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.