GIGABYTE Z77X-UP5 TH Review
Back in June at Computex 2012 I saw some really cool featured motherboards from GIGABYTE, of them three where for the Z77 platform; the Z77X-UP4-TH, the Z77X-UP5-TH, and of course the Z77X-UP7. I would love nothing more than to bring you a wonderful review on all of them, but for now I just received the Z77X-UP5-TH and while it might not be the UP7 we all want to see, it still is a cutting edge weapon of technology. Straight out of the story books, the Z77X-UP5 boasts the best if not one of the best voltage regulators to ever solder its joints on a motherboard, dwarfing everything before it and setting the bar a bit too high for everything after it. GIGABYTE isn’t blind to this fact either, in fact that is what Ultra Durable 5 is all about, Ultra Power, something I am relieved to see in lower phase count models. As always GIGABYTE keeps on bringing firsts to the motherboard market as well as their lineup. Their Z77X-UP5 TH is their first board to feature dual 10GBps ThunderBolt ports, these ports are what add the TH to the end of the model name. However you guys know me better, I look really deep at every motherboard to see what else it has in store, so I will tell you what I have been holding back, this is the first GIGABYTE motherboard to feature a true 8 phase VRM. What does that mean? It means that an 8-phase PWM is driving each of the 8 CPU Phases individually, something that is extremely rare with 8 phase VRMs. Take for instance typical $150 8-Phase budget board with nice heatsinks and gold capacitors, you might think it also has 8 phases run by an 8 phase PWM, however that isn’t the case, it has a 6+1 phase PWM, and only 4 of those 6 phases are used and they are doubled. That is just one of the many examples of how phase doubling can trick you. However in this case GIGABYTE isn’t playing the virtual game, they are being true to the concept of the phase, as well as laying down the ground work for the next generation of voltage regulators. The Ultra Durable 5 moniker is all about the VRM; from the 8-Phase Digital VRD12.5 certified PWM to the 60A IR3550 power stage and out the 60A custom ferrite inductor, the UP5's power delivery is going to blow you away.
- -Box and Accessories
- -Motherboard and Layout
- -VR Circuit Analysis/Ultra Durable 5 Analysis
- -General Circuit Analysis
- -UEFI Walk-Through
- -Efficiency Tests(benchmarks)
- -Audio and USB 3.0 Testing
- -Included Software
Here is the box, and on the front you see the beautiful IR3550, as well as two major awards, one from Tom’s Hardware, and another from CES Consumer Electronics Award of 2011. Now the Tom’s Hardware award is for the motherboard’s innovative capacity while the CES award is for the IR3550. The back of the box dishes out the need to know of the many features, and even has an education tidbit about the new VRM.
The accessory package for this motherboard is just fabulous with a capital F, if you like to accessorize then the Z77X-UP5 TH has you covered and then some. You have a glamourus new WB300D the top model Wifi/BT module from GIGABYTE.
The total list is:
- GC-WB300D Wifi/BT
- 2 x Antenna
- Internal USB header dongle
- 3.5 inch front panel USB 3.0 bay
- SLI Bridge
- 6x Black SATA6GB/s (III) cables
- Backpanel I/O Shield
- GC-WB300D Manual and Driver DVD
- Motherboard Manual and Driver DVD
Now there is also something you should know, and that is GIGABYTE has provided us with a much updated Wifi/BT module:
The new one is on the left and the old one is one the right. You can see the one included with the UP5 has a black PCB, as well as only one internal USB header, which is actually half the width of the older model. The card itself is also shorter.
Layout and Design:
The new heatsinks and the color matching in my opinion looks really good. The motherboard has 5 fan headers, all of them are 4-pin, and can be controlled through the BIOS through one setting for the CPU fan, and then one other setting for all the other fans which gives you partial control over them. The overclocking features are all well placed, except for the POST Code display which was bumped behind the 24-pin connector because of the addition of an extra digital PWM which took its place when compared to the UD5H. It is a bit hard to read the codes when the board is on a bench, unless you stand or you got a tiny little mirror. The PCI-E layout is the same as that on the Z77X-UD5H, and for the most part the internal USB 3.0 headers, and the amount of USB 3.0 on the back panel are identical. GIGABYTE did change up some things however, for instance the clips on the PCI-E slots are new, and I think ROG boards use the same ones.
Here we have the backpanel, it consists of:
- 4x USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Ports
- 2x USB 2.0 Ports
- eSATA6GB/s port
- RJ-45 LAN
- 2x 10GBps ThunderBolt Ports
- 7.1 TOSLINK with S/PDIF out
Thunderbolt really is a very big deal, as not only does it need a lot of bandwidth, but it also needs a lot of back panel space.
Two fan headers are placed around the CPU socket area so that a heatsink requiring two fans can easily be catered too. There are a total of 8 CPU phases on this motherboard, and then 2 more phases are for the iGPU, and then two more are for the VTT/IMC outputs. The new “lightning P” inductors (chokes) are rated for 60A which is just the highest I have seen on any motherboard. There is a mSATA connector located right below the socket.
The memory DIMMs are black and grey which is just like that of the Z68X-UD5. The memory is powered by a two phase digital VRM. There are voltage read points, a power button, as well as reset and clear CMOS buttons located in the same position as on the UD5H. However GIGABYTE realized that on the UD5H the ClearCMOS and reset buttons were a bit close, so they separated them by a few millimeters. The post code display like I already mentioned isn’t in the best position, surprisingly they did the same thing on the X58A-OC.
The buttons add a really nice touch, and they are positioned perfectly for benching, as when the motherboard is mounted on a bench, users will position themselves along the board on the right side, facing the CPU. The buttons are in the perfect location. However the POST Code display needs some work.
It is hidden behind the 24-pin ATX power receptacle. However behind the 24-pin connector we can also see the anti-surge IC from Ultra Durable 4! The Ultra Durable series is a build up.
Many ask what that ATX4P SATA power connector is for, the answer is that it provides extra 12v, 5v, and 3.3v for the motherboards PCI-E slots and other devices if needed. If you are going to run 3-way CF then it might be a good thing to use as adding a single extra 12v wire from the PSU adds 75 of extra juice, the standard 24-pin only has two 12v wires.
Here we can also see 3 internal USB 3.0 headers and 7 internal SATA ports. One of them is a gray port which is located right next to the bottom two USB 3.0 headers, it is powered by Marvell and can provide SATA6GB/s. The two white ports are Intel SATA6GB/s and the four black as Intel SATA3GB/s. One fan header is next to the SATA ports. Right after that gray SATA port, there is a small switch which can switch between the main and the backup BIOS. Then we have front panel headers, as well as an extra fan header. Then there are two internal USB2.0 headers, a TPM header, a 1394A header, and then your audio headers.
The PCI-E 16x slots are all wired to the CPU, thus if you use an Ivy Bridge CPU then all of them will be PCI-E 3.0 slots.
Here is the PCI-E Layout:
There is also a way to get 3-way SLI working, and that is through a hack you can google.
If you run with a single GPU you will have 16x in the first slot, if you run 2 GPUs then both will get 8x, if you run 3 then it is 8x/4x/4x.
Time for the Circuit Analysis!!!!
Taking the heatsinks off reveals my favorite part of this motherboard, the CPU voltage regulator!!!!!!
Here we can see that IR3550 is used for the 8 CPU phases as well as the 2 iGPU phases. Some PowerPAK MOSFETs are used for the VTT. The new Inductors look freaking amazing, they are well branded, nicest inductors I have seen as not only do they look good but they also have excellent DCR and highest 60A Isat ratings. The bottom line is that while GPUs usually have the best VRMs, GIGBYTE has outdone everyone else. Only thing that would make this perfect would be a few proadlizer capacitors, however due to the earthquake in Japan those are in short supply.
Ultra Durable 5 is possibly the best thing to happen this year! UD5 provides enough copper in the PCB, a 60A capable MOSFET, and a 60A inductor with a saturation current high enough have all come together to provide a true 60A per phase VRM. Booya! This would be the time to mention that you could never pull 480A(the max possible from this board) on any modern CPU. The point of going overboard like this is so that the VRM requires no active cooling, such as a fan or water cooling, to maintain optimum current output during heavy overclocking. The fancy heatsinks are all that is needed, and most likely overkill.
So what is the big deal about this IR3550? Well for the most part it is the best of the best when it comes to high output AIO powerstages. That is because the limit for most MOSFETs for 50A+ output is cooling and physical design. The issue comes about that the power losses are high, and thus the MOSFET needs to be cooled properly. Many MOSFETs have a rating where the manufacturer lists at what temperature and power loss a MOSFET can output a certain amount of current. Then we also have to factor in the output voltage at those ratings.
The IR3550 can do 60A at 10W power dissipation, and that is very impressive considering typical LF-PAK MOSFET the 7030AL which is the high-side MOSFET(limit for power stage current output) on many high-end boards can output 68A at 62.5W power dissipation at 25C, those conditions will never happen. That would require you to cool each individual 7030AL high-side MOSFET with as much cooling as you use for your CPU!!! If you wanted to you could use six IR3550 at 60A and have the same power dissipation (which is possible because of expanded area of six IR3550) but also 6x the current output when compared to the 7030AL! However we can use the graphs in the datasheet provided with the 7930AL to calculate how much current at 10W it can output, and answer is about 27A in the same conditions as the IR3550.
So in the same conditions the IR3550 will output twice as much current, thus that is why it is so damn attractive. The IR3550 also is at 90% efficiency at 50A, compared to a typical 50A DrMOS(Vishay SiC780) which is cutting edge for DrMOS can do 35A at 90%. Thus the 50A DrMOS isn’t even comparable! The only MOSFETs that come close that have ever been used on a motherboard are the DirectFETs also from IR, and that is no surprise as the IR3550 uses technology from the DirectFETs, such as full body copper design, as well as gold internal connectors, and a lot of output surface area for current. The full body copper clip means that the current flows through the low-side MOSFET’s body instead of the PCB, which means less resistance for the output current.
The IR3550 are one of the best solutions, and that is why we are going to see them on many future high-end boards. For instance the EVGA Z77 FTW uses the IR3550, 7 of them; however IR has no marketing for these new power stages other than some press releases, thus GIGABYTE made its own marketing which I will show below. The parts of the marketing below are somewhat educational and correct as well:
First up from GIGABYTE’s marketing, what is an AIO Powerstage?
(From GIGABYTE Marketing
(A standard powerstage however just requires 1-high side MOSFET and a diode, however you will see the diode replaced by a low-side MOSFET in modern systems, and in good systems like on the current Z77 GIGABYTE and ASUS boards you will see 2 low-side MOSFETs and 1 high-side.
Next up, what is inside the IR3550 and why is it special?
(From GIGABYTE marketing
Now I have taken some of their marketing, and added some tidbits which show first the comparision to the DirectFET technologies:
(Images from GIGABYTE Marketing, Text from Me)
Connecting all of the low-side MOSFET to the high-side MOSFET is something IR said only the IR3550 series does.
Next up we have a comparison I made between the IR3550 and the DrMOS I just talked about:
(Image on the left from GIGABYTE Marketing, rest from ME)
In the above image, none of those is the 50A DrMOS, it is just the 60A IR power stage in two different views to show you the inside. There are pads underneath the power stage which you cannot see in the image, they are under the MOSFETs.
I just want to say this, the IR3550 is NOT a DrMOS, DrMOS is a specification made by Intel for an AIO power stage, a DrMOS is a type of power stage, however not all power stages are DrMOS. Texas Instruments, Volterra, and IR have power stages which are AIO but are not DrMOS. DrMOS has its own protocols and designs, however these power stages are an improvement on that design, they also have different pins and different internal circuits, the IR IR3550 is made to work with an IR PWM (CHiL PWMs included).
Now that we have covered the MOSFET, we have to cover the inductor, which I personally believe hasn’t been talked about enough, as it has a HUGE part in making 60A per phase possible.
They are also rated 60A and they had to be custom made for GIGABYTE. The correct DCR as well as inductance and current rating where combined to bring about an extremely strong choke.
The IR3563 is also a first for GIGABYTE, it is the first time they have used a true 8-Phase PWM to power their 8-Phase VRM. Now you are wondering, what is so great about 8 phases and don’t many boards have true 8-Phases? The answer is no, and let me explain.
First of all you need multiple outputs from a PWM to drive different voltage outputs, the reason we have multiple output PWMs is to save money!!!!!:
That is one reason the UP5 has more digital PWMs than the UD5H, because the CPU VCore PWM is a 8+0 phase PWM, and all 8 are being used. Many boards like the Z77 Extreme4 use 4 phases and double them to 8. The M5G uses the same doubling.
First of all there is a reason when you look up a PWM it says 6+2(IR3567 found on GIGABYTE boards) or 7+1(CHL3828 found on ASUS boards), 6+1(ISL6367 found on ASRock boards). That is because all phases need the same output, so you cannot per say take the IR3567 6+2 phase PWM and run 4 phases on the VCore and 4 on the iGPU, you can however do 6 on VCore and 2 on iGPU.
The PWM used on the Z77X-UP5 TH is a true 8 phase PWM:
The International Rectifier IR3563A is a true Digital PWM, incorporating cutting edge digital PWM technology. This PWM is possibly the best VRD12.5 PWM you can find ATM, it incorporated VRD12 and VRD12.5 protocol design, and many transient algorithms to correctly and efficiently supply power to the CPU. This little IC is responsible for the high overclocks and tight LLC that we see on the UP5.
Benefit of more True phases: But why does that matter you are probably asking, as more components do help lower the temperature and the amount of work that needs to be done even when you double phases virtually. The answer is that the increase in true phases has performance benefits. First of all each phase will only switch 1/8 of a cycle after the one before it instead of ¼(if compared to 4 phases doubled to 8), meaning that per cycle each phase is doing less work when there are more true phases. Also there is an interleaving affect which is caused by this per cycle addition of phases. It reduces total ripple amplitude by increasing the ripple frequency. Having 8 true phases will result in a total ripple frequency 8x greater than that of any single phase, however it will only increase the ripple frequency 4x greater in the virtual 8 phase(true 4 phase) system.
That means if you had two of the exact same VRM, one with its phases doubled and one with its phases not doubled, then the one which wasn’t doubled will have much higher ripple frequency and thus much lower ripple current, which is what we always want to reduce. Thus the output ripple and the noise from the VRM will be greatly reduced when you use the true 8 phase VRM, such as the one on the Z77X-UP5 TH. Of course this affect will reduce ripple by a much larger amount when increasing from 4 to 6 phases than it will from 6 to 8 phases, however nevertheless the affect is there and has an impact.
So let’s do a quick overview on why this VRM is one of if not the best:
- IR3563A provides true 8 phases for a true 8 phase VRM
- 8x IR3550 are able to output 60A a pop in real-life scenarios, and thus can output a total of 480A
- 8x 60A Custom made Ferrite chokes are able to sustain 60A current flow and not limit the MOSFETs.
- 2 OZ copper PCB is required to be able to transfer this type of output, if it doesn’t say 2oz then most likely it isn’t.
- 8x 820uF OSCON Sanyo brand polymer capacitors provide very low ESR to reduce current ripple, and they are high enough in capacitance rating to store power which isn’t used.
The memory and the iGPU get their phases from this IR3570, which is a 3+2 phase digital PWM, only 2+2 phases are used. Two phases for the memory are provided to a dual driver, the IR3598, which outputs to two sets of Rensas K03B7 for the high-side and one K0393 for the low-side. Each phase is capable of 30A on a good day.
A second IR3570 provides PWM support for the VTT/IMC phases are pictured below. Also support for the PCH power is also provided by the MOSFETs shown above.
Above we have the same 2 sets of Rensas MOSFETs which we saw for the memory VR; however this time we have 60A chokes to go along with them. Here we see an IR3598 which is used as a dual output driver instead of a doubler.
On the back of the PCB we see two sets of backside metal brackets, which usually are used to cool down back-side MOSFETs, however we have no back-side MOSFETs, and these brackets are used to stiffen the board and support the heatsinks. Thus the motherboard can support very heavy heatsinks without issue.
PCB is nice and black, right? That is true black, like a dark knight.
Here we have thunderbolt, with all the support ICs, one would think this could all go on a separate card. It is even complete with its one VRM, which is in the image below.
- DSL3510L: Intel dual output Thunderbolt controller which allows daisy chain. It has a 3.4w TDP and supports 10GBps per channel.
- 2x L04DP211 :(one is on the back) made by NXP are display port 2:1 MUX and provide DP to each thunderbolt port.
- 2x TPS22980: made by T.I. are 3.3v to 18V high voltage MUX, used to power the ICs inside the expensive thunderbolt cables. 18v is max output which is needed as DC voltage doesn’t hold over long distances.
- PI3HDMI412: made by Pericom is a 4 channel 2:1 MUX for providing HDMI bandwidth to the thunderbolt controller
- PI3C3125: made by Pericom is a high bandwidth 4-bit 2 port bus switch which is used to provide the controller with bandwidth.
Here we have a single phase VRM to power the Thunderbolt controller and ports!!! It is powered by a Richtek RT8120 single phase PWM with integrated drivers. Some good quality PowerPAk MOSFETs are used in lieu of D-PAK.
Audio, NIC, Connectivity ICs:
On the Z77X-UP5 TH GIGABYTE has provided buyers with a beefed up audio system. Basically the same as on the Z77X-UD5H, the UP5 uses a 110 dB SNR Realtek ALC898. However while most high-end motherboards use this codec, a few license Creative XF-I sudio software and rebrand it as XF-I, which is what GIGABYTE does here. However GIGABTYE doesn’t stop there, they add in two audio amplifiers one for the backpanel TOSLINK, and the other powers the internal header for a front panel device. GIGABTYE uses two T.I. DRV632 AMPs/Line Drivers.
Many users like Intel NICs, and thus the Intel WG82579V is a PHY to complinet the controller inside the PCH which is popular on high-end motherboards.
To exapnd USB 3.0 ports as well as amplify and rejuvinate the USB 3.0 signal over a long distance two VLI810 1:4 USb 3.0 hubs are used to provide a total of 4 USB 3.0 ports on the back and 3 internal headers capable fo 6 ports together.
Marvell SE9172 provides two SATA6GB/s ports and software based RAID. One port is used internally and is pointed sraight, you can find it near the front panel case headers. The second port is on the board of the board to provide eSATA6GB/s, so chances are you cannot RAID them, unless of course you want to with an external HDD.
The Z77 PCH, BD82Z77 (SLJC7) Platform Controller Hub (PCH), has a 6.7W TDP which is 0.6W higher than the Z68 PCH! This would account for the higher PCH temperature readings from the Z77 PCH; however this is nothing to be alarmed about. This PCH seems very capable of dealing with a heatsink with no active cooling. Compared to the Z68 chipset, the new Z77 chipset has the same number of SATA 6GB/s ports. In fact most everything is the same except for the fact that the Z77 Chipset new supports 3 independent displays, USB 3.0, and some newer Intel technologies like Rapid Start and Rapid Connect. The Z77 PCH provides 4 native USB 3.0 ports, which Intel says cannot work in Windows XP or Vista as USB 3.0, so users much switch their xHCI mode to “auto” from “smart auto”. This is very simple to do in the UEFI under the integrated peripherals section in advanced mode.
A PLX bridge the PEX8605 does a 1:3 split, for the 1X slots on the motherboard as the Z77 PCh only has 8 native PCI-E lanes, and the thunderbolt controller takes up 4.
An iTE8728F provides the SuperIO capabilities like fan, voltage, and temperature monitoring and control. An iTE8892E provides two PCI outputs from a single PCI-E lane. One output is directed to the PCI slot, and the second is provided to the VIA VT6308P which is a PCI based 1394A controller.
With the 1394A controller on the PCI bus, the VT6308P won’t use up any of the scarce PCI-E lanes from the PCH. Instead it will use one of the unused PCI outputs from the iTE8892E, which is a smart move by GIGABYTE.
Here we have six PCI-E 3.0 lane switches; each one can switch two PCI-E 3.0 lanes. Four of them switch 8x from the CPU to either the first slot for single card operation or to the second slot for 2 GPUs. The first 8x from the CPU is always wired to the first 8x of the first GPU slot. The other 2 switches will hook up to 4x of the 8x that the first 4 switches had, and can split that to the last slot for 3-way multi-GPU configurations.
Here we have the dual BIOS, and you can also see the two BIOS LEDs located to the right, dual BIOS is a great thing to have for LN2 benching, and even everyday use so that users can try out new BIOSes without being worried about BIOS flash failures. The PI3PCI2415 is a PCI-E 2.0 switch uses to switch 1 lane of SATA from SATA port 5 to the mSATA adapter.
ASMedia ASM1442 are display port to HDMI/DVI level shifters and provide the video outputs on the back.
In this section I will just provide you guys with a bunch of BIOS shots. Go through them at your own pace, however they do go in order, so beginning shots are of the OC menus, and the last are of the other motherboard functions.
This board's overclocking prowess is pretty damn impressive. My max air OC was 5.3ghz which it is on every other Z77 GIGABYTE board I have tested, however its max air BCLK OC is 109mhz, which is a few mhz higher than the other boards did on air! I felt as if the voltage regulation was a bit better, performance of LLC was really fantastic as well.
Here is the maximum air BCLK:
Maximum Air CPU Frequency OC:
If you are wondering about the LLC, it is very good:
Compared to the 2700mhz my cheap hynix could do on the UD5H, the UP5 can make them go a few mhz higher:
I felt as if the UP5 could boot at higher memory multipliers a bit easier, for instance I can actually get the generic ULV Samsung Green to boot at 2400mhz, however the issue is that it isn't easily reproducible, as once I try to set timings it wont do it again.
This however is a good sign GIGABYTE is working on improving memory compatibility for all types of memory.
In this section I do very consistent testing with benchmarks, I however always update the BIOS to the latest when I do these tests, and while that may make a difference I even out the boards as much as possible. So no low multipliers, no auto BCLK, I do 4.5ghz set with 1600mhz memory. Same exact memory, same SSD, same OS is used. As well as the same benchmark version. This makes sure that everything is the same.
For the UP5 TH I did not engage any legacy benchmark enhancement.
Audio and USB 3.0 Testing:
First off as you saw the VLI810 4:1 hubs are being used on this board. However from the test it seems that performance impacts are extremely small if non existent. In my opinion the hubs act as signal boosters as the USB 3.0 signal is extremely sensitive to distance as are all high speed data channels such as PCI-E, SATA6G, and Thunderbolt.
I tested with a SATA3GB/s SSD in an external USB 3.0 drive bay:
Audio performance is also pretty good:
This is used to change PWM settings on the fly, you can use it to test out levels of LLC.
For in-Windows BIOS update.
For in-windows OC, monitoring, and fan control.
GIGABYTE Tweak Launcher:
For Extreme Overclockers to tweak with a light-weight program.
The Z77X-UP5 TH is one cool cat. Its VRM is state of the art, as modern and powerful as Porsche GT9-R except with a luxurious interior. Bringing a new light upon one of the most secretive parts of the motherboard, GIGABYTE brings light to the darkness with some very good marketing to teach the public about voltage regulators. Instead of hiding their VRM under big heatsinks, GIGABYTE posts a picture of their MOSFETs on the front of their box and then supports their operation with some really damn good looking heatsinks. I usually never use GIGABYTE marketing in my reviews, however this time I think two pictures off of their micro-site were warranted as I don't think I could have explained it better myself. The new IR3550 PowIRstages really are something to fancy, as they really are one of a kind. The power stages coupled with the new 8-phase digital PWM has been something I have been asking for from GIGABYTE and they have finally delivered. I think the only board that can show up the UP5 in terms of VRM is the Z77X-UP7, which I will have a review of soon enough. GIGABYTE has put a lot of work into the hardware in the UP5 TH, however while there is always room for improvement, GIGABYTE seems to have only made on mistake worth noting, and that is the position of the Port80H Post Code. However if the board is in a case then there isn’t an issue. More fan control wouldn’t hurt either.
The UEFi on this board is something I am very happy to see doing well. Like I said before it seems like GIGABTYE just adapted the UD5H’s UEFi to the UP5TH, thus the BIOS is already pretty mature. Memory overclocking seems to be a bit better, and that could be due to a better UEFI as well as to refined memory trace routing that comes with every new revision. The fancy use of the 3:1 PLX chip for the 1x slots and total use of all the PCI ports is pretty interesting, as it is always nice to see innovation in the face of reduced resources such as those introduced by ThunderBolt. I personally still cannot get over the fact that Intel refuses to increase its intra-board bandwidth, as Thunderbolt basically eats up half of the Z77 PCH’s PCI-E lanes, however GIGABYTE has found a way to make total use of everything.
In the end GIGABYTE has once again managed to get an extremely nice motherboard at an extremely nice price point, and even made it capable of world records, such as this one Hicookie just made for the 3570K CPU Frequency WR: 6.9GHz on 3570K. One thing to note however is that the Z77X-UP5 TH has some really damn good looking heatsinks, and the addition of the motherboard retention hardware is really good for supporting heavy heatsinks, as they will keep the PCB straight. The fact that the Z77X-UP5 TH comes at an extremely reasonable price for a dual thunderbolt motherboard will seal the deal for many. My only concern is how does one improve upon such a high-quality VRM.