where GIGABYTE gives you a lecture about electrical components, copper’s conductivity and MOSFET company practices.

As with the majority of high-end components, this box comes with its own CARRYING HANDLE. The carrying handle is made of plastic, around 6 inches in length and lol just kidding.

Inside the package, we find a huge assortment of included items which we’ll go through in detail on the next gallery.

Included in the Z77X-UP7 package are a ton of accessories and connectivity.

First up is the Wifi and Bluetooth expansion card which we’ve seen before. This card extends the connectivity functionality of the motherboard with WiFi and Bluetooth. Two antennas are included, one for each channel.

Multi-GPU solutions are covered with the included bridges.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday: voltage probes for connecting test leads to the motherboard directly for voltage monitoring via a multimeter. The manual says 8 of these are provided but sadly, one isn’t there in our packaging.

Three pairs of SATA cables are included.

A front panel USB3.0 hub is included and fits in the 2.5″ bay of your case.

And now something we’ve had to admit, we’ve never soon before: an eSATA bracket. Complete with power cables and eSATA cables. This little extra will really prove useful for benchmarkers and people who like to play around with their system, allowing them to attach regular hard drives without opening up the case. Provided hot-plug is enabled, this could really save some valuable time when troubleshooting systems and/or backing up files. A very precious inclusion.

Gigabyte’s UEFI implementation is called 3D BIOS. This is due to the fact that their “simple mode” is in 3D… of sorts. We prefer the advanced mode though, it’s got all the toys we need to fiddle around with this baby. Going back to the advanced layout, Gigabyte presents us with a clean layout with sections most will be familiar with. The overclocking options are rich and provide granular control of our motherboard and processor. Rich voltage options are also available which makes Gigabyte’s BIOS a nifty overclocking playground.

TEST SETUP

Processor Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7 3770K 3.5Ghz (Turbo up to 3.9Ghz)
Motherboards GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP7, MSI Z77A-GD65, ASUS ROG Maximus V GENE, Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H, Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB, ECS Z77H2-A2X Golden Board
Cooling Corsair H80 (Maximum Fan Speed)
Power Supply Silverstone Strider Plus ST65F-P 650W
Memory Kingston HyperX T1 DDR3-2400
Video Cards ASUS HD7870 DirectCUII
Hard Drive Kingston HyperX SSD 120GB
Operating System Windows 7 64-bit SP1

All tests were run on the default frequencies of the i7-3770K with our cooler on max. Our board has been updated to the latest BIOS (F4) which adds legacy benchmarks improvements which we have kept DISABLED.

PERFORMANCE

SiSoft’s SANDRA is a benchmarking, testing and system information application which provides plenty of options in gaining information regarding your system. For this test, we gauge the raw computational power of the CPU with the Processor Arithmetic benchmark based on the Whetstone and Dhrystone test. Both tests run completely within the processor so it gives a good picture of how a processor performs.

Still going to keep commentaries thin here.

wPrime is a multi-threaded benchmarking application designed to measure the raw computational power of a CPU. It can be configured to run on a custom number of threads to accommodate multi-core CPUs.

Maxon offers a nice benchmark tool called Cinebench which really stresses your entire system to render a very complex scene. The output score is completely unique to Cinebench but allows us to have a rough idea of how the CPU works with 3D rendering tasks.

SuperPI is another benchmarking tool that utilizes the pure computational power of a CPU. This test however is purely single-threaded and shows us the performance of a single core which gives us a good picture of how a processor performs on similar tasks.

3D Mark06 is a benchmarking software designed to measure the performance of a system in DirectX9 applications. The test has long been updated with newer version of the software for more modern use but the CPU test is still relevant and still gives us a good image of system performance by loading the CPU with logic, path-finding and physics computation tasks.

3DMark Vantage is the successor to 3DMark 06 and is targeted for DirectX10 compliant devices. Similar to our 3DMark 06 test, we only take the CPU scores using the Performance preset.

WORKLOAD TESTS

We use a 150MB 1080p MP4 video and convert it to standard iOS format using Xilisoft Video Converter. GPU acceleration is disabled and conversion is purely done by the CPU.

We use WinRAR 4.0 on default settings to compress 3340 files of varying types including MP3s, various images and documents for a total of 2.40GB of data.

We resize 3,030 varying images of different formatsand sizes (a total of 883MB) to our standard 1200×900 resolution and note the time it takes to finish up the batch job.

X264 HD is a free benchmarking tool that shows the performance of a system by converting a 720p video clip.

GAME TESTS

Ungine’s Heaven benchmark is a DirectX application designed to measure the performance of a system in game-like loads.

3DMark 11 is the most recent iteration (not counting the version for the upcoming Windows 8) of the popular benchmarking software from Futuremark. For this test we run the Performance preset of the benchmark which comes with the free version of 3DMark 11 which should present a more reproducible scenario for a lot of people.

The benchmark modes in Civilization5 are designed to stress and test various aspects of the users hardware and supporting software. This benchmark is designed to simulate a late game workload as it exercises all aspects of the game engine pipeline since all simulation and renderable object types are represented at a frequency consistent with a game that has been in progress for 300+ turns. We capture the full render score for our comparison graphs.

Battlefield 3 is the latest intallment in the highly-acclaimed FPS franchise from EA. Battlefield 3 puts players in modern combat situations with highly detailed environment and in-game graphics, whose Ultra detail settings, can bring most systems to their knees. Graph results are for average FPS.

OVERCLOCKING

The board easily tops our fixed voltage OC chart for max CPU clock. But the fun part here is the board’s main feature and that’s the onboard OC buttons coupled with the ultra-massive power delivery. Tweaking the board was a very nice experience being able to switch ratio on the fly from the onboard buttons without going back to the BIOS. Since we couldn’t be bothered to acquire LN2 and do some record runs, we’ll have the next batch of testers have a go at it if they decide to procure said chemicals. *grins*

TEMPERATURE & POWER CONSUMPTION

We check to see how motherboard makers tune their default BIOS settings and see how it impacts temperatures and power consumption. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken and load data is taken 30 minutes while Prime95 blend test is running. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket.

Immediately visible is the amount of power this board consumes. At idle, the board consumes around 90w of power and that is without a graphics card whilst our other boards with an HD7870 DCUIITOP installed draws far less at the same idle state with the same equipment installed. Now for one-time OC runs, this should be no problem but people who will be using this board as a workstation or gaming rig and have some reservations regarding power consumption, do note that this board consumes more power than your regular motherboard. Temps, on the other hand, are looking very good, peaking at around 75*C on an ambient 29*C room.

CONCLUSION

As this is a purpose-built board, we’ll forego the typical cost:benefit assessment route we take for this one. First up, the GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP7 is intended for overclockers hence the features it carries like onboard buttons for ratio and frequency changing, a lot of PCI-e x16 lanes for multiple GPUs and of course, we have the massive 32-phase VRM. That said, nothing this board has can ever make you reach insane levels if your processor or other components are weak or has poor potential. For daily use, this board seems overkill even for those intending to overclock their boards for 24/7 use. Performance is right up there with GIGABYTE’s other Z77 products even demolishing some of our existing benchmark highs from ASUS ROG product.

GIGABYTE offers overclockers a fully-featured motherboard with all the bells and whistles they want and goes head to head with ASRock’s OC Formula and ASUS’ Maximus V Extreme and sits between the two in pricing, averaging around Php16,500 locally. The price point is reasonable and is not ridiculously overpriced and for that amount you’re certainly getting one heck of a board packed to the brim with quality components, a fat accessory bundle and class-leading power delivery. Any benchmark nut, overclocker, or GIGABYTE fan will certainly love to have this board and it will not disappoint.

If you’re looking for a motherboard for benchmarking or overclocking, or you want something that leaves an impression and makes a statement, the GIGABYTE GA-Z77X-UP7 is for your consideration. A board like this was meant for one purpose alone and that is to push processors to their breaking point and if you don’t intend to do so, we suggest going for something else.

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BossMac Suba

Owner and lead reviewer for Back2Gaming. More than 10-year of corporate IT experience as well as consumer IT journalism. His extensive skill set and experience in communicating complicated technical details into easily understandable bits. He's been with you since dial-up and the ISA slot. His favorite animal is the scapegoat.

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