Gigabyte’s Z97X-UD5H motherboard reviewed

Gigabyte’s Z97 lineup is split between three main factions. The gaming-specific boards have tweaked peripheral payloads designed to appeal to gamers. The overclocking-oriented models are optimized for competitive benchmarking and sub-zero cooling. And then there’s the classic Ultra Durable family, which is perfectly suitable for gaming and loaded with plenty of options for more conventional overclockers.

The Ultra Durable series follows a more traditional mold for enthusiast-focused motherboards, and the Z97X-UD5H is a particularly loaded example. This upper-mid-range offering hangs a trio of PCIe x16 slots off the CPU, boasts a full complement of next-gen storage interfaces, and includes extra Ethernet, Serial ATA, and USB connectivity. At $189.99 online, it’s not too expensive, either.

Competitively-priced, feature-packed boards are kind of Gigabyte’s thing. But how do those features pan out in the real world, and what’s it like to actually use the board? We spent a couple of weeks with the UD5H to find out, and we learned a few interesting things along the way. Let’s take a closer look.

Yep, Gigabyte is doing the bling-on-black thing for its Ultra Durable boards this year. The gold is a little gaudy for my tastes, but it doesn’t look too bad when combined with the matte board and largely blacked-out components.

If you prefer something a little more understated, the Z97X-UD5H has an evil twin with black heatsinks and only a hint of gold trim. Apart from the tinting, this Black Edition variant is physically identical to the standard UD5H. However, it undergoes a week-long stress test before leaving the factory, and it’s covered by a five-year warranty instead of the usual three-year deal. The Z97X-UD5H-BK also commands a stiff premium; it’s selling for $45 more than the standard version right now.

Gigabyte freely admits that its oversized heatsinks are more about marketing than cooling. The UD5H’s billboard-like chipset heatsink at least stays out of the way, but the VRM heatsinks crowd the area around the CPU cooler retention holes. Cooler installation can be more difficult as a result, especially if the retention bracket relies on thumbscrews.

The VRM heatsinks should be short enough to avoid bumping into larger aftermarket coolers. Graphics cards installed in the top PCIe x16 slot shouldn’t interfere with larger CPU coolers, either, but taller memory modules might get in the way. Like other Haswell boards, the Z97X-UD5H puts the DIMM slots right next to the socket. We can’t test compatibility with every combination of cooler and memory, but we’ve have detailed socket clearance measurements later in the review.

Clearances are sometimes a factor for multi-card graphics configurations, but not on the UD5H. The board can accept three double-wide cards or dual triple-wide beasts. Dual-double-wide setups leave one slot’s worth of space between the cards, which should help airflow to the GPU cooler on the first one.

All three x16 slots get their Gen3 connectivity from the CPU. The lanes are split in x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, or x8/x4/x4 configs depending on the number of cards installed. Three-way setups are only supported for CrossFire, though. Nvidia’s SLI endorsement only applies to two-card rigs.

The rest of the stack is populated by dual PCIe x1 slots via the Gen2 controller in the Z97 chipset, plus dual PCI slots that connect through a PCIe bridge chip. The M.2 slot in the upper-left corner also connects via the chipset’s PCIe interface, through dual lanes reserved exclusively for next-gen storage devices. That 1GB/s link is shared with the SATA Express port on the edge of the board.

The M.2 and SATAe interfaces share the chipset’s dedicated storage bandwidth, but the relationship is more of an either/or proposition. Users can choose to run one M.2 PCIe drive or one SATA Express device. Populating the M.2 slot even disables the dual 6Gbps SATA ports in the SATAe connector. A couple of extra SATA ports from an auxiliary Marvell controller pick up the slack, but they’re slower than the Z97 ports, and they can’t participate in the same driver-managed RAID arrays.

That power connector next to the SATA ports has nothing to do with storage, by the way. It provides a little extra juice to the PCIe x16 slots for power-hungry CrossFire and SLI configs.

Six USB 3.0 ports line the rear cluster, but only two of them are attached directly to the Z97. The rest pass through a four-way hub linked to just one of the Z97’s SuperSpeed ports. Folks who are running a lot of high-bandwidth devices will want to avoid those shared ports. Too bad Gigabyte doesn’t identify which ones are which. At least the manual clarifies that the front-panel USB 3.0 ports have a direct line to the chipset.

Apart from a DisplayPort out, the rear cluster covers all the important bases. One of the GigE jacks is backed by a tried-and-true Intel chip, while the other is fueled by a Qualcomm Killer NIC with packet prioritization mojo. The Killer NIC exhibits higher CPU utilization (4.2% vs 8.5% during our throughput test), so it’s nice to have the Intel alternative.

Like other boards in this price range, the Z97X-UD5H has a high-end Realtek codec, a separate amplifier chip, and isolated traces for the audio circuitry. The Realtek drivers offer speaker virtualization support, but they can’t encode multi-channel bitstreams for digital output. We’ll discuss the audio in a little more detail in the performance section of the review. There’s more ground to cover before we get to that, including some of the UD5H’s smaller, builder-friendly features.

The cushioned I/O shield pictured above simplifies motherboard installation while also cutting down on the potential for blood loss. Traditional shields are lined with sharp slivers of metal that can get caught in the rear ports and slice fingers easily.

A bunch of other little touches can be found around the memory slots. The UD5H has onboard buttons for power, reset, and clearing the CMOS. The POST code display is handy for troubleshooting, and there are voltage probing points for obsessive overclockers. Backup firmware chip? Check.

Gigabyte did miss a few important details. Connector blocks are nowhere to be found, making front-panel wiring needlessly difficult. There’s no way to cold boot directly into the firmware, a feature we’ve used frequently on the other Z97 boards we’ve tested. Also, the system fan headers are all along the bottom edge, leaving the auxiliary CPU_OPT header (pictured in the top-right corner above) as the only convenient place to attach a rear chassis exhaust. These may seem like minor things, but the quirky little details are what increasingly separate the best enthusiast boards from the rest.

The firmware interface is another big differentiation point, so let’s tackle that next.

Three paths to firmware tweaking

Gigabyte’s latest UEFI is peppered with enhancements, including a new intro screen that covers basic functions.

This simplified interface allows users to change the firmware language, SATA config, boot sequence, and even the UEFI’s default starting screen. The UI shouldn’t feel intimidating for newbies, but it doesn’t have much for enthusiasts. To have any real fun, you’ll need to switch to Smart Tweak mode, which rewards savvy users with a beautiful interface rendered at a 1080p resolution.

Although the high-def tweaking mode has a similar layout to Gigabyte’s 8-series UEFI, the options have been reorganized somewhat. Frequency, memory, and voltage controls are easily accessible through the main tabs at the top. The associated options are organized into sub-tabs below, sometimes too finely. For example, the voltage controls are split between separate CPU, chipset, and memory sub-tabs even though those last two categories only have three options between them.

Most of the tweaking options can be adjusted via mouse-friendly sliders or direct keyboard input. Changes can be applied on the fly, and they’ll be reflected in the real-time monitoring panes surrounding the main tweaking window. Pretty sweet.

The mouse tracking is smooth overall, and the UI feels responsive to both keyboard and mouse input. However, the convenient keyboard shortcuts for jumping between tabs aren’t working in the firmware revisions available to the public. Neither is the interface for creating custom menus. It should display all of the options from all of the various sub-menus, but it only shows the settings from the Save & Exit category:

The keyboard shortcuts and custom menu builder are fixed in a beta firmware we’ve been testing. We’re told the final version of that build won’t be released until the first or second week of June, though.

When that update arrives, users will be able to populate up to four custom menus. The Smart Tweak interface also has a couple of pre-defined menus that consolidate popular settings, plus two more that track favorite and recently changed variables.

Gigabyte’s firmware-level fan controls are pretty much unchanged for the 9-series generation, putting the company well behind the competition, which continues to up its game. Each fan header is restricted to one of three pre-baked configs or a manual mode defined by a single slope setting. More robust fan controls are available in Gigabyte’s Windows tweaking software, but that doesn’t excuse the simplistic firmware implementation.

There’s also no excuse for the firmware’s deceptive clock-boosting methods. Check out the default CPU configuration:

The Turbo ratios suggest our Core i7-4770K is running at stock speeds, but the firmware is lying. It actually applies a 39X multiplier regardless of how many cores are active, effectively overclocking the CPU by 200MHz in some scenarios. This behavior is basically cheating, and the fact that the Turbo multipliers are misrepresented is particularly loathsome. Users should be the ones who decide how and when to overclock the CPU—not motherboard makers.

While I’m griping, the firmware has a few other issues. Hitting escape in the Smart Tweak interface doesn’t bring up the exit menu available in other sections of the firmware. The tweaking UI also lacks a bunch of options, including detailed fast-boot and peripheral settings. Those settings won’t migrate to the HD interface, which is now meant only for overclocking. The missing options are only accessible through the firmware’s classic UI.

The old-school interface is quite a step down from the Smart Tweak UI. It’s much uglier, obviously, and the mouse tracking is quite jumpy. If it didn’t have a monopoly on some essential options, the classic UI would be entirely redundant. The firmware already has a low-res version of the Smart Tweak interface that cuts the real-time monitoring windows to maintain compatibility with older and cheaper displays.

On the next page, we’ll see what it’s like to tweak the board in Windows.

Easy tuning in Windows

Gigabyte continues to improve the revamped collection of Windows tweaking utilities that debuted with its 8-series motherboards. This suite covers overclocking, power tuning, and fan controls, among other functions. The interface is relatively nice, with subdued colors and an original look.

The EasyTune utility lets newbies choose between pre-baked overclocking profiles and an automated tuner that increases clock speeds iteratively. These auto-overclocking routines can also help enthusiasts by setting a solid starting point for manual tuning. Or that’s the theory, anyway. We’ll see how the various approaches pan out in our overclocking section on the next page.

EasyTune’s advanced menus are filled with mouse-friendly sliders and drop-down menus. Gigabyte covers the bases nicely, and most values can be entered directly with the keyboard.

The utility’s old fan speed controls have relocated to a separate utility dubbed System Information Viewer. And they’re excellent.

First, you’ll want to run the built-in calibrator, which tests the range of available speeds for each connected fan. Then, you can click and drag five points along separate profiles for each one. The profiles work with both three- and four-pin fans, and the configuration process is pretty painless. All Gigabyte needs to do is replicate this functionality in the firmware.

The System Information Viewer is appropriately named for its other task, which is monitoring system variables. One component includes configurable warning thresholds for fan speeds and system temperatures, while another logs those variables in addition to voltages. Logs can be saved for historical reference, but there’s no way to export them to other applications.

A couple of other utilities are worth mentioning, including the Fast Boot app.

In addition to covering a couple of boot options, this utility can reboot the system directly into the firmware. The interface is ginormous for what it does, though, and it downplays the most valuable function. Most enthusiasts will reboot into the firmware more frequently than they alter fast-boot settings.

Gigabyte’s 9-series boards also come with a new Cloud Station application that hooks into a mobile sidekick available for Android and iOS. In theory, the Windows and mobile apps are supposed to cooperate to enable remote tweaking and system monitoring. The Android app detects my test machine without issue, but it produces a “Get OC Data Fail” error message when I try to launch the remote overclocking interface. Cloud Station’s remote keyboard and media controls don’t work for me, either.

Some mobile mobo software is gimmicky, but being able to monitor and control select system variables remotely is definitely valuable. I hope Gigabyte can fix that aspect of Cloud Station, at least. The remote input and file-sharing features are less interesting, mostly because similar functionality is covered by other mobile apps already.

Gigabyte says it’s trying to reproduce our Cloud Station issues, but we haven’t received word on the company’s progress. We’ll update this review when we do.

Now, let’s see how well the Z97X-UD5H overclocks.

Overclocking

With Haswell CPUs, overclocking success is usually dictated by one’s choice of processor and cooler. The motherboard is rarely the limiting factor, though some boards make overclocking easier than others. To gauge the experience on the Z97X-UD5H, we kicked our Corsair H80 water cooler into high gear and started turning the screws on our Core i7-4770K.

First, we launched the intelligent overclocker built into the EasyTune software. The auto-tuner was aggressive, pushing the CPU between 4.5 and 4.7GHz depending on the number of active cores. It also applied a 1.350V base CPU voltage combined with a 0.195V offset that jacked the CPU to nearly 1.55V under load. That’s a heck of a lot of voltage for Haswell even with liquid cooling, but the setup passed EasyTune’s stress test and was deemed stable.

Except that it wasn’t.

The system crashed as soon as we fired up our standard stability test, which consists of the Unigine Valley benchmark alongside AIDA64’s CPU stress test. The rig rebooted at a lower speed (4.3GHz for our all-core stress test), but the voltage was still high, and the machine crashed again under load.

EasyTune’s pre-baked profiles didn’t fare much better. The extreme setting shot for 4.5GHz with the default core voltage and a 0.199V offset, but the system rebooted instantly when we fired up our stress test. The medium preset dialed the frequency back to 4.3GHz, and it failed, too. Only the light profile survived our stress test. It retained the CPU’s stock voltage and pushed the frequency to a conservative 4.1GHz.

We’ve encountered similarly high auto-tuned voltages on other Gigabyte motherboards, and the fix is really simple with our CPU: apply less voltage. The medium preset, for example, was perfectly stable at 4.3GHz with the CPU voltage offset halved to 0.1V. That offset was sufficient all the way up to 4.5GHz, a speed we reached easily by dragging a few sliders in the advanced section of the EasyTune app. Unfortunately, we ran into problems at 4.6GHz. That speed required 1.3V to remain stable under load, but CPU temperatures spiked too high, resulting in throttling. This CPU-and-cooler combo has reached 4.5-4.6GHz on all the Haswell boards we’ve tested, so the Z97X-UD5H lands in the right ballpark.

Finished with Gigabyte’s tweaking software, we briefly overclocked the CPU using the firmware. Our efforts concentrated solely on increasing the multiplier. The firmware’s “auto” defaults are supposed to take care of the other settings automatically, but once again, they failed. All was well at 4.1GHz, where the CPU voltage rose to only 1.224V under load. At 4.2GHz, however, the voltage spiked to 1.428V, and the system crashed soon after we launched our stress test. Ugh.

The Z97X-UD5H may be a capable overclocker in the right hands, but it relies more heavily on manual tuning than the other Z97 boards we’ve tested.

Power consumption

We measured power draw at the wall socket with our test system at idle, then playing a 1080p YouTube video, and finally under a full load combining Cinebench rendering with the Unigine Valley demo. The Z97X-UD5H was tested against Z97 boards from Asus and MSI, plus an Asus Z87-PRO from the previous generation. Our review of the Asus Z97-A is right here, and our MSI Z97 Gaming 7 review is here.

At idle and under lighter loads, the Z97X-UD5H consumes more power than the other Z97 boards. The MSI is the most comparable, and like the Gigabyte, it’s loaded with extra peripherals and beefier power regulation circuitry. The Asus Z97 board is a lower-end model with fewer power phases and no auxiliary peripheral chips. Those differences likely contribute to its lower power draw, though they may not be the only factors.

Performance

Our motherboard reviews used to be filled with benchmark graphs covering application, gaming, and peripheral performance. We still do a lot of the same testing, but we’ve become increasingly convinced that graphing all the results is a waste of time, both ours and yours. The fact is that most modern motherboards perform pretty much identically when equipped with the same processor, graphics card, SSD, and other system components. The Z97X-UD5H is just as fast as all the other Z97 boards we’ve tested.

There, I just saved you from having to scroll through a bunch of identical-looking graphs.

But I will indulge a small data dump, because we did encounter some curious audio results during our testing. We measure the analog signal quality of motherboard audio by running a RightMark Audio Analyzer “loopback” test that pipes 24-bit, 192kHz audio from the front-channel output to the line input. RMAA grades signal quality on a scale between “very poor” and “excellent,” and we’ve translated those values to a numerical scale that starts at low of one and peaks at six. Higher values are better.

Frequency

response

Noise

level

Dynamic

range

THD

distortion

THD +

noise

IMD +

noise

Stereo

crosstalk

IMD at

10kHz

Overall

score

Asus Z97-A 6 4 4 5 3 5 5 5 5
Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H 5 1 6 2 1 1 1 5 3
MSI Z97 Gaming 7 6 5 5 5 4 5 6 5 5

The Z97X-UD5H scores well in some tests but very poorly in others. The worst scores are in categories associated with interference and noise, which isn’t terribly encouraging. These results were consistent with the systems idling and crunching a combined CPU, GPU, and storage stress test.

Here’s a closer look at the data for some of the RMAA metrics. Click the buttons below to switch between the various graphs.


There are some big differences between the Z97X-UD5H and its Z97 competition. Whatever afflicts these loopback tests doesn’t appear to sully analog output, though. I’ve spent hours listening to music on the Z97X-UD5H using a pair of mid-range Sennheiser headphones, and I haven’t detected any of the interference or noise depicted in the RMAA results. The overall output quality isn’t as good as with a discrete sound card, but it’s decent for motherboard audio—and certainly better than the loopback results suggest.

We shared our results with Gigabyte, which suggested that our volume levels were too high. We always tune the volume to match RMAA’s suggested levels, and cranking it up produces distinctly different interference patterns. Still, we tested the UD5H again, this time with the latest beta firmware. Surprisingly, the signal quality problems weren’t evident at idle, but they persisted under load. Weird.

None of the other Z97 boards we’ve tested exhibit similar behavior. Since Gigabyte’s latest firmware seems to address the problem in one scenario, a subsequent release may deliver cleaner signal quality overall. We’ll keep working with Gigabyte, and we’ll update this section with any developments. For what it’s worth, I still can’t hear any interference or distortion in the front-channel output, regardless of whether the system is idling or slammed by our stress test.

The following page is filled with detailed board specifications, clearance diagrams, and nerdy details about our test systems. It doesn’t make for particularly engaging reading, so we won’t be offended if you skip ahead to the conclusion.

Detailed specifications

We’ve covered all of the essential deals about the Z97X-UD5H already, but here’s the full spec sheet in case we missed anything:

Platform Intel Z97 Express, socket LGA1150
DIMM slots 4 DDR3, 32GB max
Expansion slots 3 PCIe 3.0 x16 via CPU (x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, x8/x4/x4)

2 PCIe 2.0 x1 via Z97 Express

2 PCI

Storage I/O 1 SATA Express via Z97 Express

1 M.2 via Z97 Express

4 SATA RAID 6Gbps via Z97 Express

2 SATA RAID 6Gbps via Marvell 88SE9172

Audio 8-channel HD via Realtek ALC1150

Surround virtualization via Realtek drivers

Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse

1 VGA via CPU

1 DVI-D via CPU

1 HDMI 1.4a via CPU

2 USB 3.0 via Z97 Express

2 USB 3.0 via internal headers via Z97 Express

4 USB 3.0 via Z97 and Renesas uPD720210 hub

2 USB 2.0 via Z97 Express

4 USB 2.0 via Z97 Express

1 Gigabit Ethernet via Intel I217-V

1 Gigabit Ethernet via Qualcomm Killer E2201

1 analog front/headphone out (amplified)

4 configurable analog ports

1 digital S/PDIF out

Overclocking All/per-core Turbo multiplier: 8-80X

Uncore multiplier: 8-80X

CPU gear: 1, 1.25, 1.66, 2.5X

Base clock: 80-266.66MHz

Host/PCIe clock: 80-133.33MHz

GPU clock: 400-4000MHz

CPU external override voltage: 1.0-2.4V

CPU voltage: 0.5-1.8V

iGPU voltage: 0.5-1.8V

CPU ring voltage: 0.8-1.8V

System agent voltage: -0.3 – +0.4V

CPU IO analog voltage: -0.3 – +0.4V

CPU IO digital voltage: -0.3 – +0.4V

DRAM voltage: 1.15-2.1V

PCH core voltage: 0.65-1.3V

PCH IO voltage: 1.05-1.9V

Fan control CPU, CPU Opt, 3x SYS fans

Predefined normal, silent, full-speed profiles

Manual profile with PWM/°C slope

And here are those socket clearance diagrams I promised earlier in the review:

If you’ve made it this far, then you might also like a glimpse of the system we use for motherboard testing.

Our testing methods

We used the following system configurations for testing.

Processor Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard Asus Z87-PRO Asus Z97-A Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H MSI Z97 Gaming 7
Firmware revision 1802 0604 F6b 1.1B1
Platform hub Z87 Express Z97 Express Z97 Express Z97 Express
Chipset drivers Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Audio Realtek ALC1180 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150
Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-27-1T
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II with 335.23 drivers
Storage Corsair Force Series GT 120GB
Samsung 830 Series 256GB
Power supply Corsair AX850 850W
Operating system Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Thanks to Intel, Corsair, Samsung, and Asus for providing the hardware used in our test systems. And thanks to the motherboard makers for providing those.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • All testing was conducted with motherboard power-saving options enabled. These features can sometimes lead to slightly slower performance, particularly in peripheral tests that don’t cause the CPU to kick into high gear. We’d rather get a sense of motherboard performance with real-world configurations, though; we’re not as interested in comparing contrived setups with popular features disabled.
  • DiRT Showdown was tested with ultra detail settings, 4X MSAA, and a 1920×1200 display resolution. We used Fraps to log a 60-second snippet of gameplay from the demo’s first race. To offset the fact that our gameplay sequence can’t be repeated exactly, we ran this test five times on each system.
  • Power consumption was measured at the wall socket for the complete system, sans monitor and speakers, using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Our video playback load used this 1080p YouTube trailer for the movie Looper. The full-load test combined AIDA64’s CPU stress test with the Unigine Valley DirectX 11 demo running in a 1280×720 window.
  • The Force GT 120GB SSD was used as the system drive for all tests. The Samsung 830 Series 256GB was connected as secondary storage to test Serial ATA and USB performance, the latter through a USAP-compatible Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. The Samsung SSD was secure-erased before each test that involved it. The Corsair drive was also wiped before we loaded our system image.
  • Ethernet performance was tested using a remote rig based on an Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel 82579 Gigabit Ethernet controller. A single Cat 6 Ethernet cable connected that system to each motherboard.
  • Analog audio signal quality was tested using RMAA’s “loopback” test, which pipes front-channel output through the board’s line input. We tested while the system was loaded with Cinebench’s multithreaded rendering test, the Unigine Valley benchmark, and a CrystalDiskMark 4KB random I/O test running on the Samsung SSD attached via USB 3.0.
  • Power consumption was tested using a Watt’s Up Pro power meter. Our idle measurement represents the low over a five-minute period. For YouTube playback, we reported the median power consumption for the length of the video. For our full load test, we reported the peak power consumption during the Cinebench benchmark run.

The tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. All tests except power consumption were run at least three times. Unless otherwise indicated, we reported the median result for each test. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.

Conclusions

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.

Comments closed
    • LoneWolf15
    • 5 years ago

    I bought the Black Edition of this board on sale for $5 below the price listed in the review. It’s a very good board, but I do agree with TR that the fan mounts are bothersome (I have a Lamptron fan controller that gets me around this, but it does have the potential to be annoying compared to its closest competitor, the ASUS Z97-Pro.

    I’d be happy if Gigabyte deleted the Killer NIC, kept the Intel, and knocked off a few bucks. The rest of the board is great, showing Gigabyte’s continuing quality, and I’m very pleased with it.

    • Cannonaire
    • 5 years ago

    [quote<]Six USB 3.0 ports line the rear cluster, but only two of them are attached directly to the Z97. The rest pass through a four-way hub linked to just one of the Z97's SuperSpeed ports.[/quote<] The rear cluster is decidedly the [i<]wrong[/i<] place for a USB hub, 3.0 or otherwise.

      • Chrispy_
      • 5 years ago

      I dunno, rear-cluster is where keyboard/mouse and other low-bandwidth peripherals usually get connected.

      Front panel is where the action’s at – high-bandwidth copies to USB drives and latency-sensitive audio via USB headsets.

      I guess everyone will have their own opinion but if you had to have bandwidth and lowest-latency, I think most people would choose to have that at the front in the most accessible ports.

    • ronch
    • 5 years ago

    An AMD logo sitting next to an Intel socket? Now I’ve seen everything.

    • DarkMikaru
    • 5 years ago

    Newegg recently sent me this exact board for review. It’s amazing! I paired it with a Core i5 4670 & 16GB of Ram & a spare Samsung 840 Evo SSD and the thing screams. But I do agree, this board takes a lot of work to get it setup how you want. Primarily LAN drivers were giving me problems for some reason, still working through that. Could be Windows 7 not being happy, haven’t tested with 8.1 yet. Overall, its an amazing value, I still can’t get over all the SATA, USB3 & M.2 connectivity…. connectivity for days!

    And to geekl33tgamer, yeah.. PCI isn’t completely useless yet. Just built a basic AMD A4 based system for a client who last minute wanted wifi capability. Ordered a Rosewill PCI wifi card for 7.99… problem solved. But yeah, I think that is roughly it for PCI. Can’t imagine using it for anything else really.

      • Sargent Duck
      • 5 years ago

      And even then a PCIe wifi card is probably only $2 more…

        • DarkMikaru
        • 5 years ago

        True, but regardless I was looking for the cheapest internal wifi solution available and that was it. Seriously, the speed difference is nil anyway right? USB wifi for my clients is completely out of the question. People have kids, pets, carelessness…. that’s just asking for trouble.

      • Maxwel
      • 5 years ago

      Blacked out components-the point of which is? When ones vision starts to go, another word for black is invisible.

        • Wall Street
        • 5 years ago

        I think that is the point of blacked out components. When I look through the fan grills of my case, I would much rather just see darkness than see some motherboards that look like you dumped a bad of Skittles in your rig.
        It makes it slightly harder to assemble, but you do that with the case open under full light. However, once assembled, blacked out interiors look better if you don’t like to show of your PC internals.

    • Sargent Duck
    • 5 years ago

    VGA??
    PCI??

    I think all they’re missing is the PATA…

      • geekl33tgamer
      • 5 years ago

      PCI may be of use to a few. VGA should shuffle off though…

        • stoatwblr
        • 5 years ago

        If you _really_ need PCI, then drop $30 on a PCIe x1-> PCI adaptor.

        Startech have one as PEX1PCI1

        I haven’t used PCI in nearly a decade.

          • Deanjo
          • 5 years ago

          I’m curious, how many PCI-e cards do you have in your system?

            • Krogoth
            • 5 years ago

            Probably just the video cards because the southbridge drives nearly all of the peripherals a normal user would use (USB, audio, serial, PS/2 etc). Discrete non-video cards are a bit of anachronism in a modern desktop.

            PCI doesn’t make any sense for a new system build. That 10+ year old PCI sound card is already or going to to be phased out on the software end. Such is the life of planned obsolescence. Parallel, ISA and most serial guys know of your pain.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 5 years ago

        plenty of cheap projectors in offices, hotel conference rooms, churches, and anywhere else use VGA and composite/S-Video still. VGA has its uses for onboard video.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 5 years ago

          If the back-panel DVI port is DVI-I, it already includes the analog VGA pins. All that you need to support your ancient (or very foolish more recently purchased) non-digital display is a $4 adapter. There’s no need to stick an obsolete VGA port on the motherboard’s back panel.

            • Krogoth
            • 5 years ago

            Keep VGA port for troubleshooting stuff, that’s about it.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 5 years ago

            You don’t need a separate VGA port.
            [url<]http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814998101[/url<]

      • Wirko
      • 5 years ago

      Huh, yes. A number of Z97 boards have VGA, 2 x PCI and *that* other port that will help you take your trusty Epson dot matrix printer to the 22nd century. Gigabyte Z97X-SLI, for one.

      • Krogoth
      • 5 years ago

      They are filler slots, because there aren’t enough PCIe lanes provided by PCIe controllers to provide 1x-4x slots for everything. The board still needs to be fit the ATX form factor which calls for seven expansion slots. Notice how the PCI slots are next to slots that would normally be taken up by dual-slot coolers found on performance GPUs.

      Higher-end X79 boards do not even have PCI slots because the platform provides enough PCIe lanes to make all seven expansion into PCIe slots (1x-16x physically).

      • Umbragen
      • 5 years ago

      At least a serial, printer or PS/2 port aren’t sucking up valuable resources – those pci slots waste a pcie lane. What really pisses me off is the only board that gets it close to right isn’t sold in North America and Scan won’t ship it to me

      In fact, Scan is selling the Ranger and FrontBase for less than the Hero goes for in the US.

        • Krogoth
        • 5 years ago

        It is because there’s aren’t enough PCI lanes provided by normal Haswell/Broadwell platforms to make all of the slots PCIe. unless you you want everything to operate at 4x-2x PCIe mode when all of the PCIe slots are filled up.

          • Umbragen
          • 5 years ago

          I don’t care if some of the 7 available slots are left empty, lots of manufacturers do just that. What I want is at least one board that doesn’t waste lanes on pci sockets or Asmedia chips (or ‘Killer’ network chips for that matter). I don’t want to give up SATA ports to accommodate M.2 either. Even splitting the 16 pcie 3.0 lanes into a (x8,x4,x4) configuration is just a cheap way of filling a slot – 3-way Crossfire couldn’t possibly be so popular.

          There are 5 available pcie lanes (assuming the standard 6 SATA, 6 USB 3.0 and networking configuration), let me use them how I see fit.

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 5 years ago

            PCIe X4 could be useful for a RAID card.

      • NeelyCam
      • 5 years ago

      It was appropriately renamed, and is now called PITA

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