Review: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB
- — 12 July, 2012 22:00
|Name||Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB|
|At a glance:||Ivy Bridge Z77 chipset, Socket 1155 (Intel),ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm,LucidLogix Universal MVP,VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs,USB 3.0, SATAIII, PCI-E 3.0, mSATA, WiFi, Bluetooth|
|Summary:||The MVP software might be a bit of a flop but that takes nothing away from this stellar motherboard.|
Out of the half-dozen or so motherboards that Gigabyte has released for Intel’s Ivy Bridge platform, the GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB is one of the most feature-packed (second only to the G1 Sniper 3).
The most headline-grabbing feature of the GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB would be LucidLogix Universal MVP support. This technology allows you to leverage the benefits of both onboard and discrete GPUs, meaning you can switch between onboard and discrete graphics without swapping cables around or fluffing around with drivers. The benefit of this is you can use the power-efficient graphics processor built into an Ivy Bridge CPU for visually undemanding tasks such as surfing the web or editing documents, and then the system will automatically engage the high-power discrete graphics card when you fire up a 3D game.
It also means you can utilise Intel’s QuickSync technology for rapid video encoding without having to disable your discrete graphics card first, which will be handy for some. This feature has been around on laptops for a while but this is the first desktop implementation.
Lastly, MVP adds two gaming features called HyperFormance and Virtual VSync. HyperFormance increases in-game frame rates by getting the onboard GPU to analyse what the discrete GPU is doing and eliminate redundant tasks, along with other various technical efficiency improvements. Virtual VSync on the other hand is supposed to improve responsiveness by not locking the in-game frame rate to the refresh rate of your monitor whilst removing screen tearing (normal VSync removes tearing as well but locks frame rate and refresh rate which can cause image stuttering).
In practice I was actually rather unimpressed by the MVP technology. Firstly, it was a pain in the neck to set up: you have to install drivers and applications in a precise order or it won’t work.
Secondly, I could take or leave the switchable graphics option – personally, I don’t consider it a big deal unless you have battery life to consider.
Finally, the HyperFormance and Virtual VSync performance results were all over the place (see below). Granted we tested this across only three game titles, but the technology should work consistently – who wants to spend hours benchmarking every game they play to see if they are getting a performance improvement or taking a performance hit?
MVP Technology Performance
Benchmark Result (Frames Per Second)
|DiRT 3||High 0xAA||118||92||120||92|
|Trackmania Nations Forever||Very High 8xAA||83||81||100||72|
|Battlefield 3||High 0xAA||67||55||67||57|
Moving on, the GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB features a proprietary Gigabyte 3D UEFI BIOS which is good for two things. One: it has a full-colour graphical interface which you can use your mouse to navigate through, and two: coupled with an installation of Windows 8 Consumer Preview it reduces operating system boot times to a mere handful of seconds. It was so fast in fact that my Windows 8 build on my clunky old SATAII 7200RPM hard drive booted up quicker than my state-of-the-art SATAIII SSD running Windows 7.
The UEFI BIOS also packs an endless amount of frequency and voltage options for tinkerers and overclockers, as well as having a backup BIOS ROM in case you brick the main one.
You also get Intel Smart Response Technology which allows you to use a small, fast SSD to act as a cache for a large, slow HDD. This results in SSD-like system responsiveness combined with plentiful storage. You can connect this SSD via a standard SATA port or the mSATA connector for smaller 1.8-inch drives.
Combine all this with USB 3.0, SATAIII, 12 phase power design with digital voltage/frequency/phase control, the ability to connect up to three monitors without needing a discrete graphics card, SLI/Crossfire support, dual Wi-Fi antennae, PCI Express 3.0 support and a disc full of Gigabyte’s tried-and-true overclocking and system monitoring utilities, and you get one hell of a motherboard.