The Z77 platform has been out for the better part of 2012, but that doesn’t mean that high-end motherboards for the Ivy Bridge processors cannot come later in the lifecycle.
Packed inside are a ton of goodies, so let’s start with the most boring stuff first: instruction manuals and driver discs. More importantly, though, is the 3 year warranty card which comes on a small piece of cardboard.
There’s a PCIe WiFi & Bluetooth adapter with two extendable antennas.
For the 4-way SLI setup they very kindly provide a 2-way, 3-way and 4-way SLI bridge adapters, with a 2-way CrossFire bridge thrown in for good measure.
There is an extra front panel USB 3.0 header (with two ports) and a rear panel eSATA header with accompanying cables to connect to the motherboard.
There are 6x SATA cables and V-Check point cables and a back plate to finish things off.
Overall the black and orange color scheme looks pretty nice, plus the size is also adequate with the spacing between the CPU area and the PCIe slots for the graphics card, although the RAM area seems like a tight fit for bigger heatsinks.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 is a powerhouse, quite literally, with its 32 + 2 + 2 power phase design which allows you to give more than enough juice to your Ivy Bridge processor when needed with overclocking. This is where Gigabyte’s Digital Engine takes full advantage of system resources to deliver power efficiently when required, leading to a perfectly stable overclock on our test i7-3770K. Obviously all of this power is also helped brought in from the two 8-pin power connectors on the top.
Moving down the 4x PCIe Gen 3.0 8x slots (in orange) work as expected for a 4-way SLI setup, although if you’re planning to use just one graphics card, then use the black slot for a direct connection to the CPU which bypasses the PLX chipset used to power the extra PCIe slots. Just to the right you’ll see the large heatsink covering the Z77 chipset with its thin aluminum fin design found on high-end CPU heatsinks.
There are 6x SATA III (6Gbps) ports, four of which have support for RAID 0 and 1 connection. Then there are 4x more SATA II (3Gbps) ports giving you a total of 10 connections to drives out of the box. There’s also an mSATA port just behind these where you can plug in an mSATA SSD, to be used as a cache drive for the primary hard drive. When the mSATA port is in use, one of the SATA II ports will be disabled, however.
Coming to the top we see the OC-Touch control panel with the plus and minus buttons allowing to change both the CPU Ratio and BCLK in steppings of 1MHz or 0.1MHz after using the Gear button. It’s strange that the Debug LED isn’t up here as well, but it doesn’t matter as the steppings can be changed in real-time both running Windows or in BIOS. Great for LN2 cooling to get live results, but for a permanent overclock it’s not such a big deal.
Coming to the rear panel we have 4x USB 3.0 ports, each coming with its own fuse as well as providing extra juice to your devices when charging them. There’s a DVI, VGA, HDMI and DisplayPort as well as a 6-audio ports powered by a Realtek ALC898 chip. There are also two Gigabit LAN ports, one on the Z77 chipset while the other is powered by Atheros.
For testing the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 the below setup was used.
Overclocking the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 was pretty easy within the UEFI BIOS, setting the CPU ratio to 46x and CPU core voltage to 1.45v giving an effective and stable overclock of 4.6GHz on our Core i7-3770K.
Starting the benchmarks are the two most popular data compression software: WinRAR and 7-zip. For both of these programs I have used the built-in benchmarking software. A higher score is better. Note: the new version of WinRAR (4.20) is used for this benchmark with makes more effecient used of multiple cores, hence the significant speed bump compared to the older version run on other motherboards.
PCMark, Performance Test and Geekbench stress tests all the resources of a system. Since almost all the components in our testbed are one of the best in the market right now, the entirety of the performance will depend on how good our test motherboard is. As usual, the higher the score, the better.
3DMark 11 is an industry standard graphical benchmark, and while it mostly stresses the graphics card, the CPU is also highly stressed for specific tests. The higher the score, the better.
The Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 performs competitively against other Z77 motherboards, with the overclocked results in line with expectations. The only real flaw with the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 is its pricing, higher than the ASUS flagship Maximus V Extreme and double that of the MSI Z77 MPower, which itself is no slouch.
If it were more competitively priced, the Gigabyte Z77X-UP7 would have presented an excellent package that’s rather hard to beat by anyone in the market.