GIGABYTE Z87X-OC LGA 1150 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE has brought us a few great motherboards over the years with most being just above average. On the surface the Z87X-OC doesn’t have much going for it aside from a Halloween inspired color scheme. All that changes when you dig just a little deeper, as Gigabyte is very much still in the motherboard game.

Introduction

GIGABYTE needs no introduction but I’ll give the company one anyway. 1986 was a good year for the computing industry. This one year gave birth to several motherboard manufacturers, one of which is GIGABYTE. GIGABYTE didn’t just survive to this day, but flourishes. GIGABYTE has done this through diversification of its products, but more importantly by making damn good motherboards at various price points. GIGABYTE has a ton of offerings. These are differentiated by naming scheme and branding. In this case the Z87X-OC’s naming tells you all you need to know in terms of what the motherboard was designed for, and for whom.

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The GIGABYTE Z87X-OC is based on the Z87 Express chipset from Intel. At first the Z87X-OC seems stripped down. This motherboard doesn’t have excess SATA ports, or SAS controllers, multiple NICs, wireless adapters, or things like that. Instead the Z87X-OC incorporates nothing frivolous. All that you really get over the standard chipset features are overclocking oriented features designed to push the envelope of performance. The power subsystem of the board uses a 6+2 phase setup with International Rectifier IR3553 40A ICs with 60A chokes. The IR3553’s run very cool and don’t require a lot of beefy cooling, yet should still offer quite a bit of overclocking headroom. For the Z87X-OC GIGABYTE used all Nippon Chemi-Con "black" capacitors rated for 105c operation for 10,000 hours. Additional durability is provided by gold plated connectors used throughout the design, and includes a gold plated CPU socket.

Additional overclocking oriented features can be found on the Z87X-OC such as PCB mounted OC touch controls which add overclocking capability within any environment in hardware. The voltage monitoring points allow for precise measurement of various voltage points. Dual BIOS ROMs, 8 fan headers, and settings locking controls round out the overclocking features.

The Z87X-OC is one of two "OC" oriented models offered by GIGABYTE. The base OC model we are looking at here and the Z87X-OC Force. The Z87X-OC is both an enthusiast motherboard but it’s one meant to come in around $185, so it fits neatly into a performance value segment. It has half the phases of the Force (which is over twice the cost) model and uses IR3553 40A IC’s instead of IR3550 60A PWMs. Other cost cutting measures such as a lower grade audio CODEC, and no additional SATA controllers, or expensive USB 3.0 controllers help keep the price of the Z87X-OC down. This design choice still enables GIGABYTE to concentrate on the performance oriented features as the Z87-OC has little integrated fluff.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The box for the Z87X-OC is rather unremarkable. The packaging was sufficient as our sample arrived in tact with all accessories accounted for. The bundle included with the Z87X-OC on the other hand is quite bountiful considering the price point of the motherboard. Inside you’ll find a host of accessories, some of which are unique. You get the usual driver disc, manuals, SATA cables, SLI bridges, and even voltage monitoring leads. What is unusual is the OC bracket. This is a device for stabilizing graphics cards on a test bench so you don’t have cards failing to detect while doing benchmark runs or worse yet, causing a short.

Board Layout

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The layout of the GIGABYTE Z87X-OC has a good layout, but it isn’t without its flaws. While generally aesthetically pleasing, the orange black color scheme seems out of season after October 31st in any given year. For a no frills motherboard made for those on the bleeding edge I have to question the decision to keep the legacy PCI slots. One I could see for perhaps older audio solutions but I can’t see maintaining two of these. The placement also pretty much means that you’ll lose the PCIe x1 slot. If you had one less PCI slot, the x1 could have been moved down to make it more useful. Though you can of course use any of the orange ones. Aside from the legacy PCI slots being as numerous as these are we really don’t have any major complaints. Ports, buttons, switches, etc. are well thought out with no major headaches being foreseeable.

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The CPU socket is exceptionally clear. This is ideal for air, water, and even LN2 cooling. The IR3553 ICs require very little cooling so a low profile cooler is placed on these. This is probably the cleanest CPU socket area I’ve seen on any LGA1150 based board thus far.

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The Z87X-OC’s 4x DDR3 DIMM slots use a two phase power setup and support a total of 32GB of RAM and are color coded orange and black to denote proper dual channel mode operation. Directly in front of these are the motherboards OC touch controls which are a series of buttons designed to control overclocking on a hardware level while in an operating system environment. Voltage probes can be found in front of those, along with PCI-Express lane dip switches, debug LED and a USB 3.0 front panel header.

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The chipset is passively cooled using a flat heat sink. In front of the cooler you’ll find the usual SATA ports, and "OC Connect" USB ports.

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The expansion slot area is well thought out with regard to multi-GPU usage. There is no PLX chip on the Z87X-OC and therefore it only supports a 16x0, 8x8, or 8x4x4x4 setup. Therefore the Z87X-OC supports 4-Way CrossFire and only supports 2-Way / Quad-SLI as NVIDIA doesn’t certify 8x4x4 setups for 3-Way SLI.

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The I/O panel is typical, offering two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort connection for video output. 1x RJ-45 LAN port, 6 mini-stereo jacks, 1x optical port, 2x USB 2.0 ports and lastly, 6x USB 3.0 ports. Incidentally there is one final point of interest here and that’s the "OC Ignition" button. This feature supplies power to the motherboard’s accessories such as fans, lights, etc. allowing for leak testing of water cooling loops or just displaying case mods without firing up the system. Unfortunately there are some compatibility issues with some older power supplies so this doesn’t work for everyone. The PC Power & Cooling 1kw SR for example doesn’t work with this feature.