GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 LGA 1155 Motherboard Review

The GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 is definitely one of the most feature rich Z77 Express chipset based boards we've seen to date and certainly one of the most interesting and unique. We have high expectations for the Z77X-UP7 and you should to if you are considering it as the heart of your next highly overclocked system.

Introduction

GIGABYTE is a huge player in the enthusiast motherboard market. It makes motherboards in every imaginable price point, form factor, socket type, and chipset. GIGABYTE is also heavily involved in cases, consumer peripherals and more. However it's always motherboards that one usually thinks of when the name GIGABYTE is mentioned.

Article Image

The GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 is the type of board we get excited about. It is packed full of features and there is a lot of emphasis on performance and overclocking which is represented in it's over the top design elements. The Z77X-UP7 as its name implies is based on Intel's Z77 Express chipset. It is a feature rich solution sporting an impressive 32+3+2 phase power setup, all digital PWMs, supposed 2,000 watts of power delivery thanks to the 60amp International Rectifier IR3550 PowIRstage ICs. That's not all either. Glass fabric PCBs which give it humidity protection, 2x copper PCB, and high capacity ferrite core chokes round out some of the more technical details of the board's construction.

The board also features the PEX8747 PLX chip for added PCI-Express connectivity. The board features an incredible expansion area which facilitates even 4-Way SLI via 8x electrical / 16x physical PCIe slots. Other multiGPU features include support for NVIDIAآ® Quad-GPU SLIآ™ Technology, AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireXآ™ Technology, and LucidLogixآ® Virtuآ™ MVP Technology. The Z77X-UP7 even has 8 SATA III 6Gb/s ports, 4 SATA 3Gb/s ports, an mSATA slot, and 10 USB 3.0 ports. Some of which are internal headers and the rest are on the back panel. The list of features doesn't stop there either. Dual UEFI BIOS ROMs are also present on the board along with Gigabyte's new "Thin-fin" cooling solution, and OC Touch controls. Bluetooth 4.0 and 300Mbps dual band WiFi is also supported via an add-on card included in the package.

The GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 is definitely one of the most feature rich Z77 Express chipset based boards we've seen to date and certainly one of the most interesting and unique. We have high expectations for this motherboard, so let's move on and see if it can deliver.

Main Specifications Overview:

Article Image

Detailed Specifications Overview:

Article Image

Article Image

Packaging

Article Image Article Image Article Image

Article Image Article Image Article Image

The board ships in the type of packaging common to more expensive motherboards. It features a flap with information and a window so that you can see the board inside. The box is packed full of accessories including: User guide, WiFi / Bluetooth manual, driver discs, Gigabyte sticker, WiFi + Bluetooth card, SLI bridge, CrossFireX bridge, 3-Way SLI bridge, 4-Way SLI bridge, front panel USB 3.0 bracket, dual band antennas, volt-meter probes, USB cable, SATA cables, eSATA + power bracket, and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

Article Image

The GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 has a very good layout considering all that's packed onto the PCB. There are a couple things that bother us and one of these is the location of the clear CMOS switch. It's right next to the power button and the reset button is clear across the board on the opposite corner. The clear CMOS button should be recessed or placed elsewhere. I can see guys doing benchmarks on a test bench and hitting this by accident, so it might behoove you to make sure and save your BIOS settings through the supplied BIOS utility. There are after all a lot of controls in that same area. The reset switch location makes no sense to me at all across the other side of the PCB. We think the two should be in the other’s location.

Aesthetically we think the GIGABYTE Z77X-UP7 is pleasing to look at. Though we were bit sure about the "Halloween" colors at first, these grew on us the more we looked at it. We also have to give Gigabyte props for doing something different. Many boards in this segment are red and black. While I like that, it's become very common. Blue and black is also common so something different is a welcome sight. Especially since these aren’t the "clown colors" or something else hideous like we have seen in the past.

Article Image Article Image

The CPU socket area is actually rather clean given the amount of power phases on the PCB. The DIMM slots are a bit closer than I'd like but this is an issue that Gigabyte can't really do anything about. It's a problem with all motherboards which lack a memory controller as it is now integrated into the CPU. Still you shouldn't have too much trouble with most heat sinks and if you do low profile memory is an option. Though with this board, we would bet on most people going with a self-contained cooling unit like the Corsair H80 or H100 or a higher end water cooling loop. In those cases the proximity of the DIMM slots to the CPU socket will make no difference at all.

Article Image

There are four color coded DIMM slots. As stated before these could be located further from the CPU socket ideally but that's not possible. Beyond that we had mentioned a couple things that bother us. The DIMM slots are too close to the first PCI-Express x16 slot. In all fairness if a single GPU is used it is recommended that the black slot be populated first as it bypasses the PLX chip and thus should offer the lowest latency. That slot is far enough away that this wouldn't be a problem. The orange slot which should be used in multiGPU configurations on the other hand is too close to the DIMM slots. A minor gripe, but easily avoided by the use of single-sided DIMM locking mechanisms like ASUS and MSI use.

You'll also notice the OC Touch controls. These include multiplier and BCLK adjustments and the "Gear" button. The latter changes the BCLK adjustment range from 1MHz to 0.1MHz increments. Directly right of that is the LN2 switch. In front of all that are the probe locations for attaching the included leads for reading voltages via a volt or multimeter. It's clear that overclocking was a priority in the motherboard's design.

Article Image Article Image

The Z77 Express chipset is located directly in front of the expansion slot area. It is cooled using GIGABYTE's thin fin cooling system. This incorporates a heat pipe which connects to a heat sink assembly which includes a block cooling the PLX chip and the board's many MOSFETs. It is low enough profile not to cause expansion card installation problems and seemed to work fairly well.

Article Image

The expansion slot area is precisely what we like to see. Legacy free and chalk full of useful slots. Thanks to the PEX8747 chip the Z77X-UP7 can provide enough bandwidth for 2x16 lanes, or 4x8 lanes. This allows every possible supported configuration of multiGPUs from AMD or NVIDIA.

Article Image

The I/O panel is packed full of ports. 6 USB 3.0 ports, 1 PS/2 keyboard / mouse port, DSUB, DVI-D, optical out, HDMI, DisplayPort, twin RJ-45 jacks, and six mini-stereo jacks.