So now we've had a look at what the i7-4770K is capable of at stock when running on the basic Intel motherboard, it's time for us to have a look at the first of our Z87 motherboards, the Gigabyte Z87-D3HP.
The Z77 version of this motherboard was one of the best value ones available on the LGA1155 socket, providing good performance and features in a small, affordable, package.
This latest version based on the Z87 chipset has all the features you'd expect. Plenty of USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbp/s ports, and perhaps most importantly the first all black PCB that Gigabyte have used at the bottom of their range. One of the big boons is the new version of their UEFI which not only looks much better, as we'll see on later pages, but is capable of being skinned and customised by the user. We all love to customise wherever possible and this will definitely help give a holistic feel across your system, as well as give vendors a chance to splatter their logos hither and thither.
Overclocking and Low Power
Of course the primary sphere of interest for our review is to see how the overclocking of the i7-4770K behaves, and the increase in the instructions and much more powerful HD4600 iGPU has meant that heat is much more of a consideration and limitation than it was previously on the LGA1155. Nonetheless we managed a very respectable 4.6GHz on the Z87-D3HP. Knowing that this is the base model in the Gigabyte range we're very impressed indeed.
Speaking of things to be impressed about, energy efficiency is a key part of the 4th Generation Intel CPUs, and look at the voltage in the right hand screen shot when idle. In total our test system drew a frankly incredible 51W when the system was idle.
It's nice to see Gigabyte moving away from the white boxes that have been their staple for a long time. There is something about a black box that psychologically seems more impressive than a white one. Although the rear of the D3HP box still looks like an explosion in a sticker factory.
Considering this is a brand new motherboard and priced just above the £110 mark, the D3HP looks very nice indeed with its black PCB, mainly black plastic and grey heatsinks.
Connectivity is the big area of improvement with the Z87-D3HP. From left to right we have two USB 2.0 and a combined PS2, VGA and DVI, six USB 3.0s, HDMI, Gigabit LAN and audio ports.
There is tons of space around the CPU socket, more than we've seen for a long time. Certainly if you're one of the people who just loves to put a DICE pot on your board you're not going to be struggling to fit it on the D3HP.
The bottom end is nearly identical to every other board of recent years, although we're surprised to see that the Z87-D3HP retains the legacy PCI slots that are a few years past their useful service, and that the SATA ports are vertical. Considering that 6 bits of cheap plastic can't save that much over one bit of cheap plastic, we think vertical SATAs are fairly unforgivable these days. Even with the tiny saving on copper traces.
How far we've come. The new Gigabyte UEFI is gorgeous. Fabulously easy to use, loads of information, beautifully presented.
By giving each element its own section it's a great place to focus on one thing at a time. Although we'd like to be able to adjust the voltages without toing and froing quite so much.
BIOS - More
As well as tweaking the extra features of the D3HP, we like the fact that you can choose the startup page. Helpful saving time on fine tuning your system.
Intel Core i7-4770K
Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace
Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400MHz
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
During our testing we used the new Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400Mhz 16GB kits.
The stock D3HP takes a fraction more power than the Intel board, but the major point has to be that even when overclocked the combination of i7-4770K and HD7970 takes 33 fewer Watts than the stock i7-3770K. The focus on power saving has certainly been worthwhile.
One thing we've discovered is that the i7-4770K is almost entirely thermally limited. Given that we're running the best cooling solution around, short of a dedicated water loop, this most definitely isn't a setup in which you want to scrimp on your CPU cooler.
Stock is, as we'd expect, pretty standard across both boards. The overclock brings a lot of benefits though and the memory in particular sees a giant leap when run flat out. Given that our minimum improvement from our ~20% overclock is a ~20% improvement in performance, we're off to a good start.
The performance benefits are stunning so far. Proof, if it were needed, that it's not obligatory to run straight to the Sniper for excellent results from your overclock. The Processor MultiMedia test which takes advantage of the new Intel instructions is a particular highlight.
Of all the tests we've run so far the one that has really left an impression is the massive performance boost of PC Mark on the LGA1150 4th Generation CPUs, and overclocking the i7-4770K only enhances this. Let's give you a couple of comparisons. Our previous high-scores were 25606 and 6008 on a 5GHz i7-3770K Maximus V Extreme, and the 4.6GHz i7-4770K gives us 30024 and 6810. An incredible improvement in both benchmarks.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark 7
Obviously wPrime relies heavily on the combination of raw clock speed and memory bandwidth, rather than taking advantage of any instruction sets, so the results bear out the 4.6GHz nature of our overclock. We think you could probably write an equation to work out how quickly it would run the test for a given clock speed.
Always trying to keep up with the times we've switched from the Version 4 of the x264 Benchmark to v5, and as you can see the results aren't comparable so think of this graph as an interim to demonstrate the differences in the results you can expect. It's also worth noting if you like to play along at home and wonder why your Q6600 is outperforming our setup.
The extra performance freed up from the overclock allows the HD7970 to be pushed that bit harder, and bring us better scores in CatZilla, although it's still largely limited by the qualities of the graphics card.
2 whole points!! That's an excellent increase from a medium overclock and beats any 5GHz overclock we managed on the i7-3770K.
There are some things that pure horsepower alone cannot overcome, and the Radeon HD7970 is already pushed to the limit in Unigine Heaven, so no amount of extra CPU cycles can make a noticeable difference.
Unigine Valley just grabs an extra half a frame or so, but in general we're entirely limited by the GPU here.
Resident Evil 6
The same is true in Resident Evil 6. GPU limits ahoy.
3D Mark Vantage
The Z87s respond much sharper than the Z77s. The stock chip out-performs the overclocked i7-3770K, and the overclock is stratospheric. 5000 and 3000 points better is nothing to be sniffed at.
3D Mark 11
It's the same story in 3D Mark 11. Although the numeric improvement is less than Vantage, the percentage is identical.
Finally 3D Mark, and actually although the Ice Storm score is better, the rest of the results aren't as impressive as the i7-3770K that came before.
As the first of our Z87 motherboards we need to be a little cautious. After all, the Intel Core i7-4770K is a blistering CPU with immensely impressive performance in every test. Naturally this fantastic performance is only intensified when it is overclocked.
Equally we love the possibility for a native triple-screen desktop, we like the low power usage, and we are especially keen to have as many high-bandwidth ports as possible. But these are all things that aren't unique to the Z87-D3HP but part of the whole LGA1150 Z87 package.
So what does the Gigabyte Z87-D3HP bring to the party?
Quite a bit actually. Let's start with the looks. So often the lower-end Gigabyte motherboards have that bright blue PCB that is their trademark, and whilst that is good for branding it isn't great for those of us who have to put one in our system. A black PCB, regardless of your own personal colour favourites, looks more expensive and is easier to blend in with the colour scheme of your choice. Additionally by including black plastic nearly everywhere it isn't a mish-mash of odd bits and bobs from the parts bin.
Compared to the MSI GD65 the D3HP seems to be middling when it comes to getting an overclock, topping out at 4.6GHz. That's by no means a terrible overclock and given how thermally limited we are, and that all of our 3D tests indicate there isn't much to be gained from a gaming perspective with enormous clock speeds, then it's certainly enough for us. Overclocking is fun too thanks to the beautiful BIOS. To think merely two generations ago we were using keyboard BIOS' from the 90s, it's amazing how far things have come and the ability to customise it to your taste is the cherry on the top.
Stock and overclocked performance is very good across the board. Of course the encoding speed in PC Mark was excellent so if you're a media-heavy user then this might be just the chap. In fact the only thing we dislike is the vertical SATA ports which, regardless of price-point, are unacceptable.
All in all it's nothing particularly earth-shattering we know, but then you remember that the Z87-D3HP costs five pence shy of £115 but at launch Gigabyte are offering the board with a BeQuiet cooler worth £30. Problem is from our testing that cooler wont cope with our overclock and its an absolute arse to mount so we could give it to someone you dont like or ebay it and get yourself a decent cooler for anything above stock clocks. Usually the latest hardware comes with an early adopter price premium, so to find one that comes out the gate at a very affordable price with decent overclocking, a very attractive BIOS, and all the features you could reasonably expect to find is a definite bonus and for that reason we unhesitatingly award the Gigabyte Z87-D3HP our OC3D Value For Money Award.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the Z87-D3HP for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.