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Gigabyte’s new 32-phase PWM same price as H61 motherboard

We’ve seen quite a few “extreme” motherboards over the years, but Gigabyte’s new GA-Z77X-UP7 takes things to a new level, at least as far as the PWM is concerned. The company is using a new type of power regulation in the shape of International Rectifier’s PowIRstage (pronounced power stage) which is an advancement on the very popular DrMOS (Driver MOSFET) that most higher-end motherboards use today.

IR’s PowIRstage is a “synchronous buck gate driver IC with co-packed control and synchronous MOSFETs and Schottky diode” and the important thing to note here is the IC part, as the PowIRstage’s are integrated circuits rather than various bits glued together inside the chip packaging. This not only makes them much more efficient when it comes to switching the current, but they also run a lot cooler thanks to the higher level of integration and efficiency. A single PowIRstage consists of a driver IC, a high side MOSFET and one or two low side MOSFETs.

So what does this mean in practical terms? Well, Gigabyte claims that the PowIRstage’s run 30 degrees C cooler than a traditional motherboard design using MOSFETs and in this specific case they were comparing a 16-phase MOSFET PWM design to a 4-phase PowIRstage PWM design. This is a significant improvement that not only means a cooler motherboard, but it also has the positive side effect of longer component life in the PWM area, as surrounding components will run much cooler as well.

So what about the motherboard? Well, the Z77X-UP7 – where P stands for power – is one of Gigabyte’s first UltraDurable 5 models and the company has gone completely nuts here and done a 32-phase PowIRstage PWM design.

Gigabyte even acknowledged that there’s really no need for such an advanced PWM design on a Z77 motherboard, but they decided to create a motherboard that should appeal to hardcore overclockers. Apparently an insane 60A can be delivered to the CPU socket, which is a serious amount of power for an LGA-1155 CPU.

We were also told by the company that the PWM design alone cost as much as an entry level H61 motherboard and considering IR charges no less than

US$4.38 for one of its 3550M PowIRstage’s we’re looking at a cost of over US$140, although we have a feeling that Gigabyte pays a fair bit less than that for the chips.

The rest of the features will hopefully not disappoint either with five x16 PCI Express 3.0 slots courtesy of a PLX PCI Express switch and two x1 PCI Express slots. Add four SATA 3Gbps and six SATA 6Gbps ports, an mSATA slot, a wide range of manual overclocking control features, dual 8-pin 12V power connectors and a SATA power connector for extra power to the PCI Express slots and we have a feeling that this board will at least appeal to some high-end users.

At the rear of the board we have a PS/2 port, six USB 3.0 ports – two more are available via a pin-header – dual Gigabit Ethernet courtesy of one Intel and one Atheros controller, 7.1-channel audio with optical S/PDIF out and a DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI and D-sub connector. Note that Gigabyte has added a headphone amp to the Z77X-UP7 which can be seen in the lower left hand corner.

Overall some pretty impressive stuff, but the Z77X-UP7 is going to be anything but a cheap motherboard when it launches later this year.

Although Gigabyte didn’t confirm the exact price, we were told to expect a retail price north of US$400 which isn’t hard to understand thanks to the cost of the power regulation circuitry alone. Let’s just hope that this motherboard delivers on its promise to offer the best power regulation on a motherboard to date.

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