GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 Motherboard Review

The Z68X-UD7-B3 is GIGABYTE's latest release supporting LGA1155 processors and new Z68 Intel Express Chipset. This motherboard looks to be gunning for a top spot with is mix of performance and features. Is the UD7 worth your hard earned dollars?

Introduction

GIGABYTE is a top-tier computer component manufacturer, well known for its stable and high performance products. Recently, the company has leveraged its design mastery to shore up its presence in the enthusiast space, pushing the limits of stability and performance to win over the hearts and minds of the enthusiast crowd. GIGABYTE continues its inroads in to the enthusiast market with its newest boards supporting the Intel LGA1155 processor line.

The GIGABYTE Z68X-UD7-B3 board leverages the latest Intel chipset, the Intel Z68 chipset, to deliver support for the following integrated technologies: the Intel LGA1155 Core i3, i5, and i7 processor lines; DDR3 memory operating in Dual Channel memory mode up to 1333MHz officially; and either NVIDIA SLI or ATI CrossFireX graphics mode using matched video cards. GIGABYTE chose to integrate the following devices in to the Z68X-UD7-B3's design: 4 SATA II 3Gb/s ports and 2 SATA III 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0, 1, 0+1 and 5 capable) on the Intel Z68 controller; 2 SATA III 6Gb/s ports and 2 e-SATA 6Gb/s ports (RAID 0 and 1 capable) on the Marvel SE9128 controller; 8 USB 2.0 capable ports (4 in rear panel, and 2 onboard header supporting 2 ports each); 10 USB 3.0 capable ports (6 in rear panel, and 2 onboard header supporting 2 ports each); 3 IEEE 1394 ports (2 in rear panel, and 1 onboard header support 1 port each); 2 Realtek GigE Ethernet ports in the rear panel; Realtek 8-channel HD audio codec with integrated S/PDIF optical and RCA component output ports; power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; and a PS/2 keyboard / mouse port in the rear panel.

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Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Mainboard Specification List:

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Packaging

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For the Z68X-UD7-B3's box, GIGABYTE chose to keep the featured box art simple and to the point, featuring the board's supporting technologies and features on a black background. GIGABYTE bundled the following components in with the board: locking connector SATA drive cables; 2-way and 3-way NVIDIA SLI connectors; e-SATA powered rear panel bracket; 3.5" bay USB 3.0 insert; the rear panel shield; and the normal complement of manuals and drivers discs.

Board Layout

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GIGABYTE designed the Z68X-UD7-B3 almost flawlessly, with more than enough room between the integrated board components. You may run in to space problems using an overly large cooler with the heat sink to the left of the CPU socket, which cools the NVIDIA NF200 chipset. The board revision is silkscreened to the board's surface in the upper left corner, with a revision 1.0 model used in our testing. The serial number is located on a white sticker along the outer edge of the ATX power connector, in addition to a product sticker on the outside of the box by the box handle. For power regulation, GIGABYTE paired the board with a combination of high quality polymer solid-electrolyte capacitors and Ferrite core chokes.

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The CPU socket area for the Z68X-UD7-B3 is almost entirely free of obstructions, with the close proximity components being of a small profile format to negate problems. When using a large heat sink, you may run in to space issues with the sink cooling the NVIDIA NF200 chipset to the left of the socket. The CPU cooler is held in place by the standard LGA1155 style hold-down mechanism. The front panel audio header is just above the NVIDIA NF200 chipset, while the 8-pin ATX12V power connector, and SYS_FAN1 header are located to the upper right of the CPU socket. The CPU_FAN header is located to the lower right of the socket.

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The 4 integrated DDR3 memory modules slots are located directly below the CPU socket and NVIDIA NF200 chipset, arranged in a 2-by-2 configuration. The BIOS activates Dual Channel memory mode when matching modules populate slots 1 and 3 or 2 and 4. The 24-pin ATX power connector, CMOS reset, system reset, and power buttons, PWR_FAN header, and CPU power phase LED bank are located directly under the memory slots.

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The Intel Z68 Express chipset is located directly below PCI-Express x16 slots 1, 2, and 3, cooled by a passive low profile heat sink. Its heat sink also acts as a terminating point for the onboard heat pipe cooling solution, which is used to cool all board chipsets and power circuitry. All onboard SATA ports are located just under the chipset. The Intel Z68 controlled ports are the white colored ports offering SATA III 6GB/s device support and the black colored ports offering SATA II 3GB/s device support. The Marvell controlled ports are the grey colored ports offering SATA III 6GB/s device support. The CMOS battery is located directly to the left of the Z68 chipset, with the 2-digit diagnostic LED and the front panel header located to its lower left. The 2-digit diagnostic LED can be used to troubleshoot system boot related issues by comparing the error code shown with the values from the table in the user guide. The USB 2.0 headers, the CMOS reset jumper, the PCH_FAN header, and the USB 3.0 headers are located just above the front panel header along the board's left edge.

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GIGABYTE integrated a total of 7 device ports in to the Z68X-UD7-B3's design: 4 PCI-Express x16 slots, 1 PCI-Express x1 slots, and 2 PCI slots. Depending on the design of the PCI-Express x1 device card, you may have a hard time using the PCI-Express x1 port due to the proximity and large nature of the NVIDIA NF200 chipset's cooler. The SYS_FAN2, SYS_FAN3, and IEEE 1394 headers are located along the outer edge of PCI slot 2, while the S/PDIF output header is just above the third PCI-Express x16 slot.

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The Z68X-UD7-B3's rear panel hosts the following ports: a PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo-port; 2 USB 2.0 ports (red colored USB style ports); 6 USB 3.0 ports (blue colored USB style ports); 2 Realtek GigE Ethernet ports; 2 hybrid e-SATA 6Gb/s / USB 2.0 ports (blue colored ports e-SATA style ports); and 6 analogue and S/PDIF optical and RCA component audio output ports.

GIGABYTE EasyTune 6

For windows based monitoring and overclocking, GIGABYTE packages version 6 of their EasyTune software on the install DVD with the version shown being revision B11.0323.1. The application functionality is accessed via a series of tabs located at the top of the application window.

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The CPU tab shows real time system statistics on the various bus speeds, and well as detailed CPU and BIOS related information. The memory tab shows memory statistics for all onboard slots on a slot by slot basis. Note that the information shown in both tabs in very similar in nature to the data you would see in the freeware CPU-Z application.

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The Tuner tab allows for user controlled manipulation of the various board bus speeds and voltages with 3 modes of operation available - QuickBoost mode, Easy mode and Advanced mode. The Quick Boost mode is active by default, allowing the user to select from 1 of 3 overclocking scenarios. The Easy and Advanced mode of operation allows for full user control of board bus frequencies, device speed settings and ratios, and board voltages, with settings shown similar in nature to those shown in the BIOS. Note that the screenshots shown show Advanced mode active only. Easy mode operation is similar in nature, with less configuration options to choose from.

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The Graphics tab contains settings for manually configuring the GPU and onboard memory speed for supported graphics cards.

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The Smart tab contains settings for manually setting the CPU Smart Fan temperature thresholds for optimal CPU cooler performance.

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The HW Monitor tab displays statistics on all BIOS monitored voltages under the Voltage sub-tab. The Fan/Temp sub-tab contains statistics on monitored device fan speeds and temperatures, with the option for configuring alert settings for the monitored devices.

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Clicking on the summary icon in the upper right corner of the application display the Quick Summary window, which displays high level information on board device and bus speeds, voltages, and memory.