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Closer Look at Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH comes in a large beautiful white box with a lot of logotypes of all kinds on the front side of the package.

The back of the box bears the mainboard photo, a brief list of technical specifications and illustrations explaining some of the peculiarities of this specific model.

The package has a colorful external slip-cover made of thin cardboard, which covers a thick and sturdy internal box. The mainboard inside is wrapped into an anti-static bag and is additionally secured inside a second cardboard packaging. Beneath the board all the bundled accessories are carefully arranged inside a multi-sectional tray.

The complete list of included accessories contains the following items:

  • Six SATA cables with metal connector locks, half with L-shaped locks and another half with straight ones;
  • A flexible bridge for Nvidia 2-Way SLI graphics configurations;
  • W-Fi/Bluetooth kit;
    • Gigabyte GC-WB300D PCI-E Wi-Fi/Bluetooth card;
    • Two Wi-Fi antennas;
    • USB 2.0 cable;
    • Manual with assembly and installation instructions;
    • DVD-disk with software and drivers;
  • I/O Shield for the back panel;
  • A module with two USB 3.0 ports for the 3-inch bay of the system case;
  • User manual;
  • Brief installation guide in different languages;
  • DVD disk with software and drivers;
  •  “Gigabyte” logo sticker for the system case.

I can’t help pointing out the USB 3.0 module for the 3-inch bay of the system case. But it is the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth kit that makes Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH mainboard really stand out among other products. This kit is exactly the same as the kit that comes with Gigabyte G1.Sniper 3 and Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB WIFI mainboards. Its primary component is Gigabyte GC-WB300D discrete PCI Express card based on mini PCI-E Atheros AR5B22 solution. It is a dual-band (2.4 and 5 GHz) Wi-Fi adapter that supports IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n and is combined with a Bluetooth 4.0 adapter.

The digital 3D Power voltage regulator circuitry on Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH powers not only the processor, but also its integrated graphics core, as well as memory. The heating components are covered with two heatsinks connected with a heatpipe. Another heatpipes connects them with the heatsink on the chipset. All heatsinks are fastened with screws. There are two plates on the back of the board that provide additional cooling and protection for the voltage regulator components.

The board is designed using “Ultra Durable 5” technology, which includes all the peculiarities typical of the previous-generation Gigabyte mainboards: 2X copper PCB, high-quality electronic components, protection against overheating and voltage fluctuations, as well as against static and excessive humidity. The major improvement that made this the fifth generation of Ultra Durable technologies is the use of more advanced and upgraded electronic components. One and a half years ago, when LGA 1155 platform had just been launched, Gigabyte started using Driver MOSFET in the processor voltage regulator circuitries of their mainboards. Two MOSFETs and a control unit were combined into a single chip, which produced numerous benefits including smaller space taken by these chips on the PCB and better overall chip characteristics. Voltage regulators on Ultra Durable 5 mainboards are built with International Rectifier IR3550 PowIRstage chips, which are built according to the same principles, but boast better parameters. Their superb efficiency makes them consume less power, dissipate less heat and work under heavy loads.

The expansion cards on Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH can go into one PCI slot, three PCI Express 2.0 x1 and three PCI Express x16 graphics card slots. The slots may work as 1x16, 2x8 or x8+x4+x4, but the third slot will only work with Ivy Bridge processors, which is mentioned on the sticker right next to it. The distinguishing feature of Gigabyte mainboards on Intel Z77 Express chipset is an mSATA slot combined with one of the four SATA 3 Gbps chipset ports as stated by another warning sticker on the PCB.

The Intel Z77 Express chipset delivers support for two SATA 6 Gbps ports (white connectors) and four SATA 3 Gbps ports (black connectors). There is a gray SATA 6 Gbps port close by, which is implemented via the additional Marvell 88SE9172 controller. The second port implemented using the same controller is laid out as an eSATA 6 Gbps on the back panel.

Overall, we find the following ports and connectors in the back:

  • D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and two mini DisplayPort (Thunderbolt)video Outs;
  • Four USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Intel Z77 Express and two VIA VL810 hubs. Three internal pin-connectors provide support for additional six USB 3.0 ports;
  • Two USB 2.0 ports, four more are available as onboard pin-connectors;
  • One eSATA 6 Gbps port implemented via Marvell 88SE9172 controller providing one internal SATA 6 Gbps connector;
  • One local network port (network adapter is built on Intel 82579V Gigabit network controller);
  • Two Thunderbolt ports implemented via Intel DSL3510L controller;
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC898 codec.

The next picture demonstrates a truly impressive number of devices that can be connected to Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH due to the availability of two Thunderbolt ports.

Looks great, although Thunderbolt devices haven’t become that widely spread yet. Even a single Thunderbolt connector is currently almost useless and will only be put to good use as time goes by. As many as two Thunderbolt ports definitely make Gigabyte mainboards stand out among other products with only one such port, but this additional port takes away some of the precious backpanel space, which is always in shortage. As a result, the mainboard does have IEEE1394 (FireWire) support with the additional VIA VT6308P controller, but there was no space on the back panel for a corresponding port, and only one port out of two provided by this controller is actually available as an onboard pin-connector.

Intel DSL3510L controller that delivers Thunderbolt support to Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH requires as many as four PCI Express lanes. To ensure that all additional controllers and expansion cards will work fine, Gigabyte resorted to PLX PEX 8605 hub that provides the additional PCI-E lanes. The board has Power On, Reset and Clear CMOS buttons, a POST-code indicator, special voltage control points for manual voltage monitoring and two independent BIOS chips. There is a two-way switch that allows choosing a BIOS chip, which will be indicated with a glowing LED next to it, once active. Moreover, I would like to point out that the graphics card slots now have very wide and convenient lock-latches and the memory DIMM slots got their color coding back.

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