LGA1150 Motherboard Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3

3/19/2014 12:31:48 AM

Can a $133.02 motherboard keep up with the big guns?

Some of the best motherboards that have been through the Custom PC lab over the years have been budget models with a degree of overclocking prowess. After all, overclocking doesn’t necessarily require spending huge amounts of money; sometimes it’s about boosting your PC’s performance for as little money as possible. With many of our current favourite LGA1150 motherboards retailing for well over $166.28, Gigabyte has aimed a little lower with its GA-Z87-HD3, which retails for just $133.02.

Gigabyte GA-Z87-HD3

However, it certainly doesn’t look like your average budget offering; there’s no stark blue PCB and the VRMs even sport a large heatsink, rather than being left to fend for themselves. We have no complaints about the layout either. The 24-pin ATX, 8-pin EPS12V and USB 3 headers are all located right on the edge of the PCB, while the six SATA 6Gbps ports are tucked away in the lower right corner. Sadly, there are only four fan headers, and none of them is on the lower half of the PCB, but they’re all 3-pin or 4-pin compatible. On-board overclocking tools are pretty much non-existent too; there’s no on-board power or reset buttons and only a CMOS clear jumper to shout about, but at this price we can’t complain. The overall layout, therefore, is aided to some degree by the sparsely populated PCB, but we still have to compliment Gigabyte on a tidy arrangement. Our only criticism is that if you decide on a CrossFire setup (SLI isn’t supported), you’ll lose access to the two 1x PCI-E slots, which are located between the two 16x PCI-E graphics slots.

The lower 16x PCI-E slot is also limited to 4x speed, so make sure your single graphics card finds its way to the top one. However, there are a couple of PCI slots at the bottom of the GA-Z87-HD3, so you won’t be entirely stuck if you need to add a sound card, or if you want to carry some kit over from an older build. Speaking of audio, there’s no lavish noise-isolated sound card, such as the ones with Gigabyte’s Sniper range of motherboards – just a standard Realtek ALC892 8-channel on-board audio codec.

Meanwhile, all the six SATA 6Gbps ports are controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset, so they should be speedy. In addition to the on-board USB 3 header, there are also four USB 3 ports on the rear I/O panel, along with two USB 2 ports. As far as display outputs go, the only one missing is DisplayPort, with VGA, DVI and HDMI all present. There’s a single Gigabit LAN port too, and six audio ports, although the low price again manifests itself with the lack of a digital audio output.



In our Media Benchmarks, there was little to distinguish the GA-Z87-HD3 from more expensive motherboards. Its image editing score of 2,072 was on par with MSI’s Z87-G45 Gaming, which scored 2,081, and its video encoding score was only a little off the pace at 3,596 compared to 3,661 for the MSI board. However, you can also say the same for MSI’s similarly cheap Z87-G43. Thanks to an equally competitive multi-tasking score, the overall score of 2,437 was less than 30 points behind the Z87-G45 Gaming, although the top scoring Asus Maximus VI Formula managed a lofty 2,535. It lost little in terms of SATA 6Gbps speed either, with its read speed of 537MB/sec and write speed of 508MB/sec being a little slower than the top-scoring motherboards, but far from the slowest we’ve seen.

The GA-Z87-HD3’s EFI can be a little busy, confusing and laggy, especially with a mouse – it certainly isn’t as slick as the EFI systems found on MSI boards. However, the ability to customise the view with settings you use most frequently is handy, and all the tweaks you’ll need are well laid out, if a little cluttered at times. We set the absolute voltage to our usual 1.27V, but sadly, the GA-Z87-HD3 wasn’t able to handle our Intel Core i7-4770K at 4.7GHz here.


There was a little thermal headroom available, so we bumped up the vcore to 1.272 and increased the loadline calibration to its high setting. This still didn’t get an entirely stable system, so we had to drop down to 4.6GHz and keep the voltage at 1.27V. This was 100MHz lower than the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming’s top speed, but the same as the top 4.6GHz speed we saw with MSI’s similarly priced Z87-G43. Overclocking saw the image editing score climb from 2,072 to 2,445 and the video encoding score rocket from 3,596 to 4,341 with an overall score of 2,850. This put it just 26 points behind the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming, and 84 points ahead of the MSI Z87-G3, despite having an identical clock speed. There were a few frames per second lost in the minimum frame rates in our game tests, though, with 102fps in Skyrim being 3fps slower than the MSI Z87-G45 Gaming and 5fps off the fastest result, although the GA-Z87-HD3 was just 1fps slower in Shogun 2.


Gigabyte’s GA-Z87-HD3 offers all the essentials, including half-decent overclocking, a tidy layout and fast performance. Its EFI could do with being less busy, but once you find your way around, you’ll be pushing your CPU close to its limits in no time. However, it has a very close competitor in the form of MSI’s Z87-G43, which costs a similar amount of money. Both boards managed the same overclock, and both also omit SLI support and an S/PDIF output.

This makes it a close judgement call between the two boards – the MSI is slightly quicker at stock speed, while the Gigabyte is generally quicker when overclocked. However, the MSI’s slightly superior EFI system, and its slot layout, with one PCI-E 1x slot positioned above the top graphics card slot so you can still use it with two graphics cards installed, just gives it the edge. It’s very close, though, and if you can’t find the MSI board, you certainly won’t be disappointed with the Gigabyte Z87-HD3 either.



·         Chipset: Intel Z87

·         CPU Socket: intel LGA1150

·         Memory support: 4 slots: max 32GB DDR3 (up to 3,000 MHz)

·         Expansion slots: Two 16xPCI-E3, two 1xPCI-E, two PCI

·         Sound: Realtek ALC8928-channel

·         Networking: 1xgigabit LAN

·         Overclocking: Base clock 80-266MHz, CPU Multiplier 8 – 80, max voltages, CPU 1.8V, RAM 2.1V

·         Ports: 6xSATA 6 Gbps, 6 x USB 2 (Z87), 6 x USB 3 (Z8) 1x LAN, 4x surround audio out, line in, mic, S/PDIF out, HDMI, VGA, DVI

·         Dimensions (mm): 305 x 225

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