GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H LGA 1150 Motherboard Review

The GIGABYTE Z87X-UD4H looks to be a solid bargain and a good value for the money. While this motherboard looks great on paper the devil is in the details and all it takes is one or two quirks to knock a product out of the running in a market literally filled with excellent motherboards. So how did the Z87X-UD4H fare?

continued...

Subsystem Testing

NOTE: For all Subsystem Testing, an Intel Core i7 4770K (3.5GHz) and 2 x 4GB Corsair Vengeance (2400MHz DDR3 10-12-12-31@1.65v) memory modules running at DDR3 1600MHz speeds (stock testing, 2400MHz overclocked) were used. The CPU was cooled with a Koolance Exos 2.5 and CPU-370 water block.

Sound Hardware

For audio, the Z87X-UD4H integrates the Realtek ALC898 audio CODEC. This is a 7.1 channel solution and unfortunately, it’s one of the mid-range CODECs offered by Realtek. I’d have preferred to see the ALC1150 that other manufacturers are using on an increasing range of motherboards. Though GIGABYTE did at least give us a dedicated headphone amplifier. As is the case with most motherboards I’ve seen integrating a headphone AMP, the Texas Instruments DRV632 was used.

The following audio specifications were taken from the GIGABYTE website:

آ• Realtekآ® ALC898 codec

آ• High Definition Audio

آ• 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel

آ• Support for S/PDIF In/Out

The audio quality of the solution was what I’d call satisfactory. It didn’t wow me, but sounded clear and crisp. Despite the headphone amp I felt the audio was still a little flat.

Audio آ– Subjective Listening

For subjective listening you want to listen to something that covers a range of sound types. For this portion of the review I went with Five Finger Death Punch’s American Capitalist CD.

CD audio was flawless as usual.

Audio آ– Microphone Port Testing

The onboard audio MIC-IN port was tested using a Logitech Internet Chat Headset. Spoken words were recorded from the Windows Sound Recorder found under the Accessories folder in the start menu within Windows. The recording was using the highest quality settings available in the control panel for the audio device being used to record.

With the microphone boost option disabled, the audio sample showed minimal distortion, and was still audible. With the microphone boost option enabled, the sample was much louder but also showed some increased distortion.

DPC Latency

Deferred Procedure Call latency or DPC testing is something that we’ve been asked about and this is the first article we’ve done which integrates that type of testing. For those who may not know what DPC is I’ll explain. Deferred procedure calls are a function within Windows that allows higher priority tasks such as device drivers to defer lower priority tasks for execution at later times. It’s an interrupt and reassignment of sorts performed by the operating system.

DPC latency varies from motherboard model to model and brand to brand. DPC issues show up in the form of audio dropouts and streaming video issues. Naturally this is something that the enthusiast would want to avoid. Fortunately there is a nice tool for checking this which doesn’t even require and installer. I used the DPC Latency Checker and let it run for 10 minutes to graph the results.

I thought it necessary to look at some systems which I wouldn’t have suspected of having any DPC latency issues around my house to get some baseline numbers for comparison. The utility graphs out the data nicely and tells you what your latency results mean in terms of the real world problems you might encounter with the current system configuration. I went with my own personal machine which uses the ASUS Rampage IV Extreme motherboard.

ASUS Rampage IV Extreme

Article Image

Our baseline system has an absolute maximum DPC latency of 174آµs. This means that you shouldn’t experience any drop out issues with audio or video on this system.

Motherboard Model

Article Image

GIGABYTE tends to be the worst offender in regard to DPC latency testing at least from what we have witnessed during our short time testing it. Despite being much worse than any ASUS or MSI motherboard I’ve tested, the Z87X-UD4H is easily the best GIGABYTE motherboard I’ve seen so far in this area. While the latency values were borderline at times, these were still within the green all the time. Keep in mind that this was a 10 minute run which I actually let run far longer as I had gotten distracted with something else. So again while this isn’t the poster child for low DPC latency, it shouldn’t get any worse than what you see here; though your mileage may vary.

Drive Performance

To test the capabilities of the on motherboard USB 2.0 connections, we used an ACOMDATA HD060U2FE-72-USB 2.0/FireWire HDD connected first to the USB port. USB 3.0 functionality was tested using a Super Talent USB 3.0 SuperCrypt 32GB Flash Drive. SATA drive tests were performed using Western Digital Caviar Black WD1002FAEX hard drives on all SATA headers. The SATA drives were used for testing in RAID 0 16k block size configurations on all applicable controllers. Testing was also conducted using the same model SATA drives in a stand-alone SATA configuration on all applicable controllers. All drive benchmarks were done using the freely available CrystalDiskMark 3.0 program, run with both 50MB and 100MB sized test sets.

Given that motherboards are now supporting UASP and various USB 3.0 boost methods on many models, we’ve updated our testing methodology to include a UASP test. The USB 3.0 implementation that some manufacturers are using does allow for a performance boost with non-UASP compliant hardware as you’ll see using what these companies call "turbo" mode. Granted the difference isn’t as pronounced as it is when enabling UASP on a device that supports it. The USB 3.0 Flash drive tests are essentially the same as these have always been since we started doing these tests, but with the added turbo mode test to showcase the feature in action. The USB 3.0 SSD UASP Enabled / Disabled tests are utilizing a Corsair Force GT 60GB SATA 3 SSD plugged into a Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking port which uses a USB 3.0 connection. This device was selected due to having UASP compatible firmware.

As a general rule, motherboards in this price bracket opt out of additional RAID controllers beyond what’s included with the chipset. The reason being that a RAID controller costs more and can be more difficult to implement from a firmware standpoint. The Z87X-UD4H actually uses the Marvell 9172 RAID controller in addition to the Intel Z87 controller. The included eSATA ports are shared with the internal Marvell 9172 ports. Most manufacturers would usually opt for the less costly standalone ASM1061 controller instead. GIGABYTE for whatever reason always seems to offer RAID controllers at lower price points than say MSI or ASUS would. There is usually some sort of trade off. GIGABYTE generally opts for USB 3.0 hubs instead of additional dedicated controllers. In fairness lots of manufacturers do this.

There is a total of 10 USB 3.0 ports available on the Z87X-UD4H. The USB 3.0 ports are multiplexed through two Renesas uPD720210 USB 3.0 hubs. Like most things in life there are pros and cons to doing this over integrating additional dedicated USB 3.0 controllers. The most obvious of which is reduced cost.

50MB Test Set

Article Image

Article Image

In our 50MB sequential read tests the Marvell 9172 actually out-performed the Intel Z87 controller in AHCI mode but fell woefully short in the RAID0 test. USB performance in 2.0 and 3.0 modes was predictable and right where these should be. In the 50MB sequential write tests the Intel Z87 controller pulls way ahead of the other configurations. The Marvell controller does very poorly here in that RAID performance falls below the standard AHCI test results.

100MB Test Set

Article Image

Article Image

In the 100MB sequential read tests the Intel Z87 Express RAID0 controller dominated the performance landscape easily. Though the Marvell 9172 fell behind, the RAID0 configuration still out performed the stand alone AHCI results. USB 2.0/3.0 numbers were again spot on with our expectations. The 100MB sequential write tests gave us almost identical metrics compared to our 50MB results. Well at least with regard to scaling. Marvell’s 9172 did badly in RAID0 scoring worse than in standalone mode with the Intel controller doing very well in both tests, but scaling almost perfectly. As expected USB 2.0 and 3.0 tests were in the predicted performance ranges.

Network Utilization Tests

LAN Speed Test software was used with Windows Task Manager to determine the performance levels of the onboard network interface. LAN Speed Test was used to measure bandwidth and transfer speeds, while Windows Task Manager monitored CPU utilization on the test system. For the testing, a 800MB file test was used with the default packet configuration for the application. The test was run three times with the middle result chosen. Results were captured for the low, medium, and high transfer rates. The test was performed using a plenum rated category 5e crossover cable to bypass any traffic, routing or other transfer issues and possible packet loss or corruption that can be caused by a router/switch or hub. The cables were connected between two test machines, one using the onboard NIC(s) of the motherboard being reviewed and the other is an Intel EXPI9400PT 10/100/1000Mbps PCI-Express Gigabit Ethernet adapter installed into a test machine using an Intel D5400XS motherboard.

Wireless network testing, if applicable was performed using an AdHoc connection between the review system and my own machine based on equipped with an Atheros AR9002WB-1NG wireless adapter which is integrated into my ASUS Rampage III Black Edition motherboard. The control panel used all the default settings save for the AdHoc 11N setting which was enabled on both systems.

As manufacturers embrace the Intel network controllers more and more, these are becoming increasingly more common. Like many motherboards these days the Z87X-UD4H uses an integrated i217v GbE controller.

LAN1

Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image Article Image

The average upload / write speed was 29.36MB/s. The average download / read transfer rate was 44.55MB/s. In contrast our maximum transfer rates were 42.07MB/s upload / write and 45.24MB/s for the download / read test. Our minimums were less than inspiring with a 25.17MB/s upload / write result and a 43.71MB/s download / read test result. Lastly our CPU usage during the write tests was around 3% with our read test CPU usage spiking around 3% and hovering at 1 or 2% most of the time.

Benchmark Test Systems

The following system configurations were used for the Sandra memory benchmark graph, as well as all graphs listed under the Application and Gaming Benchmarks sections:

Article Image

SiSoft Sandra

Article Image

Note that all results above were obtained running the installed memory in dual channel mode with one exception The ASUS Sabertooth X79 test was run in quad-channel mode.

The Z87X-UD4H fell slightly behind the other test systems, but by such a low margin that I’d chalk it up to testing variance quite easily.

Article Image

The Sandra CPU test results were about the same as the earlier memory test with regard to how well the Z87X-UD4H stacked up.

Hyper Pi

Article Image

In this test the Z87X-UD4H fell to about the middle of the pack, but again we see it operating fine with no issues.

wPrime

Article Image

For the wPrime v2.00 test the Z87X-UD4H ended up beating out most of the comparable test systems.