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Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC Motherboard Review (w/ Intel i7 4770k)

The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC is an extremely impressive motherboard, loaded to the gills with features. They say first impressions count, and the Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC scores well in this regard. The black PCB and bright orange heatsinks immediately reminded me of the iconic Austrian KTM motorcycle colour scheme, which is certainly not a bad thing.

Setting up the board is extremely easy, thanks in part to the dramatically overhauled BIOS interface. This is without a doubt the best Gigabyte BIOS we have used and is a monumental leap in the right direction, and not before time either. We felt Gigabyte were lagging behind market leader ASUS for quite some time when it came to their BIOS implementation.

That is not to say there is still no room for further improvement – I feel there is really no need for all the submenus dealing with voltages, frequency settings and power adjustments. Having them all in a sensible single, scrollable menu would suit me better.

This is when Gigabyte’s new BIOS methodology comes into its own. The company allow you to change the BIOS layout and even add in background images if you so desire. This particular BIOS is very customisable and their engineers do deserve credit for the strides forward. I was actually still playing with the BIOS as I was writing this final page of the review – there are really so many options to tweak and change, it can be overwhelming.

Thankfully under all the new ‘gloss’, the heart of the GA-Z87X-OC beats strong. The power delivery is rock solid and we managed to take the overclock to 4.9ghz, even if it wasn’t prime stable. We are positive that with a different sample and improved cooling that higher, stable clock speeds will be possible.

The Gigabyte GA-Z87X-OC has six SATA ports, and we like the fact that these are all 6Gbps capable, no more hunting around in the manual to find out which 3Gbps ports we need to avoid for Solid State Drives. It may seem like such a small thing to mention, but I love the new Z78 chipset for this point alone.

USB 3.0 performance is particularly strong from this board, we achieved almost 280MB/s sequential speeds from our 256GB Patriot Flash drive, which is close to a new record and the same performance we achieved from last generation SATA 3Gbps Solid State drives.

We had no problems pairing this board up with the Intel Core i7 4770k processor. We achieved a prime stable overclock of 1GHZ while maintaining a reasonable thermal curve. Our 4770k sample runs very hot, even with 1.225 volts and we hope to get our hands on another sample in the near future to see if this is common, or just isolated. Thankfully the Corsair H100i coped with the hot running chip delivering a stable playing field at 4.5ghz.

The 4770k is undoubtedly faster than the 3770k on a clock per clock basis, however our 3770k sample overclocks quite easily to 5ghz and runs cooler than the 4770k engineering sample that Intel sent us. At 5ghz the 3770k will clearly outclass  the 4.5ghz 4770k in a variety of duties.

This makes it a little difficult for us to recommend that everyone head online and spend a lot of money moving to the new 4770k, especially if your 3770k runs cool and overclocks to 4.8ghz – 5ghz without hassle. We have spoken to several system builders in the United Kingdom this week and they tell us that they will be not pushing their 4770k systems past 4.4ghz and they may even aim closer to 4.2ghz.

Intel have made a lot of progress in regards to power consumption and the onboard HD4600 graphics is much more capable than the previous iteration. That said, I don’t know many people who would be buying a 4770k and not pairing it up with a discrete graphics card for more serious duties. I can’t think that an enthusiast user would adopt a 4770k for a media center system either.

In closing, there is no doubt in my mind that Gigabyte have made huge strides forward with the GA-Z87X-OC motherboard. The beautiful new BIOS is the foundation of a rebirth for the company, and when partnered up with the excellent power delivery, fantastic design and competitive pricing it looks to be a winner. If you have a system several generations old then this is a good time to budget the money for the new hardware upgrade.

The recommendation for the move to a new Haswell 4770k system is a little more difficult if you are currently running with an overclocked 3770k. The benefits just don’t seem tangible enough to warrant the cost of a new motherboard and processor. We would recommend saving your pennies until the next generation.

Pros:

  • A beautifully designed motherboard
  • BIOS is stunning.
  • rock solid.
  • overclocks well.
  • worked perfectly with Corsair 2,400mhz memory.
  • HD4600 integrated graphics is very capable.

Cons:

  • Our 4770k sample runs hot over 1.225 volts, limiting the overclock we could get from the GA-Z87X-OC.
  • A post at 4.9ghz was possible, but the Corsair H100i couldn’t handle the high voltage. (temperatures of 100c+)

Kitguru says: We love the motherboard, but the 4770k sample we received hasn’t inspired us into recommending everyone jump on an upgrade. There is no doubt the Intel HD4600 is a good move forward for Intel, but the market for integrated graphics on the 4770k will be very small. Gamers want powerful discrete solutions.
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Rating: 9.0.

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