Gigabyte Z87 Haswell Motherboard Round-Up

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UEFI and Overclocking

More than any other aspect of its Z87 mainboards, the area that Gigabyte has invested the most in is cleaning up its previously lack-luster UEFI BIOS. This has been our primary (and one of our only) complaints about the last couple of generations of Gigabyte motherboards. Today, that has changed for the better...



The company was late to the game as the rest of the industry migrated away from AWARD BIOSes and developed graphically rich UEFIs that offered keyboard and mouse support and are generally easier to use. As a result, Gigabyte rushed its 3D BIOS out the door, and it showed. Their UEFI was slow, glitchy, and just overall poorly executed.

  

That’s all different now, and actually, instead of trying to fix its older 3D BIOS, Gigabyte chucked it wholesale and started from scratch. The result is a UEFI BIOS that’s at least as good as any other motherboard maker’s, and it offers some slick features all its own.

  

There are some “neat” features such as the ability to change the look of your UEFI background through opting for a different color scheme or actually loading in a photo of your own, but the overall look of the new BIOS is a huge step up from where it was. The main dashboard view gives you an overview of the whole system without offering a neutered easy mode, and it’s fairly easy to find your way around. The tabs are organized well and contain more or less what you expect them too--and offer more granular configuration options in some cases that you might expect.

  

Further along the road toward greater personalization and customization, Gigabyte’s new UEFI offers shortcuts to some of the most-used items such as loading defaults, performance adjustments, etc., but you can create and edit your own shortcuts, too.

  

In general, the new UEFI is smoother, prettier, and gives users more options for how they want to tweak their systems. You can enter in numbers to set parameters, but you can also drag a slider or select a preset from a drop-down menu. You can also create your own customized tab o’ goodies with all your preferred menu items all in one space.



But for all the good work that Gigabyte has done here, there are some odd features that are a bit confusing and just seem unnecessary and cumbersome. For example, you can switch from the new UEFI to the old one; press F2, and there you are, in the old and not-that-great UEFI. It just seems confusing.

  

  

  

Still, the new look and feel of the BIOS is far superior than anything Gigabyte has attempted before; the company finally has a mature UEFI for its users.

  

BIOS Overclocking Features and Results

As is the case these days with major manufacturers, Gigabyte offers a host of ways to adjust your system’s settings, including two different UEFI BIOS environments, desktop software, and in some cases (such as the OC Force), hardware buttons on the PCB.

For our purposes, we stuck with the UEFI to make our adjustments. We toyed with the CPU multiplier and BCLK and left settings such as voltages, memory timings, and fans on auto for simplicity’s sake, and to ensure the overclocks we achieve here will be attainable by most of you. A skilled overclocker (or a novice with mountains of time on his hands) could tweak and tweak and tweak and get better performance out of these motherboards--there are certainly enough parameters and granular settings to be manipulated. We also used a Corsair A70 dual-fan CPU cooler as opposed to a little stock fansink or a liquid cooler.

The three Gigabyte motherboards delivered similar results, and they did so in a tight but ordered manner. The Z8X-UD4H did its best work at 4.61GHz (x46 multiplier, 100.1 BCLK), while the G1Sniper 5 did a hair better with a BCLK of 100.25 (x46) and the Z87X-OC Force did a touch better than that at a BCLK of 100.5 (x46). All three were pushing high temperatures in the mid-90s at those levels, and beyond that they started throttling. It’s noteworthy that they almost never BSODed even at those extreme levels but the throttling was enough to tell us that we hit our limit, at least with air cooling.

With a liquid cooler and some additional tinkering, we’re certain you could get more out of each of these boards. Overclockers will not be disappointed.
 

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