Gigabyte Z77X-UP5TH Preview
Two Is Better Than One
Months have passed and we have already seen a few implementations of Thunderbolt on motherboards. At Computex 2012, ASUS showed us its execution of the new standard through an add-on card, the ThunderboltEX, which can be installed on select Z77-based motherboards such as the the Maximus V Formula, Maximus V GENE, Sabertooth Z77, and the P8Z77-V Deluxe. Other supported platforms are enlisted here. The more popular implementation of the Thunderbolt interface is onboard which we initially saw on the Z77A-GD80, the world’s first Thunderbolt-equipped motherboard according to MSI. Other boards that are integrated with the said interface include a number of models from ASUS, the upcoming ECS Z77H2-A5X, and the last but not the least, the Gigabyte Z77X-UP5TH, the subject matter of today’s preview article.
The second Z77-based motherboard from Gigabyte which we personally met after the G1.Sniper 3, the Z77X-UP5TH comes with a white box. The box clearly shows some of the board’s highlight features, including Ultra Durable 5, 3D Power, and 3D BIOS. Besides these ‘exclusive’ features, Gigabyte is promoting the board as an ideal overclocking platform for Intel CPUs that carry the K SKU such as the Core i5-2500K. Gigabyte also positions it as an ideal board for a water-cooled setup, although it is not equipped with watercooling-ready pipes like the Maximus V Formula.
Sporting a dark-colored printed circuit board (PCB), the Z77X-UP5TH is interspersed with solid capacitors. Prominent on the board is its extensive passive cooling system. A pair of heatsinks cooling the voltage regulator module (VRM) around the CPU socket is linked to the chipset heatsink by means of a lengthy heatpipe. The entire board measures 305 x 244mm, compliant with the ATX form factor.
The Z77X-UP5TH’s integration of the Thunderbolt interface is relatively unique. Instead of having just one, Gigabyte has blessed the board with two Thunderbolt connectors. This order of things allows users to link up to twelve Thunderbolt-compatible devices, like the WD My Book Thunderbolt Duo, by means of daisy chaining. However, owning such a number of Thunderbolt devices may not be logical at the moment, taking into account that they are expensive. Apart from having two Thunderbolt ports, the Z77X-UP5TH’s set of connectors is pretty standard among Z77-based platforms.
A set of four DIMM slots supports the board’s RAM requirement. The slots can support up to 32GB DDR3 at 2800MHz (OC) in dual channel configuration. Adjacent to the DIMM slots are onboard utilities like switches for clearing the CMOS, power, and reset. Also visible is a row of contact points for voltage monitoring which is critical when overclocking. The debug LED, on the other hand, is important when diagnosing and troubleshooting motherboard issues.
Equipped with two PCIe x16 slots (one of which operates at 8x speed), these lanes are ready for a CrossFireX or an SLI setup. Switchable graphics is also a possibility with the help of LucidLogix Virtu MVP software. This utility allows dynamic switching from onboard graphics to discrete and vice versa depending on the system load. In addition to PCIe x16 slots, the board comes with a PCIe x4, three PCIe x1, and a PCI slot.
In the storage department, the Z77X-UP5TH has two SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps connectors, all of which are linked to the Intel chipset. There is another SATA 6Gbps connector (gray), but this is located near the front panel control and connected to a Marvell 88SE9172 chip. This chip also controls the mSATA connector, situated somewhere in the middle of the board.
Like the G1.Sniper 3, the Z77X-UP5TH features wireless capability, thanks to the bundled GC-WB300D PCIe card and two antennae. These peripherals provide Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n) and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.