Introduction – Gigabyte Z87X-OC
Well we are now many boards deep into the Z87 line and now we got a new fun toy from the team over at Gigabyte. This is one of the OC Series boards, and yes I did say one of them as there are two different OC model boards the Z87X-OC and the Z87X-OC Force. The Z87X-OC Force is a full 4 Way sli and Crossfire model designed for overclocking and using a bridge chip to allow more PCIe lane availability to allow 4 Way SLI function.
The board we have today is the Z87X-OC which omits the bridge chip and Liquid cooled VRM area in favor of a much more affordable cost. The tradeoff however does mean you give up the ability to run more than two way SLI or Quad SLI with two dual GPU cards, but since AMD does not limit crossfire to a specific lane width you can actually still run 4 card crossfire on this board but the lower three cards will be running at x4 PCIe which means there could be a bottleneck there.
The board comes in at a price of $199.99 on Newegg, This is hugely competitive for a deeply overclocking based board and with some of its overclock features and capabilities I could see this being an amazing steal should you be a benchmarker looking to run mostly 2D benches or 3D on single/Dual card.
Features & Specifications
Here you can see even though this board hits under the 200 dollar mark it does not cheap out on features as there are many cool overclocking gadgets built onto the OC board just waiting for you to take advantage of to tweak and tune your way to hall of fame greatness.
OC Ignition is very interesting as it allows full board power on to all components without the system actually powering on and one area that the Gigabyte documentation mentions which i really agree with is liquid cooling custom loops. Always when building a custom loop you have to hook everything up and jump the PSU to let the liquid cooling run while you leak test before completing the build and buttoning it up. With OC ignition you can press a button and everything is on except the critical components which means you can leak test as long as you need without worrying of an overheated CPU as the system is not actually powered on.
Another area that is huge is keeping the system live for cold but moments when the system may have to be warmed back up, frost will quickly grow on the board but by enabling the OC Ignition the fans will keep airflow moving ans minimize frost and resulting benching issues when pulling long subzero benchmark sessions.
Case modding is something I love and being able to demo your custom system including lighting and other items without the system being powered on is very cool and a nice usage for the OC Ignition function as it simply allows much easier setup without having to ensure the system is running with stability or even data security.
This honestly is something I cannot believe has not been done before. It is a simple idea and since I myself bench on LN2 I know the hassle of rubber banding pots on multiple cards together and just how much stress a card with a copper pot can put on a PCIe slot especially if it leans. Well with this brace it basically mounts to two points on the motherboard and allows graphics cards to now be stabilized by this reinforced brace. I actually could see myself using this on bore than just this board going forward, now I may have to check the rear of any board though since it comes with a brace that goes on the rear of the mounting points to stiffen it up for mounting and I dont want to short a board but at the end of the day this is just a really cool and innovative solution that I am very surprised is just now being met.
The OC Touch feature is the large collection of direct control buttons you see at the top right of the board near the DIMM slots. or “Overclockers Corner” as I have called it for some time now. These buttons are used for hardware level real time control of clocks via both Ratio and BCLK adjustments. There is even a button called “Gear” which scales the BCLK adjustment from 1MHz to .1MHz for even more granularity to your tuning once you start to reach the very edge of your overclocking limit.
Advanced OC Tools
There is so much more up here now as we dig deeper you see that the TAG button which is used after having to hard clear the board you can preload your OC settings from a profile quickly and easily without having to enter BIOS and reset everything. there are multiple smaller buttons used for resetting, “memory safe mode” which reduces memory settings to allow booting should a memory problem arise or a setting be set just a bit too far to post. There is also a Direct To BIOS button which we have seen on quite a few boards which simply gets you into the UEFI quickly and easily without having to spam the DEL key. The settings lock button will save your settings even on a CMOS clear so that as you enter BIOS you will not have to recover you last bootable settings.
There are also many toggles on the board. firstly there is a pod of four white small dip switches used to quickly disable GPU slots so that diagnosis of GPU issues can be completed quickly and easily with minimal issues especially in the case of cards being liquid cooled or other forms of more extreme cooling where removing a GPU may be very difficult especially just for diagnostic purposes. Also a BIOS switch to allow toggling between Physical BIOS chips which can be used for testing a different BIOS or even having different BIOS with different profiles. Lastly there is an OC Trigger Switch which allow for a very low clock and tuning of the setting you need then you flick the switch and it ramps up to the set frequencies. this has been used for a bit now and some even use it for validations but I’m not sure I’m 100% onboard with validations you can only get for a microsecond, but honestly that’s a discussion for another time as it does not in any way affect the function of this board.
Enthusiast Optimized Slot Layout
The slot layout is quite interesting since it does not use a bridge chip you have the standard 16 lanes from the CPU. with a single GPU in the primary slot you get a x16 slot, once you install a second you get two X8 slots and anything past that you keep the primary slot at x8 while the other three slots will be x4 width. One thing that I find interesting is that the bottom most slot gets x4 lanes from the PCH and since it communicates with the CPU via the DMI link I was not sure how it would work in relation to linking GPUs between the CPU lanes and the PCH but apparently it works and that has me impressed as this is yet another very cool innovation that I have not seen implemented in this way before which allows a 4 way card setup without the over 300 dollar or much more cost normally associated with such boards.
Ultra Durable 5 Plus
Gigabyte has been marketing the Ultra Durable line for awhile and many things have changed as more solid components and technologies have made their way into the lineup. some of these features are described below.
New Heatsink design
The new heatsink designs are made with a new design which I personally feel are great for aesthetics but also seem to cool the VRM and chipset rather well.
Here you can see the new heatsink design, not only is it functional but its quite clean and sexy looking compared to some heatsink designs we have seen recently. The reason we mention the appearance is that so many users are building high end windowed systems and you have to take motherboard appearance into account for those who want to show off their hardware.
All IOR Digital Power Design
Gigabyte originally was a naysayer of the digital VRM designs but they have come around–this adaptation of the popular IOR components for their digital power solutions has great performance. The Digital solution allows for finite adjustment and regulation of voltages under idle and load conditions, extra-fine granular tuning, and has features such as LLC and great power saving under lower load situations via finer voltage control which can be modulated actively in real time by the controller.
Here you can see the design of the IOR single package designs which allow for the driver, and low/hi side mosfets to all be integrated into a single IC which saves space and allows for a much better structure, layout and even the thermal output from such applications. The IOR PowerIRstage units are rated for up to 60A per unit for a massive power handling capability which in turn means your overclock ability will be far limited by your chip before it will ever find the VRM falling short.
Full black solid cap design
Here we see the Solid state caps which have been a staple of the Ultra Durable config for pretty much as long as we can remember. Now they have an all black design which first of all looks really good. Also, these caps have a 10,000 HR rating which means they have a lifespan rating 5X that of typical consumer product offerings and even 2x that of standard mainstream offerings.
High ESD Protection
Gigabyte wants to ensure that some of the weird customer induced issues such as ESD from unplug and replug of devices is reduced which they accomplish by extra ESD protection built into the rear IO panel ports to make sure the board should have a better chance of surviving small static shocks unscathed.
Ultra Safe Dual BIOS
Here you see the safety factor in terms of the dual BIOS implementation and the fact that even if a single BIOS chip is completely hosed you can still boot off the other one and keep running without being dead in the water so to speak.
On/Off Charge 2
Gigabyte has made some improvement to their On/Off charge technology to support the latest and greatest mobile devices including those running iOS or Android, and they will charge even with the PC powered off via the PSU supplied standby voltage supply.
One Fuse per USB Port
We have seen this before from Gigabyte and we always thought it was a great idea as having a single fuse protecting a whole block of USB’s means that if one device causes a fault, you could lose all of those ports, resulting in a severe loss of functionality. Gigabyte runs a single fuse per port so that if a device shorts or has an issue you lose only a single port and the malfunction is localized with less change of affecting other components.
Intel Gigabit LAN
Gigabyte includes Intel NIC on the 8 series boards which is a good move as Intel Gigabit NICs are known for their stability, performance and overall durability even under heavily loaded environments.
The Gigabyte Z87 boards this time around have a very well refined software suite with a much smoother and finished feel to them.
The App Center is where you can do quick updates or start the Easytune app. This is a cleaner looking interface and shows the design styling Gigabyte has chosen for its software. We can imagine being the App center this will be a constantly evolving App Drawer which will be used as a central point to launch new utilities as Gigabyte adds them to the suite.
Gigabyte refined the Easytune software to include all of the previous functionality but needless to say if you look at the screen captures it is majorly better when it comes to layout and appearance. Let’s not forget that it is much easier on the eyes as well with a nice soft gray/black combo which adds to the smooth feel.
One thing definitely worth noting here is that the Easytune software can be changed to match different series boards with Orange for the OC series boards, Blue for standard and Green for the Killer/Gaming series boards, we think this is a cool addition as it adds a dose of not just functionality but also customization to the mix which many users will like.
The fan control is really cool now offering auto adjustments and tuning along side the standard manual adjustability to allow system tuning down to a very fine level to allow users to make the board exactly what they need it to be.
The ability to adjust everything down to phase control all within the OS and in this software makes it much easier to make small adjustment especially when overclocking without having to jump out to the BIOS with every little tweak.
Overview of the Gigabyte Z87X-OC
The packaging for the 8 series from gigabyte carries pretty much the same flavor as the 7 series which is not a bad thing as it usually carries a nice angle shot of the VRM/Heatsink.
Overall the front is a bit more cluttered than some we have seen as it has quite a lot of Ultra durable 5 detail right on the cover which may or may not catch the eyes of consumers. We still think the X79 boards were probably some of the best packaging Gigabyte has done to date and possibly even better than most competitors as it was super clean and simple but got attention.
The rear of the box is full of spec and detail info so that before you ever even make a purchase you have a really good idea of what you are getting.
- User Manuals
- Installation Discs
- SATA Cables
- SLI Ribbon
- Crossfire ribbon
- OC Brace and hardware
- IO Shield
- Voltage Probe Leads
The bundle with the OC board is stout and with the inclusion of the OC Brace is simply cool.
Being a true OC board all of the connectors are at boards edge with one area being the 6 Pin PCIe connector to feed supplemental power to the slots which is located mid board. I am not a big fan of running massive cables over the board but being that this board is targeted at the bench enthusiasts who have wires going every which way anyways I really cannot complain too much on this one.
The slot layout is made in such a way that dual card operation has huge spacing between it for plenty of airflow or fitment of large GPU cooling containers. And for 4 way card setups dual slot spacing is there to facilitate the need should you want to run a 4 Way AMD bench rig but honestly I don’t see 4 way benchmarkers running this board as the OC Force would give them much more bandwidth for hungry GPUs. This board is more for the 2D bencher and the single/dual card setups.
Click Image For a Larger One
Click Image For a Larger One
- 2x USB 2.0 ports
- OC Ignition Button
- 6x USB 3.0 Ports
- HDMI Port (x2)
- Displayport Connector
- Optical SPDIF connectors
- PS2 Combo Mouse/Keyboard port
- Gigabit LAN port
- Up to 7.1 Channel HD audio via Realtek ALC892
The connectivity is plentiful and more than enough for the market this board has in its sights.
Click Image For a Larger One
The CPU fan connection you will notice has a secondary header which is pretty cool. This OPT header is designed for usage with either dual fan air coolers or even AIO units where the pump uses a fan header so that you can have the port run full power for the pump rather than hoping the onboard modulation doesn’t slow the pump down and harm performance.
The “Overclockers corner” on the top right has onboard buttons to allow easy bench top usage and as we discussed before there is a plethora of controls here for everything from finite level of adjustments to recovery from a bad overclock. This corner literally has everything I can think of needing during a bench session even quick connector ports for voltage probing..
Gigabyte UEFI Dual BIOS
Testing & Methodology
We’ve expanded our testing suite considerably since the X79 chipset release, and will continue to use the same methods for most of the motherboards and CPU’s we test. In the interests of thoroughness and accurate results, we run each test at least three times, and some tests more than that. We average the total of all the tests from each benchmark then report the average here.
The OS we use is Windows 7 Pro 64bit with all patches and updates applied. We also use the latest drivers available for the motherboard and any devices attached to the computer. We do not disable background tasks or tweak the OS or system in any way. We turn off drive indexing and daily defragging. We also turn off Prefetch and Superfetch. This is not an attempt to produce bigger benchmark numbers. Drive indexing and defragging can interfere with testing and produce confusing numbers. If a test were to be run while a drive was being indexed or defragged, and then the same test was later run when these processes were off, the two results would be contradictory and erroneous. As we cannot control when defragging and indexing occur precisely enough to guarantee that they won’t interfere with testing, we opt to disable the features entirely.
Prefetch tries to predict what users will load the next time they boot the machine by caching the relevant files and storing them for later use. We want to learn how the program runs without any of the files being cached, and we disable it so that each test run we do not have to clear pre-fetch to get accurate numbers. Lastly we disable Superfetch. Superfetch loads often-used programs into the memory. It is one of the reasons that Windows occupies so much memory. Vista fills the memory in an attempt to predict what users will load. Having one test run with files cached, and another test run with the files un-cached would result in inaccurate numbers. Again, since we can’t control its timings so precisely, it we turn it off. Because these four features can potentially interfere with benchmarking, and and are out of our control, we disable them. We do not disable anything else.
One thing to note is that we are revamping our testing method in order to better represent motherboard performance and offering to you guys the consumer. Also we want to make it an easier read for you without miles of endless charts. Please feel free to provide feedback on what you think as many benchmarks will be shuffled or removed completely.
|Case||Open Test Bench|
|Ram||GSkill TridentX 2666MHz|
|CPU Cooler||Swiftech 240mm rad custom loop|
|Hard Drives||Western Digital Velociraptor 1TB 10000RPM 6Gb/s Hard Drive|
|SSD||1x Kingston HyperX 240GB SATA III 6Gb/s SSD|
|GPU||Intel iGPU or Nvidia GTX 680|
|PSU||Thermaltake Toughpower XT 1475W Gold|
|Mouse||Tt eSPORTS Black Gaming Mouse|
|Keyboard||Tt eSPORTS Meka G1 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard|
We will use the following applications to test the performance of the Z87 Chipset (Motherboard, Processor).
|SuperPi Mod 1.5|
|Unigine Heaven 4.0|
|Batman Arkham City|
|Sniper Elite V2|
First up is PCMark and to my surprise this boards efficiency is actually very good, it knocked out some of the highest numbers I have seen to date for the overall PCMark score.
Here you can see that the Gigabyte board pulls no punches in the graphics performance area as it pulls very nice numbers and when considering the price this is looking more and more like a hell of a deal for those looking for a awesome 1-2 card board.
This tests single threaded performance and clock efficiency by processing digits of the number pi. Going from the previous gen Z77 to Z87 yields a nice efficiency jump clock for clock, but we still feel this could be a premature result. The result with the OC Board is rightfully improved as the efficiency shows with some better performance numbers than even the top performing Gigabyte boards we had tested already.
WPrime is similar to Superpi, but is multi core aware and you can set the core count. We used 8 threads to take advantage of the 4770K’s HyperThreading ability. Here you can see that the efficiency in multi core processing improves as you can see a pretty nice gain going from Z77 to Z87, and even more so when overclocked. We are quite excited to see what this platform can do as we get our hands on more boards to test real world performance.
On the Gigabyte Z87X-OC pulls some very good numbers and almost bests the Intel platform when overclocked which honestly is quite the feat being as the full line of boards we have tested so far have not beaten it yet.
“CINEBENCH is a real-world test suite that assesses your computer’s performance capabilities. MAXON CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software, CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more. MAXON CINEBENCH runs several tests on your computer to measure the performance of the main processor and the graphics card under real world circumstances. The benchmark application makes use of up to 16 CPUs or CPU cores and is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-Bit) and Macintosh (PPC and Intel-based). The resulting values among different operating systems are 100% comparable and therefore very useful with regard to purchasing decision-making. It can also be used as a marketing tool for hardware vendors or simply to compare hardware among colleagues or friends.”
Transcoding has become more popular now and the latest Sandy Bridge processor added support for AVX instruction for faster video transcoding. With that you can see that going from Ivy Bridge to Haswell can net you some very good gains, especially a 2FPS gain on 2 Pass. This tells us that overall optimizations to the new platform are present and working very well. This is shown to an even greater extent on the OC board as the efficiency pushes an even stronger result both stock and overclocked.
TrueCrypt is a real world application that gives a good indication of the true performance of our latest processor. Here the new Core i7 4770K puts some definite room between itself and the outgoing 3770K with over a 22% performance increase, which means in the same time you can get a lot more work done. The OC Board once again shows strong but well there’s only so much you can do on a test lke this so the improvements are small but they still show what the board is capable of on things beyond just benchmarks.
Unigine Heaven 2.5
Unigine Heaven is a benchmark program based on Unigine Corp’s latest engine, Unigine. The engine features DirectX 11, Hardware tessellation, DirectCompute, and Shader Model 5.0. All of these new technologies combined with the ability to run each card through the same exact test means this benchmark should be in our arsenal for a long time.
Unigine Heaven on a discrete GTX 680 gains about a single FPS, probably just due to the expanded performance with the overclock. For the most part, however, recent platforms are so efficient that there simply is no bottleneck for current gen card models.
Metro 2033 shows drops slightly in comparison to the Intel when overclocked but the gaming performance appears slightly better when comparing stock to stock speeds. This could partially be due to the higher memory bandwidth numbers the Intel board was showing as it gives a bigger pipeline to work with.
Batman Arkham City
Discrete GPU results for the Gigabyte board are very good showing increases quite good over the reference Intel board and even more when overclocked which speaks well to the Gigabyte teams performance optimizations.
Sniper Elite V2
While Sniper Elite V2 shows very high max FPS on the Intel board when overclocked, but in reality that does nothing if its not consistent and with the OC board we once again see similar to the other Gigabyte boards we tested where maximum FPS did not spike as high but the average was higher which tells me taht the platform stays at a higher FPS more consistently compared to the peakiness or even possible jittering you might see from the Intel board.
Our Final Thoughts
Gigabyte has really changed things coming from the Z77 OC board to the Z87. When I looked at the Z77 I was not too impressed as the VRM was massive and I just didn’t see a need but from what I see on the Z87 series they refined their approach and threw out the book on design and started over fresh. To me this is the best thing they ever could have done as these boards are not just impressive but they simply perform and even have some awesome features and innovations which make them a great buy even for a gamer who may want the orange look in his new windowed rig.
The overclocking features from the OC Brace to the massive amount of onboard controls and even the unique slot trace layouts all add up to a board that allows so much potential and overclock capability but at a price that makes you feel like you’re dreaming.
The sheer fact that the Gigabyte board can pull off a sub 200 price tag and have pro level OC features is raising the bar for future board releases as Gigabyte now offers two high end OC models to fit even more extreme enthusiasts needs, and I can only see this meaning good things for the future of ASUS board offerings if decisions like this can continue.