A couple of months ago, we had reviewed the Asus Maximus V Extreme, a super high-end motherboard designed specifically for enthusiasts in mind who love pushing their hardware to the absolute limit. Gigabyte hasn’t really managed to tap into the enthusiast market so far. It has had some amount of success with its Sniper series, but some how, Asus’s R.O.G series has always been the weapon of choice for most DIY builders. All that could change with Gigabyte’s new uber high-end board called the GA-Z77Z-UP7. Before we dive into the bucket load of features, let’s have a look at the design and layout of its flagship board.
Design and build
The GA-Z77X-UP7 comes in a striking black and orange PCB design with good amount of spacing between components. The PCB does not have a lot of flex even after installing a large heatsink, which we liked. Gigabyte has left plenty of room around the CPU area as well, so installing a water cooling solution should not be a problem. The CPU bracket as well as all the heatpipes for the heatsinks feature an anodised plating, making it more resistant to the elements.
The rear panel ports include a total of six USB 3.0 ports, a PS2 keyboard and mouse combo port, VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, Optical SPDIF out, dual-Gigabit LAN jacks and finally, Realtek’s ALC898 audio codec for 7.1 channel audio. The flagship board also supports 4-way SLI and CrossFireX. Gigabyte has conveniently added a separate PCIe slot for single GPU usage as well. This connects directly to the CPU and bypasses the PLX chip so that there’s no latency issue whatsoever.
The 32-phase power for the CPU
As part of the bundle, the GA-Z77X-UP7 comes with a Bluetooth 4.0 and a dual-band Wi-Fi PCIe x1 card. The board also features dual UEFI BIOS as well as an onboard switcher for switching between them. This comes in handy when overclocking on an open testbench as you can quickly switch between the two BIOS chips in case one gets corrupted. Another new feature of the UP7 is the OC-Touch controls on the motherboard. These are physical switches for increasing or decreasing the CPU Ratio and BCLK as well as a dedicated switch in case you plan on using LN2 cooling. Like the Asus board, you can measure the voltages directly by using a power meter.
One of the highlights of this motherboard is the 32 phase power distribution along with 3 phases for the onboard graphics and 2 phases for the memory. The board also comes with Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 5 technology for more stable operation under heavy load. You now have UEFI BIOS as standard in the high-end series, but we didn’t find it as refined as Asus’s offering. While it is functional, the mouse movement is quite laggy, so you’re better off using the keyboard.
Probes for quickly monitoring the voltages
The board also features an mSATA connector onboard letting you connect an mSATA-based SSD for Intel ISRT and Rapid Start. Finally, we also have debug LEDs for quickly checking the status of the system or diagnosing problems. This being a fully blown Z77 chipset, you have full support for Ivy Bridge as well as Sandy Bridge CPUs, up to 32GB of RAM with a maximum supported frequency of 2400MHz, a total of 10 SATA ports and 6 fan headers onboard. Overall, it’s a pretty feature packed board and comes with all the accessories you would ever need, including a front panel USB 3.0 bracket.
- Processor: Intel Core i7-2600K
- Memory: G.Skill RipjawsX 8GB (4GB x 2 @1866MHz)
- Graphic card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
- SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
- Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro 1000W
- OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
The motherboard was quite stable out of the box except for a slight glitch with the CPU multiplier, which refused to scale up in Windows. Flashing it with the latest version sorted that out. The performance of the board is otherwise solid and this reflects very well in the benchmarks. In PCMark 7, we got an overall score of 5670, whereas 3DMark 11 gave us an overall score of 4678. The performance numbers were on par with the other boards we tested. In our real world tests, video encoding was done in under 21sec while POV-Ray completed in 13.8sec, which is really quick.
OC controls on the board
Verdict and Price in India
At Rs. 27,550, this is one expensive board and is right up there with Asus’s Maximus V Extreme offering. While both have a very similar feature set, we do feel Asus offers you a lot more in terms of enthusiast-grade features like the OC Key, for instance. However, this comes at a high price as well. Still, this is by far one of the best offerings from Gigabyte. And if you’re looking for an alternative to the Asus Maximus V, then this fits the bill very well.