The UD5 variant of the Gigabyte line of motherboards is one of the most popular, providing the perfect balance between features and affordability. So we are unlikely to find a better candidate to perform our first Core i7-3770K overclocking tests on.
Now rather than go through some big preamble to explain things you've only just read in the Core i7-3770K/Intel DZ77GA-70K review we'll crack on with what the Gigabyte UD5 brings to the table.
The most obvious change is that, currently at least, there isn't a UD7 model around, or even on the drawing board. So this is the premium model in the Gigabyte Z77 range. For those of us who loved either the gold and black heatsinks of the Z68 UD7, or the black and orange of the X79 UD7, this is quite disappointing. But we know the UD5 has a lot of charm of its own without necessarily having the bling factor.
Casting your eye down the technical specifications for the Z77X UD5H it's clear that this is an evolution of the concepts we saw on the Z68, just turned up to eleven.
|IEEE 1394||VIA VT6308 chip:|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
The packaging for the UD5 follows the now familiar trend of Gigabyte boards having a white box with an overwhelming array of technical highlights, features and logos.
Inside the box we have a USB 3.0 front-panel extension alongside the usual array of SATA cables and multi-GPU bridges.
When we first looked at the board back in January there was much discussion about whether the heatsinks would remain looking as they did in the preview, or if Gigabyte would replace the prototype ones with something more aesthetically pleasing. As it is they look pretty much as they did then. One of life's rules that applies to prototype motherboards as much as game demos, they always represent the finished product. Although the black RAM and PCI slots imply they intended to go to the gun-metal ones we're more used to.
As you'd expect from a higher end board, Gigabyte have understood that you are likely to use a dual-fan CPU cooler and so we have two fan headers up near the top. The ATX 8pin is in a very fiddly place, so we recommend installing the power before you do the heatsink.
Up Close - The UD5H
You definitely wont be short of connectivity on the UD5H. As well as a plentiful supply of USB ports there are 9 SATA ports too. It might initially appear an odd choice to move the front panel header into the middle of the motherboard, until you remember that whilst case manufacturers have long since understood that they need big cables for big cases, the people who make USB front panels have yet to be informed that things larger than mid-towers exist and insist that 3 inches of cable will be plenty, so we need all the help we can get.
Something that is slowly starting to make its way into the odd motherboard is the 1.8" mSATA format. Truly tiny drives that can be a great, cost effective way to make the most from the IRST cache without filling your drive bays up.
The on-board switches are one of those things that are almost designed for those of us who overclock a lot in a tight time frame. The average user has no real need for a power button on the motherboard, but we love them. Although the reset switch being so small, and so close to the clear CMOS, is bound to get some people swearing. It's good to see some voltage monitoring points too, which hint at the intended audience for the UD5H.
Round the back we have all the expected outputs, from multiple display options, through USB 3.0, dual Gigabit LAN and the 7.1 Audio. No PS2 port, not even in combination, so those of you with old IBM model Ms need to prepare in advance.
In total we have 5 SATA 6Gb/s and 4 SATA 3Gb/s providing all your storage requirements.
We're starting off with the 3D BIOS (patent pending) which is a fabulous way to introduce people to tweaking their BIOS. The days when pressing delete upon booting was enough to require a lie down in a darkened room have long gone and modern overclocking is, to a certain degree, almost bulletproof. As long as you don't guess that 2v will be alright to put through your CPU then you can't go wrong, but even allowing for this we know that many people get a cold sweat on at the thought of tweaking their system. Thanks to the Gigabyte 3D BIOS it's actually easy to make minor adjustments.
Dispensing with the 3D side of things and moving to advanced it's just as easy to make major ones too. Yes we work late on Fridays so that you don't have to. Have a beer for me will you lads.
As always there are lots of options for turning off the bits you don't use, saving a tiny amount of performance and driver footprint if you're not one with an IR transmitter or Firewire device.
You can set your power options easily enough, as well as keep an eye on your current hardware settings.
Let's move on to overclocking.
BIOS - MIT
MIT stands for Motherboard Intelligent Tweaker fact fans. To be honest there isn't a lot new in the Z77 that we haven't seen since the first generation Sandy Bridge chips.
You have the option to adjust the voltage either in a dynamic way (+300mv for example) or in a pure 'give me 1.275v' way. Gigabyte have included a swathe of protection options to ensure you don't damage your chip unexpectedly.
As well as the XMP 1.3 support you can overclock either the CPU as a whole, or vary the overclock depending upon the amount of cores utilised, which is just like it's been before really. The main change is the speed that you can get your Memory to run at, which we'll see on the next page.
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
Overclocking the Core i7-3770K is a breeze on the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H. The one thing you have to pay close attention to, even more than on the 2nd generation of CPUs, is the temperatures. Despite needing fewer volts than we required to attain similar speeds on the i7-2600K the heat on the i7-3770K ramps up a lot quicker as you head to the 5GHz mark. For our overclock testing today we'll be running with the following settings.
The Core i7-3770K is set to 1.32v on the vCore, and a multiplier of 48. This is within the abilities of the chip to handle without a problem, and is the kind of overclock that most people will readily attain, which is what we always aim for.
The G.Skill Memory is run at XMP settings, which in this case are 2400MHz @ 10-12-12-31. Not bad at all eh.
Lucid started a long while ago as a way to mix and match ATI and nVidia cards on the same system. As this never took off, or indeed worked properly, they have moved in to helping you gain the maximum performance out of your system. The downside is having to run your displays through the onboard outputs, so those of you/us with more esoteric setups will find themselves at a disadvantage, although it's not the end of the world because the MVP technology is as hit and miss as their original idea was, but in certain situations it really makes a difference, and that's what we'll see at the end of this review.
Starting with AIDA64 we can see that at stock there is very little difference between the Intel reference board and the UD5H. Of course the overclock gives a handy boost indeed as it really unlocks the extra power available from the 22nm chip.
The Memory scores are obviously jaw-dropping. 28GB/s is nothing to be sniffed at, even if it isn't quite the quantum leap ahead of the 2133MHz kit we tested the P8 with. It's plenty fast enough though.
Although the stock results are, as we all expect, around the same on the UD5H as they were on the Intel DZ77GA-70K, the biggest surprise is the poor Dhrystone score on the overclock. It remained around this level no matter how often we tested, so clearly something is a little off.
Things partially return to normal with the Processor MultiMedia test, although the overclock doesn't show anywhere near the benefits we saw in AIDA64.
PC Mark Vantage
Continuing with results that aren't the clearest things to understand, the stock Gigabyte UD5H result definitely lags behind the Intel board, and although the overclock manages to take the lead in most of the results the Productivity score still doesn't get close. Given that this is identical hardware, but overclocked, it's an odd one. We're not running into thermal issues or anything like that either.
PC Mark 7
Thankfully the more up to date PC Mark 7 rewards our extra performance with a huge increase in the score. 700 points more than at stock and 300 points more than a similarly overclocked 2nd Generation CPU on a Z77 board achieved.
Those of you who rightfully read our Intel review first will remember how the combination of Z77 and HD7970 gave us our record OpenGL result in CineBench R11.5. As you can see it didn't exactly last long, as the overclocked UD5H manages a whopping 106.57 FPS. Eye-popping indeed. The CPU score is less impressive as we know a similarly clocked i7-2600K gets around 9.6 Pts, which the 4.8 GHz i7-3770K certainly doesn't get close to.
Yet another result that doesn't seem to be taking advantage of our overclock. It's as if something is reverting it back to stock, except we know from monitoring the clock speed that the overclock is 'sticking', and multiple runs have shown that this is just the result we get. Odd.
The purity of wPrime shines through with the 32M score being right on the money. Of course not everything can be as simple as we'd desire and the overclock is about 30 seconds slower than it should be, if a similarly overclocked i7-2600K is the guide.
Finally we reach the first of our three tests in which we'll also be running with the Lucid MVP on. Straight away the result is right on the money and our overclock helps keep the minimum frame rate much higher than it would be at stock. However, take a look at the result with the Lucid switched on. A 37 FPS improvement is exceptionally high, and at no image quality reduction as far as we could tell.
3D Mark Vantage
If you thought the Unigine result was impressive, you need to sit down and strap yourself in for the Vantage score. 52000 P score and nearly 38000 X score with Lucid turned on. These are frankly ridiculous scores. Unbelievable. To put it in perspective, it's the equivalent to a GTX680 SLI setup, and not far behind SLI MARS 2s.
3D Mark 11
Just the same as the Vantage result, the improvement from merely turning on Lucid MVP is mind-blowing. Around a 30% performance increase. Just incredible. Sure it doesn't work in a lot of games, and you're stuck with using the motherboard display outputs, but if you're merely number hunting you'd be foolish to not consider turning it on with a single card.
It's always difficult when you're reviewing the first in a line of products. Without much to compare it to it's too easy to be bowled over by impressive performance that on later viewing is only middling, or equally be underwhelmed by something that's actually near the top of the pile.
However, with a lot of experience with the 2nd Generation of Intel processors and the P67/Z68 motherboards, we at least can get a grasp on where the UD5H fits in against those, and the answer is fairly averagely. One of the things we've often said about the Sandy Bridge range was that Intel had refined everything to such a fine art that it was very difficult to get something to stand out, and so it proves here.
There is a lot to like about the Z77X-UD5H. It's designed well. The BIOS is incredibly easy to use and nearly bulletproof, with the usual Gigabyte Dual-BIOS allowing you to recover from even hopelessly optimistic overclocking attempts. It even works with gaming mice, which is more than can be said for many UEFI BIOS'. It, unlike the Intel board, was happy to run our G.Skill 2400MHz kit at its rated timings, with the amount of performance benefit one would expect. You're not short of connectivity options either, with a host of SATA connections and USB ports. Finally if you're just interested in 3D benchmark numbers, regardless of how they are achieved, then the combination of the HD7970 and Lucid MVP most definitely will rock your world.
As always there are things that are less than perfect. The most obvious one is the overclocked performance is a bit hit and miss. In some tests we saw enormous benefits, exactly the kind of numbers we'd expect this high-end set of hardware to put out. Yet in others it seemed as if the overclock was doing precisely nothing. It isn't even a case of certain tests, as AIDA64 tests the CPU separately and so does Sandra, yet only AIDA64 showed improvements. The long-awaited full-fat PCI Express 3.0 which is unlocked with the use of a 3rd Generation CPU really has zero benefit on our HD7970. A card that isn't exactly lacking in performance, but doesn't gain any improvement only time will tell if this is the CPU or a motherboard issue, there is also an outside chance it could even be the progam itself having some buggy problems with the new CPU.
The million dollar question is, if you already own a hyper-threaded 2nd Generation Intel CPU such as the 2600K or 2700K, is this worthy of an investment? The short of it is no. There just aren't enough new features, nor extra performance, to justify the cost involved.
However, if you are currently in need of an upgrade then the Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H makes perfect sense thanks to it's build quality and very well-rounded package. It's not aimed at doing a single thing well but rather providing the basis for an everyday system with the variety of tasks that are called upon them.
Of course until we've tested an array of Z77s it's difficult to place it in the grand scheme of things, but for now we think that you're very unlikely to be disappointed if you picked one up, and for that it gets our OC3D Gold Award. We look forward to seeing what the Sniper.3 and some other boards can bring to the party to see if this is a whole hearted gold or maybe even demoted to a shiny silver. Only time will tell.
Thanks to Gigabyte for providing the Z77X-UD5H for review. Discuss in our forums.