GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 LGA 1151 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s mid-range Z170X-UD5 has some impressive specifications, a lengthy feature set, and comes in with a sub-$200 street price. This motherboard has all the ingredients for a spectacular enthusiast option on paper. But how does it do in the real world when you put it to the test? It actually does very well.

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UEFI BIOS

The Z170X-UD5 uses dual 128Mbit American Megatrends Inc. UEFI BIOS ROMs. These support GIGABYTE’s DualBIOS feature. This BIOS implementation also supports the following standards; PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, and ACPI 5.0. Version F5f was used for all screenshots and benchmarks while version F5g was used for all subsystem and overclock testing.

For the longest time, GIGABYTE couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do with their UEFI implementation. It seemed like the company was never going to decide whether or not they wanted to keep running a mixed style interface or go with an advanced GUI, or something more closely resembling the classic BIOS. We dogged GIGABYTE for years now being unwilling to commit to anything in this regard. At some point GIGABYTE figured out that most reviewers and enthusiasts were ignoring their GUI as it was akin to putting lipstick on a pig. It was pretty, but it was often unwieldy due to not having anything resembling a logical workflow. The thing lacked consistency in the interface and for some stupid reason, GIGABYTE actually removed features from it over time. You could do everything in the classic interface which saw improvements in the last couple of product generations.

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GIGABYTE settled on the classic style implementation and dropped the awful welcome screen which was an unmitigated disaster of an interface. That part of the UEFI had little to do with the other aspects of the UEFI BIOS and served no real purpose despite the best intentions GIGABYTE had with it. For some reason they split some elements off the standard GUI and places them in the welcome screen in an artificial attempt to make it useful. Given that you still couldn’t do everything from the welcome screen or even the GUI, you had to use the classic interface whether you wanted to or not. The end result was that you had to set the UEFI to start in classic mode and then use classic mode for everything. The alternative meant using three distinctly different and quite separate interfaces. The GUI wasn’t bad in its earlier days but in its later days it was made worse as they took functionality out of it.

GIGABYTE listed to the feedback they’d received from reviewers and customers alike, and settled on the classic style interface. GIGABYTE has semi-recently revamped this interface to make it easier on the eyes and easier to use. The layout hasn’t really changed all that much, but it has a slightly better work flow to it. Mouse support within the GUI has improved dramatically as that was one problem the prior classic interface often had. The Z170X-UD5 is unique in that it now has a mouse sensitivity setting. Unfortunately, the mouse is extremely jerky in the Z170X-UD5’s UEFI when using the default setting. I’ve had inconsistent experiences with mouse smoothness and responsiveness on most non-ASUS motherboards for whatever reason. I’m not sure how difficult mouse movements in the UEFI are to handle from a coding perspective, but it seems challenging to the developers and manufacturers. In any case the mouse sensitivity setting can be adjusted, and when you do it makes for a vastly improved experience. The cursor movement becomes smoother and the speed increases slightly. The movements are slower than I’d have expected for maxing out the setting. Speaking of which, there are only 4 values. 1x-4x.

The classic interface has taken on a gray colored theme which is reminiscent of ASUS’ UEFI. The GIGABYTE version isn’t flashy, but I like the simplicity of it. The interface’s gray coloring is very easy on the eyes and never harsh to look at.

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To be clear, we generally like the classic UEFI implementation GIGABYTE uses on its motherboards. In the past we’ve been critical of a few things that needed definite improvement. One thing that always bothers me is a lack of consistency when selecting options. On an ASUS motherboard, you can select any option and hit enter for a context menu showing you what your whole options range is. You can scroll through them and select any option. You can also input any alpha numeric option manually by typing it out. If you type something and spell it wrong, the system will auto-correct for you with a high degree of accuracy. It figures out what your trying to type in and selects the closest match. If you highlight an option, you can use the plus or minus keys to make your choice. So how does the Z170X-UD5 compare? I’m pleased to report that GIGABYTE has come a long way in this regard. The UEFI BIOS allows you to do most of what I mentioned above. Not every setting has the context menu and the auto-correct when typing alpha-numeric values seems a bit hit and miss. You can use the spacebar to advance the settings forward, or to increase them. You can also use the plus and minus keys on most of them. There are a handful of options where the experience is slightly different, or is limited to only one of the input methods but the interface is drastically improved from GIGABYTE’s previous efforts.

Mouse input is generally good, although slow. To combat this GIGABYTE put in a mouse sensitivity setting. There are only 4 values here and once I set the value to 4, the mouse input seemed to smooth out considerably. At 1x it was slow and very jerky. I am not entirely sure why this value has to be there as ASUS and most of the recent MSI and GIGABYTE offerings lack such a setting and are generally fine.

One thing I didn’t like about GIGABYTE’s UEFI is that parts of the interface do not respond properly to the page up and page down keys. On other motherboards those keys do precisely what they should do and allow me to scroll up or down menus that are too long to fit on the monitor at once. Unfortunately, that’s not what they do here. The page up and page down keys do the same thing as the plus and minus keys. When using the UEFI, I tend to use the keyboard for everything and not the mouse and as a result I found this rather annoying. This was especially problematic in the one place these keys really need to be used for their intended function. That is the Channel A/B Memory Sub-Timings menus. Having to use the mouse or the arrow keys for this is just absurd.

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All the options you would expect to find available on an enthusiast’s motherboard are present on the Z170X-UD5. You have pages and pages of memory values. Every voltage option you can think of is present in the menus. Naturally you can use a CPU level up option for overclocking, or adjust frequencies and ratios manually. Your target CPU and memory clocks are shown so you know what effect your changes will have on the system. One problem is that the organization of these options could use some work. For example, the voltage options are split amongst multiple submenus. Each submenu has only a handful of options present. It seems like a waste of time to cycle through multiple submenus looking for one or two voltage options that should be grouped together. While GIGABYTE is bad about this, there are companies out there that do it worse. Even ASUS’ excellent UEFI isn’t totally immune to this behavior. I provide this context so you know that this is something every motherboard manufacturer has done, and GIGABYTE certainly isn’t the worst offender.

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GIGABYTE naturally has a PC health menu showing you voltages, fan speeds and temperatures. This menu also has the obligatory chassis intrusion detection setting and fan control options. GIGABYTE has a simple method for fan control utilizing preset profiles or adjustable values manually. The motherboard has four fan headers which can all be controlled individually. Warning thresholds for specific PC health issues can also be configured from this menu. The interface for doing all of this looks pretty much like it does on every other motherboard in the industry, which isn’t a bad thing.

Overall, GIGABYTE’s UEFI is quite good with only a handful of user experience type points GIGABYTE could and should improve upon. One thing that does surprise me is the lack of built in tools within the UEFI. Features like the My Favorites Menu and last modified menus have been copied from ASUS by MSI and potentially others. Companies like ASRock even offer tools which make use of and require and internet connection. On various motherboards I’ve seen tools for updating the UEFI from the internet, or download drivers to a local disk if you lack an optical drive. Not every tool is necessarily a winner, and some of them do not really help much like the "board explorer" MSI uses. It just allows you to mouse over parts of a motherboard to determine what’s plugged into those ports or installed in a specific slot. This is of limited value, I’d admit. One could argue that sometimes less is more and often I’d agree, but this seems more like a case of less is less. As I said, some utilities are pointless while others are quite valuable. At the very least I’d like to see a copy of the My Favorites menu as MSI and ASUS both have it. I’d also like to see the ability to update the BIOS via the internet.