Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4-TH

11/6/2012 2:06:08 AM

Thunderbolt hits the mainstream, and it's attached to a good board too

It was way back in 2009 that Intel first demonstrated its Thunderbolt interface (then known as Light Peak), boasting that it would become a single unifying standard for everything, from storage to networking and displays. Now, in the third quarter of 2012, the first products based on the standard are finally making it to Windows-based desktop PCs. One such product is the GA-Z77X-UP4H-TH.

Description: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4-TH
Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP4-TH

There's a lot to like about the UP4H. For a start, it looks simply brilliant-its matt-black PCB exudes menace, and the gun metal heat sinks dotted across it also look the part, thanks to their subtle blue highlights and mottled finish.

Its specs sheet also makes impressive reading, as the board not only boasts two of the aforementioned Thunderbolt ports, but also a full bevy of display outputs, enough USB 3 ports to sink a battleship and three 16x PCI-E3 slots. Multi-GPU enthusiasts should wait a moment before reaching for their credit cards; however, as unlike the pair of high-end boards we saw last month, the UP4H doesn't sport a PLX splitting chip. This means that the 16 PCI-E 3 lanes provided by the processor are all you have, so the second and third slots are limited to four lanes each.

Potentially of far more import to most people is the fact that the UP4H is also one of the first Gigabyte boards to feature the firm's new Ultra Durable 5 technology, denoted by the UP suffix.

This brings a number of new power features, including improved VRM circuitry. Gigabyte has drafted in International Rectifier's IR3550 PowIR stage ICs, which are specifically designed to run as efficiently as possible. In theory, this should mean that less of the power passing through the ICs gets lost as heat, so they'll run cooler.

With less power being lost, this should also allow the use of lower voltages when overclocking, something which should in turn make an overclocked Ivy Bridge CPU run cooler. The UP4H also uses high-current 60A-rated ferrite core chokes - a move that Gigabyte claims improves efficiency and reduces the heat output of the VRMs even further.

Outside of Ultra Durable 5, however, the UP4H could be criticized for looking a little skinny in terms of overclocking features, especially given that it costs $258.5. It lacks on-board power and reset buttons, for example, and there's no rear-mounted CMOS reset switch or POST code read-out either, all of which are toted by the Asus Maximus V Gene.

The use of lower voltages when overclocking should in turn make an overclocked ivy bridge CPU run cooler


Out of the box, the UP4H proved to be quick in our benchmarks, although it lagged behind our current recommended Z77 board, the Asus Maximus V Gene, by a 1-2 percent in all our Media Benchmarks tests. This added up to a difference of 77 points between the two boards' overall scores, a small difference that's barely noticeable in everyday use.

This was also the case with gaming, with both boards producing almost identical results in our Shogun 2: Total War test.

Description: There’s decent selection of ports on the back, although a clear CM OS button is notably absent
There’s decent selection of ports on the back, although a clear CM OS button is notably absent

With the stock-speed testing out of the way, we moved on to overclocking the Gigabyte board to see what its fancy new VRM circuitry could really deliver. This meant navigating the UP4H's EFI, which is relatively well laid out; the only niggle was the fact that the CPU frequency and voltage settings are on different pages. This means that you have to travel back and forth if you're fine-tuning an overclock.

After a few minutes of poking around, we had our test CPU running at its maximum 4.8GHz. Intriguingly, the UP4H only required a vcore of 1.3V to achieve this overclock - less than the 1.34V required by the Maximus V Gene and miles better than the 1.37Vwehadto pump into Gigabyte's own Z77X-UD5H.

This adds some credence to the company s claims that its new VRMs are more efficient than those used previously. The core temperature was also a very reasonable 81oC at these settings.

Out of curiosity, we also pushed our CPU up to 4.9GHz briefly to see if Gigabyte's VRM circuitry could make this otherwise unstable overclock hold, but as usual, the CPU crashed during the video editing portion of our Media Benchmarks.

With the overclocked CPU, the UP4H performed brilliantly, even outstripping the Maximus V Gene to romp home with a Media Benchmarks score of 2,849 a new Z77 record, albeit only by 10 points.

Gaming performance also saw an appreciable jump, although it wasn't enough to distinguish the board from the competition.


Gigabyte's new Ultra Durable5technology enabled us to overclock our CPU to 4.8GHz with a vcore of just 1.3V

There are three PCI-E graphics slots, but no PLX splitter chip, so the bottom two only get four lanes each

Description: If you're building a new overclocked PC and want more expansion space, we heartily recommend the UP4H.
If you're building a new overclocked PC and want more expansion space, we heartily recommend the UP4H.

The lack of a POST code reader, or on-board power and reset buttons, makes the board look a little skinny in terms of overclocking features

There's a lot to recommend the GA-Z77X-UP4-TH. It looks great, overclocks well and its new-fangled VRMs have tangible benefits. The only issue is that the Asus Maximus V Gene now costs $242, and has more overclocking hardware features. That said, the Gene is micro-ATX, so it isn't for everyone. If you're building a new overclocked PC and want more expansion space, we heartily recommend the UP4H.


Cool running:

Stunning looks; premium components; overclocks well

Kool & the gang:

Thunderbolt yet to fully take off; pricey





SKU number:



Intel Z77

CPU support:

LGA1155 Core i3, Core i5, Core i7, Pentium and Celeron

Memory support:

4slots: max32GBDDR3 (3,200MHz)

Expansion slots:

3 x 16xPCI-E3slot (one 16x, two8x orone8xandtwo4x), one PCI, three1xPCI-E2 Sound HD Audio via Realtek ALC892


Realtek Gigabit Ethernet


C PU clock 80 -133MHz, CPU Multiplier 16 - 63; max voltages, CPU 1.85V, RAM 2.8V PLL2.2V


4xSATA3Gbps, 2x SATA6Gbps, 1 x mSATA 3Gbps, 1xPS/2,8xUSB3, 6 x USB 2, LAN, 2 x Thunderbolt, 4xsurround audio out, line-in, mic, optical S/PDIF out, DVI, D-Sub, HDMI

Dimensions (mm):

305x 244 (ATX)

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