Today I take a close look at one of GIGABYTE’s Small Business Advantage Motherboards and go over some of the more intricate details of its build quality and performance. Within Intel’s 7 series chipsets Intel added the B75 chipset, to target the needs of its business class users. Intel has actually teamed up with its motherboard partners to deliver a line of motherboards to target the needs of small businesses and consumers who want the control an average user might not seek. Intel realized that there is a class of users out there who don’t need the very expensive content creation PCs, which cost as much as a used car, but who also need the performance and reliability which isn’t offered by entry level systems out there today. With the economy being where it is today, a small business owner is looking for more ways to do-it-themselves and reduce costs while retaining the resources needed to expand their enterprise. To do this with their office or home network might require a small learning curve, but one that is simplified by the use of the right hardware and support.
Many people are afraid of building their own computers and even more afraid of downtime caused by issues they do not know how to fix, the majority of those concerns are hardware related. That brings us to the most important piece of hardware in a computer when it comes to reliability and dependability, and that is the motherboard. A computer is nothing but a bunch of different pieces; memory, drives, processor, and graphics all connected together by the motherboard. The motherboard is what connects them all together and makes magic; it provides power to the CPU and the memory which is extremely important, it provides the signal integrity needed to make the system work, and it provides the ability to totally monitor and control every access point of the system at a hardware level. If a stick of memory goes bad or a CPU dies then they can be replaced, but more times than not what goes bad hardware wise in a system is the motherboard. GIGABYTE has always been a leader in motherboard quality; even if their motherboards didn’t have some fancy feature that a competitor’s board offered, they would still beat their competitor in product quality and that was what brought GIGABYTE’s performance into the spot light.
Today will be a bit different from my overclocking reviews, as the B75 chipset doesn’t allow CPU overclocking, so I will take a look into GIGABYTE’s new Ultra Durable 4 design, I will go over the small business advantage features, and I will give the board the run through. I have pretty high expectations going into this review as GIGABYTE has labeled the B75M-D3H a “GIGABYTE Stable Model” and given it the GIGABYTE stamp of reliability, so let’s see what makes it so reliable.
- Box, Accessories, Layout and Design(Ultra Durable 4 Analysis Included)
- Circuitry Analysis
- Dual BIOS, and how to Update your BIOS through Windows and UEFI/BIOS(Video):
- BIOS/UEFi Overview
- Small Business Advantage Overview
- Benchmark Performance
- I/O Performance (USB 3.0, SATA6G, and Audio)
- Included Software
Box, Accessories, Layout with Ultra Durable 4 Analyses
The box is filled with information on the backside, while on the front GIGABYTE advertises their build quality which is a pretty rare thing to find on the front side of a motherboard of this price.
The accessory kit is very limited yet compete, we have everything from driver/software DVD to SATA6GB/s cables to an I/O shield. There are two manuals, one from quick installation and another which is more complete goes over CPU and memory installation as well as a UEFI/BIOS walkthrough and settings explanation. There is even a block diagram of the motherboard included.
The motherboard comes in anti-static bag, but we saved some pixels and decided not to photograph it. The motherboard has a blue PCB, which screams GIGABYTE built, and its layout is very standard for a mATX motherboard. There is a 5 phase VRM, 3+1+1 phases for an Ivy Bridge (3000 series) or Sandy Bridge (2000 series) CPU. We have a nice slot layout, 4 DIMMs, color coded for memory placement (white slots first). The PCI-E slots are well laid out as well, the first lot contains all of the 16x PCI-E 3.0 lanes that an Ivy Bridge CPU would provide, and then the last PCI-E slot is a 4X slot from the PCH. There are a total of 2 fan headers, one for an air cooler on the CPU and one for a front case fan.
Here we can see the backpanel, everything is pretty standard. We have two USB 3.0 ports from the Intel PCH. In fact most of the connectivity is directly from the B75 PCH(Platform controller hub/chipset), there really is no 3rd party SATA or USB controller and that is a good thing. The audio is a bit limited, however I am sure you would rather have your employees working and listening to music.
So Ultra Durable 4 talks about Anti-Static technology so your board doesn’t get shocked, and then it talked about anti-surge technology so you board doesn’t get burnt by lightning or a faulty PSU. But there are actual ICs that GIGABYTE has implemented just to deal with over voltage by the PC and the user to the PC.
There is an anti-surge IC located heat the 24-pin connector which can resist a huge spike in voltage caused by lightning or a bad power supply. There are also many anti-static ICs which help protect the board from discharge from a person, even when they plug in a USB device. Then GIGABYTE adds one fuse per USB port for two reasons. First if a USB port is shocked and killed its fuse goes out and it dies. On the majority of other boards (non-GIGABYTE), a set of USB ports, usually four, are hooked to one fuse. If a USB device kills a port, then the whole back panel would go out, but on the GIGABTYE boards only one port will go out. Also the one fuse per port allows a lower resistance fuse to be used which can allow faster USB device charging.
This motherboard has a single 4-pin 12v plug for the CPU, and the fan connector for the CPU fan is located around the lower part of the CPU socket. The battery compartment is also located there so you can change out the battery if need be. The USB 3.0 front panel header is located right below the 24-pin connector which is a great location for it.
Here we have the bottom half of the motherboard, you can see all of the port headers on the bottom of the board. We have 4 SATA3GB/s in blue, and then a right angle connector, one of those ports is SATA6GB/s and one is SATA3GB/s. There is also a fan connector located at the bottom of the 24-pin power connector. The front panel headers are on the edge of the board; to the left of it are two USB 2.0 internal headers in blue, a TPM module header, an LPT/Parallel port header, then a COM/serial port header, and then your front panel audio outputs. The bottom most PCI-E port is a 4x electrical. Two PCI slots are provided through the PCH.
With this board, since it is mATX, size restrictions require the user to install memory modules before a long graphics adapter is installed. However most users won’t use a gaming GPU so this won’t be an issue.
I love doing this section because I really enjoy looking at different types of hardware. In this case we have a pretty small form factor motherboard, so it is always interesting to see how motherboard manufactures implement things like the voltage regulator modules which are very important.
Modern day microprocessors require a lot of power, yet they require it at a low voltage and high current. Thus the need for buck converters drives motherboard manufacturers to optimize the voltage regulator for consumer motherboards that entail overclocking. However Intel has its own standard designs, which dictate phase count, and this motherboard abides by that specification. Each phase provides power which can be added to the power provided by the other phases. The CPU is provided different voltages for different parts of the CPU, the VCore provides the general power input for the CPU’s Cores, the iGPU VR provides power for the internal graphics processor, and the VTT/SA provides power to the System Agent which contains the memory controller. There is also a linear regulator which provides power for the CPU PLL, which is the clock generator, but it doesn’t use much power. Here are the components used:
A PWM controls the voltage regulator, and an analog PWM provides very good efficiency, and thus one is used here. This one is very new and has a lot of integrated drivers which control each phase individually, however there was a need for 1 extra phase so GIGABYTE added an extra driver and extra MOSFETs for an extra phase. GIGABYTE is using 100% solid polymer Japanese capacitors which provide 50,000 hours of running life, which trumps that of the older electrolytics we see on a lot of entry level motherboards. What is interesting to note is that the same type of Sanyo brand name OS-CON capacitor is used on the entire board, while many manufactures will use them only for the voltage regulators. Brand name Japanese capacitors are by far one of the most expensive components used, so it is a good sign to see them used throughout the board.
Now we will venture over to the other components, first of all the PCH:
This is the Intel B75 chipset/PCH. Intel switched from using a two chip chipset design to a single one they call a platform controller hub. Many of the functions of the chipsets were integrated into the CPU, and the rest has been integrated into the PCH. This chipset has a 6.7w TDP and that is why it has a heatsink. It supports all the features its Q77 big brother supports, but it cuts down on some of the redundant ports you might not need.
Here we have all the IC(integrated circuits)s used on this board. They support a wide variety of functionality from audio to providing the extra connection ports such as the COM/serial and LPT/parallel. The B75 boards for small business need extra ports which normal users might not use, and they are provided by these chips.
Two BIOS ROMs provides redundancy, and is something you never find on a board of this price or on any consumer brand product.
Dual BIOS, and how to Update your BIOS through Windows and UEFI/BIOS:
Dual BIOS is a beautiful thing, as many people don’t understand that what accounts for a large number of build it yourself returns is a failed BIOS update flash. As the motherboard has its own small OS called the BIOS, it sometimes needs to be updated. I have made a video here showing the user how this is done through a simple Windows tool called @BioS which GIGABYTE has had for years. I will show you how I update the BIOS and what to expect, I will also show you some things that the Intel Small Business Advantage software offers as well as how to update your BIOS through the BIOS itself.
The traditional BIOS was replaced about a year ago by something called UEFI, it is an interface that allows the BIOS more room to control system parameters as well as more security and manageability. It provides a special link between your OS(Windows) and the BIOS which wasn’t available before. It also provides a much better looking interface which has mouse control. Below are shots of the BIOS.
Intel Small Business Advantage Overview:
If you have ever read one of my reviews then you know it isn’t like me to copy and paste off of a website, that being said, there isn’t too much to say about this software, so I will show it to you and explain what each part does. It is a pretty cool piece of software and it will only work with a B75 or Q77 chipset motherboard, and it is supplied both on the GIGABYTE website and the DVD provided in the box.
The first time you open the program, and every time after that if you haven’t filled in the information, a popup like this will ask you to fill out a password and some security questions so that no one else can access the program and make changes.
The first thing I will go over is the USB blocker. It allows the blocking of USB devices such as audio/video devices like cameras, entertainment devices like gaming controllers, storage devices like USB thumb drives, office devices such as printers, and a list of other devices like phones. Only the motherboard can control things such as this, and every device plugged in has a name and a class, and the software uses that to determine whether or not to allow its use. This is good for high security, or just to keep your employees from goofing around.
The next part is software monitor, now this isn’t really what you think. There is software out there to monitor the use of other software such as internet browsers, however this monitor takes a look at your anti-virus and software monitoring programs, such as Norton and MacAfee. There is a very long list of supported software that can be watched over. This provides the ability to safeguard your guardian software. A lot of times users might not know that their anti-virus software can be targeted by a virus, and then disabled so that the virus can attack. This program will alter you something is wrong ad try to prevent that from happening.
Here we have the PCH Health Center, and this little suite allows you to program and schedule Windows updates and other Windows tasks such as disk defragmentation so that they take place and keep your PC in tip top condition. Windows updates are also very important for security. These options can be found throughout your computer, but this Intel suite brings them all together in one place so you don’t’ need waste time looking around for them, wondering if you scheduled them. This scheduler also provides you more flexibility in terms of times and dates.
Here we have the energy saver, and this option allows you to turn on and off your PC during certain times to save power. In a situation where you forget to turn off your computer to save extra money on the power bill, this program can save you money by turning off the computer. It can also turn on your computer at a certain time so that you can connect remotely. For instance, if you have a remote LogMeIn account, you know that you cannot log in unless the computer is on. However leaving the computer on all night just isn’t practical, so this program can turn the computer off when you leave work, turn it back on 2 hours later, and then turn it off at midnight or another time you know it won’t be needed.
Backing up your data and restoring it sounds like a pretty complex task, however Windows has a built in backup system which can be setup to back up your data daily. This menu allows you to do it all form the control center and with ease. So all you need to do is toss in an extra hard drive or tape drive, and set up this simple to use program to make sure your valuable information is safeguarded.
The whole point of SBA (small business advantage) is to simplify the user experience for a business owner who has no time for errors and mistakes, yet knows they can do it themselves. You can learn most of what you need to know through simple Google searches, and since the field and technology changes constantly, the information you get is recent enough to actually be pertinent.
USB 3.0 performance is not as good as the Z77 chipset, but still pretty good.
Audio Performance is pretty good for an ALC887 Codec.
SATA6GB/s Performance is very good, right where it should be.
One question a lot of small business owners ask themselves is, what software do I need and will a computer I build come with it? How much will it cost me?
GIGABYTE provides a lot of software to control the system, so in that respect they have you covered.
First of all we took a look at Intel SBA software suite in the SBA section, Intel also provides another program for managing the computer’s security:
@BioS is a good way to flash your BIOS from Windows.
Auto Green allows you to control the power states of your computer remotely.
Easytune6 provides hardware monitoring and fan speed control.
Face wizard can allow you to put your company’s logo and name on the boot up screen of your computer.
Q-Share allows network sharing.
This Realtek software allows you to configure your audio.
This is for backups.
As overclockers we push systems way beyond their spec; many times manufacturers take our findings and results and use them to gauge themselves against their competitors and improve their products. At this very moment GIAGBYTE just broke the CPU frequency world record and 4-DIMM OC world record for the Z77 platform, which are the two biggest world records for the 7-series chipset. Being the second largest motherboard manufacturer in the world GIGABYTE is on the leading edge of the build it yourself market, and today we took a look at their latest and greatest small business advantage offering, the B75M-D3H. GIGABYTE’s hardware selection and integration on the B75M-D3H is at a level which one would find on a top notch consumer product. The way this product is delivered at a reasonable price is through fully utilizing the native connectivity options of the B75 PCH as well as the Super I/O which is usually not utilized for its legacy connectivity, that way the extra money that a manufacturer might spend on extra SATA ports or USB ports is minimized and a higher quality product and be produced.
The new Ultra Durable 4 label is pretty nice stuff, especially on a B75 board; it adds that little extra reliability factor. Some manufactures advertise military standard components, but then only use them in certain areas like for the CPU power delivery. However I was pleased to find the same high component quality throughout the board. What I found most intriguing about this platform however was the software package that is provided, it really simplifies all the mundane tasks of setting up a an efficient and secure PC. It takes setting up your own network to the next level by providing the basic tools one might need to do so. There are however some shortcomings, as there are in all boards, one of those is the lack of more fan ports, however that could just be my concern because I don’t use mATX cases and thus use more fans. In an office PC all you need are 2 fans and most consumer PCs only have 2 fans. The second thing I find a bit inconvenient is the fact that you must install your memory before installing a long GPU, which won’t be a problem for most as they won’t be installing memory multiple times, and probably won’t be using a long GPU. Other than those two things it was very hard to find issues with this motherboard and platform, I would say that this is a great buy, and has the build quality and performance that one expects out of a top notch GIGABYTE board in a very reasonable price bracket. This board would be perfect to put into a PC and then sell to a customer, or build yourself for your own business. I have no doubt that this board would run stable without any issue, and the inclusion of legacy ports makes it great for upgrading an older office system with printers that work off COM or LPT ports.