It seems that £150 is the sweet spot for the Z87 motherboards, with a veritable plethora of options ranging from some mATX boards all the way up to some feature-rich offerings.
We've already seen a couple of motherboards from Gigabyte at a little above this price, the Sniper M5 and the Z87X-OC both were extremely high performers. If you fancy a model a that's a little cheaper and a bit more generic than the bright orange or bright green available from those particular boards then the UD4H could be just the ticket.
Long-time hardware fans will remember that the X58-UD3R was one of the best price/performance motherboards, and the X68 UD5 and Z77 UD5 both had a lot to offer. Lately the mid-range model from Gigabyte has been the UD4, and that's what we have up for review today, in UD4H guise. Indeed all of the main Gigabyte models now have an H on the end of their name.
We already know that the Z87 is extremely robust and nearly any model from any manufacturer will be worthy of purchase, so let's find out what the UD4H has to offer to tempt your wallet.
Casting your eye down the specification table shows that the Z87X-UD4H is very much a regulation Z87 motherboard with all the standard features one would expect to find and no particular quirks or additions to it. For a lot of us this can be a good thing as a more well-rounded offering allows you to mould it to your own needs, rather than having to rein it in from a particular direction dominating proceedings.
|Onboard Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor:|
|Internal I/O Connectors|
|Back Panel Connectors|
It finally seems that Gigabyte have moved away from their white boxes, and it's definitely for the better in our opinion. The UD4H packaging also is extremely clear with the model name front and centre and the majority of the features and technology logos on the reverse.
Although black and red is so common as to be the default hardware colour these days we very much like the looks of the UD4H. There is a nice simplicity to it. It is a fine line between being minimalist and being plain and the UD4H nicely straddles that line.
At the top right of the PCB are the power, BIOS selector, reset and CMOS clear switches. We'd rather the CMOS clear be moved a little further away, those with chubby fingers need not apply, but it makes sense to keep them all clustered together.
The CPU area is very clear with lots of room available for even the most enormous of cooling options. The placement of the CMOS battery is rather strange, but it's still a big step ahead of just below the first PCI Express slot. Speaking of which there is a lot of room between the two, enabling a large amount of airflow in multi-GPU setups.
There are 8 SATA 6Gb/s ports, six from the chipset itself and 2 further ones controlled by the Marvell 88SE9172 chip.
Round the back there are six USB 3.0 ports, all four types of display output as well as a GigaLAN, combined PS2 and two eSATA ports.
Intel Core i7-4770K
Club3D HD7970 Royal Ace
Corsair Vengeance Pro 2400MHz
Corsair Neutron GTX
Windows 7 x64
It might be lacking the more obvious overclocking direction that the Sniper and Z87X-OC have but that doesn't mean that the UD4H isn't an eager overclocker. 4.9GHz is an excellent result and right at the limits of what we can attain on our i7-4770K.
One of the elements that has been, there is no other way to say it, dodgy on recent Gigabyte mid-range boards has been the vDroop so we're delighted to report that these issues have been fixed so comprehensively that the loadline calibration option has all-but disappeared from the BIOS and the overclocking stability is rock solid. Excellent.
With this dedication to ensuring good power delivery it's not surprising that the Gigabyte UD4H is one of the least power efficient Z87 motherboards we've tested, especially in the overclocked CPU scenario.
In AIDA64 we have a little bit of a tale of two halves. At stock the Gigabyte UD4H is unimpressive, with some very low scores in both the CPU and memory bandwidth tests. Overclocking completely flips this around though with some of the best CPU results we've obtained and very good, albeit it not chart-topping, memory bandwidth.
Our AIDA64 results are replicated here with the UD4H's stock performance being decidedly average and yet it is like a beast unleashed when you overclock it, with some of the best results we've seen and, in the MultiMedia test, the best result we've seen on our i7-4770K.
In the Sandra cryptography bandwidth test the UD4H performs at the level one would expect both in the stock and overclocked results, due to the clockspeed heavy nature of the benchmark. If anything it emphasises how great the GD65 is.
The eternal battle between stock performance and overclocked performance is highlighted perfectly in Maxon's CineBench R11.5. At stock the UD4H is only akin to the D3HP, that is half a point behind our other stock results. Half a point in CineBench is an enormous amount. Yet with the 4.9GHz overclock in place it gives us the highest score we've yet attained from our i7-4770K. A tale of two results indeed.
At the risk of repeating ourselves we see the same disparity between the stock and overclocked results as we saw in CineBench. At stock the UD4H is the slowest system we've tested, even beaten out by the reference Intel motherboard. Yet with the overclock in place it's knocking on the door of the very fastest times. This certainly is one for the overclockers.
x264 Benchmark v5
Another calculation-heavy test and another fastest and slowest result for the Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H. It's quite surprising to see such a mid-range motherboard perform so poorly at stock yet be so blistering once you've overclocked it.
We're beginning to run out of new ways to express the same sentiment, namely that the UD4H is very average out of the box but comes alive when you overclock it. Looking purely at the final PC Mark score for a moment, the stock test is the worst in Vantage and only the Maximus VI Extreme saves it from the bottom of the pile in PC Mark 7. Yet once we overclock the UD4H it is only the Gigabyte Z87X-OC that betters it in either Vantage or 7.
PC Mark Vantage
PC Mark 7
Resident Evil 6
Normally our 3D tests are so heavily reliant upon the GPU that our scores are identical, and it's the same situation here. However it is worth noting, if only for the sake of consistency, that in Res6 the Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H is both at the bottom at stock and the top when overclocked. Certainly it's so close that it's not worth putting much weight upon the result, but it's curious nonetheless.
Unigine is relentless stable and we're certainly not going to worry about a tenth of a frame here and there.
Unigine once again proves what a GPU intensive benchmark it is with the UD4H almost indistinguishable from our other tested motherboards.
3D Mark Vantage
Contrary to our earlier results, or perhaps more in keeping with a GPU heavy test, 3D Mark Vantage shows the UD4H in a good light whether it's overclocked or at stock. Not quite graph-topping but darn close.
3D Mark 11
The good performance we saw in 3D Mark Vantage continues into 3D Mark 11 with the P-score, the one most likely to show a differential in the available horsepower, right up there with the best of the rest.
In 3D tests at least the UD4H is phenomenally consistent, capable of delivering good results whether at stock or overclocked. It wont break world records, but neither is it as disgraced as it was in the calculation heavy benchmarks.
With the motherboard market being more crowded than the underground at rush hour, especially around this £150 price point, does the Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H have enough to make it stand out from the crowd?
Certainly the looks go a long way for it. Gigabyte have held on to their blue colouring for as long as we care to remember. Indeed you have to go back to the days when an AGP port was considered cutting edge to find their volume selling option in anything but blue. Lately things have changed and whether it's the orange of their world-record targeted OC range or the lurid green of the Sniper's, it seems that Gigabyte are finally freed from the shackles of blue plastic. The UD4H is an all-black affair with only the heatsinks getting some colour to highlight your system, and they've chosen a beautiful red. We think it looks spectacular. It would be easy to complain that the heatsinks are lacking in any artistic flair, and they are, but equally they aren't depressingly functional either. They neatly straddle the line of looking nice, without being so ornate that they limit your creativity.
Performance is a mixed bag. We know that most people purchase a motherboard and just run their system at stock settings, and for these we have to offer a certain level of caveat emptor. The 3D results are excellent but the calculation performance and even the PC Mark results are bordering on disappointing. When you're matching the vastly cheaper D3H motherboard and being spanked by options that are only a tenner more such as the Sniper M5 or the MSI GD65 then it takes a particular need for this exact colour scheme to make it worthy of recommendation over any alternative. It isn't poor, but your socks will remain firmly on and your jaw exactly where you left it.
The same cannot be said for the overclocked performance. Firstly the power issues that have plagued a few select models in the Gigabyte range have finally been banished to the history books, and the UD4H is a prize because of it. 4.9GHz was our maximum stable overclock, and that's as good as we've seen from our CPU on 24/7 voltages. It's not just a case of big clock-speed, average performance either as the UD4H was relentlessly high on our graphs. Going head to head with the very best more often than not. The overclocked performance is so good that, when at stock, you can almost feel the UD4H straining at the leash.
This isn't the first product that benefited enormously from an overclock, the Club3D Radeon cards spring to mind, and the stock performance is good enough to not detract from our final evaluation. It's worth remembering that if you plan to run it at the defaults then it's merely adequate, but boy if you overclock it then you will be left with a big grin on your face. We wouldn't go so far as to say it's a Jekyll and Hyde motherboard, because the stock isn't that bad, but it's perhaps Tony Stark and Iron Man. For that reason we'll award it our OC3D Gold Award.
Thanks to Gigabyte for supplying the Z87X-UD4H for review. Discuss your thoughts in the OC3D Forums.