Z68X-UD3H Review Exclusive*
Today we take a look at GIGABYTEís Z68X-UD3H, their mainstream consumer motherboard. If we sit back and take a look at this motherboard, as we do every motherboard, we can see right off the bat that it is feature filled, yet modest within its own respects. It has USB 3.0, extra SATA6G, 1394A, 7.1 audio codec, and even PCI. It has every feature a consumer would want and even more. So you have to ask, how is this board priced so well? The answer is that it drops off overclocking features, voltage regulator phases specifically, for a more feature rich feature set. Its entire spec list is pretty long, and it seems that its features match the price pretty well. This board even has the USB 3.0 turbo mode that we have seen on the Z68X-UD7, of course to a bit lesser extent. This board has the Ultra Durable 3 label, which means that its PCB has 2oz of copper opposed to the 1oz standard, 100% solid Japanese Capacitors, and low RDS(ON) MOSFETs for peripheral voltage regulators. The extra durability factor associated with the Ultra Durable 3 label is not something many other boards in this class have to offer; in fact it is what makes the GIGABYTE board shine. It seems that with Z68 GIGABYTE felt like they needed to give their mainstream boards a VRM upgrade, but not in the phase count. Instead GIGABYTE opted to replace the Low RDS(ON) MOSFETs with Driver MOSFETs that they use for their high end boards, which can increase efficiency, power output, and thermal spec. Now the phase count on this motherboard is a bit on the lower side, in total it is a 4+2+1(CPU+Uncore+iGP) phase design. So in theory each of the DrMOS can output 35A to the CPU cores, so we can look at 140A output, which can land us about 220watts for the CPU cores, that is about a 5-5.2 GHz OC to our estimates. We notice that overcurrent protection enacted by the PWM, is limited to +10% through the BIOS settings. On the other hand, we noticed the PWM frequency setting. In the case of this board, at stock itís ~360 kHz, and can be increased to 680 kHz, the highest we have seen on any GIGABYTE LGA1155 board thus far. We will discuss the meaning of this and other features through the review, so sit back, relax, and enjoy.
Box, Accessories, and Specs.
The box is pretty well designed; the black background matches the black PCB.
Sinís Take: Now compared to the Z68XP-UD3 this board has the fancy black PCB, something that users are really demanding. Now the UD3 and the UD3H have a very close feature set, the UD3H costs a bit more, and the features are almost identical, so it is up to you whether or not the extra good looks are worth the price, I say go for it if you have the money.
Now these are the accessories. There are a total of (4) SATA6G cables, all black, as well as a SLI connector. We have the back panel, as well as the manuals, and some GIGABYTE sticker.
Here are all the specs:
The board is well laid out; the board looks like a standard Z68 board. The PCB is very busy
Here we have the backpanel, everything you need is right there, including Display Port.
Looking at the top left side of the board we have the CPU socket area. It is well laid out; the only fight we have to pick is that not all of the DrMOS are heatsinked. On a board with only 4+2+1 phases, those phases will be running a bit hot when the CPU is overclocked. On the other hand, the lack of heatsinks surrounding the socket means that you wonít have any trouble fitting a large heatsink in that area.
Sinís Take: GIGABYTE could have heatsinked all the DrMOS, but if you think about it, it wonít increase the amount of current they can produce, so in the end if you are going to overstrain them, you are going to overstrain them with heatsinks on or off. I think maybe this way itís sort of a warning, this board is not meant for high frequency benchmarking, so take it easy please.
Here we have the memory DIMMs, the Trusted Platform Module connector, as well as the memory phases.
Sinís Take: Memory overclocking should be very good on this motherboard, as it isnít lacking in producing memory power. The BIOS allows for 5mv steps for DDR3 voltage control as well. We see that GIGABYTE also left room between the first GPU slot, and the DIMM latches, you can replace your memory with a long GPU in place.
Now you are probably wondering, why arenít there 8 SATA connectors? Well we have 3 black SATA3G from Intel PCH Z68 (2 angled & 1 straight), 2 white ports are SATA6G Z68, and the 2 gray are SATA6G Marvell. The last SATA3G is on the back panel as eSATA, a common design technique. This board has many, many, many internal headers. Really anything you want, this board has in terms of connectivity, it even has a COM header.
Sinís Take: After using a few other boards, I am glad that GIGABYTe color codes their front panel connectors, as well as the fact that they use a two pin design right above the front panel connectors for the clear CMOS. What I do, which I am sure others do as well, is that I hook up my reset button on my case to the Clear CMOS jumper, so that I can OC without on-board buttons. Just make sure if you do that, donít hit reset while the power is on.
Here we can see the triple slot GPU spacing. This board support SLI technology, and as we will discuss later, GIGABYTE has given it PCI-E 3.0 support. Now this board has no PCI-E 3.0 PCI-E switches, but we will discuss later how we can still have some PCI-E 3.0 capability, something many people have been wondering about.
Sinís Take: What people donít realize is that on a board with 16x PCI-E lanes, like this one, only half the CPUís PCI-E lanes are connected to PCI-E switches, so they can go to either the first slot for 16x or second for 8x/8x SLI/CF. The rest of the 8X lanes, the first 8X to be exact, are hard wired to the first slot. That is how GIGABYTE can say these boards are PCI-E 3.0 compatible.
Now this board has 4 LEDs, they are for the 4 phases. They will almost always be all lit like a Christmas Tree.
Deep Look at ICs, VRMs, and PCI-Es.
PCI-E 3.0 Capability, Fact or Fiction? Or in-between?
Please take a look at that picture above. You can see I have outlined what I want you to look at. You can see those in green are the PCI-E lanes from the CPU. You will see that half of them go to the area of the PCI-E switches, and the rest go to the first 8x of pins of the first 16x PCI-E slot. This means that when a PCI-E 3.0 capable CPU, Ivy bridge CPU to be exact, is placed into the board you can use PCI-E 3.0. The first 8x of the first 16x slot will have PCI-E 3.0 capability, allowing half of the first slot to have double the bandwidth, which PCI-E 3.0 provides. It might not be like the Sniper 2 which has full PCI-E 3.0 support, for all 16x lanes, but itís better than nothing. GIGABYTE announced BIOS with PCI-E 3.0 support, this board was on the list. A board like the UD7 which uses an NF200 cannot have this PCI-E 3.0 capability as all the lanes go through the NF200.
The rest of the PCI-E/PCI layout. Notice you can see how the USB 3.0 turbo mode works. When USB 3.0 turbo mode is enabled, it might reduce the number of PCI-E lanes for the GPUs. The Turbo mode will provide you a good performance boost if you have a lot of devices hooked up to the board, but it can hurt GPU performance.
Now I want to talk more about this small voltage regulator. Now we see a ton of capacitors, more than letís say the Sniper 2, which has 10x560uF, here we have 12. The increased capacitor count will help with ripple suppression. Now because of the reduced phase count, the phase interleaving affect, which is used to reduce the ripple current, is now reduced. This means that an increased capacitor count is required to keep ripple at bay, as well as a higher switching frequency to help transient response and also help keep the ripple at bay. We usually see high switching frequency with lower phase count systems, and it makes sense since the MOSFETs will run hotter, and thus are easier to cool down in fewer numbers. On this board I am glad to see lower OCP setting in BIOS, on this board we have up to 10%, on the Sniper 2 itís up to 60%. That is 50% more, but then again the Sniper 2 has double the phase count. Why am I glad that this board doesnít allow higher over current protection? The reason is because I would rather be told my limit than burn out a DrMOS, and that OCP is a way of doing so. I think if you surpass the limit that the CPU might throttle, or that the PWM will limit the current thus limiting the performance. The switching frequency on almost all GIGABYTE LGA1155 boards is 264 kHz, on this board itís ~360KHz at auto setting, and can go up to 680KHz for best ripple control. Now please be careful, do NOT just crank up the switching frequency, you will have a much higher chance of overstraining the DrMOS, but also lower switching frequency results in higher current output from the DrMOS. So leave it at auto, or take it to +42-68% for good balance. The DrMOS have highest current output at around 300khz.
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