Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

Gigabyte mainboards based on Intel’s 8 series chipsets feature the Ultra Durable 5 Plus set of technologies whose badge and constituents are indicated on the front of the product box. Ultra Cool is a reference to the new design of the heatsinks which ensure efficient cooling for key mainboard components. Depending on the particular model, it can be passive, active or liquid cooling. Ultra Performance refers to the use of PWM controllers and PowIRstage regulators from International Rectifier in the mainboard’s digital voltage regulator. Ultra Safe means the exclusive DualBIOS technology whereas Ultra USB3+ refers to the ten USB 3.0 ports available on the mainboard. Besides the mentioned four Ultra technologies, Ultra Durable 5 Plus includes a lot of other features such as long-lasting solid-state capacitors, short circuit and electrostatic discharge protection, double-thickness copper interconnects, and resistance to high humidity.

Gigabyte mainboards used to be easily identifiable by their traditional white-and-blue color scheme. This coloring has only been used on entry-level models lately, and now it seems to have been abandoned altogether. Like other Gigabyte products based on Intel’s 8 series chipsets, the GA-Z87X-D3H has a black PCB. The somewhat gloomy and unexciting appearance of the mainboard is only enlivened by the silver-blue heatsink trims.

The mainboard is compatible with all modern LGA1150 processors. Its voltage regulator components are covered with heatsinks which, like the chipset heatsink, are secured with screws. The four memory slots can take in up to 32 gigabytes of DDR3 SDRAM, working at frequencies up to 2933 MHz. The mainboard offers six SATA 6 Gbit/s connectors thanks to the Intel Z87 chipset and doesn’t have any additional SATA controllers. The two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots can share 16 CPU-based PCIe lanes as x8/x8 and support multi-GPU configurations in Nvidia SLI or AMD CrossFireX mode. Additionally, there is a PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot which uses the chipset’s PCIe lanes and works at x4 speed. The number of chipset-based PCIe lanes being limited, you can use either it or the three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots. The three PCI Express x16 slots are all equipped with broad and handy latches. Besides the mentioned slots, the mainboard offers a PCI slot for expansion cards.

The following connectors can be found on the mainboard’s back panel:

  • Universal PS/2 connector for mouse or keyboard;
  • Two USB 2.0 ports, another four are available as two onboard pin-connectors;
  • D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI video Outs;
  • Six USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) implemented via Intel Z87 chipset functionality and two Renesas uPD720210 splitters; another four additional USB 3.0 ports  are laid out as two onboard pin-connectors;
  • A local network port (network adapter is built on Intel WGI217V Gigabit network controller);
  • Optical S/PDIF and five analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC892 codec.

Interestingly, it is thanks to two Renesas uPD720210 splitters that the mainboard offers as many as ten USB 3.0 ports. So, every port works out-of-box without any limitations or additional drivers. In the photos of the mainboard you can note that one of the onboard USB 3.0 headers is covered with a cap. Such caps are also used to protect the back-panel video outputs (D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI) against dust. A typical feature of Gigabyte mainboards, there are two BIOS chips here. The DualBIOS technology is implemented in such a way that the user works with only one BIOS chip while the other serves as a backup copy. All of the onboard connectors are the same black color, so you can only differentiate them by their labels on the PCB or inside the connectors themselves. There are now not one but two CPU fan connectors, which may come in handy for dual-fan CPU coolers or liquid cooling systems where you have to connect both the fan and the pump. Both can regulate 3-pin fans, which is not typical of modern mainboards.

You can see the specifications of the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H in the summary table. Clicking on it will open a comparative table with specifications of all previously tested mainboards (it is only one ASUS Z87-K as yet).


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