GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH Review with Ultra Durable 5 Analysis
GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH Review
Back in June at Computex 2012 I saw some really cool featured motherboards from GIGABYTE, of them three where for the Z77 platform; the Z77X-UP4-TH, the Z77X-UP5-TH, and of course the Z77X-UP7. I would love nothing more than to bring you a wonderful review on all of them, but for now I just received the Z77X-UP5-TH and while it might not be the UP7 we all want to see, it still is a cutting edge weapon of technology. Straight out of the story books, the Z77X-UP5 boasts the best if not one of the best voltage regulators to ever solder its joints on a motherboard, dwarfing everything before it and setting the bar a bit too high for everything after it. GIGABYTE isnít blind to this fact either, in fact that is what Ultra Durable 5 is all about, Ultra Power, something I am relieved to see in lower phase count models. As always GIGABYTE keeps on bringing firsts to the motherboard market as well as their lineup. Their Z77X-UP5 TH is their first board to feature dual 10GBps ThunderBolt ports, these ports are what add the TH to the end of the model name. However you guys know me better, I look really deep at every motherboard to see what else it has in store, so I will tell you what I have been holding back, this is the first GIGABYTE motherboard to feature a true 8 phase VRM. What does that mean? It means that an 8-phase PWM is driving each of the 8 CPU Phases individually, something that is extremely rare with 8 phase VRMs. Take for instance typical $150 8-Phase budget board with nice heatsinks and gold capacitors, you might think it also has 8 phases run by an 8 phase PWM, however that isnít the case, it has a 6+1 phase PWM, and only 4 of those 6 phases are used and they are doubled. That is just one of the many examples of how phase doubling can trick you. However in this case GIGABYTE isnít playing the virtual game, they are being true to the concept of the phase, as well as laying down the ground work for the next generation of voltage regulators. The Ultra Durable 5 moniker is all about the VRM; from the 8-Phase Digital VRD12.5 certified PWM to the 60A IR3550 power stage and out the 60A custom ferrite inductor, the UP5's power delivery is going to blow you away.
- -Box and Accessories
- -Motherboard and Layout
- -VR Circuit Analysis/Ultra Durable 5 Analysis
- -General Circuit Analysis
- -UEFI Walk-Through
- -Efficiency Tests(benchmarks)
- -Audio and USB 3.0 Testing
- -Included Software
Here is a video as well:
Box and Accessories
Here is the box, and on the front you see the beautiful IR3550, as well as two major awards, one from Tomís Hardware, and another from CES Consumer Electronics Award of 2011. Now the Tomís Hardware award is for the motherboardís innovative capacity while the CES award is for the IR3550. The back of the box dishes out the need to know of the many features, and even has an education tidbit about the new VRM.
The accessory package for this motherboard is just fabulous with a capital F, if you like to accessorize then the Z77X-UP5 TH has you covered and then some. You have a glamourus new WB300D the top model Wifi/BT module from GIGABYTE.
The total list is:
- GC-WB300D Wifi/BT
- 2 x Antenna
- Internal USB header dongle
- 3.5 inch front panel USB 3.0 bay
- SLI Bridge
- 6x Black SATA6GB/s (III) cables
- Backpanel I/O Shield
- GC-WB300D Manual and Driver DVD
- Motherboard Manual and Driver DVD
Now there is also something you should know, and that is GIGABYTE has provided us with a much updated Wifi/BT module:
The new one is on the left and the old one is one the right. You can see the one included with the UP5 has a black PCB, as well as only one internal USB header, which is actually half the width of the older model. The card itself is also shorter.
Layout and Design:
The new heatsinks and the color matching in my opinion looks really good. The motherboard has 5 fan headers, all of them are 4-pin, and can be controlled through the BIOS through one setting for the CPU fan, and then one other setting for all the other fans which gives you partial control over them. The overclocking features are all well placed, except for the POST Code display which was bumped behind the 24-pin connector because of the addition of an extra digital PWM which took its place when compared to the UD5H. It is a bit hard to read the codes when the board is on a bench, unless you stand or you got a tiny little mirror. The PCI-E layout is the same as that on the Z77X-UD5H, and for the most part the internal USB 3.0 headers, and the amount of USB 3.0 on the back panel are identical. GIGABYTE did change up some things however, for instance the clips on the PCI-E slots are new, and I think ROG boards use the same ones.
Here we have the backpanel, it consists of:
- 4x USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Ports
- 2x USB 2.0 Ports
- eSATA6GB/s port
- RJ-45 LAN
- 2x 10GBps ThunderBolt Ports
- 7.1 TOSLINK with S/PDIF out
Thunderbolt really is a very big deal, as not only does it need a lot of bandwidth, but it also needs a lot of back panel space.
Two fan headers are placed around the CPU socket area so that a heatsink requiring two fans can easily be catered too. There are a total of 8 CPU phases on this motherboard, and then 2 more phases are for the iGPU, and then two more are for the VTT/IMC outputs. The new ďlightning PĒ inductors (chokes) are rated for 60A which is just the highest I have seen on any motherboard. There is a mSATA connector located right below the socket.
The memory DIMMs are black and grey which is just like that of the Z68X-UD5. The memory is powered by a two phase digital VRM. There are voltage read points, a power button, as well as reset and clear CMOS buttons located in the same position as on the UD5H. However GIGABYTE realized that on the UD5H the ClearCMOS and reset buttons were a bit close, so they separated them by a few millimeters. The post code display like I already mentioned isnít in the best position, surprisingly they did the same thing on the X58A-OC.
The buttons add a really nice touch, and they are positioned perfectly for benching, as when the motherboard is mounted on a bench, users will position themselves along the board on the right side, facing the CPU. The buttons are in the perfect location. However the POST Code display needs some work.
It is hidden behind the 24-pin ATX power receptacle. However behind the 24-pin connector we can also see the anti-surge IC from Ultra Durable 4! The Ultra Durable series is a build up.
Many ask what that ATX4P SATA power connector is for, the answer is that it provides extra 12v, 5v, and 3.3v for the motherboards PCI-E slots and other devices if needed. If you are going to run 3-way CF then it might be a good thing to use as adding a single extra 12v wire from the PSU adds 75 of extra juice, the standard 24-pin only has two 12v wires.
Here we can also see 3 internal USB 3.0 headers and 7 internal SATA ports. One of them is a gray port which is located right next to the bottom two USB 3.0 headers, it is powered by Marvell and can provide SATA6GB/s. The two white ports are Intel SATA6GB/s and the four black as Intel SATA3GB/s. One fan header is next to the SATA ports. Right after that gray SATA port, there is a small switch which can switch between the main and the backup BIOS. Then we have front panel headers, as well as an extra fan header. Then there are two internal USB2.0 headers, a TPM header, a 1394A header, and then your audio headers.
The PCI-E 16x slots are all wired to the CPU, thus if you use an Ivy Bridge CPU then all of them will be PCI-E 3.0 slots.
Here is the PCI-E Layout:
There is also a way to get 3-way SLI working, and that is through a hack you can google.
If you run with a single GPU you will have 16x in the first slot, if you run 2 GPUs then both will get 8x, if you run 3 then it is 8x/4x/4x.
Time for the Circuit Analysis!!!!
Taking the heatsinks off reveals my favorite part of this motherboard, the CPU voltage regulator!!!!!!
Here we can see that IR3550 is used for the 8 CPU phases as well as the 2 iGPU phases. Some PowerPAK MOSFETs are used for the VTT. The new Inductors look freaking amazing, they are well branded, nicest inductors I have seen as not only do they look good but they also have excellent DCR and highest 60A Isat ratings. The bottom line is that while GPUs usually have the best VRMs, GIGBYTE has outdone everyone else. Only thing that would make this perfect would be a few proadlizer capacitors, however due to the earthquake in Japan those are in short supply.
Ultra Durable 5 is possibly the best thing to happen this year! UD5 provides enough copper in the PCB, a 60A capable MOSFET, and a 60A inductor with a saturation current high enough have all come together to provide a true 60A per phase VRM. Booya! This would be the time to mention that you could never pull 480A(the max possible from this board) on any modern CPU. The point of going overboard like this is so that the VRM requires no active cooling, such as a fan or water cooling, to maintain optimum current output during heavy overclocking. The fancy heatsinks are all that is needed, and most likely overkill.
So what is the big deal about this IR3550? Well for the most part it is the best of the best when it comes to high output AIO powerstages. That is because the limit for most MOSFETs for 50A+ output is cooling and physical design. The issue comes about that the power losses are high, and thus the MOSFET needs to be cooled properly. Many MOSFETs have a rating where the manufacturer lists at what temperature and power loss a MOSFET can output a certain amount of current. Then we also have to factor in the output voltage at those ratings.
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