Tons and tons of Z77 chipset based motherboards are already starting to replace the P67, and Z68 chipsets and they are now flooding the market. Thanks to the much debated success of Intel's 22nm mirco-processors. This, being a headache for some consumers is actually a good thing since this enables you to choose from vast array of different motherboards that'll suit your needs, and boy oh boy there so many great Z77 motherboards to keep in your checklist. Such kind of motherboard has arrived to the comforts of my home: The GIGABYTE Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi. You might ask me why did it fall under the said list. Well, check out the preview to know why:
|GIGABYTE was founded in 1986, establishing our uncontested position in continuous technological innovation. By focusing on key technologies and achieving strict quality standards, GIGABYTE has been regarded as an innovative and trusted motherboard leader in the globe. To keep pace in a rapidly changing world, we have offered a comprehensive product line covering Graphics Cards, PC Components, PC Peripherals, Laptops, Slate Devices, Desktop PCs, Network Communications, Servers and Mobile Phones. We dedicate to building up a full-range digital life, responding promptly and sonorously to consumer desires and needs.|
First up, there's the new and improved Ultra Durable branding, which is even made much more durable than its predecessor by employing new 'safeguard' features such as high temperature, humidity, electrostatic, and power failure protections. GIGABYTE achieved these feats by doubling the copper of the PCB, and employing a new Glass Fabric PCB, which protects the board from humidity. They also added High ESD Resistance ICs which are rated with higher electro-static discharge (ESD) resistance than traditional IC implementations, protecting the motherboard, the components and the PC in general against some nasty potential damage caused by static electricity. If these are not enough to blow your socks off, GIGABYTE also added DUAL BIOS chips, Lower RDS(on) MOSFETs and an Anti-Surge ICs. This is clearly a motherboard, done right. More details: Ultra Durable 4
What defines, and separates this motherboard from the others, is the bundled WiFi+BT PCI-E card. This lovely expansion card supports the latest Bluetooth 4.0 and IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. Take note that this expansion card also supports the Smart Ready Technology, so transferring files to your smartphone/iPhone will be faster, and easier .
Intel's Z77 chipset already comes with plethora of nifty features, and this GIGABYTE motherboard didn't skimped on each and every features that comes with the said chipset. First off, there's the LUCID VIRTU MVP, which at a glance, is a computing-life changing feature: It improves the PC's visuals, gives it faster response time, improves video processing, and media playback, while still taking power consumption into account. Best of all, the LUCID VIRTU MVP also features Hyperformance, which eliminates redundant rendering tasks and predicts potential synchronization issues in the graphics delivery pipeline, producing faster frame rates, sharper visuals and reduced tearing. I am goin to test this feature in the full review of the motherboard.
There are tons of other features that comes with this motherboard such as the 'patent pending' 3D POWER and 3D BIOS technology, but lets save it for the review. Lets head over to the unboxing of the motherboard. Boy oh boy, I can't wait!
GIGABYTE is well known to be very straightforward when it comes to packaging, and this motherboard is no exception. Up front, you'll be greeted by the all white GIGABYTE packaging, along with notable features of the motherboard.
The back of the packaging is much busier than I thought. Here you will see the specifications, and most of what the Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi has to offer. Pretty interesting to read, and to be honest, I learned some things here.
Opening the main packaging reveals a much more sturdy box that hold all the bundled items inside. Open that one up, and you'll see 2 layers of cardboard that separates the well protected motherboard, and the other contents.
The contents of the packaging includes the User's Manual, Guide Booklet, Installation Discs, 2xSATAII cables(Blue), 2xSATAIII cables(Black), the WiFi+BT card(w/ manual), Two External Antennas,SLI Bridge, Front Panel USB3.0 Ports, the I/O Plate, and the GIGABYTE sticker that lets you brag that you have an awesome GIGABYTE motherboard inside your chassis. Awesome bundle, but to be honest, I'd love to see a Crossfire Bridge there too.
Removing the protective anti-static bag reveals the beauty of this one of a kind ATX motherboard: Heat-sink is covered in GIGABYTE Blue, the matte Black is stunning, components are carefully laid out, gawd it's a good example of beauty and simplicity. Sure, the new look is far from the smexy GIGABYTE P67, and Z68 styling that has been once drooled over by many, but to be honest I love this new look as it pretty much reminds me of GIGABYTE back in the days. Adding to that, GIGABYTE informed me that the newly designed heat-sink cools components way much better than their last P67/Z68 heat-sink design.
Even with large protruding VRM heat-sinks, there's plenty of clearance, and room to breathe around the socket area of the motherboard. The 4 DIMM slots are well spaced too, giving enough room for large HSFs, and tall RAM heat-sinks. There are about 3 well placed fan headers around this area as well.
Just below the socket area is the mSATA slot that can be used to install a SSD that allows users to easily take advantage of advanced SSD-based technologies like Intel Smart Response and Intel Rapid Start Technology.However, using the mSATA port renders one of your SATAII ports useless.
GIGABYTE strategically placed their ON/OFF button, CMOS button, and Reset Buttons at the top right edge of the motherboard. The Debug LED also accompanied them on this spot. This is a nice move, because if you have a long PCI-E card, things will be harder to see at the bottom. Positioning these at the top also gave more room for the headers at the lower part of the motherboard.
Surprisingly enough, the nicely positioned switches, and Debug LED, has been accompanied by voltage read points too. This is a great feature because overclockers, and power-users alike can now measure the voltages real time, and at hardware level. It really gave me an idea that this motherboard could suit well with test benches. Awesome feature for a mid-range motherboard.
Still looking at the top, it's evident that GIGABYTE is not joking around when it comes to power delivery: There are about 12 Phases of pure power that is ready to be unleashed, and all of those phases are utilizing GIGABYTE's 3D Power All Digital Engine. Delivering precise power to the most power hungry components of the motherboard, while at the same time improving stability.
At this angle, you can clearly see the new heat-sink design, and how the one piece heat-pipe runs across the them. At the corner is the 8pin power connector, and another fan header.
Looking at the I/O port side of the motherboard, we can see that GIGABYTE ditched out the old PS/2 ports. That made way for a lot of display connectivity ports such as the VGA, DVI, HDMI, and Display Port. Joining these ports are the 2xUSB2.0 ports, 1xFireWire port, 1xeSATA port. Dual Gbe LAN chips are also present, and sharing their I/O housings are 4xUSB3.0 Ports. There's also the 7.1 Realtek ALC898 Audio ports, that supports X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity® and EAX® Advanced HD™ 5.0 technologies(Brilliant!). One thing though: I'd love to see a clear CMOS switch here, and they could just replace the VGA port with that. Adding to that, they could at least add one universal PS/2 port, since a lot of gaming keyboards works well with PS/2 port.
Heading at the lower part of the motherboard reveals the nicely laid out expansion slots, headers, SATA ports, and the large South-bridge heat-sink. There are about 3xPCI-E(x1) slots, 3xPCI-E(x16) slots, and one PCI slot, from which all of the PCI-E(x16) slots are running at PCI-E 3.0 standards. GIGABYTE added that the last PCI-Ex16 slot will only be enabled if an Ivy Bridge CPU is installed. Now focusing at the bottom part, we can clearly see that this motherboard comes jam packed with headers. One of my favorites is the one marked with Red. That USB header is for the On/Off Charge feature of the motherboard that enables your devices to charge of up to 40% faster than by using conventional USB ports. Also present below from the left are the Audio, SPDIF out, FireWire, TPM, Front Panel, On/Off Charge USB header, Fan header, BIOS switch, eSATA port, and a pair of USB3.0 headers.
The BIOS Switch is a pretty nifty feature that allow the user to switch from the main BIOS, to the backup BIOS. Pretty handy if you wanna try out a new BIOS version, without sacrificing the old one, and or if you want to easily change OC profiles. Would be nicer if this has been placed at the top along with the CMOS/Reset buttons too. But that's too much to ask for, I think.
Zooming in, there's another fan header present along the lines of the SATA ports. There are about 8 SATA ports, from which 4 of them are SATAII ports, and the remaining 4 are SATAIII ports. There's also the OC-PEG port, which enables the user to use a SATA power connector to provide more stable PCIe power when using 3-way and 4-way graphics.
Lets now take a look at what really makes this motherboard different from the normal Z77X-UD5H: The PCI-E expansion card. This expansion card as I've already stated before, supports the latest Bluetooth 4.0 and IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity. I have seen some motherboard manufacturers doin' the same thing lately with their Z77 offerings, but this one is what I like the most. Since the wireless features are slapped into an expansion card, you don't have to worry about replacing the whole motherboard if the WiFi card gave you some nasty headaches. It looks cool in matte Black too.
THOUGHTS, AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Over all, I'm pretty impressed with what this Z77 motherboard from GIGABYTE has to offer so far(as long as unboxing and previewing is concerned). Sure, it won't win the 'best looking motherboard award' out there, but in my own opinion, it still looks great. The matte Black PCB is stunning, and the heat-sink design overhaul is a welcome sight. Feature wise, this motherboard is built like a tank: It has all the core features of the Z77 Chipset, and there are tons and tons of GIGABYTE exclusive features added in the mix. What I love the most about it is the Ultra Durable 4 feature set, and the damn nice over-clocker friendly features that comes with it. To top things off, this motherboard comes with 3 Years Manufacturers warranty, and the there's the proven GIGABYTE customer support to back you up. Zazzy.
Manufacturer's Link: GIGABYTE - Motherboard - Socket 1155 - GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB WIFI (rev. 1.0)