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Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH LGA1150 Motherboard

The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 is a high-end Haswell motherboard with dual Thunderbolt ports, 802.11ac + Bluetooth, seven controllable fan headers, and umpteen bells and whistles for enthusiasts.

March 18, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Product
Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5 TH
LGA1150 ATX Motherboard
Manufacturer
Gigabyte
Street Price
US$250

Last year, when we reviewed the F2A85XN-WIFI FM2 motherboard, we were delighted to find that Gigabyte had finally updated the UEFI BIOS interface they had been using. Their competitors had been using modern GUIs with mouse support for a couple of years before Gigabyte caught up and while this wasn’t a deal-breaker for most users, it really felt like they were lagging behind the times. A few months after that we tested the Z87N-WIFI, a LGA1150 model that also featured a new, modern-looking version of their EasyTune utility, which included a formidable fan control system that gave ASUS’ Fan Xpert 2 a run for its money. However, it seemed like users wouldn’t get as much use out of either feature feature on these respective models as the FM2 Trinity/Richland architecture wasn’t exactly an enthusiast’s dream, and for all of the Z87N’s fan capabilities, it only had two fan headers to play with.


The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5 TH.

A high-end Haswell ATX model like the Z87X-UD5 TH is perhaps a better platform to show off all of the latest improvements in Gigabyte’s motherboard technology. Priced at about US$250, the board is feature-packed and outfitted with a variety of bells and whistles as one would expect. In years past, most of Gigabyte’s motherboards have used a blue PCB, but in recent times they’ve switched to a more serious black design. Like most premium models, there are substantial heatsinks covering the voltage regulators and the PCH chip, and interestingly they have red accents which bear a resemblance to ASUS’ Republic of Gamers series. This along with its seven controllable fan headers indicate strongly that cooling is obviously a priority.

Ironically, its defining feature is probably one that won’t be used very often given its novelty. The “TH” in the model number standards for Thunderbolt, the peripheral interface developed by Intel that combines elements of PCI Express, DisplayPort, and DC power. This pedigree allows it to transfer data on a bi-directional 10 Gbps pipeline and connect up to six devices daisy-chained together. The Z87X-UD5 TH has two of these ports and other extras including a Marvell SATA 6 Gbps controller that brings its SATA port count up to eight, a dual band 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0 wireless adapter, a redundant dual BIOS system, and a 600 ohm front headphone amplifier. There are four native USB 3.0 ports and an additional two provided by a Renasas controller, and all these ports have their own dedicated fuses to help ensure any USB failure doesn’t result in potential data loss. A breakout box with two more USB 3.0 ports is included but it’s probably unnecessary — if you’re purchasing a US$250 motherboard, it’s unlikely your case lacks front USB 3.0.


The box.


Accessories.

The black outer box is just a thin cover, the actual package contents reside in a plain white box within. The board of course ships with the obligatory driver discs, manuals, and I/O shield, and a few extras. Included are six SATA cables, an external wireless antenna, a 3.5 inch USB 3.0 breakout box, and a CrossFire/SLI bridge.

Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5 TH: Specifications
(from the product
web page
)
CPU Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1150

L3 cache varies with CPU

(Please refer “CPU Support List” for more information.)

Chipset Intel® Z87 Express Chipset
Memory 4 x DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
* Due to a Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than the size of the physical memory installed.Dual channel memory architecture

Support for DDR3 3000(O.C.) / 2933(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666(O.C.) / 2600(O.C.) / 2500(O.C.) / 2400(O.C.) / 2200(O.C.) / 2133(O.C.) / 2000(O.C.) / 1866(O.C.) / 1800(O.C.) / 1600 / 1333 MHz memory modules

Support for non-ECC memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules

(Please refer “Memory Support List” for more information.)

Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor:
1 x DVI-I port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920×1200
1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
* Support for HDMI 1.4a version.
Maximum shared memory of 1 GBIntel® DSL4510 chip:
Thunderbolt ports (MDP1/MDP2) support for Mini-DisplayPort and Thunderbolt monitor(s), and supporting a maximum resolution of 2560×1600.
* If a monitor is connected to the MDP2 Thunderbolt port , the DVI-I port will become unavailable.
* Because of the limited I/O resources of the PC architecture, the number of Thunderbolt devices that can be used is dependent on the number of the PCI Express and PCI devices being installed. (Refer to Chapter 1-7, “Back Panel Connectors,” and Chapter 2, “Peripherals\Intel(R) Thunderbolt” for more information.)
Audio Realtek® ALC898 codec
Support for X-Fi Xtreme Fidelity® and EAX® Advanced HD™ 5.0 technologies
High Definition Audio
2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
Support for S/PDIF In/Out
LAN Intel® GbE LAN chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Wireless Communication module Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, supporting 2.4/5 GHz Dual-Band
Bluetooth 4.0, 3.0+HS, 2.1+EDR
Support for 11ac wireless standard and up to 867 Mbps data rate.
* Actual data rate may vary depending on environment and equipment.
Expansion Slots 1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode.

1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
* The PCIEX4 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX8 and PCIEX16 slots. When the PCIEX4 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode and the PCIEX8 will operate at up to x4 mode.
* When installing a x8 or above card in the PCIEX4 slot, make sure to set PCIE Slot Configuration in BIOS Setup to x4. (Refer to Chapter 2, “BIOS Setup,” “Peripherals,” for more information.)
(The PCI Express x16 slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)

2 x PCI Express x1 slots
(The PCI Express x1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)

1 x PCI slot

1 x mini-PCI Express slot for the wireless communication module

Multi-Graphics Technology Support for 2-Way AMD CrossFire™/2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ technology
Storage Interface Chipset:
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (SATA3 0~5)
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10Marvell® 88SE9172 chip:
2 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors (GSATA3 6~7)
Support for RAID 0 and RAID 1
USB Chipset:
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (available through the internal USB header)
6 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (available through the internal USB headers)Chipset + 2 Renesas® uPD720210 USB 3.0 Hubs:
8 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (6 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)

* Please download & install Win8 USB patch for better compatibility.

Internal I/O Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x PCIe power connector
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling fan header (CPU_OPT)
5 x system fan headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF In header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
3 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x serial port header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
2 x BIOS switches
Voltage measurement points
Back Panel Connectors 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
1 x DVI-I port
1 x HDMI port
2 x antenna connectors
2 x Thunderbolt ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
1 x RJ-45 port
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
I/O Controller iTE® I/O Controller Chip
H/W Monitoring System voltage detection
CPU/System/Chipset temperature detection
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed detection
CPU/System overheating warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan fail warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed control
* Whether the fan speed control function is supported will depend on the cooler you install.
BIOS 2 x 128 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AMI EFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.0, SM BIOS 2.6, ACPI 2.0a
Unique Features Support for Q-Flash
Support for Xpress Install
Support for APP Center
* Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
@BIOS
EasyTune
EZ Setup
ON/OFF Charge2
USB Blocker
Smart TimeLock
Smart Recovery 2
Bundle Software Norton® Internet Security (OEM version)
Intel® Rapid Start Technology
Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Intel® Smart Response Technology
Intel® Wireless Display
cFosSpeed
Operating System Support for Windows 8/7
Form Factor ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
Remark Due to different Linux support condition provided by chipset vendors, please download Linux driver from chipset vendors’ website or 3rd party website.
Most hardware/software vendors may no longer offer drivers to support Win9X/ME/2000/XP. If drivers are available from the vendors, we will update them on the GIGABYTE website.

PHYSICAL DETAILS

The Z87X-UD5 TH has a relatively traditional ATX layout with accommodations made to keep interference issues at a minimum. The heatsinks take up a substantial amount of real estate but they aren’t particular tall and all the major connectors are located on the edges of the board for easier access.


A top-down angle gives us a good view of the layout. Notable features include the somewhat limited three PCI-E 16x slots (8x/8x configuration with two cards, 8x/4x/4x configuration with three cards), a mini PCI-E slot near the center populated by a wireless NIC, and a total of seven fan headers littered around the board.


The CPU socket is surrounded by some solid-state capacitors and two neat rows of chokes underneath a sizable two piece VRM heatsink connected with a heatpipe 33 mm in height. The board uses a sophisticated 16-phase power regulation design.


The top right of the board is home to a few enthusiast friendly features. There’s diagnostic LED readout, a couple of dip switches for toggling Dual/Single BIOS mode and booting from Main/Backup BIOS, and hardware power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons. There are also voltage measuring points you can check with a multimeter if you don’t trust the software readings.


The wireless module is a Broadcom dual band 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 adapter.


The wireless antenna is the same one included with most of Gigabyte’s recent motherboards. It can swivel 180 degrees, the base is magnetic to keep it in place, and the cable is quite lengthy, about 80 cm long.


In front of an expansive PCH heatsink are eight side-mounted SATA 6 Gbps ports, two of which are connected to a Marvell controller. There’s also a spot to plug in a SATA power connector which Gigabyte recommends when running multiple graphics cards.


A premium board means no pushpins — all the heatsinks are secured to the PCB with spring-loaded screws


At the back are six USB 3.0 ports (two powered by a Renasas controller), DVI-I and HDMI outputs, connectors for the wireless antenna, an RJ45 gigabit ethernet jack, two Thunderbolt ports, and S/PDIF and analog audio connectors.

BIOS/UEFI

The GA-Z87X-UD5 TH has a similar looking UEFI/BIOS interface to the Z87N-WIFI but it’s been suped up with more features and options than you can throw a stick at.



The default simplified layout.

The default menu features an awe-inspiring galactic background with CPU, memory, and hardware monitoring information displayed around the edges while the actual menu is in the center. Most of the major options are presented in slider form, it’s easy to save and load performance profiles, and you can create shortcuts to your most adjusted settings that will appear in the favorites section on the right-hand side.




Some of the UEFI/BIOS options with maximum values entered.

Enthusiast boards are all about fine-tuning your experience and the Z87X-UD5 TH offers that in spades. There are plenty of frequency, voltage, and power options that can be adjusted with minute detail. Some notable options include a 0.500V to 1.800V range for the CPU (or an offset of -0.300V to +0.400V), a span of 1.15V to 2.10V for the memory, and an extensive set of adjustable memory timings.


Fan control options.

Fan control is one area where Gigabyte has rarely ever impressed us, but this is perhaps the board’s greatest strength. The Z87X-UD5 TH has seven fan headers, five of which can be controlled completely independently from one another (the 4th and 5th system fan headers are tied together). There are three preset profiles and of course a manual option for adjusting the slope of the fan speed to CPU temperature curve. You can’t dictate when the fans start to react to the temperature, at least not until you boot into the Windows desktop, at which point Gigabyte’s customizable EasyTune utility can take over. One thing to note is that while all of the boards’ headers are 4-pin, PWM control is only available on the main CPU fan header — the rest are restricted to voltage control only.

TEST METHODOLOGY

Test Setup:


Test configuration device listing.

Measurement and Analysis Tools

Video Test Clips


1080p | 24fps | ~22 mbps

H.264/MKV 1080p: A custom 1080p H.264 encoded clip inside an Matroska container.

 


1080p | 24fps | ~2.3 mbps

Flash 1080p: The Dark Knight Rises Official Trailer #3, a YouTube HD trailer in 1080p.

 

Estimating DC Power

The following power efficiency figures were obtained for the
Seasonic SS-400ET used in our test system:

Seasonic SS-400ET Test Results
DC Output (W)
21.2
41.6
60.2
81.9
104.7
124.1
145.2
AC Input (W)
32.0
58.0
78.0
102.0
128.0
150.0
175.0
Efficiency
66.3%
71.7%
77.1%
80.3%
81.8%
82.8%
83.0%

This data is enough to give us a very good estimate of DC demand in our test
system. We extrapolate the DC power output from the measured AC power input
based on this data. We won’t go through the math; it’s easy enough to figure
out for yourself if you really want to.

Testing Procedures

If available, the latest motherboard BIOS is installed prior to testing. Certain services/features
like Indexing, Superfetch, System Restore, and Windows Defender are disabled
to prevent them from causing spikes in CPU/HDD usage. We also make note if energy
saving features like Cool’n’Quiet, SpeedStep or S3 suspend-to-RAM do not function
properly.

Our main test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power consumption
at various states. To stress the CPU, we use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which produces higher system power consumption. After 10~15 minutes of load (when temperatures stabilize), We also measure the hottest points on the external heatsinks using an infrared thermometer. To stress the IGP, We use FurMark, an OpenGL benchmarking and stability testing utility.

Finally, storage subsystems are tested briefly using CrystalDiskMark (1000 MB of 0x00 fill test data) and a Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB solid state drive.

TEST RESULTS

Power Consumption

Note: by default the board’s UEFI BIOS set Turbo Boost to push the multiplier to 39x for a clock speed of 3.9 GHz regardless of how many cores were in use, producing very high power consumption numbers. To make things fair, we dialed it back with similar settings we’ve used previously with the i7-4770K (39x/38x/37x/36x for 1/2/3/4 core operation).

Of all the Haswell boards we’ve used thus far, the Z87X-UD5 TH exhibited the highest light load power consumption. At idle, the difference was between 5W and 8W, and a bit less during H.264 and Flash video playback. Advanced voltage regulation can sometimes give up some efficiency
at lower levels but the board is also equipped with a vast feature-set that might also be partially responsible. On heavier loads, the results were middling, using about the same amount of power as the Intel DZ87KL-75K in real-life situations.

Unfortunately it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much of the energy draw
is generated by the processor alone, as the amount of power pulled from the
AUX12V/EPS12V connector depends on how board power regulation has been implemented. The GA-Z87X-UD5 TH doesn’t rely as heavily on the +12V line as the pair of mini-ITX boards compared, the Z87N-WIFI and ASUS Maximus VI Impact, which use a relatively simple power phase design.

Cooling

To test the board’s cooling, the CPU was stressed for ~15 minutes with Prime95. Temperatures of the boards’ chipset heatsinks were recorded using a spot thermometer. The highest temperatures were taken for comparison.

Cooling is one area the Z87X-UD5 TH excels, posting a record for combined PCH and VRM temperature. At their hottest points, the heatsinks were barely lukewarm, peaking at around 20°C above ambient on full CPU load.

Software & Fan Control

Like all Z87N-WIFI, the Z87X-UD5 TH is equipped with a sleek new version of EasyTune that mimics many of the features found in ASUS’ AI Suite, especially its comprehensive fan control utility Fan Xpert.



EasyTune allows users to change many of the board’s BIOS/UEFI settings from the comfort of the Windows desktop using either a simplified one-click overclocking menu or the advanced UI which has a strong resemblance to Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility. You can also adjust the power regulation settings in a separate menu and change system alerts to activate based on temperature, fan speed, or voltage thresholds.


The Smart Fan portion of EasyTune is very much the equal of ASUS’ Fan Xpert 2 application. It has a similar calibration tool that determines the range of all the fans connected to the board to determine their recommended minimum speed — this prevents it from accidentally spinning down a fan to the point where it stops completely. Each fan header can be set to either a fixed speed or a customized dynamic speed dependent on the CPU temperature. The fan speed curve has multiple adjustable points to fine-tune precisely how you would like each fan to behave.

The UI is a bit more bland than ASUS’ solution and you can’t rename fans, but the two systems are essentially comparable.


SpeedFan main screen with sensor correlations entered.

We found that the current version of SpeedFan (4.49 as of writing), our favorite third party fan control software, was only partially compatible with Z87X-UD5 TH. It had some of the same sensors and controls as EasyTune but it didn’t recognize the CPU temperature or the fan speeds of the CPU fan headers and the SYS_FAN1 header. The fan controls for the other SYS_FAN headers were made operational after changing the PWM modes from “SmartGuardian” to “Software controlled under the “IT8728F” chip in the advanced menu. EasyTune is really the way to go at this time.

Boot Performance

To test boot time the BIOS/UEFI was optimized by setting the hard drive recognition and other delays set to minimum, taking care not to disable common functionality like full USB support, POST messages, etc. and measured the time it takes to reach the Windows loading screen (we stop here because this is the point where the O/S and drive become factors).

The Z87X-UD5 TH hit the Windows loading screen in just over 12 seconds which is more or less average for a Haswell board (the ASUS Maximus VI Impact seems to be an outlier). Despite its laundry list of features, there was no noticeable delay in the POST sequence to wait for all the components to come online.

SATA 6 Gbps Performance

The GA-Z87X-UD5 TH uses the Intel series-8 chipset to power six of its SATA ports while the remaining two are provided courtesy of a third party Marvell 88SE9172 controller.

According to CrystalDiskMark, the Marvell controller is a poor performer considering it is supposed to have a 6 Gbps interface. It wasn’t able to break 3 Gbps (384 MB/s) under the most ideal of circumstances (using a fast SandForce drive and a heavily compressible data-set). Even AMD’s native controller which has always benched well behind Intel’s, appears to be noticeably faster.

Of course to hit these higher speeds you need a fast SSD and the Marvell ports are just two of eight. It’s unlikely anyone will have seven or eight SSDs, so they’ll be primarily used for optical and magnetic storage which can’t come close to saturating the controller’s capabilities.

Wireless 802.11n Performance

For the WiFi performance test, we sent a large file transfer (700MB) over 802.11n to and from a machine connected via gigabit ethernet and timed the operation to calculate the average transfer rate. We also checked signal strength to the various wireless networks in our area by going to the MS-DOS command line and using the the “netsh” tool. It should be noted that the 802.11n router servicing our lab is not the greatest, an Actiontec combination router/gateway from our ADSL provider. It is located in a central location, only a few feet away from our testing areas with only one wall in-between so should produce close to ideal results.

While the Z87X-UD5 TH sports a similar Broadcom 802.11ac module as the Maximus Impact VI Impact, it absolutely smoked the ASUS board’s adapter, more than doubling its upstream transfer speed, giving it the best performance we’ve seen out of a wireless NIC since we started performing this test.

The reported signal strength indicates the Broadcom adapter is more picky when it comes to wireless networks. It detected only three SSIDs in our lab’s vicinity and the reception for one of them was incredibly poor. The signal strength of the remaining two were solid, relatively speaking at least.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Gigabyte is known for producing motherboards that offer good value and while the Z87X-UD5 TH carries a lofty price-tag, you do still get quite a lot for your money. First of all you get all the benefits of the fastest desktop platform currently available in Haswell and the standard amenities of Intel’s flagship Z87 chipset including PCI Express 3.0, and native USB 3.0 and SATA 6 Gbps ports. A Marvell controller brings the number of SATA connectors up to eight and furthermore you get a pair of Thunderbolt connectors and a fast mini PCI-E Broadcom wireless NIC.

All these features are nice but it’s really the extras that make it a premium model. The board is an enthusiast’s dream with a dual UEFI/BIOS filled with a plethora of frequency and power options for advanced overclocking. There are also BIOS, power, and reset switches placed directly on the PCB itself as well as voltage measurement points. The cooling system is top-notch with large, efficient heatsinks covering the voltage regulators and PCH chip, and of course the superbly capable fan control scheme that can tame up to seven fans. The fan customization options are somewhat basic in the UEFI/BIOS but this quibble is remedied once you boot into Windows and have access to Gigabyte’s EasyTune application.

The only area where we came away disappointed was energy efficiency. On light load it used noticeably more power than previously tested Haswell models and on heavy load it was only average. While normally this is an important factor in our final judgment, we can’t imagine prospective buyers of an expensive, high-end, balls-to-the-walls motherboard losing sleep over a few watts.

So, is it worth US$250? That really depends on how you’re going to use it. Instead of wondering whether the Z87X-UD5 TH offers enough to satisfy you, you should instead consider whether your needs are enough to properly utilize its potential.

Our thanks to Gigabyte for the GA-Z87X-UD5 TH motherboard sample.

* * *


Gigabyte GA-Z87X-UD5 TH
is Recommended by SPCR

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Gigabyte GA-F2A85XN-WIFI Mini-ITX Motherboard
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