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A few thoughts on the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH

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A few thoughts on the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH
« on: November 23, 2012, 01:05:13 pm »
I have had this board for just over a month and have now had time to play with it  and thought I would share my views with you, about this particular piece of high-end Gigabyte real estate.

The main components I have used in this build are as follows:
Motherboard: GA-Z77X-UP5 TH
BIOS: F12e
CPU: Intel i5 2500k
CPU Cooling:Water Cooled based around the Raystom CPU Block
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16Gb kit 1600MHz
Main System Drive: OCZ Solid 3 SSD 120Gb
OS: Windows 7 64 bit (initial testing) and Windows 8 64 bit (Current OS)
GPU(s): Gigabyte ATI 6700, Onboard graphics & Gigabyte GT430
PSU: Gigabyte Odin 800 Watt Modular

Other SSD Drives used: 2 x 60Gb ADATA 511's, OCZ Vertex 90 Gb
Other HDD's: Western Digital Caviar Black 640Gb, Hitachi Deskstar 1000Gb, Seagate Barracuda 1000Gb
DVD/CD Burner: Samsung SH-S233C

Audio: On-board sound output through Logitech 5.1 speaker system.
M-Audio Delta 1010 output through a Behringer mixing desk, Sony 100 watt amp and Sony Studio Monitor speakers.

Monitors: 2 x LG 1719
Keyboard: Microsoft Digital Pro
Mouse: Microsoft IntelliMouse

Other USB devices: M-Audio Axiom 49 Midi Keyboard, USB3.0 Docking Station, Logitech Webcam, Canon Printer, Steinberg CMC QC,  A selection of USB Pendrives both USB 3.0 and USB 2.0

As with all things electronic I never think that I know everything so, the first thing I did when receiving the motherboard was read through the User's Manual. Yes, I have built loads of PC's, with over 99% of them using Gigabyte Motherboards, but I still read the manual. This helps prevent assuming that things are how they always have been and also helps to prevent errors when putting things together.

I'm not going through the build process as I have covered that before with other reviews but something that I will point out with this motherboard, which I haven't come across before, is a little BIOS switch which enables the user to switch between the Main BIOS and the Back-up BIOS easily. There is also a little LED to indicate which BIOS you are using. This is a great addition and I hope that Gigabyte consider implementing this on all of their motherboards.

The GA-Z77X-UP5TH is not your run of the mill board and it is definitely aimed at the high end of the motherboard market, with a retail cost of around £230 it is rich with features, some of which I will probably not get around to playing with for quite sometime. With two Thunderbolt ports I'm sure it will be long serving, we just have to wait for Thunderbolt devices to come along that are more reasonably priced than at the moment and as I don't have any Thunderbolt devices I have been unable to test this particular facet of the board.

There is a built in Power button along with Reset and Clear CMOS buttons. There are also several voltage reading points along the outer edge of the motherboard, which gives a strong indication of the direction this board is aimed at...... Overclocking. There is also a Debug LED Display which is clear and bright and can be a real boon when it comes to troubleshooting.

I won't go into the full specification for the motherboard but for those who are interested you can check out the Gigabyte page for it here: http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx?pid=4279&dl=1#ov

When I first put together my system with this board I encountered a small issue with the on-board graphics not seeming to work. No matter what I tried I could only get a graphic output from the ATI GPU I had installed. Doing a bit of research I found that this was a problem being faced by other users and the only way I found to resolve it was to reflash the BIOS, shutdown the PC before it rebooted, remove the GPU and connect a monitor cable to the onboard graphic port. Then, when I restarted, the onboard graphics were enabled. I haven't tried running a GPU and the onboard graphics together as this is something I feel I do not need.

The BIOS on this board is AMI UEFI and offers two user interfaces. The 3D BIOS graphical version and also the more traditional text based, which is called Advanced. I have found that the mouse input in both versions is a little sluggish and have found thaqt keyboard navigation is much quicker and responsive. If you are new to the AMI BIOS, changing the settings can be a little challenging until you realise that you need to use the "Page Up" & "Page Down" buttons to increase/decrease/enable/disable the setting.

In the Advanced BIOS settings, their are a plethora of items that can be reconfigured. A lot of these I have to admit to having no knowledge of what they do and the brief descriptions given I found to be of limited use. Thank goodness for Google and forums as I would recommend doing a lot of research before attempting to overclock as it would be relatively easy to overcook things. That said though, if you do make dramatic changes and try to save them, if the system doesn't like them it will go into a reboot cycle and restore system default to protect your investment.

That said, overclocking is something that this board is designed to do. Unfortunately, I am no expert in this field. I do like to test things out and tweak bits and pieces but, I have limited funds so always tend to err on the side of caution. The i5 2500k CPU is a wonderful processor and I have pushed this little beast to over 5.0 GHz on my previous Z68 Gigabyte motherboard but it was very hardwork, took a lot of time to get there and I soon resorted to running at stock because of temps and system stability issues.
Same CPU but on the GA-Z77X-UP5 TH and without any real effort on my part I have it running at 4.8GHz with temps peaking around 55C. This was achieved by just altering the multiplier to 48 in BIOS and leaving all other settings on Auto. This means that the CPU is running at 1.5GHz faster than its base speed, with all of the energy saving features still running, with no voltage tweaks needed by me, very impressive. To reach the same speed level on the Z68 motherboard took one hell of a lot of time, tweaking, adjustment, reboots, resetting disabling power saving features and upping the CPU voltage to almost dangerous levels with the temps peaking in the high 70's to 80's Celsius.

Something that a lot of users complain about is the fact that their RAM doesn't always run at its rated speed out of the box. The same is true of my Corsair modules which are rated at 1600MHz. However, this is not a real problem and just that Gigabyte seems to apply the JDEC standard of 1333MHz to their boards. A quick foray into the MIT section of BIOS and I was able to set the speed to its correct specification. Now, once again as a comparison, on the Z68 board this could and often did, lead to reboot issues and overclock warnigns. Not so on the GA-Z77X-UP5TH as once I had set the speed and saved them to BIOS the system rebooted quite happily and has been running ever since without issue.

Another area that seems to concern some users is BOOT time. With an SSD and running Windows 8 it takes approximately 20 seconds from power on to being at the desktop. So this begs the question: Exactly how fast do you want it to be?

The back panel has 6 USB ports, two USB2.0 and four USB3.0. Personally I found this to be insufficient for my needs as the mouse and keyboard took two of them straight away. There are two USB2.0 headers on the motherboard along with three USB3.0 headers so adding extra USB ports is easily done but you will need to have the additional hardware to do it as only one 2 x USB3.0 front panel port is included with the motherboard. The addition of extra USB ports comes with a proviso though.....

Gigabyte also supply a Wirless/Bluetooth card, the GC-WB300D, with the motherboard. This uses a PCIe x1 slot and fitted nicely in the top slot above the GPU. You need to use one of the internal USB2.0 headers with this card though so, going back to my previous comment about USB Ports the two USB 2.0 ports will be used up by the PC case front panel ports and this card which can make setting up your USB devices a little harder to do if you have a lot of them. To overcome this I added a 4 port USB2.0 PCI-e x1 to the system which solved the problem for me.

Back to the Wireless/Bluetooth card. This worked faultlessly and the only criticism I can level here is the assumption in the instruction manual that all users will be using an apple i-phone for the Cloud Station Utility. I for one, do not own an i-phone and have no intention of getting one so, what do I and millions of other smartphone users do here? In the short term I guess we just have to twiddle our thumbs and forgo this particular option.

Overall the GA-Z77X-UP5TH is a mightily impressive board, packed with features and an overclockers dream. For day-to-day use this is probably more board than anyone will ever need. It has taken everything I have thrown at it so far and just laughed at me. On the negative side, there are only two SATA3 ports powered by Intel internall on the motherboard and one of the Marvel SATA3 ports is an e-SATA on the back panel which makes this pretty difficult to use in a RAID array as the other port is internally mounted on the motherboard. I haven't tested the Marvel ports for SATA3 speed as I have no e-SATA devices and my DVD burner is attached to the internal header. The lack of USB ports on the rear, could be a concern to some and not everybody wants to attach USB devices through the front panel.

« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 02:37:17 pm by runn3R »
Remember, when all else fails a cup of tea and a good swear will often help! It won't solve the problem but it will make you feel better.