Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH Review
Let's be clear from the outset, if you buy the Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH you'll definitely be happy with your purchase. It's absolutely fine and does everything well, and is devoid of glaring issues.
We have got two unique selling points on the UP4. The first is that this is the first motherboard to come with Dual Thunderbolt ports, so that rather than be limited to only six Thunderbolt devices you can chain up to twelve devices and three Displays. The second, and far more immediately useful, addition is the IR3550 PowIRstage ICs. Although under our air-cooling this didn't give us any particular boost to our overclocking, it definitely runs significantly cooler than the standard MOSFET control arrangement. Our thermal probe reported the Z77X-UP4 TH to be 22°C cooler than we normally see, so there are definitely benefits to be had. Although this is a middle-board and the IR3550 isn't making much difference here, we can't wait to see how much of a boost it gives on the higher end models that will inevitably have more power phases and thus a better over clocking potential. Finally, although we run with air cooling so that we can provide results you will all be able to obtain, if you are a water-cooling enthusiast then the significant thermal benefits should allow for much heftier overclocks without having to have a custom MOSFET block made.
But that's what makes it so hard to summarise. It hasn't any major problems, but neither has it any particular highlights. It's functional. It looks average, and performs exactly as you'd expect. It hasn't got the outstanding value for money that we've seen from, to pick a stablemate, the Z77MX-D3H. But it also hasn't any unexpected joys, such as the OC Genie on the MSI GD65.
It's a £150 motherboard, that performs like a £150 motherboard. It neither has, nor hasn't, any thing you'd expect to find on a motherboard at this price point. Which does leave us rather short of things to say.
We expressed in our introduction how the Intel Z77 Chipset is bombproof. No matter what you do to it, either in cutting down the features or in piling them on, it performs roughly the same no matter which vendor you choose. The differences tend to be minor, such as a slightly better overclock, or a couple more SATA ports. Generally apart from the physical size of each motherboard, or the insane amount of enthusiast features available, there is little to choose between them. Gigabyte, more than any other company, are guilty of just having too many models in their range (a whopping 16 different Z77 motherboards), with negligible changes between each variant.
Now we're not saying choice for the end user is a bad thing, but as this is approximately a UD3 with dual-Thunderbolt attached it's difficult to find something to tell you we haven't said before a dozen times. Even the basic Thunderbolt devices are still amazingly expensive, so whilst it's nice to see such a premium technology on a motherboard marketed at the average user we can't help but wonder who would take advantage of it? However Gigabyte aren't in control of storage vendor pricing, and they must be applauded for putting a cutting edge tech within reach of the average person.
If you like the looks, and don't have a few Thunderbolt external drives just gagging for a home, we'd probably plump for the UD3. If you don't mind a brighter colour scheme the D3H is excellent value for money. The Gigabyte Z77X-UP4 TH is the safe choice, it's a Ford Mondeo, the chicken and rice, easy listening music. Perfectly good, let there be no doubt about that, it just doesn't set your soul on fire. We give it our Silver award.