Let’s face it, power users can be very tough on their components, especially the motherboard. We use big-time hardware that generates a lot of heat, then we overclock it, generating more heat. We ratchet up voltages, overclock more, and hope that everything holds together. It goes without saying that the motherboard, ground zero for this punishment, needs to be tough.
The GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK is part of GIGABYTE’s impressive Black Edition lineup. To gain entry into this club, the motherboard had to pass a 168-hour stress test. Of course, this Z97-based motherboard also boasts GIGABYTE’s Ultra Durable components. The GAZ97X-UD3H-BK isn’t just about durability, though. GIGABYTE adds SATA Express and M.2 connectivity, network traffic management, and a rear audio amplifier to support high-quality headphones.High-quality capacitors are one of the key Ultra Durable components. GIGABYTE uses black solid state capacitors that can operate at maximum efficiency for at least 10,000 hours. GIGABYTE also loads this motherboard with twice the copper found in typical PCBs, so it’ll be able to handle higher power loads and better dissipate heat.
GIGABYTE makes sure the sockets and ports are protected, too. For instance, the CPU socket is gold-plated to avoid corroded pins. GIGABYTE guards the USB and LAN ports from electrostatic discharge by including a dedicated protection filter. The PCB’s integrated circuits also feature anti-surge protection. Now, onto the fun stuff.
If you’re planning on a multi-GPU setup, know that the GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK supports three-way CrossFire or two-way SLI. The bottom PCI-E x16 slot shares bandwidth with the board’s three PCI-E x1 slots, and when that bottom PCI-E x16 slot is populated, all of the x1 slots will be unavailable. The PCI-E x1 slots are nicely arranged. There’s one x1 slot above the top PCI-E x 16 slot and two below it. This slot layout should ensure that two of the x1 slots are always available, even if you install two dual-slot graphics cards. GIGABTE also throws in a legacy PCI slot.
If you have high-speed DDR3, you’ll be able to use it on the GA-Z97X-UD3H -BK . The motherboard can handle up to 32GB DDR3 clocked at a staggering 3,100MHz. Of course, GIGABYTE also provides support for Intel’s XMP memory configurations. For storage, you’ll find six 6Gbps that support RAID 0/1/5/10. And, as previously mentioned, you’ll be able to use a SATA Express or M.2 storage device, but not both at the same time; on the GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK, the two interfaces share bandwidth. When you install an M.2 SSD, the motherboard will disable the SATA connectors 4 and 5, which are the ports co-opted by the SATA Express port.
To give you more control over your network traffic, GIGABYTE provides cFos Speed, which is an application that works hand in hand with Intel’s Gigabit LAN controller. GIGABYTE indicates that the cFos Speed app functions like a network driver, so it’ll work with specific applications to optimize network performance. According to GIGABYTE, cFos should help reduce ping times, which is crucial for online gaming.
If you’re a gamer (or anyone would appreciates good sound, really), you should like the audio capabilities integrated into the GA-Z97XUD3H-BK. It all starts with Realtek’s ALC1150 high-definition audio codec. The ALC1150 codec supports highquality voice capture, as it can work with microphones that use echo cancellation, beamforming, and noise suppression technologies. A high-capacity amplifier is built into the GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK to drive up to 600-ohm loads for crisp, clear sound with professional headphones. The GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK minimizes audio distortion, too, thanks to a dedicated section of PCB for the audio components. GIGABYTE has even separated the left and right audio channels to eliminate crosstalk between the stereo channels.
The GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK muscled through our bevy of benchmarks with no problems. We tested the motherboard with Intel’s new Core i7-4790K, 8GB of ADATA XPG V2 DDR3-2400, and a PNY GeForce GTX 780 XLR8 Overclocked Series. The motherboard posted good marks in processor-intensive tests, including 891 points in Cinebench 15 and 1796.04 pixels per second in POV-Ray 3.7. In our game tests, which we ran at 2,560 x 1,600, the GA-Z97XUD3H-BK delivered 51.8fps in Aliens vs. Predator and 49fps in Metro: Last Light.
Thus far, we’ve been impressed with GIGABYTE’s lineup of Z97 motherboards. The GA-Z97X-UD3H-BK is built to last, and there are plenty of features to please gamers and enthusiasts alike. Priced at $169.99, the GA-Z97X-UD3H is well within reach for most power users. If you have Devil’s Canyon is on your radar, then you’d better put this motherboard there, too.