Articles: Mainboards
 

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PCB Design and Functionality

A few years ago Gigabyte switched to black as the color of its premium mainboards. We didn't like that change since black lacked originality. Black mainboards can be found from different brands whereas blue had been the unique and easily recognizable color of Gigabyte. Black also makes the product look rather gloomy and less informative. It is only recently that Gigabyte began to differentiate memory slots belonging to different controller channels as black and gray, but expansion slots remain all black. Of course, the color of a PCB and slots doesn't affect a mainboard's functionality. It only helps create the first impression, so we can put up with it.

The first impression from the Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H is different, though. Being an entry-level product, it still pleases the eye with Gigabyte's very own blue-and-white color scheme.

The mainboard has a digital power system, called 3D Power, which lets you flexibly and accurately control voltage on the CPU as well as on the CPU-integrated graphics core. Some of the hot components of that system are covered with an additional heatsink which is secured with screws. Featuring Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 4 Classic technology, the mainboard has protection against high temperature, voltage surges, electrostatic discharges and high humidity. The Classic version of the Ultra Durable 4 technology lacks double-thickness copper interconnects.

The Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H doesn’t use the ability of the Intel Z77 Express to share CPU-integrated PCIe lanes between graphics slots and only offers one PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 slot for a discrete graphics card (it always works in full-speed x16 mode). NVIDIA SLI is not supported but you can build a multi-GPU configuration by using AMD CrossFireX and the second PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (which only works in x4 mode and disables the PCIe 2.0 x1 slots). There are also two PCI slots for expansion cards.

The mainboard has no additional disk controllers, so its two SATA 6 Gbit/s (white-colored) and four SATA 3 Gbit/s (blue-colored) ports are based on the chipset. A red sticker on the mainboard warns you that the fifth SATA 3 Gbit/s is going to be unavailable if you use the mSATA connector located between the CPU socket and the graphics slot. There are quite a lot of Gigabyte mainboards with Intel 7 series chipsets that offer a free mSATA slot. It is a special feature and advantage as it allows to install a small SSD and enable Intel Smart Response technology to accelerate your hard disk by using the SSD as its cache. Of course, an mSATA SSD can also be used individually or you can enable Intel Rapid Start technology instead. However, Intel Smart Response is the most useful and demanded capability for the mSATA slot. That’s why the simpler Intel Z75 Express wouldn’t do here, by the way. It just doesn’t support Intel Smart Response. As a side note, we can tell you that the GA-H77-D3H and GA-H77-D3H-MVP mainboards also offer this functionality by using the Intel H77 Express chipset.

Typically for Gigabyte, the GA-Z77-D3H is equipped with two BIOS chips. The DualBIOS technology is implemented in such a way that only one chip is in use while the other serves as a backup copy. Then, we can spot four 4-pin fan connectors on the chart. It is another special feature of Gigabyte products that they retain the ability to regulate 3-pin CPU fans which most other mainboards have lost already. Among the other three connectors, only the one labeled SYS_FAN1 can lower the speed of a 3-pin fan. We can note one inaccuracy about the picture. It shows ordinary latches on the graphics slots but the latter are actually equipped with broad and handy ones. Well, ours is a revision 1.1 sample while you may meet a Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H revision 1.0 which looks almost the same and has the same functionality. The only notable differences are the graphics slot latches and that the ATX12V power connector is 4-pin rather than 8-pin.


Gigabyte GA-Z77-3H rev. 1.0

We can see the following connectors occupying the mainboard's back panel:

  • 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.

For your convenience we summed up all the technical specifications of the Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H mainboard in the following table:

 

 
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