Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H Mainboard - Not So Complicated LGA 115 Mainboard (Part 1)

8/9/2013 3:27:52 AM

There are many mainboards out there with a wide variety of controls on mainboard and a long list of features. Of course, more simple mainboards do exist and they are even more affordable, but such perfect one like the Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H really is a scarcity.

Due to our decision to add some entry-level models into a long list of Z77-based products, we started with the ASUS P8Z77-V LK mainboard review, and it would be natural when the next mainboard is one from Gigabyte, but what model exactly? The seemingly simple and understandable terms of Gigabyte’s mainboard, but sometime there are also difficulties. It is easy to classify models whose names start with “UP4”, “UP5” and “UP7”, but to understand the differences between two mainboards whose names end with “HD3” and “D3H” is somehow tricky (but differences in functionality do exist and they are quite considerable). Anyway, we plan to share with you the information about one of them, which is called Gigabyte GA-Z77_D3H.

This model does not have any counterpart among product from ASUS. On one hand, like the ASUS P8Z77-V LK that we reviewed on, an additional controller is built in it to implement two back-panel USB 3.0 ports and this device confines in the ability of Intel Z77 Express chipset otherwise. On the other hand, it does not use the chipset’s ability to have the CPU-integrated PCIe lanes split between two slots like ASUS P8Z77-V LX. The simpler Intel Z75 Express chipset seems to be used for the same function, but it is not so. Although there is no manufacturer, even Gigabyte, producing any product that goes with the rather useless Z75 Express chipset, the GA-Z77_D3H features an important function that would not be possible with it. This important function and other features would be clarified in this review, but first of all, let’s have a look over the product’s packaging and accessories.

Packaging and accessories

What we can see here is a traditional packaging style of Gigabyte. There is the model’s name and some symbols representing the ability and technology applied in the mainboard on the front side of the box. On the back side you will see a photo with a list of basic which describe visually the main features of the mainboard.

Gigabyte’s traditional packaging style

Gigabyte’s traditional packaging style

Wrapping around the mainboard inside the box is an additional antistatic pack. A sheet of cardboard separates the box into two compartments and above the mainboard we see these following accessories:

·         Four SATA cables with metal connector locks, half with two L-shaped locks and another half with one straight and another L-shaped lock. Tow cables are specifically designed for 6 Gbps devices (black);

·         I/O Shield for the back panel;

·         User manual;

·         Brief installation guide in different languages;

·         DVD disk with software and drivers;

·         “Gigabyte” logo sticker for the system case.

The user manual

The user manual

Special cables for SATA 6 Gbit/s devices are usually seen with ASUS mainboards only (with white inserts on the connectors), but we came across such cables coming with Gigabyte products as well. To be honest, the difference between the special 6 Gbit/s cables and the ordinary ones is still unknown for us. Their looks are just the same, except for the colors, and using the same 26AWG wires, but a 6 Gbit/s label is found on the black cables while there is not any on the blue ones.

Design and PCB features

Gigabyte has just chosen black as the main color for its senior mainboard for years. We are not really happy with that change because it lost the originality, as we can find black mainboards from many different brands but Gigabyte mainboards have become the unique and recognizable when carrying blue. The products also look very gloomy and less informative on the black background. Recently, Gigabyte planned to use colors, black and gray, to distinguish memory slots belonging to different controller channels, but the expansion slots are still painted black. Of course, the mainboard’s features are not at all affected by the colors of a PCB and slots, but these colors do leave first impression. Therefore we can accept this.

The first impression from Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H is different, however. Its typical combination between white and blue is really pleasant for an entry-level product.

The mainboard has a digital power system

The mainboard has a digital power system

A digital power system is built in the mainboard. It is called 3D Power and is functioned of controlling the voltage on the CPU as well as on the CPU-integrated graphics core accurately and flexibly. There is also an additional heatsink, which is secured by screws, covering some of the hot components of that system. Applied Gigabyte’s Ultra Durable 4 Classic technology, the mainboard is protected from the rise of temperature, voltage, electrostatic discharges and humidity. The Ultra Durable 4 Classic version is lack of the double-thickness copper interconnects.

Intel Z77 Express chipset’s ability is not used for sharing the CPU-integrated PCIe lanes between graphics slots, and Gigabyte just provides one PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slot for a discrete graphics card (it always works at its maximum speed of x16). This mainboard does not support NVIDIA SLI, but a multi- GPU configuration can still be built using the AMD CrossFireX and the second PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (which just works in x4 mode and disables the PCIe 2.0 x1 slot). For expansion cards, there are also two additional slots.

Intel Z77 Express chipset’s ability is not used for sharing the CPU-integrated PCIe lanes between graphics slots

Intel Z77 Express chipset’s ability is not used for sharing the CPU-integrated PCIe lanes between graphics slots

There is no additional disk controllers for the mainboard, so two SATA 6 Gbit/s (painted white) and four SATA 3 Gbit/s (painted blue) ports of the mainboard rely on the chipset. A red sticker on the mainboard is for warning you that the fifth SATA 3 Gbit/s is not available if mSATA connector placed between the CPU socket and the graphics slots is used. A free mSATA slot is provided in most of Gigabyte mainboards with Intel 7 series chipset. That feature, or a special advantage, allows installing a small SSD and activating the Intel Smart Response technology to accelerate your hard drive’s speed using the SSD as its cache. Of course, you can use the mSATA SSD individually or instead, activate the Intel Rapid Start technology. By the way, this explains why the Intel Z75 would not work here. It just supports the Intel Smart Response. We would like to tell you, as a side note, that this feature is also provided by the GA-H77-D3H and GA-H77-D3H-MVP models by using the Intel H77 Express chipset.

The mainboard does not have additional disk controller

The mainboard does not have additional disk controller

GigabyteGA-Z77-D3H is typically equipped with two BIOS chips. The way that the DualBIOS technology is implemented is only one chip is used when other serves as a backup copy only. After that, four 4-pin fan connectors are spotted on the charts. That is another special feature of Gigabyte’s products, which is the ability of controlling the 3-pin fans that is no longer available in most of other mainboards. Among the rest 3 connectors, only one which is labeled SYS_FAN1 can lower the speed of a 3-pin fan. One inaccurate thing should be noted in the picture that it shows ordinary latches on the graphics slots, but what are used to equip the latter ones are the broad and handy ones. Our revision is a 1.1 sample while you may meet a GA-Z77_D3H revision 1.0 which has the same look and functionality. The graphics slot latches and the fact that ATX12V power connector is 4-pin rather than 8-pin might be the only significant differences.

Gigabyte GA-Z77-3H rev. 1.0

Gigabyte GA-Z77-3H rev. 1.0

The back side of the mainboard will includes these following connectors:

·         Universal PS/2 connector for mouse or keyboard;

·         Four USB 2.0 ports, another six are available as three onboard pin-connectors;

·         D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI video Outs;

·         Four USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors), two of which are built via Etron EJ168 controller, and another two including one internal onboard pin-connector for two more USB 3.0 ports  were implemented through the Intel Z77 Express chipset;

·         A local network port (network adapter is built on Atheros AR8161 Gigabit network controller);

·         Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel VIA VT2021 codec.

The back panel of the mainboard

The back panel of the mainboard

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