We’ve seen a mixed reaction to Intel’s new Haswell CPU and LGA1150 socket from enthusiasts. Some, like us, see it as a solid piece of hardware with welcome improvements for the platform if upgrading from older hardware. Others have unfurled “Don’t Reboot Me” flags and refuse to give up on their LGA1155 socket until we pry it from their warm, moist hands.
For the folks not bunkered in, we’re reviewing pair of Z87-based boards from Intel and Gigabyte to see how they compare to the Asus Z87-Deluxe we reviewed last month.
You don’t have to subscribe to Obscure Motherboards Quarterly to know that Intel has officially thrown in the towel, waved the white flag, and cleared the CMOS on its consumer motherboard division.
The Intel DZ87KLT-75Kincludes a USB Wi-Fi/Bluetooth adapter that attaches to the inside of your drive bays.
In fact, what you’re seeing here, the Intel DZ87KLT-75K, is likely the last Intel-branded motherboard that will ever grace our pages. Sure, many of you haters are mouthing, “I didn’t even know Intel made motherboards,” but the company has been cranking out über-reliable, albeitüber-boring boards for years.
The DZ87KLT-75K doesn’t stray too far from that tradition but it’s unfair to call it boring. The board features, for example, a set of handy and clearly marked LEDs to let you know what stage it’s in during POST, as well as a set of LEDs to let you visually see the active load on the VRM. And in a rarity these days, the board even has a built-in speaker to monitor beep codes.Add in Thunderbolt, six fan headers, properly labeled DIMM slots (take a hint, Asus), dual Intel-NIC Gigabit ports, surface-mounted power switches,802.11n and Bluetooth 2 modules, and SLI and CrossFire support,and you get a really feature-packaged mobo for the money. Compare that with the Asus Z87-Deluxe we reviewed last month that tips the scales at $280. Sure, the Asus board gives you 802.11AC and some pretty nifty utilities but the Intel board can be found for $260 and offers Thunderbolt, to boot.
The only problem for the Intel board is how it performs. Generally, performance testing of motherboards is a formality, as we rarely see any difference between boards. It’s only become more irrelevant as the memory controller and so much other functionality has moved from the chipset into the CPU itself. So imagine our surprise when the DZ87KLT-75K came in dead last in most of the benchmark runs. (For the record, we use the exact same components in all of our motherboard tests and verify clock speeds and bclocks under single-threaded and multithreaded loads in the initial preflight setups. We also use the latest available mobo drivers and BIOS and do clean installs of the OS.)
We originally assumed the Asus Z87-Deluxe just pushed the CPU harder on default, but the Intel board also got body slammed by the Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H, which isn’t pushing the chip nearly as hard as the Asus board. We honestly can’t explain why the Intel board’s performance was off the mark.
Back in the good-news column, we’re impressed by Intel’s new UEFI interface on the DZ87KLT-75K. Since UEFI has come along, we’ve seen just about every attempt at making a functional but pleasing UEFI. Asus has been ahead of the pack for a long time, but we’d have to honestly say that Intel’s implementation could actually be our favorite now. On most UEFI implementations, the laggy mouse response usually forces us to switch from missiles to guns—err, from mouse to keyboard—to scroll around, but Intel’s UEFI is the most responsive we’ve seen, and hell, even the right mouse button works.
What polish there is in the UEFI runs out of steam in the OS, though. While Asus’s and Gigabyte’s OS utilitiesshow refinement, Intel’s hasn’t changed much. Overclocking is also a manual affair in both the BIOS and OS on the Intel board. Phooey.
There are really two issues here. The first is that the performance is oddly off the mark, which we’re still investigating. Assuming it’s just our board sample or some “outlier” Gremlin, the secondproblem is perhaps larger: Intel doesn’t intend to make boards after the Z87 chipset. The company says it will support boards for three years, but we’d guess the support in the last 1.5 years won’t exactly be sterling.
It’s true that few board makers bother to update the BIOSafter the first two years but at least they’re still in the motherboard business. That won’t be the case with Intel. For a lot of people, that’s really going to be a deal breaker, which is a shame, because we really wanted to like this board.
Beautiful, fast UEFI; LED diagnostic lights aplenty.
Wolverine (the X-Men
Is there anything more negative than Intel soon abandoning motherboards?
The world’s economy may be on the mend but a lot of people still want to justify every cubit spent on technology. For some people, spending $280 for the Asus Z87-Deluxe (reviewed in October) or even $260 for the Intel DZ87KLT-75K may seem exorbitant.
The Gigabyte Z87X-UD5H offers a lot of features for the price.
Fortunately for you, budget-minded power user, Gigabyte has its GA-Z87X-UD5H board. OK, we’ll admit, $210 isn’t really budget, but you’ll see that it’s a pretty modest price given the board’s features.
The Z87X-UD5H gives you SLI and CrossFireX support, 10 SATA 6Gb/s ports, dual USB 3.0 headers, dual NICs, a POST LED, surface-mounted power and reset buttons, Creative Labs X-Fi MB drivers, and Gigabyte’s trademark dual-BIOS setup. We’ve had the unfortunate need to resort to the dual-BIOS in the past and it’s been an automatic affair. The UD5H offers and automatic and manual mode, which we got to use when we bricked the primary BIOS. No problem, flip a switch and you’re back up and running on the backup BIOS. From there, you simply flip the switch back to the primary and reflash the BIOS again. It’s pretty damned robust.
The last time we reviewed a Gigabyte board we complained hardily about the goofy UEFI (hey, that rhymes), with its faux “3D” mode. Gigabyte has since redone its BIOS with a vastly improved interface. Unfortunately, it’s still not in the class of Asus’s and now Intel’s excellent UEFI. In fact, we went back to “classic” BIOS mode because the sheer amount of information on the UEFI screen is overwhelming.
One area where Gigabyte has really improved is in its OS utilities. We haven’t been happy with the gear-shifter style interface and confusing options for some time and usually just avoided them. With the UD5H, the utilities have gotten a complete makeover that actually makes them competitive with Asus’s excellent utilities. Gigabyte, for example, now has its own equivalent of Asus’s Fan Xpert2 that’s pretty good. It’s not as granular or nerdtastic in settings but it’s a stepin the right direction. And Gigabyte even aces Asus is the update utility, which can find and fetch mobo drivers and utilities for you. This isn’t a breakthrough feature, as MSI used to do this (although not very reliably), but it’s a welcome feature that we’d love to see other board vendors also implement. The upshot is that the utilities are something to actually be used, not just installed once and ignored.
In performance, the Z87X-UD5H holds its own. Both the Intel and Gigabyte boards showed default multipliers of 8-39 on our Core i7-4770K, while the Asus had a default multiplier of 8-43. This gave the Z87-Deluxe a decided advantage in several benchmarks—but the Z87X-UD5H got pretty close. It also managed to smoke the Intel by a good margin.
In the audio department, the board uses the same ALC898 as the Intel board, but Gigabyte licenses Creative’s software algorithms, including its Crystallizer and voice changing-features, among others. We’re fans of the Crystalizer,which is a nice upgrade over the stock Realtek audio applets we usually see. We also did some close listening tests using a set of gaming headsets while hammering the USB 3.0 port with gigabytes of data and couldn’t discern any snap, crackle, or pop.
Our overall view of the GA-Z87X-UD5H is that it’s probably the sweet spot for most enthusiasts who could put the money saved byforgoing Thunderbolt or Wi-Fi into the CPU, GPU, or SSD instead.
Updated apps are much improved; plenty of bells, no whistle.
New UEFI better than “3D” version but still confusing to read
We used a Core i7-4770K, 16GB of DDR3/1866, GeForce GTX 780, Corsair Neutron GTX 240GB SSD, Cooler Master Hyper-212 Evo, and Windows 8 Enterprise for all our testing. USB 3.0 and SATA 6 performance was tested with a 240GB Samsung 840 Pro.