First up… Long time, no see. It’s been a while since my last review, but hopefully I’ll be a more frequent sight on the frontpage in the foreseeable future. Anyways, on the the good stuff. Today we have the Z170X-UD5 which is in the upper tier of GIGABYTE’s current lineup, just behind their Z170X-Gaming 7. Being near the top of the lineup, the UD5 looks like a great board on paper and deserves a good testing.
Specifications & Features
(Courtesy of GIGABYTE)
|Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 Specifications|
|CPU||Support for Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3/Pentium®/Celeron® processors in the LGA1151 package|
|Chipset||Intel® Z170 Express Chipset|
|Memory||4 x DDR4 DIMM sockets supporting up to 64 GB of system memory Dual channel memory architecture|
Support for DDR4 3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133MHz memory modules
Support for ECC UDIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8 memory modules (operate in non-ECC mode)
Support for non-ECC UDIMM 1Rx8/2Rx8/1Rx16 memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
|Onboard Graphics||Integrated Graphics Processor-Intel® HD Graphics support:|
Support for up to 3 displays at the same time Maximum shared memory of 512 MB
Realtek® ALC1150 codec High Definition Audio 2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
Support for S/PDIF Out
2 x Intel® GbE LAN chips (10/100/1000 Mbit)
Support for Teaming
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCI Expressx16 slot, running atx16 (PCIEX16)|
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)
4 x PCI Express x1 slots
|Multi-Graphics Technology||Support for 3-way/2-way AMD CrossFire™and 2-way NVIDIA® SLI™ Technology|
ASMedia® ASM1061 chip:
|USB||Chipset+Intel® USB 3.1 Controller:|
|Internal I/O Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX main power connector|
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
2 x M.2 Socket 3 connectors
3 x SATA Express connectors
8 x SATA 6 Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling fan header (CPU_OPT)
3 x system fan headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
2 x USB 3.0/2.0 headers
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 headers
1 x Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header
1 x Thunderbolt™ add-in card connector
1 x serial port header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x ECO button
1 x OC button Voltage measurement points
|Back Panel Connectors||2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports|
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port
1 x DVI-D port
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI port
3 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports
1 x USB Type-C™ port, with USB 3.1 support
1 x USB 3.1 Type-A port (red)
2 x RJ-45 ports
1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector
5 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
|I/O Controller||iTE® I/O Controller Chip|
|H/W Monitoring||System voltage detection|
CPU/System/Chipset temperature detection
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed detection
CPU/System/Chipset overheating warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan fail warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed control*Whether the fan speed control function is supported will depend on the cooler you install.
|BIOS||2 x 128 Mbit flash|
Use of licensed AMI UEFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™ PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0
|Unique Features||Support for APP Center|
Support for Q-Flash Support for Smart Switch
*Available applications in APP Center may vary by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also vary depending on motherboard specifications.
|Form Factor||ATX Form Factor; 30.5 x 24.4 cm|
|Box Contents||GA-Z170X-UD5 motherboard|
Motherboard driver disk
Quick Installation Guide
Four SATA cables
One 2-Way SLI bridge connector
One G Connector
One pack of back I/O dust covers
Below are the notable features found on GIGABYTE’s website. Out of these features, I’m most interested in USB Type-C, M.2 slots, SATA Express, and the PCIe metal shielding. USB Type-C finally brings a reversible connector to the table, so no more fiddling with a plug trying to get it connected correctly. The USB Type-C port is also one of the two USB 3.1 ports on the UD5, which doubles theoretical bandwidth over USB 3.0 from 5 Gb/s to 10 Gb/s. The M.2 and SATA Express ports allow for much higher bandwidth storage solutions since they are SATA 3.2 interfaces which combine SATA and PCIe buses for speeds up to 16 Gb/s. The PCIe metal shielding is a unique feature for reinforcing the PCIe slots.
|Extreme Intel USB3.1 Controller||The Intel® USB 3.1 controller utilizes 2 PCIe Gen3 lanes, offering 16 Gb/s of total bandwidth, for uncompromised transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s per USB 3.1. With twice the bandwidth compared to its previous generation, and backwards compatibility with USB 2.0 and 3.0, the much improved USB 3.1 protocol is available over the new reversible USB Type-C™ and the traditional USB Standard-A connector for better compatibility over a wider range of devices.|
|Connecting the Future – USB Type-C||The USB Type-C™ is a new reversible connector that is loaded with useful features such as USB 3.1 support for 10 Gb/s transfer speed and DisplayPort 1.2 support to connect 4K monitors. Powered by the Intel® controller, this little port is the better USB Type-C™.|
|Turbo B-Clock||Thanks to the onboard TURBO B-Clock Tuning IC, GIGABYTE Motherboards enable Overclockers to have the ability to change their BCLK Frequency to a desired value of their choice. With the new linear range adjustment option of the Tuning IC, ranges from 90MHz to 500MHz are now possible, so that overclockers are not limited to the 5% ranges of traditional straps.|
|GIGABYTE App Center Including EasyTune, CloudStation Utilities and More…|
GIGABYTE APP Center gives you easy access to a wealth of GIGABYTE APPs that help you get the most from your GIGABYTE motherboard. Using a simple, unified user interface, GIGABYTE APP Center allows you to launch all GIGABYTE APPs installed on your system.
GIGABYTE’s EasyTune™ is a simple and easy-to-use interface that allows users to fine-tune their system settings or adjust system and memory clocks and voltages in a Windows environment. With Smart Quick Boost, one click is all it takes to automatically overclock your system, giving an added performance boost when you need it the most.
GIGABYTE Cloud Station™ is composed of several GIGABYTE unique apps that allow your smart phones/tablet devices to communicate, share resources, and control your desktop PC via a wireless connection.
|Dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2||With two PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 connectors onboard, GIGABYTE brings to the user PCI-Express connectivity for SSD devices. Delivering up to 32 Gb/s data transfer speed per connector, the dual M.2 provides an ideal storage solution as it also supports RAID modes.|
|Next Generation SATA Express||SATA Express combines the benefits of PCI Express and SATA to provide much higher bandwidth, featuring data transfer rates of up to 16Gb/s.|
|2-Way SLI / 3-Way CrossFire Multi-GPU||Multi-graphics configuration offers better graphics performance for gaming enthusiasts who demand the highest frame rates without compromising on resolution.|
|Dual Intel GbE LAN with cFosSpeed||The Dual Intel® Gigabit LAN with cFosSpeed features advanced technology to help deliver better network responsiveness in crowded LAN environments and allows optimization and improved network performance for specific applications, making it a popular choice amongst gamers.|
|High Definition Audio Design|
The Realtek ALC1150 is a high-performance multi-channel high definition audio codec that delivers an exceptional audio listening experience with up to 115dB SNR, ensuring users get the best possible audio quality from their PC.
High Quality audio capacitors deliver the highest quality sound resolution and sound expansion to create the most realistic sound effects for professional gamers.
|Ambient LED||GIGABYTE motherboards feature LED lighting for the audio guard path, providing a cool, custom look to your rig. Not only does the Audio Noise Guard protect the board’s sensitive analog audio components, but its LEDs can also be programed to beat at the rhythm of the music you are listening to, or pulse at a soothing pace to create a great atmosphere to enhance the environment of your game, movie or music.|
|Industry Leading Ultra Durable PCIe Metal Shielding||The innovative one piece stainless steel shielding design from GIGABYTE reinforces the PCIe connectors to provide the extra strength required to support heavy graphics cards.|
|Long Lifespan Durable Black Solid Caps||GIGABYTE motherboards integrate the absolute best quality solid state capacitors that are rated to perform at maximum efficiency for extended periods, even in extreme performance configurations. With ultra-low ESR no matter how high the CPU load, this provides peace of mind for end users who want to push their system hard, yet demand absolute reliability and stability. These exclusive capacitors also come in customized jet black, exclusively on GIGABYTE motherboards.|
|2x Copper PCB Design (2 oz Copper PCB)||GIGABYTE’s exclusive 2X Copper PCB design provides sufficient power trace paths between components to handle greater than normal power loads and to remove heat from the critical CPU power delivery area. This is essential to ensure the motherboard is able to handle the increased power loading that is necessary when overclocking.|
|15μ Gold Plated CPU Socket Design||GIGABYTE motherboards come equipped with a 15 micron thick gold plated CPU socket, which means that enthusiasts can enjoy absolute reliability and longevity for the CPU socket overtime, without having any concerns about corroded pins or bad contacts.|
|GIGABYTE Patented DualBIOS (UEFI) Design||GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ motherboards feature GIGABYTE DualBIOS™, an exclusive technology from GIGABYTE that protects arguably one of your PC’s most crucial components, the BIOS. GIGABYTE DualBIOS™ means that your motherboard has both a ‘Main BIOS’ and a ‘Backup BIOS’, making users protected from BIOS failure due to virus attack, hardware malfunction, improper OC settings or power failure during the update process.|
|All New Heatsink Design||GIGABYTE motherboards feature new heat sink designs that offer uncompromisingly efficient cooling on key areas of the motherboard including the PWM area and chipset (PCH). GIGABYTE motherboards offer cooling support of the crucial PWM area so even the most aggressive and extreme configurations will be kept well within optimal thermal parameters.|
Packaging & Accessories
Other than GIGABYTE’s logo and the motherboard’s model number, the front of the box looks more like an ad for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. The back of the box looks like what I’d expect from a motherboard box; it displays some basic specifications and quite a few notable features and descriptions.
The accessories included are typical of motherboards these days. There is a User Manual, Quick Installation Guide, Driver Disk, I/O Shield, four SATA cables, one SLI Bridge, G Connector, and a pack of back panel I/O dust covers for ports.
Here’s the first look at the UD5. We have a mostly black and gray board with yellow/gold highlights on the heatsinks. The color scheme along with the shielded PCIe slots give the board a sleek and industrial look. I prefer this sort of look over the gimmicky “gaming” style of many motherboards out there.
A Closer Look
Before we look at the board in detail, let’s check out the heatsinks for the VRM and chipset. They seem to have made good contact from looking at the thermal pad impressions caused by the MOSFETs and chipset.
The power section consists of 11 total phases for the processor. We also have a bare picture of the Sunrise Point (Z170) chipset which, most notably, increases the number of PCIe lanes for more storage options. This allows for all the SATA Express and M.2 ports appearing on this generation’s motherboards.
On to the expansion slot layout. There are three PCIe 3.0 x16 slots running at x16/x8/x4, four PCIe 3.0 x1 slots, and two M.2 slots. The top two PCIe x16 slots share bandwidth, so their configuration becomes x8/x8 when both are being used. Also, the bottom PCIe x16 slot shares bandwidth with the lower M.2 slot (M2H_32G), so only one of those can be used at a time. The other M.2 slot shares bandwidth with some of the SATA ports, which we’ll go into more specifically later. I personally like the PCIe slot layout, particularly having a PCIe x1 slot at the top and two slots between the top two PCIe x16 slots. The top PCIe x1 allows for good clearance between a large CPU cooler and the first PCIe x16 slot (typically a GPU). Having two slots between PCIe x16 slots allows having a whole slot’s worth of space between two dual-slot GPUs in SLI or CFX for better cooling due to a less blocked air intake on the top card.
The PCIe x16 slots on the UD5 feature metal shielding as reinforcement to help prevent damage to the slots due to heavy expansion cards such as multi-slot GPUs. The shielding wraps around the entire slot, and it’s also soldered into the motherboard in five spots, two on top and three on bottom.
The most prominent feature at the top right corner of the board are the four DDR4 DIMM slots. The 24-pin motherboard power header is located here, alongside a SATA power header which supplies auxiliary power to the PCIe x16 slots. We have two 19-pin USB3.0 headers between the DIMM slots and 24-pin power header to add up to four additional USB3.0 ports. Two CPU fan headers are available between the DIMM slots and VRM heatsink for push/pull fan configurations on the CPU heatsink. There are quite a few buttons on this part of the board as well: red Power, white Reset, black CMOS reset, “OC” automatic overclocking, and “ECO” power savings. In my opinion, the most interesting feature located in this area of the board are the voltage read points above the DIMM slots so you don’t have to rely on software for voltage readings.
The back panel I/O of the Z170X-UD5 is quite versatile by combining a good mixture of both new and old technology. We have two USB2.0 ports, a PS/2 combo port, DVI-D, DisplayPort, two RJ45 ports, USB3.1 Type-C, USB3.1 Type-A (Red), three USB3.0 ports, HDMI, and the onboard audio I/O.
The two LAN ports on the UD5 are powered by Intel chips: an I219-V located between the VRM heatsink and the back panel I/O, and an I211 located underneath the “Intel inside” EMI shield.
The audio is powered by a Realtek ALC1150 chip, which is hidden underneath the AMP-UP EMI shield. The entire audio section, from the rear I/O ports down to the audio header, is isolated from other connections to improve signal clarity.
The internal I/O along the bottom side of the board consists of the front panel audio header, COM header for a Serial connection, IR header, TPM (Trusted Platform Module) header, two USB2.0 headers, BIOS switch, system fan header, and the front panel header for switches and LEDs.
The SATA configuration is two ASMedia SATAIII ports on the top right stack powered by an ASM1061 chip, the other six SATAIII ports on the Z170 chipset, and three SATA Express connections using the aforementioned six Intel SATAIII ports. When a M.2 SSD is being used in the top M.2 slot (M2D_32G), one or more SATA ports will become unavailable for use depending on controller mode (AHCI or RAID) and whether the SSD is SATA, PCIe x2, or PCIe x4. In AHCI mode for example, when using a SATA M.2 SSD, SATA port 3 is disabled; when using a PCIe x2 M.2 SSD, SATA ports 2 and 3 are disabled; when using a PCIe x4 M.2 SSD, SATA ports 0, 1, 2, and 3 are disabled. More details can be found on page 30 of the User Manual.
The first tab, M.I.T., is where most of your time will be spent when tweaking BIOS settings. The Advanced Frequency and Advanced Memory sections are where all the multipliers, bclk, and timings are located for the CPU and RAM. The Advanced Voltage section is, as you could have guessed, where all the CPU, iGPU, RAM, Chipset, etc. voltages are located along with load line calibration settings for the CPU Core and iGPU. I’m a fan of the Current Status and PC Health sections to get an overall look at your current frequencies, timings, multipliers, and voltages. It’s worth noting that PC Health shows motherboard voltage readings, not your voltage settings. For instance, in these screenshots, my Vcore is set to 1.3 V, but shows as 1.272 V in the PC Health screen.
The rest of the BIOS tabs don’t offer much that would be used very often, except for the occasional boot order/override. Regardless, here are some shots of the rest of the BIOS…
EasyTune is GIGABYTE’s overclocking software which is great for basic overclocking via multipliers and voltages. The Advanced CPU OC tab is where we can change the bclk, multipliers on a per core basis, system voltages, and save/load OC profiles. The Advanced DRAM OC tab just allows RAM multiplier adjustment and enabling/disabling XMP. This tab does show the RAM timings, but they aren’t adjustable. The Advanced Power tab lets us change the load line calibration setting. In the Hotkey tab we can assign OC profiles to hotkeys so they can be changed on the fly. I also included screenshots of both the light and dark themes, and the highlight color (bright blue) can also be changed to customize the look even further.
This is a brand new platform for me, so this will be my first experience overclocking and tweaking Skylake.
|CPU||Intel i7 6770K @ 4.2 GHz, 1.3 V|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-D14|
|RAM||2×8 GB Patriot Viper 4 DDR4-3000 15-15-15-35, 1.35V|
|Graphics Card||Intel® HD Graphics 530|
|Hard Drive||Western Digital Black 640 GB|
|Power Supply||SeaSonic Platinum-1000|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Pro x64 SP1|
|Benchmarks||AIDA64 Engineer (v5.50.3600)|
x264 HD Benchmark (v5.0.1)
POV Ray (v3.7)
Intel XTU (v22.214.171.124)
|Fluke 115 Digital Multimeter|
Load Line Calibration
Load line calibration or LLC controls the fluctuation of Vcore between idle and load states. Typically, there is a drop in Vcore as a CPU is loaded called Vdroop. So, if the CPU is stable at a certain Vcore, but then drops below that Vcore while loaded, the CPU could become unstable. To counter this effect we either have to offset the Vcore to a higher value while idle so it doesn’t drop too far when loaded, or we can use LLC to keep the Vcore from dropping too low when the CPU is loaded.
There are two LLC settings on the Z170X-UD5, Standard and High. So, I set the Vcore to 1.3 V in the BIOS, then I used a multimeter to measure the voltage directly off of the board’s read points near the DIMM slots. I did this both for idle Vcore and loaded Vcore while running LinX 0.6.5 in Windows. The idle measurement shows the Vcore drop between what was set in the BIOS and when the CPU is under the very light load of the Operating System. When using Standard, the Vcore is 0.025 V less when idle and 0.079 V less when loaded than the target Vcore. The High setting does a much better job at stabilizing the Vcore to what you want since it only drops by 0.004 V when idle and 0.005 V when loaded.
Overclocking Skylake wasn’t really any different than previous Core series Intel processors. The only settings that need to be adjusted are the CPU multiplier and Vcore. Although, with Skylake, we do have much more bclk control and I did boot with 150 MHz bclk, but it was much more of a hassle dealing with it since adjusting it requires multiple hard resets. So, for an everyday overclock, I’d just forget about the bclk and leave it at 100 MHz. However, for benching, I’d return to the bclk for fine tuning and trying to squeeze every last bit out of the CPU/RAM.
I started my overclocking by setting the Vcore to 1.4 V and the multiplier to 46, but that resulted in the CPU reaching its TJmax of 100 °C when running LinX. So, I dropped the Vcore down to 1.35 V and that worked for 4.6 GHz and keeping temps under the TJmax. Next, I increased the multiplier to 47, but the voltage wasn’t high enough to complete an~10 minute LinX run. So, I started increasing the voltage in small increments up to 1.375 V with testing between, and that’s when I was able to pass the LinX run. Since temps were already in the mid-high 96-97 °C on a couple cores, I stopped there knowing I’d be temperature limited if I went any further. I was using a NH-D14 with an ambient temperature of ~26 °C when getting this overclock. I think some more could be gained with better cooling, such as good water cooling (not cheap AIO units).
The following results are side-by-side comparisons of 4.2 GHz and 4.7 GHz on the CPU with DDR4-3000 15-15-15-35 on the RAM. Intel XTU, MaxxMEM2, and AIDA64 don’t scale well with CPU speed alone, so there isn’t much different in those benchmarks between 4.2 and 4.7 GHz. All of the other benchmarks scored around 10.2% better on average at 4.7 GHz (11.9% higher clocks) with a range of results from 8.2-11.5% better.
GIGABYTE’s GA-Z170X-UD5 is a great looking board with plenty of features for the enthusiast. My personal favorites include: onboard POST display, onboard power/reset/CMOS switches, voltage read points, PCIe slot reinforcement, and M.2 slots. The UEFI BIOS is also straightforward and easy to use with all the necessary settings for an overclocking board. GIGABYTE’s EasyTune software is good for basic overclocking with multipliers and voltages, which can help you test overclocks before manually setting them in the BIOS. Speaking of overclocking, getting an i7 6700K to 4.7 GHz on air was a breeze, taking all of maybe 15 minutes. The board also handled overclocking my RAM from DDR4-2800 16-18-18-36 to DDR4-3000 15-15-15-35 for our testing without any problems.
The majority of Z170 boards are going between $100-300 with a few outliers at $400-500. The GA-Z170X-UD5 is currently going for $189.99 at Newegg which lands in the middle of the pack, which seems fair especially considering all the features packed into the board.
Overall, the GA-Z170X-UD5 is a good all-around board with features for everyone. Without any cons or quibbles popping up in my time with the board, I have to say it makes the Approved stamp an easy decision.
– Matt Green (MattNo5ss)