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Z87 Hits The High End: Four Sub-$300 Motherboards

Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H

Gigabyte makes no pretense of feature-based dominance with its Z87X-UD5H, instead focusing on the basics and delivering a handful of extra features at the bottom of this round-up’s $220 to $300 price range. We’ve even spotted the board for $10 bucks less than our $220 lower limit!

That means we don’t get Asus’ 802.11ac Wi-Fi controller or ASRock’s PCIe 2.0 switch, though the Z87X-UD5H is the only model in this story to add a second GbE controller. Enthusiasts also get a plethora of CPU- and chipset-supported features. Gigabyte even adds an extra HDMI output to its I/O panel, possibly saving you from needing a DVI-to-HDMI adapter.

Not that the Z87X-UD5H needs a PCIe 2.0 hub. Gigabyte fills only six of the chipset’s eight PCIe 2.0 lanes with Marvell’s 88SE9230 SATA 6Gb/s controller, Intel’s I210 high-end desktop GbE controller, ITE’s IT8892E PCIe-to-PCI bridge, and three PCIe x1 slots. VIA’s VT6308P dual-port IEEE-1394 silicon surfaces through front-panel headers, but that controller is fed from the same bridge chip as the single PCI slot.

As with all of the boards in today’s comparison, gamers can get three-way CrossFire support from from the CPU’s PCIe 3.0 controller in x8-x4-x4 mode, but SLI is limited to two cards at x8-x8, with the third slot unoccupied. Such is the limit of Intel's on-die controller and Nvidia's definition of what constitutes a good SLI experience.

A row of voltage detection points, buttons for Power/Reset/CLR_CMOS, switches for the BIOS mode and IC selection, and a double-digit diagnostics display crowd the Z87X-UD5H’s upper-front corner. At the bottom, a secondary USB 3.0 front-panel header is covered with a factory-installed rubber plug that will probably remain in place. Using it prevents a long graphics card from being installed in the bottom PCIe 3.0 slot.

Slot layout is very similar to Asus’, and includes the same graphics cooling benefit of a second slot between add-in cards. Gigabyte adds a PCIe slot connector beneath the primary PCIe x16 interface, but the graphics cooler will cover it in most configurations. Gigabyte also adds its single PCI slot where Asus’ third PCIe x1 slot is found.

The Z87X-UD5H’s front-panel audio connector placement isn’t the worst we’ve seen—that notoriety goes to the competing ASRock sample—but many users will still find it difficult to use. The cables of many cases are around half an inch too short to reach it.

Though it has ten internal ports, the Z87X-UD5H includes six SATA cables. That’s still twice as many as most builders need. But if you’re paying for the ports, you might want to buy a few cables to use them. The installation kit also contains a USB 3.0-to-3.5” external bay adapter and an SLI bridge.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.