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Pros: OK, the first thing you notice about this motherboard is the box and that tells you it’s important and expensive. Why, because it has a handle! Only elite, expensive computer parts come in a box with a handle. Even more impressive is that you can remove the outer box to reveal an inner box with the same handle. I’m impressed.
Actually this motherboard does come in a large, elaborate box with a plastic handle. It does the job because the unit arrived intact. The board actually comes in a cardboard tray covered with a plastic lid and not in an anti-static bag. Underneath are the accessories, manual and DVD and other stuff. Really all you get are some black SATA cables and three SLI/Crossfire bridges. The manual is thick and complete. The only time I referenced it was to find out which slots to use for my SLI setup.
The motherboard itself is black with red highlights including an ugly heatsink with a stylized eye on it. To my eye it looks like a rip-off of the ASUS ROG boards but that just might be me. The board is heavy and obviously well made. Strangely enough it does have one SATA Express port but no M.2 like it’s cheaper cousins. No M.2 love seems a curious omission at this rarified price point. I’d like to sing the praises of SATA Express but there are no device s that use it currently so it’s kind of a tease at this point.
But man you have to see the metallic green Nichicon caps that come with the Soundblaster Sound Core 3D chip. It even has a gold cover on it. This is properly high end bling. I will say the audio was sublime so maybe it’s worth it. My avicii True album in FLAC never sounded so good. I don’t own a headphone but for those types there’s a replaceable amplifier chip. Plus the audio outputs are done in glorious gold. Too bad they’ll be on the back where you can’t show them off.
There are 2 NICs, one an Intel unit and the other one a Killer NIC. They both work for me equally well although the Killer NIC has lots of options for shaping your on line gaming experience and wants to do a speed test first thing. I’m not an on-line gamer so I’m afraid it’s all lost on me.
I can’t forget to mention the two orange USB 2.0 ports on the back. These supposedly have a separate and clean power supply coming to them so you can use a DAC which is short for Digital to Analog converter. This mostly means if you hook up a USB headphone it will sound like angels singing. I don’t have a USB headphone but the ports work fine for my mouse and keyboard since there are no other USB 2.0 ports on the back.
The board has 4 PCI-e X16 slots and utilizes something called a PLX chip to feed them. You get X16 bandwidth with one video card and X8 X8 or X8 X8 X8 or X8 X8 X8 X8 if you use 2 or 3 or 4. That is a lot of X8s. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford 4 video cards so I’m afraid I can’t testify to whether those configurations work or not. I did splurge and but a second ASUS 760 card so I could test 2 way SLI and it s
Cons: Now we come to the software and BIOS and I think this is where Gigabyte falls down. Let’s start with the BIOS because that’s what you’re going to encounter first. The initial time you go into the BIOS you’re presented with a 3 X 3 grid effect of gray and orange. Get used to orange and gray because they’re done to death in the UEFI BIOS. The Startup Guide is sort of a BIOS for Dummies and doesn’t seem appropriate on this board because it’s obviously designed for people that know their way around a BIOS. But it’s inoffensive and is a gateway to the more advanced screens of the BIOS. It lets you set the Boot order and security and make sure the SATA controller is turned on and configured right. I suppose if you are BIOS adverse then you’d never have to go any further.
The Smart Tweak screen is where the action is. To be honest this is a mess to me. It’s all orange writing and graphs on an ugly gray background that’s meant to emulate lava. There’s a central screen and it has lots of almost illegible graphs and writing around it. Voltage, Fan speed and Temperatures are across the top and for some reason squeezed together where you can’t read them. Honest, you have to see this to believe it. It’s like… It’s a mess. The information is there and accessible but why make the presentation so ugly?
I actually can make more sense out of the Classic Dual BIOS screen even though it can’t decide whether or not it likes the mouse. It’s not orange and gray and if you don’t mind hitting enter when the left mouse button won’t work then you’ll be OK.
Alright, the BIOS works. It’s hard to follow sometimes and not pretty most of the time but all the options are there and they work. My personal opinion is that it’s a royal mess but you might like it. To me it’s a letdown however.
The next piece of software is the App Center, which is on the Drivers DVD. Well actually an older version is on the DVD. It prompted me to download and install a new version which was relatively quick and painless. The App Center itself is a symphony of blood red and gray and black. I wish I could say it was elegant or at least good looking but it’s not. It’s pretty plain, bordering on ugly. But it’s at least functional. There are a number of apps but be sure to install the one cryptically called ‘SIV’. This is the System Information Viewer and it installs the rudimentary fan controls. There’s nothing to tell you this when you install. As a matter of fact there’s no information on what you’re installing except what you can glean from the titles.
As for the fan controls, I say rudimentary only because they appear that way. They work and they work well. The problem is that unless you know they’re there you might never find them. Gigabyte needs to do a better job of telling its users what they’re installing.
I installed the BIOS updater, which worked when installing a BIOS update I downloaded from the Gigabyte site but couldn’t find that same update on its
Other Thoughts: OK, bottom line. This is an expensive board obviously designed for well-heeled gamers with lots of video cards. If you just have a dual SLI system or one video card this board is overkill plain and simple. That PLX chip adds a lot of dollars to the cost and if you don’t need tri or quad SLI then why pay for it? The audio subsystem is great and you have to love those apple green metallic caps but for gaming a high end Realtek codec is adequate. But I have to admit those metallic green caps are just kewl.
The board is stable and there are no glaring deficiencies or anything placed in a wrong position except the 2 CPU fan headers. It’s black of course and that seems to be the de facto color for high end boards now. It’s not too gaudy except perhaps the tasteless eye motif on the one heatsink but even that is palatable. That said this is a nice board with tons of high end features. It’s way too expensive but those PLX chips and green caps effect the bottom line no doubt.
Ultimately, the trouble is the hardware is let down by mediocre software. I know you mostly don’t see the software but it’s lurking there, all red and orange and gray and you keep thinking how much better it could have been done.
Pros: See Other Thoughts below
Cons: See other thoughts below
Other Thoughts: This is an addendum to my first review in which I took Gigabyte to task for not having any fan controller software included in the driver’s DVD. I now find I was in error and wish to offer an apology to the manufacturer and anybody that read my review and may have passed on this board because of what I said,
Indeed there is a fan control app included in the SIV (System Information Viewer) program on the software disk. It’s certainly not elegant and is quite granular but it does work as advertised to let you set and control the speeds of the fan plugged into the motherboard. It allows you to calibrate the fans and set them according to usage and temperature. It works fine in my testing.
I will however say in my defense that there is no mention made of any fan controller software being included in the SIV and it’s not the place you would expect to find it. The only reason I found it was because I was looking at a review of another Gigabyte board on the Internet and they included it. That’s no excuse and I was lax in not installing all the software in the APP Center. Then I would have found it
Pros: I’m going to start this review by saying I’m an ASUS guy. I haven’t had a Gigabyte board since I bought one for an AMD HTPC build several years ago. But I was pleasantly surprised when I got the GA-Z97X-UD5H. The board is heavy and well built. It’s most matte black with gold heatsinks but it does exude a feeling of quality. The IO shield is padded so it doesn’t hurt your hands installing it. I’m not sure exactly what group this board is supposed to appeal to since there is a similar gaming motherboard with much the same features. This might just be the high end content production board.
There’s not much in the box except 4 SATA cables in black, a flexible SLI bridge and the thick user’s manual and driver’s DVD. There is a multi-language installation manual but’s it’s generic and not specifically for this motherboard. But for a novice it might answer some questions. This bundle seems sparse for a high dollar board but it does cover the bases.
The user’s manual is thorough but not well laid out as I found when I was trying to identify the various SATA ports and was unable to find what I was looking for. But I persevered and got things installed in the proper places. The motherboard fired up the first time which is always encouraging. No smoke is always been my motto.
My first Windows 7 X64 install was to a small 120 Gig M.2 SSD. This isn’t a PCIe 2x or 4x SSD. It’s actually a caching SSD that can be used as a boot disk. It’s read performance is as good as my Sandisk Extreme but the write performance isn’t great. But it did work OK although the Windows installation was excruciatingly long. It worked OK but just didn’t seem matched to the high system specs. So I did another install on my Sandisk Extreme and it went fine. So you know the M.2 slot seems to work OK and I like that it has support for all 3 lengths of SSD. Of course I can’t speak to SATA Express because there are no devices out there that make use of it. But it’s nice to know it’s there if you need it.
I’m going from an ASUS Z87-Pro motherboard, using the same i7 4770K processor and 8 gigs of Corsair Vengeance DDR3 1600 memory and ASUS 760 ti videocard. The case and power supply are the same as is the Corsair H100 water cooling. Outside of the few new features the performance is exactly the same. I’ve played Bioshock Infiniti and Far Cry 3 and Crysis 3 as well as COD Ghosts and there is no discernible difference in the way they play or the framerates. I did install Wolfenstein on the Gigabyte motherboard and it plays just fine. If I didn’t know I‘d swapped motherboards then the experience would be exactly the same.
USB 3 speeds averaged 55 MB/s as reported by Teracopy to an external USB3 hard drive. This is average but not as fast as my ASUS with Turbo Boost enabled. You lose about 15 MB/s without turbo. SATA speeds are a wash and I found the Intel gigabyte Lan faster than the Killer one but not enough to make any difference. The onboard Realtek s
Cons: The BIOS is quite frankly a mess, at least to me. I’m coming from an ASUS motherboard and they are the gold standard of UEFI BIOS. Don’t get me wrong; this one does everything it needs to but it’s cluttered and there is no easy way to move back and forth between the various tabs. It’s just too much orange. I do like the Classic BIOS screen although the mouse support is spotty. This is personal preference on my part and other people may love this BIOS. I guess it all depends on your tolerance for orange.
Now let’s talk about the software included on the DVD. I was a little irritated by the drivers installation because I made a stupid mistake and didn’t notice you had to remove the checkmarks on each driver and I hit express install and thus was saddled with the add on Google and Norton dross. What irritated me was there was no way to cancel the installation. So I pulled the DVD out and that stopped it. But when I went back to try again it started up at the same point. Now I know this is my own fault but why not add a ‘cancel install’ button. The drivers did finally install and it worked fine although I found it very slow and the progress bar is wacked.
The bundled applications are simply OK. They work on the most part but are inelegant & incomplete compared to the same applications from ASUS. Where’s my AI Suite with its superb fan control and USB turbo? Why is everything blue and plain and ugly? This to me is the height of laziness from a company of Gigabyte’s size. Don’t they have programmers?
There is a whole list of applications but most of them I didn’t need. I installed the BIOS updater, Easy Tune and EZ Setup. One small glitch happened after installation that once again was mostly my fault. There is an application to update the BIOS (There were no BIOS upates on the Gigabyte site for this motherboard). It tells you before it starts that it’s closing other applications but after mucking about and waiting for it to check for updates you might not remember that and when you open the other programs in the App Center. When they don’t work you start muttering to yourself until you remember that warning.
Outside of the BIOS upater the main program is called Easy Tune and it is indeed easy. The program may look like it was done by a third grader but it does work. I chose the ‘Extreme’ setting and it overclocked my i7 to 4.5 Ghz with no apparent effort. It also offers ‘Light’ and ‘Medium’ overclocks as well as ‘Energy Savings’ and ‘Auto Tuning’ which refused to start without updating my Flash player so I didn’t bother.
There is also a tab called “Advanced CPU OC’ with lots of manual options all presented in ugly blue and black as well as a tab to overclock your Ram. It all works but there’s no elegance in the presentation. I know that may not matter but why not at least try to make it look good?
The next section in the App Center is called ‘EZ Setup’ and it opens about a dozen command prompt boxes all across yo
Other Thoughts: OK, bottom line; the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H is a good looking and performing board. It’s not intolerably ugly and has enough new features to justify the price. I don’t have the devices needed to test the full potential of the M.2 slot or SATA Express but I’m sure they will prove a decent upgrade from SATA 3. The BIOS and the software are at best OK and at worst frustrating but they do the job. So buying a Z97 motherboard is basically a no brainer. It has all the features of the Z87 boards plus it’s more future proof with M.2 and SATA Express and costs no more. Plus you know it’s the only chipset that will absolutely support the new Broadwell Intel processors when they arrive at the end of the year. There may be no compelling reason to upgrade from Z87 but if you’re looking to get into a new Socket 1150 motherboard then Z97 is the one to buy. The Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H is a good board hardware wise and does offer both M.2 and SATA express.
That said the software is atrocious for an enthusiast board that costs this much. OK, maybe an inexpensive board may not have elegant and functional software but this board isn’t cheap. Why do I sit here without any fan control? Why can’t the UEFI Bios decide if it’s going to display in HD or not and decides to change back and forth whenever it wants. Why is the advanced screen crowded and cramped and ugly to look at? It’s too bad because this is a decent performing motherboard. I just know I won’t buy another Gigabyte board until thy hire some programmers to fix their software.