Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H Motherboard Review

The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H represents a more budget oriented offering within Gigabyte’s lineup. "Budget" doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and "expensive" doesn’t necessarily mean good when it comes to motherboards. The question is, "How does Gigabyte’s Z77X-UD3H stack up against so many great budget boards already out there?"

Introduction

Gigabyte is one of the more well known computer centric hardware manufacturers in the world, delivering a wide variety of products, but they are usually known first and foremost for their motherboards. Among their offerings is the Z77X-UD3H, which will be the target of this article.

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The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H is based on Intel’s new Z77 Express chipset, which is more or less an evolution of the earlier Z68 Express chipset before it. It is targeted towards mid-range and high end PC’s, and because of its capabilities, it’s found a home in the enthusiast market. Among the chipset’s provided features are native USB 3.0, SATA III 6Gb/s, PCIe Gen 3.0 (when used with Ivy Bridge CPUs), onboard graphics, Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology, Intel Smart Connect technology and more. The board itself is a fairly basic model, but has a number of Gigabyte features ranging from their 3D power technology, ultra durable 4, and 3D BIOS. Once you get past the marketing speak, you’ll discover a digital power design, 2 oz. copper PCB, high quality capacitors, and a UEFI. One nice feature is that this board also has an onboard mSATA slot. This is provided in order to facilitate taking advantage of Intel’s SSD caching technology.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The board ships in the usual in standard style packaging. Included in the box are the following items: Z77X-UD3H motherboard, installation guidebook, driver disc, user manual, I/O shield, SLI bridge, SATA cables and that’s it. The bundle is pretty lean, but then again this is a budget offering in the realm of Z77 boards.

Board Layout

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The layout of the Z77X-UD3H is generally solid. That being said, I do have a couple complaints. I can really make here concerns the placement of the onboard clear CMOS button. It’s far too close to the reset button and power switch. Hitting it accidentally would be an easy thing to do. I am also not fond of where they placed the mSATA connector. It’s too close to the CPU socket. If you ever need to install or remove the mSATA drive, you may have to remove the CPU cooling solution to do it. This all depends on what type of cooling hardware you end up using.

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As I’ve already said, the mSATA slot is too close to the CPU socket. The DIMM slots are too close as well, but that’s Intel’s fault, not Gigabyte’s. I’m going to go ahead and say that this part of the board is adequate, nothing more.

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The board features 4 DDR3 DIMM slots which are not color coded in any way. Not a deal breaker, but color coding is a nice feature. It seems Gigabyte chose not to do that for aesthetics, but I think it’s possible to color code the DIMM slots and make the board look good. Many other board makers have proven this repeatedly.

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The Z77 Express chipset is located directly in front of the board’s expansion slot area. It is cooled with a simple, flat, and passive heat sink. Directly in front of that are the board’s 6 SATA headers. They are color coded for your convenience. Just to the left of that is the ATX4P1 connector, which is something I have never seen before. This is an SATA power connector used for supplying auxiliary power to the board’s expansion slot area when multiple graphics cards are in use. Its orientation and flat nature make it a much nicer solution than standard 4 pin Molex connectors or the 6 pin PCI-Express power connectors I’ve seen on other boards by other manufacturers. Though I would like to see a standardized connector across all manufacturers.

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The expansion slot area is just what I like to see. PCIe x1 on top, x16, followed by enough space before you run into the next PCIe x16 slot. In fact, dual triple slot cooled cards could be used here without too much sacrifice still leaving you a single x1 slot should you need it. A single legacy PCI slot is also provided, and I think that’s generally more than enough for most users.

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The back panel is chalk full of stuff given the nature of the board. The board features 6 USB 3.0 ports, 1 PS/2 port, DSub connector, HDMI, displayport, DVI-D, dual eSATA ports, 6 mini-stereo jacks, and finally, 1 optical output. My only real problem with this is the lack of clear definition between which USB 3.0 ports are connected to which controller. The Intel USB 3.0 ports work in USB 2.0 mode outside the operating system, work in the UEFI, etc. The VIA ports do work in the UEFI, but they won’t work outside the UEFI, or outside of Windows. I also had some trouble with the VIA ports, but I’ll cover that later. My recommendation is to stick with the Intel ports for your mouse, throw a USB to PS/2 adapter on the keyboard, and reserve the other Intel USB port for flash drives if you need to access them in the UEFI.