Gigabyte Z77X-UP4-TH LGA1155 Motherboard Review
Gigabyte brings us another Z77 Ivy Bridge motherboard, the Z77X-UP4-TH touts the Ultra-Durable 5 power system, solid overclocking performance, outstanding stability, multiple Thunderbolt ports and has enough heft to flatten small woodland creatures should you ever need to.
Around here we are certainly no strangers to GIGABYTE motherboards. We've seen a lot of these over the years. While many had rough spots in the past, Gigabyte has generally treated us well as a brand. Its products have almost always been enthusiast worthy and certainly competitive. While generally known for its motherboard manufacturing, Gigabyte has diversified over the years branching out into cases, consumer electronics, video cards, etc. Naturally most HardOCP readers are more familiar with enthusiast motherboards than anything else.
The GIGABYTE Z77X-UP4-TH is based on Intel's Z77 Express chipset which supports Intel’s LGA1155 based CPUs. The board itself doesn't support a lot of features from a connectivity standard. You won't find a ton of SATA controllers, LAN ports, Wi-Fi etc. And while it's not a "super high end" motherboard, it does support those features offered by the Z77 chipset such as PCI-Express 3.0, SATA II 3Gb/s, SATA III 6Gb/s, Intel's Smart Connect, Rapid Response Technology, NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology, AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology, and LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technologies. In addition to all of this Gigabyte has included support for Intel's Thunderbolt connection. In fact unlike the ASUS implementation, the Gigabyte solution offers support for two ports instead of one.
So while this motherboard may not be a power house of features it's hardly what I'd call stripped down either. The board box advertises additional Gigabyte specific features like 2oz. copper PCB, Ultra Durable 5, lower RDS MOSFET, Digital power, and more. That's marketing speak which is something Gigabyte does a lot of. So let me translate that for you. Gigabyte means to say the board is well built. More specifically Ultra-Durable 5 is Gigabyte's highest quality electrical implementation to date. New ICs used in this design can handle a lot of current and as a result fewer power phases are necessary in the design. This explains the barren nature of the board's PCB around the CPU socket. It may look like it is missing some enthusiast backbone, but that is not the case.
And indeed one of the first things you'll notice if you ever pick one up is that the Z77X-UP4-TH weighs a ton for a board with so little in the way of integrated hardware. While not always true, I've often associated motherboard weight with quality in some odd way.
Main Specifications Overview:
Detailed Specifications Overview:
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP4-TH ships in a fairly basic cardboard box with Gigabyte's usual color scheme and marketing speak printed on it. There isn't a lot in the box but you will find the following accessories: User manual, multilingual installation guidebook, driver disc, SATA cables, SLI bridge, and an I/O shield.
The board itself is laid out very well with few faults that I can see. The CPU area, expansion slots, most ports and plugs are logically placed and one shouldn't encounter too many difficulties in installing this board in a chassis of their choice or even down the road should you decide on some upgrades.
There is the usual problem with the CPU socket area being close to the DIMM slots, but that's not Gigabyte's fault. I don't see any issues with this area. There should be plenty of room to install most CPU coolers without too much difficulty. Again the DIMM slots could be a problem but low profile DIMMs and self-contained water cooling hardware is becoming more common so that shouldn't be a huge problem or at the very least you have options for mitigating problems here. The placement of the mSATA slot is close to the CPU socket, but given the low profile nature of this connector, it shouldn't be an issue.
There are four color coded DIMM slots for a maximum supported memory size of 32GB using 4 8GB DIMMs.
The Z77 Express chipset is located in front of the motherboards expansion slots. It is cooled with a flat, passive heat sink as the chipsets heat load isn't all that demanding. There are six SATA ports which are color coded and placed in front of the chipset. The CMOS battery is right next to the chipset as well and should be easily accessible in most system configurations.
The expansion slot area is well thought out. Having the top most PCIe x1 slot enables the board to have the necessary clearances for the memory slots with a larger video card installed. Spacing for CrossFireX and SLI configurations is also more than adequate. The final PCIe x16 slot (x4 electrical) is on the board’s edge so it won't always be useful in every chassis, but few people are going to max out the expansion slot area. It's not perfect, but the expansion slots should satisfy most users’ needs.
The I/O panel area is fairly well packed. 4 USB 3.0 ports, 1 PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, two Thunderbolt ports, 1 RJ-45 LAN port, 5 mini-headphone jacks, 1 optical out, and everything else is devoted to iGPU connectivity. There is a DSub, DVI, and HDMI option. Video also passes through the Thunderbolt ports via mini-DP cables or Thunderbolt cables should you desire that as an option.