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Four Z87 Express Motherboards For Three- And Four-Way SLI

Gigabyte Z87X-UD7 TH

Gigabyte attempts a features coup with its Z87X-UD7 TH, beginning with the Thunderbolt headers found on ASRock’s sample and continuing into the two-lane RAID controller supported by Asus. We also find the pair of USB 3.0 hubs used by ASRock, along with the two I/O panel and two front-panel ports those hubs supply.

Gigabyte ups its Wi-Fi ante with a $55 dual-band 802.11ac / Bluetooth module manufactured by Intel. Supporting 867 Mb/s transfer rates, the module rests upon a PCIe 2.0 x1 expansion card.

It turned out that the U.S. had a brief exclusive with the board at a lower-than-expected price. After its recent worldwide launch, pricing info looks a lot more realistic. Today, Newegg lists the Z87X-UD7 TH for sale at $430.

Further inspection proves that the Z87X-UD7 TH looks the part of a $430 motherboard. In addition to the expensive PCIe 3.0 switch needed to make three- and four-way SLI work, the motherboard-down RAID controller, the Thunderbolt controller needed to pipe data across the mini-DisplayPort connector, and the PCIe 2.0 switch needed to give Thunderbolt devices their connectivity without disabling other on-board devices, we also find a 16-phase voltage regulator. Oh, and about Thunderbolt: this is the first board from Gigabyte to be Thunderbolt 2-certified, combining both 10 Gb/s channels into a single 20 Gb/s channel.

Anyone who thinks they might be able to push the limits of that 16-phase voltage regulator also knows that they’re going to make a lot of heat. Gigabyte equips the Z87X-UD7 TH voltage regulator with both a fan and a liquid-cooling channel.

Buttons at the front of the board control both base clock and multiplier ratios through a background application, which is perfect for tuners who don't want to reboot or open up another GUI while making adjustements. Other buttons control base clock increment size (0.1 or 1 MHz), enable a pre-configured overclock setting, and save current settings with a tag after resetting BIOS. Yet another button sets the system to retain component power after shut down…which would be perfect if the firm would introduce a DDR3-based version of its i-RAM.

A few things are imperfect though, including a front-panel audio header that’s around 0.5” too far into the rear corner for the cables of some cases to reach, a second front-panel USB 3.0 header that’s sure to be blocked by a fourth graphics card, and the problem that the third graphics card covers up the last PCIe x1 slot. If you do use three or more double-slot graphics cards, you'll be forced to give up the valuable Intel 802.11ac/Bluetooth combo card.

If we were to give up the Wi-Fi card for the sake of three- and four-way SLI, the Z87X-UD7 TH would still look like a fairly solid sub-$400 board. It still includes two-, three-, and four-way SLI bridges, a CrossFire bridge, a 3.5” bay adapter for front-panel USB 3.0, and six SATA cables.

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