Gigabyte Z77X-UP4TH review: Gigabyte Z77X-UP4TH

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The Good Higher level components should bring cooler running and longer life. Two Thunderbolt ports not only bring high bandwidth, but can add extra displays.

The Bad You can get cheaper boards with more features. 8-pin power connector could be a little difficult to reach in small cases. "3D BIOS" still needs a bit of work for smooth and seamless operation.

The Bottom Line The UP series comes with an inbuilt question: are you happy to spend more money for the best quality components, or would you prefer to spring for boards that offer better bang for buck?

Here's a fun game. Try pronouncing Gigabyte's latest as if it's a word. You can almost hear the aneurism as it happens. We'd give it a proper name, as we have other boards we've reviewed, but it's getting hard to keep track of who's who. For those playing at home, we'll call this one Pedro.

Connectivity

  • Web page: Gigabyte
  • Form factor: ATX (305x244mm)
  • Chipset: Intel Z77
  • External USB: 2 x 3.0 (Intel), 4 x 3.0 (Via VL800)
  • Internal USB: 6 x 2.0, 2 x 3.0
  • SATA 6Gbps: 2 x Intel
  • SATA 3Gbps: 4 x Intel (+ shared mSATA)
  • PCI-E: x16: 1 | x8: 1 | x4: 1 | x1: 3
  • PCI: 1
  • E-SATA: None
  • Video: DVI, VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort
  • Audio: S/PDIF, 7.1 Realtek ALC892
  • Ethernet: 1Gbps Realtek RTL8111F

Given that there's a bevvy of motherboards for almost all walks of life, how then does the Z77X-UP4TH differ from the Z77X-UD3H , which we happily called the perfect all-rounder?

Part of the secret is in the "P" of the model name, which highlights Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 5 tech. Gigabyte claims to provide the absolute best MOSFETs and chokes available, courtesy of International Rectifier's award winning IR3550 PowIRstage. Rated for 60A of current, Gigabyte says that it provides greater efficiency, thus bringing cooler operation and longer lifespan than anything else on the market.

We're in no position to test individual electronic components on a motherboard, and we don't have a thermal camera handy to accurately measure how much the temperatures around the CPU socket drop as a result of these new MOSFETs, meaning we'll have to take Gigabyte's word for it — however, in principle, we're always fans of introducing higher tolerance, cooler running and longer lasting parts into a product.

What this does mean, though, is that by introducing higher quality parts, the UP series starts in a higher price tier than the UD, regardless of what goes on the board, connectivity-wise. Most, we suspect, will be perfectly happy with something from the UD series — those who want ultimate peace of mind will pony up the premium for the UP.

Comparing to the UD3H is instructive — going for around AU$169, it's closest analog to the UP range falls somewhere between the AU$260 UP4TH and the AU$359 UP5TH, the main differences being in audio codec, Ethernet controller and how the PCI-E ports are handled.

What you lose between UD3H and UP4TH is interesting. The physical buttons for power, reset and CMOS clear are gone, for starters. The latter is a particular problem, as Gigabyte's still persisting with that crazy habit of not including a jumper to short the CMOS pins with. Don't expect diagnostic lights either — this thing runs dark.

You'll also lose the voltage contact points, meaning that, although it should technically run cooler around the CPU area, the UP4TH isn't aimed as much at the overclocker crowd as, say, the UP5TH or the recently announced (rather over the top) Z77X-UP7.

The extra SATA power connector to deliver more stable power to multi-graphics solution is absent as well, and you'll need to strike eSATA off the list, too. If you want all these things back, you'll need to spend a good whack more on the UP5TH.

Of course, there is something that's added, as is hinted in the "TH" part of the board's name. Rather than denoting the board has developed a lisp, it means that there are two Thunderbolt ports included. They're both powered from a single DSL3510L chip, Intel's Cactus Ridge controller, which supports 4-channels at 10Gbps each, or direct access to a PCI-E 2.0 x4 lane. You also get the bonus of using them as Mini DisplayPorts, potentially expanding the number of monitors you can integrate into your system. We'd love to test the throughput of both ports simultaneously, however, at the time of writing, we have two Thunderbolt devices in the labs, and both at best could be framed as "opportunistic", neither really taking advantage of the speed offered by the interface.

Two little Thunderbolt ports glisten with potential.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CNET)

 

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Where to Buy

Gigabyte Z77X-UP4TH

Part Number: CNETGigabyte Z77X-UP4TH

Typical Price: $239.00

See manufacturer website for availability.