Six Sub-£160 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H

Gigabyte’s Z77X-UD3H offers a surprisingly broad feature set for its £155 price, adding a four-port USB 3.0 and separate eSATA 6Gb/s controller to the chipset’s integrated capabilities. Gigabyte’s familiar mSATA connector is also found mid-board, borrowing one of the chipset’s four SATA 3Gb/s ports when desired for SSD caching.

Familiarity in layout is a matter of form following function, with three spaces separating the two PCIe 3.0 graphics card slots to add cooling and/or allow thicker cards. LGA 1155 platform limits still apply, meaning that the CPU’s sixteen lanes can go to either a single card (x16 mode) or two cards (x8/x8 mode). Automatic switching takes care of that change whenever a card is installed in the second x16-length slot. The third x16-length slot is still limited to four of the Z77 PCH's PCIe 2.0 lanes.

The Z77X-UD3H keeps the power, reset, and CLR_CMOS buttons of its competitors, along with the Port 80-style diagnostics display. Gigabyte differentiates Z77X-UD3H overclocking with a row of voltage detection points along the top of its front edge, however. More importantly, it's the least-expensive product to include manually-selectable dual firmware ROMs.

With a front-panel USB 3.0 header handily located behind the bottom edge of memory slots, layout complaints are minor. First of all, the only two USB 3.0 ports derived from Intel's Z77 on the I/O panel must be used for a keyboard and mouse during O/S installation on most systems, since the other four VIA-based ports require a special driver to function. Second, all four VIA-based I/O panel ports share a single 5 Gb/s PCIe link to the chipset. Third (and more trivial) is the bottom-rear corner front-panel audio connector, which is around half of an inch too far of a reach for the cables of some cases. Fourth (and least significant) is the upward-facing latch of the eight-pin CPU power connector, which can be difficult to disconnect on systems that have bottom-mounted power supplies with the cable routed behind the motherboard tray.

For most users, the Z77X-UD3H’s positives far outweigh its negatives. That’s especially significant at its low price point.

Four SATA cables and a flexible SLI bridge make a sparse installation package for the Z77X-UD3H, though it should be adequate for most builders.

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  • TekN9Ne
    Great review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
  • do you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
  • yougotjaked
    There's a typo on the last page. It says X77H2-A2X instead of Z77H2-A2X :P It's on the second to last paragraph...
  • HMSvictory
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
  • rickrents
    why not with Pci-e 3.0?
  • confish21
    Nice article thank you!
  • confish21
    One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
  • Crashman
    TekN9NeGreat review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
    I don't think the article stated anything like that. It comes down to the features you want and the cards you plan to use. In the MSI vs ASRock debate, it's x8-x4-x4 with all three slots in PCIe 3.0 mode, or x8-x8-x4 with x4 in PCIe 2.0 mode, and you're definitely wiser to pick between them based on WHAT you plan to use in the third slot.
    simone saysdo you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
    It's Monday here, and editorial has very little contact with news.
    HMSvictoryI am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 6813131820
    Tom's Hardware didn't "include" anything in the review. A couple boards were excluded based on price, and everything else was let in. The P8Z77-V Pro was the cheapest board Asus sent.
    rickrentswhy not with Pci-e 3.0?
    Editor had no PCIe 3.0 cards. And the reason he didn't get one yet is because it didn't matter. The only thing that really mattered in a single-GPU MOTHERBOARD comparison was to use the same card on all platforms.
    confish21One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
    Some digital voltage regulators have been garbage, take a look at a few of the older reviews to see this. Very few have been very good. And many more analog voltage regulators have been garbage, while many more analog voltage regulators have been very good. Quality of execution is more important than the underlying technology.
  • hellfire24
    UD3H seems to be an excellent value board.
  • HMSvictory
    would it be possible to review the asus z77 and gigabyte ud5h in a future review.
  • tacoslave
    this review needs crossfire/sli results
  • AlexIsAlex
    Still no boot/post time comparison? With all performance scores being almost identical, I would have thought this could be a useful differentiator.
  • sosofm
    Is good a test with PCIE 3.0 video card to see if is a real benefit compare to PCIE 2.0.
  • valuial
    z77 sabertooth wanted !
  • jaquith
    Thanks Thomas another Great Article! Don't like what I see, but I digress.

    Something's gotta be pooched with the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro BIOS (UEFI) -- hopefully. In the past the ASUS Pro line has been the meat & potatoes for my recommendations, and this is not the only review with similar performance numbers.

    Voltages, I am going to have a hard time recommending a vCore >1.2Xv, VCCSA and CPU VTT of 1.20v on the IB. I still need to see otherwise. From what I've seen the IB is more 'girlish' with voltages than the SB or SB-E, and there's little point having the fans spinning 'through' the case and creating high dBA with a high vCore. RAM (voltage), it goes back to my feelings that 1.50v DIMM was a bunch of Urban Myths especially since the SB-E and seemingly the IB can handle 1.65v DIMM RAM.

    Yeah, I noticed the XMP tried to set 1.25v VCCSA, or at least the set is encoded that way. Further, I don't wan to debate the OC until I get my hands on an IB, it should be any day now.

    Further, either the Engineers were dead wrong on the SB (1.50) or IB (1.65) they're wrong in both instances. I 'get' ultra fast kits (today) >DDR3-2133 e.g. DDR-2400 or faster are 1.65v kits, but only a few months ago IF 'I' recommended SB + 1.65v I'd have 20+ negative comments in the Forum. Seems counter intuitive step in DRAM voltage.

    Also, I am assuming you're testing the IB ES and I wonder how much of an impact that has in that the CPUID are geared towards the Retail. I remember all of the E5 (ES) problems and drops in performance compared to the Retail sisters.

    OC observation only, you seemed 'wimpish' with the SB-E compared to the IB - interesting?!
  • notsleep
    i don't understand why the mobo don't have all sata6 and usb 3.0? i mean they're backwards compatible. why even include the old stuff? why not have 8 sata 6 and 8 usb 3.0 with 0 sata 3 and 0 usb 3.0? :?
  • spyfish
    Good review, I read a similar review before i decided for MSI Z77A-GD65.

    A chose this board as it has a better Audio Chipset then the Competitors. This board comes with ALC898, while the other ones come with ALC892. Apparently ALC898 is far better than ALC892.

    So far i am quite happy with the board.

    Just 1 note, if overclocking do not disable "Power technologies", it will prevent overclocking. If i disabled the power saving features 1 by 1 i had no problems.
  • xtreme5
    like it good review!
  • Pezcore27
    Just curious as to what made you pick the GA-Z77X-UD3H for $160 over the GA-Z77X-UD5H for $189? Is there not that much difference between the 2 boards?
  • CaedenV
    Fun mobo review as always!
    I have always loved ECS for cheap 'value' builds (in fact I am using a 6 year old ECS board in a little htpc I am throwing together, it doesn't do much, but it has never let me down either), it is wierd seeing them in the 'high end' market like this, and (unlike previous boards they have produced) it looks stunning!
    The first time I saw the gold on black look was with my ex3 gen3 board, which looked odd in pictures, but great in real life, and this new ECS board looks absolutely gorgeous in pics, so I am sure it looks great in real life as well.

    Still, at the end of the day I am not sure that I would go for ECS on a high end build, but it is good to see that they are getting somewhere.

    Also, it is good to see that ASRock is still doing OK now that they are no longer under the ASUS umbrella.

    As for the review: Why even do the program benchmarks? We all know that the mobo is merely for the feature set, parts cooling, and power management quality for OCing (and truth be told aesthetics as well), and has next to no bearing on how fast things get processed at any specific frequency. All that I personally care about is the feature set, OC ability, and subjective ease of use for the UEFI and keeping it updated, vs the overall cost of the board.
  • colson79
    spyfishGood review, I read a similar review before i decided for MSI Z77A-GD65.A chose this board as it has a better Audio Chipset then the Competitors. This board comes with ALC898, while the other ones come with ALC892. Apparently ALC898 is far better than ALC892.So far i am quite happy with the board.Just 1 note, if overclocking do not disable "Power technologies", it will prevent overclocking. If i disabled the power saving features 1 by 1 i had no problems.


    Blame intel for that issue. The intel chipsets only support two 6gb sata ports, so motherboard manufactures have to install add in chips to get more and that drives up the cost.
  • Zeppelingcdm
    Is there any reason I shouldn't pop an i7 2600k into one of these motherboards? I have no current gaming machine, and as such am not upgrading from any relevant platform.
  • shingudaze
    The only ECS Z77H2-A2X I can find is the regular one, not the golden, which seems to come in at around $220. I can't find built-in wifi on either of them, and the regular one doesn't state SLI ready.

    It's hard to figure out if the golden one is worth the $55 price premium instead of just going for the ASUS board.
  • josejones
    I'm not really satisfied with the z77 features. I was hoping they'd do away with all the gen 2 stuff and go all gen 3 i.e. no USB 2, PCIe 2, sata 2 etc. and go all gen 3. Why not since they're backwards compatible?

    Will there be a z78 chipset for Ivy Bridge? Otherwise, there will be zero upgrade options for the Ivy bridge. Especially since the z87 chipset supposedly will be for Haswell and the 1150 socket. I'd wait for Haswell but, my work computer I need to replace is from 2004 and I don't think it will make it another year.