Five Z87 Motherboards Under $220, Reviewed

Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H

In the balance between quality and features, Gigabyte’s $200 Z87X-UD4H appears to favor the former while still addressing the latter. We still find, for example, four extra USB 3.0 and four extra SATA ports split between internal and external connectors, but only two of those added-on SATA ports can be activated simultaneously.

The I/O panel also features separate VGA and DVI-D connectors, rather than using a DVI-I adapter block, in addition to the expected HDMI and DisplayPort outputs.

Similar compromises are found atop the board, from its older-but-adequate ALC898 audio codec to its four-lane PCIe 2.0 bottom slot. Using the chipset's PCIe connectivity for the bottom slot lets you drop in a card without stealing lanes from the graphics slots, but also makes the slot unsuitably slow for three-way CrossFire. And many builders are probably better-off treating it as an x1 slot, since enabling four-lane transfers requires the middle two x1 slots to be disabled.

Of course, one of those x1 slots will probably be covered by a graphics card anyway, since most of us favor powerful graphics engines.

Gigabyte shoves the Z87X-UD4H fairly hard towards the overclocking market with top-mounted power and reset buttons, a CLR_CMOS button, two BIOS switches, a POST code LED display, and a row of voltage rail detection points. The BIOS switches select single or dual BIOS mode, and which MOS is primary.

The company is still a bit proponent of its dual-BIOS functionality, and Gigabyte continues to do well with this technology. Anecdotally, though, I still remember the old days of swearing at the dual BIOS system, when a missed boot would cause the old backup ROM to overwrite the new one, when the old firmware wasn’t compatible with a new CPU. Recent improvements include a an automated request to update the backup MOS after rebooting from a primary MOS update, but users can still turn the feature off if desired.

Our only layout concerns are that owners of poorly-designed cases might have some difficulty getting their front-panel audio cables to reach the Z87X-UD4H’s bottom-rear corner header, and that its second USB 3.0 port is located too close to the third x16-length slot. If we pretend that bottom slot is incompatible rather than unworthy of a high-end graphics card, our second concern goes away.

The Z87X-UD4H installation kit is fairly basic, including only four SATA cables with an I/O plate and SLI bridge.

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  • Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.
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  • Someone Somewhere said:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Intel says it doesn't cherry-pick chips for reviewers...
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  • Thank you. I was looking forward for a review like this. I read some reviews and the o/c was varying from mobo to mobo lot. So if the same cpu was used, 4,3Ghz to 4,7Ghz is a lot of difference. Because if your cpu would o/c to 4,3Ghz most we would tell its a crap sample Haswell sucks on o/c etc etc, but if it was be able to clock to 4,7Ghz we would say its a nice sample.
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  • Someone Somewhere said:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel? Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.

    Yes, the CPU comes from Intel. Almost certainly it was cherry-picked. But this is why we didn't rely on these CPUs for our launch coverage--it makes a lot more sense to go to a source with hundreds of boxed processors on the bench to get a real sense for what Haswell will do in the wild. At least for this round-up, the variable changing is the motherboard. So, we derive as much meaning as possible with a review sample that hits 4.7 GHz on one board and 4.5 GHz on another.
    6
  • Yeah - but if people think that their chip is going to hit 4.7 on a good board, then find they can't get 4.5, they can be upset.

    OTOH, the launch coverage said that was at 1.2V, while this is 1.3V, so I guess a few hundred MHz extra is reasonable.

    Lot more variation than on IB's review: http://media.bestofmicro.com/X/O/335580/original/image019.png
    0
  • Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
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  • do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
    -1
  • JOSHSKORN said:
    Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
    Did you read the Haswell review? All current boards are affected, no future boards will be, there's nothing to update here, and the flaw is virtually meaningless.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-4770k-haswell-review,3521-9.html

    If you have one of the affected drives and can't be bothered to reconnect it when it goes offline, wait a couple weeks and buy a board from the new batch.

    The differences between boards in today's review are overclocking, power consumption, and onboard features. None of those things will change with the new PCH batch, and firmware updates should improve both batches equally.
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  • do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
    -3
  • Hello,
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
    -3
  • sna said:
    Hello, Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.


    Haswell does have another pair of USB3.0 ports... I agree though, it's kind of disappointing.
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  • I bought the MSI board. The features looked good to me for what I wanted. I was really looking at the ASRock boards until I found that they only have a 1 year warranty.

    Edit: ASRock has a 3 year warranty as I see now. Still happy with my choice when looking around the interwebz and seeing how people seem to really like the MSI board.
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  • ahh, the perfect review that I was looking for :)
    now only 2 things left to do:
    1. wait a few months to wait for the C2-revision to proliforate so that I don't have weird USB3.0 annoyance
    2. wait for a review on the high-end: z87 delux, sniper, M-power max, ROG extreme etc. just to see whether it's worth the price difference (at least to me )

    UPDATE:
    well, was hoping for slightly more out of MSI's gaming board, but it seems it can't fully satisfy the overclocker in me. still a damn nice board though. all in all it looks like once again ASUS and ASrock come out as the top players for this range. looking forward to seeing if a ROG Extreme is what I ultimately need/want :D
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  • Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?
    -8
  • sna said:
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.

    Since Haswell uses the same DMI2.0 bus between the CPU and chipset, total IO performance is capped to ~2GB/s... the equivalent of 4x USB3 ports or 3x SATA3 or one x4 PCIe 2.0 device.

    From what I read, the z77 and z87 chipsets are interchangeable - a motherboard manufacturer could pair z77 with Haswell or z87 with SB/IB if they wanted to. The main thing that prevented Intel from reusing LGA1155 is FIVR.
    2
  • slomo4sho said:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy!
    Chris
    1
  • sna said:
    Hello, Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
    Check InvalidError's valid answer, this is also mentioned in the article. 6-way RAID 0 might be useful for HDD's (I'd go RAID 10), but SSD's will simply overwhelm the DMI.

    But most users (even in the enthusiast market) don't do that anyway. There are very few "storage enthusiasts" in the general "performance enthusiast" market. And for most of us, having more than two SATA 6Gb/s ports simply means our storage drives won't use up the SATA 6Gb/s port needed for our system drive.

    I'd still like to see our storage guy add this controller to his next big article :)
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  • I agree with BigMack70; the new CPUs offer meaningless differences in actual use, but the motherboards certainly do, especially with their additional SATA 6Gb/s ports.
    It seems to me Asus teased something about a driver that would visually identify the location of sound sources on screen with [one of] their Z87 boards. Can you shed any light on this?
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  • cangelini said:
    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy! Chris


    I don't know who dropped the ball but the launch of Richland was today. It is available for sale on multiple retail sites including Newegg, Aria, and Microcenter.
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  • slomo4sho said:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    I didn't answer this earlier because I'm not a CPU editor. But since you're going on about bias, listen up: This was a motherboard review. Your comment has nothing to do with the topic, unless you can show me a new chipset upon which I can justify a roundup. Otherwise, the motherboard roundup you're requesting was published 8 months ago...http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html

    Now, if we can find a group of guys with a high interest in an FM2 update, that would create a market for the new motherboard article. Does anyone else want to chime in with their opinions on an FM2 update?
    0