Today marks the launch of the new Z77 Chipset by intel, and with such launch comes a whole new slew of motherboards. Today we will be viewing the Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H
Brief Overview ala GIGABYTE Marketing:
GIGABYTE 7 series motherboards combine a host of new and exciting technologies with the latest Intel Z77 Express Chipset, creating a unique range of motherboard designs that harness the outstanding performance of the new 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors. With an exclusive 'Digital' VRM design, GIGABYTE 3D Power and GIGABYTE 3D BIOS (Dual UEFI), GIGABYTE 7 series motherboards ensure exceptional power delivery and absolute control, with additional features that ensure an unrivalled experience on your next PC build.
As a whole, GIGABYTE seems to have really gone all out on this board providing an exceptional value to not only the overclocker, but to the gamer, or general user who wants the satasfaction to know they got alot more than they paid for while keeping the peace of mind with ultimate stability and performance. We will dig right into the performance of the board then compare it against the previous generation, and THEN go sub-zero to see how she reacts under high load conditions.
Lets kick this off!
The Nibbles and Bits
Just a brief look at the board itself. It came packaged in a white box that had quite a few logos and tidbits of information. What peaked my interest is the Ultra Durable 4, mSATA, and VirtuMVP badges.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H
Inside the box is the usual manual, SATA cables (blue or black), SLI bridge, case badge, and driver disc. Not much, but the value is in the board, not the accessories and trinkets.
The matte black is truly black on this motherboard. Its not near black, or dark brown its BLACK! Its also heavier than it looks! If a zombie apocolypse were to occur and I need to throw something to decapitate the undead, this board would do the job. It feels very stiff as well. I noted on the box there is a new glass fabric PCB that fills in the gaps and mabye we can attribute the weight and stiffness to this. Its impossible to know for sure, but it makes me feel better knowing that the board will be arrow straight when I tighten down a heatsink due to its structrual resiliancy.
The mSATA port on this drive is conveniently located in the center of the board. This provides a great out of the way location that doesnt take up space in the case. When connected, it utilizes SATA port 5.
Some of you are going "UH OH! THERE IS NO HEATSINK?!?" Well, Im here to tell you that there is no worries. Through regular testing, benching, linx, and p95 I have yet to actually see the exposed PWM circutry get past 56C... and I dont even have a fan blowing directly across them. If you are still in doubt, stay tuned because this board is put through its paces.
Flipping the board over, we see that all the heatsinks are screwed in. This is different than what is shown in the GIGABYTE media package, as well as images from CES and CEBIT that were floating around.... they are indeed screwed in.
Not Realtek?!!? What are you a fanboy? The VIA VT2021 is capable of putputting 24bit/192KHz sound with a 110db SNR. When comparing the output of both Realtek vs. VIA, I'm finding that the VT2021 on this board is implemented in such a way that it sounds like its using burrbrown opamps. I know this isnt the case but thats how the audio is presented. Its got a nice laid back feeling though the bass isnt as "boomy" as a Realtek ALC889, it is well articulated and accurate.
The SATA ports and SATA power connector to provide additional PCIe power. Im not quite sure how useful this is, but I intend to find out or kill something trying!
Hey now! Thats what Ive been missing on the Z68XP-UD4! The LCD displays POST codes to help debug the system when overclocking or even if you are having issues during the initial setup.
Power, Reset, Clear CMOS buttons... and oh yea... voltage readout points. Why they included all of this in a sub $200 boad is beyond me, but I sure am glad that they did.
The rear IO ports consist of:
1.1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
2.1 x D-Sub port
3.1 x DVI-D port
4.1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5.1 x HDMI port
6.1 x DisplayPort
7.2 x eSATA 6Gb/s connectors
8.6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
9.1 x RJ-45 port
10.6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Side Speaker Out, Line In/Mic In, Line Out)
You mother said you would go blind if you keep doing that, so enough of the pr0n!
I have reserved some space to accomodate a direct comparison of these benchmarks against a Maximus IV Extreme-Z. The direct comparison will be posted later today with a bit more information as well.
Intel 2600K @ 4.8GHz (sorry, no ivy benches yet )
2x2GB Gskill RipJawsX F317600CL7D-4GBXHD @ 2133 7-10-7-24-1T
GTX580 @ 950/1900/1250
2x Kingston HyperX SSD 120GB SATA3 RAID0
Thermalright Venomous X - Delta 120MM 155CFM fan
Concluding the synthetic benchmarks. As you can see we have some numbers. Unless you have the data to compare it with the previous generation they mean nothing to the naked eye. I have reserved such space to make this comparison.
GAMING + MVP
There are a great many of you out there in internet land going "man, I wish I knew more about that MVP thingy" well here it is... a word from Lucid Logix:
Designed for the next generation of Intel Sandy Bridge Z68/H67/H61 and other Intel integrated graphics as well as many AMD processor-based notebooks, all in one PCs and desktop motherboards, Virtu MVP has many of the same features as the popular Virtu software, but with a twist – the addition of the optional Hyperformance™ feature for intelligent reduction of redundant rendering tasks in the flow between the CPU, GPU and display. Together with improved power management, Virtu MVP:
•Boosts responsiveness to the game at any frame rate
•Improves gaming frame rates 30-70%
•Increases Vsync frame rates – up to 120 FPS and beyond
•Sharpens visual quality without tearing
•Works seamlessly with hundreds of game stations
How Hyperformance Works
3D games put the greatest demands on both the CPU and GPU. And as the race for higher performance on the PC and now in notebooks never ends, both CPUs and GPUs keep getting more robust. Despite this, display refresh rates have remained fairly flat over the years, 60-75 Hz, except for 3D stereo displays at 120Hz. Lucid takes advantage of this disparity and eliminates redundant rendering tasks and predicts potential synchronization issues in the graphics delivery pipeline and intelligently removes and or replaces them for better game control.
The real question is "Does it actually work?" Many of you may want to upgrade to Z77 just for this technology. Though Lucid claims it can work on Z68 motherboards, there is a license key embedded in the BIOS that allows this program to run full featured or not. Yes it IS possible to run on something like a Maximus IV Extreme-Z however there will be a floating annoying banner ad that will get you killed in a heartbeat if you try any kind of competitive first person shooter. Using the software on anything but a licensed board is not recommended as the user may experience constant crashing, or just general dissatasfaction from MVP due to the flying banner.
With that said, the technology is developed by Lucid and is still pretty buggy. Some versions of the software will give better boosts in games and synthetic benchmarks than others. For example, the 110a version is better for Heaven DX9 than the 111 version. Kinda strange but whatever. The driver version being used today is 126.96.36.19941. This was NOT the driver that was included in the disc. The driver that was included does not work for me. Ive seen it work for pleanty of other people, but just not me. Im not sure as to the why, but I suspect its the combination of prerequisite software that I refuse to install + operating system.
Lets kick this off now shall we?
Settings: Ultra Preset 8XMSAA 1920x1080
Wow now thats quite a boost! So far so good!
Resolution: 1920x1080 all settings maxed - APEX PhysX OFF
Again, MVP is working as expected here
Metro 2033 had a performance profile built into the drivers, however its configuration setting showed that though it is compatible to run, no gains were to be expected. This seems to hint to me that in future software developement Lucid will improve compatibility and performance
Uh oh, loss of frame rate. Kind of expected though as MVP is still new, and the drivers indicated that no gain was to be expected. For now if you really like Metro, turn off Lucid. Its just a simple 3 clicks of the mouse to shut it off.
Another game that is not currently supported... we throw it on there anyways. As a note, when enabling VSYNC in the benchmark, there was no notable difference in frame rate between MVP ON and OFF
Hmmmm... another loss in frame rate. I say again though... when testing with VSYNC enabled, the framerate rose to the 56FPS mark again, the difference here is there was no apparent screen tearing. Though this result seems like a mixed bag, I would say that MVP actually improves image quality when enabled.
This title was shown to have a hyperperformance profile built into the driver. On the tested 112 driver, performance was worse than on 110a. Im positive that with future releases of the MVP software, better efficiency and consistancy will be achieved
Here we see no real boost in frame rate. To me this is still OK as Virtual VSync prevented screen tearing. Once again, though the benefit may not be seen in numbers, it is seen in image quality
Total War: Shogun 2 DX9
Hey boost in frame rate and no screen tearing! What more can you ask for?
Total War: Shogun 2 DX11
Another one of those mixed bag results. In DX9 there is a boost, in DX11, there is a loss. Further development from Lucid should resolve this issue. :
Before we look at the benchmark data, I must make a few points. There is no benchmark utility for this game that I am aware of. The benchmark was taken playing through the 1st level using the same path in approximately the same amount of time. When compiling the FPS data, I had noticed that both the benchmarks took exactly 361 seconds to complete. Settings were completely maxed with a resolution of 1920x1080. I will state right now that MVP OFF exhibits a HIGHER frame rate, however if you look at the data, MVP ON provides a much smoother frame rate overall and no screen tearing. MVP has its benefits here.
If I were actually playing this game... it would be with MVP ON... my monitor operates at 60Hz