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There's a lot to like about the Z97X-UD5H. It takes full advantage of the Z97 chipset, delivering compatibility with not only next-gen M.2 and SATA Express storage devices, but also future Broadwell CPUs. There's plenty of capacity for current-gen devices, too. This thing is loaded with PCI Express slots, Serial ATA ports, and USB 3.0 connectivity. Splitting the CPU's Gen3 PCIe lanes three ways is an especially nice touch, and the slot spacing is just right for multi-card graphics configs.

Gigabyte adds a sprinkling of thoughtful extras, like the cushioned I/O shield and backup firmware chip. But it also leaves out some important details, such as a front-panel wiring block and a header for rear chassis fans. The firmware's fan controls are painfully basic and notably inferior to competing solutions. Getting highly configurable fan profiles in Gigabyte's Windows software softens the blow, but it doesn't replace the need for more robust firmware options.

The board's overly aggressive auto-overclocking tendencies should also be addressed. We struck out with most of the auto-tuned configs, whose high CPU voltages led to system instability on our rig. Gigabyte says it uses higher voltages to ensure overclocking success with a broader range of CPUs, but everything we know about Haswell overclocking suggests the target CPU voltages are too high for air towers and all-in-one liquid coolers. Auto-overclocking schemes should be tailored to newbies with conventional coolers—not to hardcore types with sub-zero setups.

We've raised our auto-tuning concerns with Gigabyte before, so I'm not optimistic we'll see changes on that front. However, the firm should be able to fix the little firmware and software bugs we encountered. The UEFI and Windows software isn't completely polished yet, but the foundations are strong, and the HD firmware interface is especially slick when fully implemented.

Given the current state of things, it's difficult to recommend the UD5H to beginners. The overall experience just isn't as smooth as with some of the Z97 alternatives we've tested. The subtleties of that experience count for a lot in the world of modern motherboards, where competing solutions offer near-identical performance and features. That said, the UD5H still delivers a great hardware spec for the money, and its firmware and software are almost there. The board has more appeal for seasoned enthusiasts with the skills and patience to overcome its rough edges.TR

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