Earlier this year we took a look at the GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB, one of Gigabyte’s first motherboards for the Intel Z77 platform. It sported a few notable features, such as twin Wi-Fi antennae and LucidLogix Universal MVP support.
This month we tested an updated version that goes by the equally tongue-twisting title of GA-Z77X-UP5TH. Whilst the two models appear similar, the big selling point of the UP5TH is its pair of Thunderbolt ports.
Developed by Intel and brought into the mainstream market last year by Apple with their MacBook Pro lineup, Thunderbolt is a next-generation interconnection protocol which presently has twice the data transfer bandwidth of USB 3.0.
You can also do cool things with it like daisy-chain devices – such as external storage drives – something you can only do with USB by using a hub.
The Thunderbolt plugs are physically identical to, and backwards compatible with, DisplayPort. This means you can hook a DP monitor up to a Thunderbolt port with a standard DP cable, as well as use all existing accessories such as DP to HDMI adapters. The dual Thunderbolt ports on the UP5TH give you triple monitor support straight out of the box.
Unfortunately there aren’t any widely available Thunderbolt devices for the Windows platform as yet, so we’ve no performance figures to show you. Just consider this functionality as sensible future-proofing for now.
Gigabyte has also upgraded these motherboards from Ultra Durable 4 to Ultra Durable 5. This provides improved MOSFETs which it claims operate more efficiently and at lower temperatures, which in theory provides a more stable platform for overclocking and a longer lifespan for components.
Making a return on the UP5TH is Intel Smart Response Technology. This allows you to use up to 64GB of SSD space connected via either SATA or mSATA ports as a high-speed cache for your main OS drive. While this is great if you still use a mechanical hard drive as your main OS drive, I would imagine most people dishing out $500 for a high-end motherboard like this would more likely opt to spend another couple of hundred dollars for an SSD big enough to hold their OS, apps and games in the first place.
Other than those few things, not a lot has changed in this new board. All the other important stuff is still there: Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossfireX support, dual Wi-Fi antennae, Bluetooth 4.0, three SATA 6Gbps ports, four external USB 3.0 ports plus three internal headers, HDMI, DVI and VGA outputs, plus the crisp Realtek ALC898 audio chipset.
LucidLogix Virtu MVP makes another appearance, allowing you to combine the power of Intel’s on-chip GPU with a discrete graphics card. When we tested this technology previously, the results were all over the show – I personally wouldn’t bother with it.
In use it behaves much like any other Gigabyte Z77 motherboard, with a similar if not identical UEFI 3D BIOS, which easily overclocked my Intel Core i5-3570K CPU to 4.6GHz with a plethora of tweaking options that would probably take it a little bit higher.
All up, this is another winning board for Intel’s Ivy Bridge platform.