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Roundup: entry level Z77 Express motherboards from AsRock, Asus, Gigabyte and MSI
by Guillaume Louel
Published on December 28, 2012

Gigabyte GA-Z77X-DH3

Gigabyte offers an extensive range with no fewer than ten models, including three micro ATX models.


Click to enlarge

From Gigabyte we decided to test the GA-Z77-D3H. In contrast to the motherboards from ASRock and Asus, this one is in a full size ATX format and will therefore fix on correctly using nine screws.


Visually the components on the board look to be better spaced, though the mSATA in the middle stands out!


For the power supply system, Gigabyte has put in a good shift equipping the board with high quality transistors, capacitors and chokes. There’s a radiator covering the transistors on the left of the board (processor power supply). It’s a 4+2+1 type here (one more phase for the northbridge than the other motherboards tested here). Note that Gigabyte has added a P4 (four pin) type ATX 12V connector. Using a P8 is optional and somewhat superfluous on this socket.


Gigabyte has included two x16 physical PCI Express connectors. Only one is connected to the processor, the other to the chipset in x4 mode. There are three x1 ports. Using the x4 port will deactivate the third x1 port. To complete the total, there are also three PCI ports. Gigabyte has included an additional EtronTech EJA68A controller to give us two extra USB 3.0 ports. Not having this controller wouldn’t have been too much of an issue! When it comes to the standard chips, Gigabyte has gone its own way. Out with Realtek for the network and in with an Atheros chip. For sound it’s the VIA VT2021. These are intriguing choices that we’re looking forward to checking out in practice!

I/O panel

The I/O panel on the Gigabyte board is relatively rich with a PS/2 port as well as four USB 2.0s and four USB 3.0s. Two of these are linked to the chipset (on the left) and two to the EtronTech.


For the video connectivity, once again there’s no DisplayPort, but DVI, VGA and HDMI are included. There’s an S/PDIF optical port for the audio as well as five assignable jacks.

Headers, particularities

When it comes to headers, the board has the wherewithal to add six USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 (Intel chipset), as well as an RS/232 series port. There’s also a header for the TPM module.


What is most original about this Gigabyte board is the inclusion of an mSATA connector which is plugged into the last of the chipset's SATA 3 Gb/s ports. Note also that there are two BIOS’ (a main one and a backup). There’s no switch however to go from one to the other - the backup only kicks in when there’s a problem and you can’t update it.

Bundle

The Gigabyte bundle almost seems luxurious with four Serial ATA cables (2 for the competition).


The manual is excellent, as with other Gigabyte boards.It's nicely adapted for newbies and yet sufficiently detailed and practical for more experienced users looking for information. We congratulate Gigabyte on this point.

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