Gigabyte Z77X-UP5 TH Review
Gigabyte have made some interesting choices here at the I/O panel. Display wise we get legacy analog VGA (seriously who uses this in 2012), DVI-D as well as a HDMI connector, although the dual Thunderbolt ports can carry DisplayPort signals from the IGP too. Six USB ports are present (four of them USB 3.0), and are accompanied by a single eSATA and Gigabit Ethernet. Finally there are audio jacks for the onboard 7.1 channel sound system.
Gigabyte is the first motherboard vendor to integrate the Intel DSL3510L Cactus Ridge 4C host router, which offers two instead of one Thunderbolt port that we've seen on early offerings from ASUS and MSI.
The common trend on Z77 motherboards nowadays is to use the Intel 82579V PHY, considered by many to be streets ahead of junk from Realtek and Marvell.
Yet another recurring fixture is Realtek's ALC898 audio codec. Depending on electrical design and grounding, it can sound from borderline acceptable to great.
A VIA VL810 USB 3.0 hub is used to split the bandwidth of one upstream port (presumably of the native Z77 PCH) to four downstream ports.
At the other end of the board we see find SATA ports (white ones are 6Gb/s) serviced by the Z77 PCH, although one of the 3Gb/s ports will be disabled when the mSATA port is in use.
A Marvell 88SE9172 controller is deployed to provide for eSATA at the I/O panel and an additional SATA port (grey) at the bottom of the board, .
Slot layout on the Z77X-UP5 TH is fairly straightforward, with three PCIe x16 slots augmented by three PCIe x1 slots and a single legacy PCI slot. One area of concern is the positioning of the headers for the system casing, which will be a crisis of epic proportions if a graphics card is installed in the last x16 slot.
There is even a VIA VT6308P Firewire host controller to provide IEEE1394 support, which should cater for the video editing crowd.
A PLX PEX8505 switch is used provide enough lanes for the large number of controllers used on the motherboard.
When we look behind the board, we confirm that the three PCIe x16 slots are electrically capable of up to x16, x8 and x4. The back of the CPU socket area is free of any exposed I/Cs or soldering, which is a good thing to prevent any accidental shorts when installing heatsink retention brackets. One other thing we noted was that the PCB felt exceptionally thick, and it doesn't warp easily like most other boards.