mATX motherboards have undergone a revolution in the past couple of years. From being a small board designed for HTPC applications they are now very close to their full-size counterparts in both performance and features.
We were big fans of the Z68 D3 motherboard here at OC3D. It provided a lot of capability at an absolute bargain price. So of course we're looking forwards to seeing what the Z77 version, the MX-D3H, has in store.
With the Z77 still fresh in the mind we shall keep the preamble brief and get on with the review.
As befits a small form factor motherboard, the feature set is like a leaner version of those you'd find on more enthusiast based boards. So we have SATA 6Gb/s, just two rather than four. Equally the D3H supports only Crossfire/SLI rather than triple-cards. The sound is provided by a VIA VT2021 rather than the Realtek ALC we're more used to finding. It has enough features that 'cut down' would be doing it a disservice, but it's very much a case of 'the same, only less'.
|Onboard Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor:|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
As always the Gigabyte Z77MX-D3H might be a smaller sized motherboard but you wouldn't think so to look at the packaging. It's comes in the same crisp white box that we saw the UD5 arrive in, with the 3D Power and 3D BIOS the main focus points. Accessories are limited as one would expect, with the standard manual, drivers, SATA cables, IO shield and SLI bridge.
Whereas the UD5 had blue heatsinks but was black everywhere else, the D3H is more akin to the standard Gigabyte theme, with a blue PCB and light blue and white sockets.
Despite its svelte size, there is still a lot of connectivity options on the D3H. Thankfully unlike a lot of mATX motherboards with their reduced fan headers, you aren't required to stretch the fans across the board if you have a twin tower CPU cooler. Instead you have two fan points just above the main PCI Express slot.
The chipset heatsink is very small, and because of the small footprint of the D3H it ends up sitting with about 60% of it below the GPU, so good case airflow is a must. It gets quite toasty.
With the mATX format you usually find a reduction in the power circuitry and the D3H is no exception with the north side of the CPU socket looking very sparse indeed. There is only a 4pin ATX power too, so that might limit our overclock a little. The placement of the front-panel USB 3.0 extension makes a lot of sense. Gigabyte have certainly made the most of the limited real estate.
The two white SATA connectors are the 6Gb/s ones, with the light blue supplying the 3Gb/s throughput. Round the back we have VGA, DVI and HDMI for your displays, with 2 USB 3.0 ports, LAN, audio and PS2, alongside the 6 standard USB ports.
The BIOS is exactly like the one available on the UD5, which means that regular users get the excellent 3D BIOS display to work from, and those of us who prefer some under-the-hood tinkering have everything at our disposal.
BIOS - Overclocking
Within the M.I.T are the overclocking options we've all come to expect. There is no automatic overclock, but the adjustments are simple enough. You can either have the CPU running Harry Flatters all the time, or only when Turbo kicks in, and even then the usual tweaks are available depending upon the amount of cores being utilised.
The Z77 supports the same XMP 1.3 that we've come to love on the Z68 chipset, and this means we have 2400MHz DIMM support. CPU voltage can either be adjusted as a pure number or as an offset. We always prefer a solid number ourselves.
As always you want to protect your precious hardware as much as possible from over-volting, and there are plenty of options to help you keep the magic blue smoke in place.
With a lot of focus placed upon the newly upgraded Intel HD4000 iGPU, we'll be using the HD4000 graphics for our stock testing, to see if they are usable as a graphics card, and moving to the HD7970 for our overclock testing.
Intel Core i7-3770K
8GB G.Skill Trident 2400 @ 10-12-12-31
HIS HD7970 with Catalyst 12.3
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Corsair F80 SSD
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Windows 7 x64
With only a four pin ATX power there is obviously less overclocking headroom available on the D3H when compared to the UD5. However we've gained, as always with these things, a lot of extra experience as we move along and so although we're obtaining a lesser overclock here, we are getting more representative benchmark results.
As it was with the UD5, heat is definitely a big factor here. It's amazing how quickly the temperatures rise, even with the Silver Arrow working hard.
Given the D3H is aimed squarely at the average user, and has the power circuitry reduced as is nearly always the case with mATX boards, it's still capable of producing some solid numbers. The stock results are a shade behind that of the UD5 but the overclock makes a good fist of things, especially considering it's giving up 200MHz at the top end.
In comparison to the results we saw on the UD5, we're becoming more accustomed to the specific requirements of the i7-3770K and our scores reflect this. Clearly there is a lot of untapped potential in the CPU and the D3H does well to extract a lot of it. At stock it's a hair behind its bigger brother, but that's to be expected.
PC Mark Vantage
Our first set of results that provide a stern test for the HD4000 iGPU, PC Mark Vantage actually gives a much higher score than we might have expected. Of course the gaming side of things suffers when compared to a HD7970, but the overall PC Mark result provides a nice surprise. The Overclock is even more impressive and really highlights the potential there is by giving us the highest score in the graph.
PC Mark 7
At least in 2D tasks, and basic 3D ones, the HD4000 is more than capable as our overall score is only 600 points behind the GTX570 equipped test. With the HD7970 in place and the i7-3770K at 4.6GHz the D3H manages a 100 point lead over the UD5. Not too shabby at all.
Obviously very heavy tasks are beyond the integrated HD4000 and the OpenGL test reflects this. At stock the CPU test is right where we'd expect it to be, just below the UD5, although ahead of the Intel. The overclocked test gives a much better representation of the performance of the Core i7-3770K and much more in line with the results we've achieved with a 2600K.
POV-Ray brings us very similar results to those of Maxon's CineBench, with the stock result just shaded by the UD5, but the overclock looking much brighter.
It's pretty clear by now that the overclocked testing on the UD5 had some issues due to the time constraints involved. Despite giving up 200MHz in a test that is nearly all about pure speed, the D3H pulls ahead of the UD5.
When we introduced the Unigine test to the motherboard side of things, this was exactly why we did so. Although the resolution is high, just above 1080P, the lack of anti-aliasing should help the CPU to shine more than be purely about the graphics card involved. The HD4000 unquestionably hasn't enough 'go' to be anything other than a pretty slide-show, but the overclock result is just edged by the faster clock on the UD5. Nothing gets near the HD7970 + Lucid MVP scores though.
Because of the poor results in the Performance test of both 3D Mark applications, we didn't run the HD4000 on the Extreme preset.
3D Mark Vantage
Even with everything down low in the performance test, the HD4000 isn't exactly a gaming beast. The overclocked results show an improvement over the UD5 and gives the best score of the current test setup.
3D Mark 11
Again the HD4000 has little to recommend it. The overclock with the HD7970 gives the same tight results we've come to expect, being such a GPU based score.
Let's start with something fresh, the Intel HD4000 integrated graphics.
The HD3000 was good for powering what a lot of places would call a home office PC, but it didn't really have the power for anything but the lightest gaming. The HD4000 upgrade provides some extra performance and a lot of under-the-hood tweaks, but the reality is that it still isn't going to be able to run anything but the most undemanding gaming options on the market. The P tests in 3D Mark are at 1280x1024, very casual-gamer friendly resolutions, but still the graphics are found somewhat wanting. However if you just play Sims 2 (for example) and browse the internet and watch some BluRays, then it has more than enough to cover your needs.
As for the D3H itself, it's very good value. Where it stacks up in the grand scheme of things is difficult to assess as it's clear that the UD5 results had some issues due to the tight deadlines and will require revisiting at some point. As a pure overclocker though you wouldn't expect the D3H to be able to keep up with the heavyweights and nor does it, largely thanks to the use of a 4pin ATX power for the CPU.
But 4.6GHz with some gentle prodding is certainly more than enough for most applications. Even better it happily ran our G.Skill memory at its rated 2400MHz speed without batting an eyelid.
The actual benchmarks reflected nicely this performance boost too. PC Mark, in both guises, replicates a large amount of the typical use that the Z77MX-D3H is likely to undergo and the Gigabyte motherboard gave us the highest results in our graph in both tests. With the HD7970 installed all of the results were on a par with that of the UD5, showing that this is definitely the little motherboard that could.
With a lot of connectivity options, a small size, small price (around £100) but bags of performance, the Gigabyte Z77MX-D3H is absolutely worth a look for those of you who don't mind the slightly limited overclocking, and wont miss the very few bells and whistles that have been trimmed off. By virtue of packing in the performance whilst still keeping the price nice and low, the Gigabyte Z77MX-D3H is awarded our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the Z77MX-D3H for review. Discuss in our forums.