GIGABYTE Z87X-OC “Overclocking” Motherboard Review

INTRODUCTION:
Overclocking is perhaps one of the greatest perks of owning a PC. Not only that it provides you the opportunity to make your system faster without spending a dime, it also opens up the opportunity for you to drown yourself into the vast world of the power-users, and enthusiasts alike, where breaking records and establishing your name into the hall of fame is the name of the game, while at the same time, learning more about computing in this side of the industry.

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Now in order to accomplish the goal, we need a few things; An unlocked CPU, a good cooling solution, and a capable motherboard. The first two are somewhat easier to find, but what about the motherboard? The huge chunk of PCB real estate where you will mostly rely on when it comes to durability, and utter stability. Well then, this is where the GIGABYTE Z87X-OC comes into play.

The GIGABYTE Z87-OC motherboard, as the name suggests, is a motherboard built for the overclockers. GIGABYTE has been creating overclocking motherboards since the days of the Intel’s X58 chipsets, and this one my friends is one of its indirect successors. Now what separates this board from the rest is its sweet price-point compared to other overclocking motherboards out there without sacrificing connectivity, and other options. We have this particular motherboard for weeks now, and we are going to check out if it is indeed worthy of its name. – or SKU rather.

FEATURES / SPECIFICATIONS: SEE LINK

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Features

GA-Z87X-OC Specifications
CPU Support 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors
CPU Socket LGA 1150
Chipset Intel Z87 chipset
Graphics Interface 1*PCIE 3.0 x16+1*PCIE 3.0 x8
(1×16/2×8 Bandwidth)
Display Interface 2*HDMI, DisplayPort
Memory Type 2 Channel DDR3
Memory DIMM 4*DDR3
Expansion Slots 2*PCIE x4+1*PCIE x1+2*PCI
SATA connectors 6*SATA3
SATA RAID RAID 0,1,5,10
USB 10*USB 3.0+8*USB 2.0
Audio / LAN 8-channel HD / GbE LAN
Form Factor (mm) ATX (305×244)

PACKAGING/UNBOXING:
With a sweet price-point, I expected GIGABYTE to throw every unnecessary things away when it comes to packaging. That said, what we’ve got for the Z87X-OC is a simple box, with touches of orange and branding at the front. Simple and clean.

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The back, busy as usual, houses the board’s features and specifications. GIGABYTE has done exceptional things here by laying out the notable features of the board in an easy to read graphical manner.

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Even with a toned downed packaging, GIGABYTE still managed to include some good amount of bundled accessories including the quick installation guide, setup DVD, the user’s manual, a GIGABYTE sticker, 4x SATAIII cables, a padded I/O shield, Crossfire & SLI cables, and loads of voltage probe cables to go with your multimeter. Last but not the least, GIGABYTE added a PCI slot brace dubbed as “OC Brace” which should help to secure your GFX cards in a testbench or  an open air case. Included with it is a set of thumbscrews as well.

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BOARD LAYOUT/CLOSER LOOK:
If you’re keeping a close eye on our reviews, the Z87X-OC closely follows the design refresh of  GIGABYTE motherboards, similar to what they did with the Z87X-UD3H. That said, it features an asymmetrical design approach with its heatsinks, a PCB wrapped in a glorious matte Back coating combined with Orange highlights signifying that this specific motherboard belongs to GIGABYTE’s mighty range of overclocking boards. This board also conforms to the Ultra Durabale 5 Plus standard, just so you know how well built this board is.

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For airflow freaks out there, GIGABYTE had this board equipped with 8 fan headers. 3 at the top, 3 at the bottom, 1 at the top PCI-E area, and 1 located at the DIMM area. All fan headers are well distributed, and conforms to the 4-pin header type. This means that the motherboard could control them all. Great implementation I must say.

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Looking at the top, we could see that the GIGABYTE Z87-OC looks rather busy here, compared to other motherboards. This due to the facts that GIGABYTE decided to put most of their OC features in this side of the board. Luckily, the socket area is clean, combined with a low profile VRM heatsink that should pose no compatibility issues with extreme air, water-cooling, and LN2 pot setups. Board insulation should be easy to apply too with all that space.

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Under that chunk of sexy heatsink, lies the rather cheeky power plant of the Z87-OC. Compared to its bigger brother, this one only comes with 8 power phases for the CPU VRM with an average of 60A for each chokes. Adding to that, the ample amount of phases comes with a beefy IC/PWM combo, courtesy of International Rectifier’s IR3553(s), and a single IR3563B.

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The IR3553(s) are not the same IR chips found on GIGABYTE’s higher end OC Force motherboard, but nonetheless they are still a tad better compared to the rest when it comes to precise power delivery, and stability. To top things off, this particular motherboard comes with an exclusive Black capacitors, rated with 10K hours life span @105C, courtesy of Chemi-Con. I would love to talk more about these fabulous pieces of hardware porn, but let’s move on, as you could always check more about them HERE.

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Top most part of the board features the IR3563B PWM controller, 4+8 pin CPU power connectors, and 3 fan headers. Two of which are 4-pin headers for the CPU cooler. The Black 4-pin header (CPU_OPT) is always running @ full speed, by the way. Great for AIO coolers/pumps that needs to run at constant RPM.

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This side of the board is perhaps, PERHAPS the busiest part of all the motherboard real estate, due to the sheer number of buttons and switches that even rivals the ones on my camera. This my friends is where the fun part starts! Meet the OC Touch feature; a range of easy to use buttons, switches, and read points to accompany you in overclocking with pinpoint accuracy and efficiency. I’m itching to explain them all here, but it’s going to be a novel if I do so. Just check out the image below from GIGABYTE.

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GIGABYTE OC Touch

If you’re serious, or looking into Memory Overclocking, GIGABYTE had the Z87X-OC equipped with IR3570 for the DIMMs, and the PCH’s PWM. This side of the board also features a Red USB3.0 header, signifying that it conforms to GIGABYTE’s ON/OFF charger feature. The placement of the debug display is somewhat cramped though. Numbers? each DIMM slot supports a maximum of 32GB ram (8GB/slot), with support of up to 3000Mhz memory clock speeds.

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Now heading towards the bottom part of the board, we could see that things are pretty busy around here too, courtesy of the PCI slots, and other connectivity options. For an overclocking oriented motherboard, this is already pretty good and well-rounded.

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Top most part of the PCI area features the extra 6-pin power connector that should help to provide power stability across the slots whenever they need it. This is usually situated at the SATA area, and is a SATA power connector on some GIGABYTE motherboards. Truth is, the space on that area is already cramped, so props to GIGABYTE for maintaining this feature.

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PCI connectivity consists of 3x PCI-E 3.0 slots (x16,x4,x8) directly connected to the socket, a single PCI-E x1 slot, 2x PCI Legacy slots, and a single PCI-E 2.0 x4 slot at the bottom powered by the PCH. All four Orange PCI-E slots could be populated for Quad CrossFire setup, while SLI is bound to Dual GPU config only.  Below are the possible bandwidth distribution/configurations based on the populated PCI-E slots:

CONFIGURATION DISTRIBUTION PCI-E LAYOUT
Single Card Configuration

x16

Top
Dual Card Configuration (CF/SLI) x8, x8 Top + 2nd to the Bottom
Triple Card Configuration (CF)

x8, x4, x4

Top + 2nd + 2nd to the Bottom
Quad Card Configuration (CF)

x8, x4, x4, x4

All slots populated

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If you’re wondering why heck did GIGABYTE purposely made the PCI-E x1 slot useless when the top slot is populated, then we’re on the same boat. No huge problem there though, since you can still use the bottom PCI-E 2.0 slot for your PCI-E x1 card without hurting the bandwidth of the 3.0 slots. I love the fact that GIGABYTE had the x8 slot positioned at the lower area too. Lotsa space for Extreme Dual GPU overclocking.

GIGABYTE didn’t skimped on the storage options for this OC board either, as we have 6x SATAIII ports ready to be utilized on this side of the board. We also have 2x internal USB 2.0 ports here which is a HUGE plus for the simple fact that they are USB freakin’ ports. That said, overclockers could easily boot thru the port, or do some benchmarks without using the SATA ports or the back panel I/O. These ports are particularly useful in an open air testbench, but are also incredibly useful inside a case. I’m already thinking of populating it with a dongle for my wireless mice, and wireless headset. That my friends is a good feature for LAN Party goers out there, and the possibilities are almost endless. This side of the board also features a single button dubbed as the CBAT_SW. It will basically drain your motherboard with all of its life form, and hard reset your UEFI settings without the need to remove the CMOS battery.

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The extreme edge of the board features some iTE chips(PCI and SuperIO?), along with an ALC892 audio chip. Not a huge fan of this particular Realkek chip, but it’s good enough to provide a decent audio output. We’ll test them later.

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Headers are a plenty too, with loads of extra USB headers(2×2.0, 2×3.0), fan headers(3×4-pin), and the usual suspects on this side of the board(Front Panel Audio, Front Panel Headers, SPDIF & COM Port).

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The legendary X58A-OC motherboard from the glory days came with little no to connectivity extra on the back panel port. This time though, the similarly labelled Z87X-OC came with an abundant array of extras, for the daily warrior. We have tons of USB ports here, 2x 2.0, and 6x 3.0 to be precise, 1x PS/2 combo port for the legacy gear lovers, an Intel GbE LAN port, 7.1 channel audio ports along with an Optical-out, and 3 display ports courtesy of 2x HDMI, and a single DisplayPort. To top things off this side of the board, we also have the OC Ignition button here, which is basically a button to enable the Z87X-OC supply power to the other parts of the motherboard even when the system is shutdown. This should benefit those who encounters a cold bug, those who wants to keep their volatile memory intact for the next boot, or for those who wants to keep their system fans/pumps working. It’s a great feature for system builders too who wants to showcase their system without even booting it up. – You see that feature? I want that feature.

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BUNDLED SOFTWARES:
GIGABYTE’s past softwares are good, but not as good looking as one might expect. They’re a reminiscent of an old era, and proved to be a not so intuitive interface for some. With a new motherboard, GIGABYTE made a huge refresh to their softwares, as well as to its interface, and gawd they all look fabulous. Even the software installers had a facelift. We also love the addition of Google Chrome’s stand alone installer. – Made our work easier without opening the dreaded IE to download our favorite browser.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (1)

GIGABYTE had lotsa useful softwares bundled with the Z87X-OC motherboard, but it’s the EasyTune that we spent our time the most. This nifty utility has 5 different features that should help you to monitor and fine tune your system easily.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (4)

Starting off with the Smart QuickBoost, we’ve got 4 default presets here for fine tuning your system with frequency settings from 0.80GHz (Energy Saving), up to 4.40GHz (Extreme). I do believe that these setting differs with different system configurations. If you wanted to create your own settings, just hit the Advanced button, and it will take you to an UEFI interface to setup your CPU & DIMM frequency, your Graphics frequency, voltages, and even your DIMM’s timings.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (5)

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (9)

Next up is the Smart Fan tab, which basically is a control panel for the fans connected to your motherboard. Lotsa predefined settings here too, making full use of those 6 fan headers located on the motherboard.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (6)

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The System Alert tab is where you configure temperature alerts whenever a component in your PC reached your designated threshold.

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Voltage controls are present too at the EasyTune’s interface courtesy of 3D Power. The Hardware Monitor tab on the other hand, monitors your system’s voltages, temperature, and fan speed.

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The @BIOS features Windows based BIOS/UEFI flashing, as well as adding a boot logo customization functionality thru the Face-Wizard. The EZ Setup on the other hand, features an easy to use interface, helping users to easily implement the Intel Z87 chipset’s features. We’ve also got a USB Blocker app here, which is probably my favorite software from the bunch. Dude, you shouldn’t go to a LAN Party without this, just in case a shenanigan has been casted upon thy PC.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (2)

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Softwares (3)

UEFI/BIOS:
GIGABYTE refreshed pretty much everything with the launch of the Z87 chipset, and the UEFI BIOS is no exception. At a glance, one cannot simply deny the sheer awesomeness of this interface at 1080-freakin-p. It’s sharp, it’s fluid, and it’s cool. GIGABYTE also themed the look of this UI to match the series of the motherboard. – It’s just plain awesome in many ways.

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The UEFI BIOS has 5 easy to navigate main menus, each with their own sub menus. Upon entering the UEFI, the Home tab will greet you like an old friend, showing you most of the settings that you will probably tinker with, such as the CPU, DIMM, iGPU, and voltage settings.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC UEFI BIOS (1)

What I liked the most about this interface is the fact that you could customize your own sub menus. The screenshot below is an example on how to set your own. If you are serious about fine tuning your system, this is a great way to organize things, and save time as much as possible.

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The Performance menu houses some of the settings that you could find at the Home menu, but this is where the magic actually happens. The Home menu acts just like a front page for your favorite settings, but this one my friends is the real business side of this motherboard, providing you all of the settings that needs to be tinkered with as far as deep fine tuning is concerned. We’ve got the Frequency settings here, the Memory, the PC’s status, and voltage control settings, all divided into their own sub menus.

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The GIGABYTE Z87X-OC’s UEFI boast more features, such as the ability to use the older UEFI interface (if you fancy it), as well as changing the background wallpaper of the new UEFI, along with the ability to choose your own start-up page. Other features such as the BIOS, Chipset, and Power Management settings are present as well. Check out the screenshots below.

TEST SYSTEM/PROCEDURES:
To provide precise test results, the test systems will run on an updated copy of Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1. BIOS, Chipset, and Video Card drivers will be updated too, as much as possible. No other softwares should be running while benchmarks are running unless it is stated, or needed. Below are the test system’s specifications:

CPU Intel Core i7 4770K (Retail)
MOTHERBOARD GIGABYTE GA-Z87X-OC / ASRock Z87 OC Formula
CPU COOLER Corsair H100i
MEMORY AVEXIR Core Series @2666MHz
GRAPHICS CARD HIS HD 7970 IceQ X² 3GB / PowerColor HD 7950
INT. STORAGE Kingston SSDNow V+200 128GB
PSU Cooler Master Silent PRO Gold 800W
DISPLAY LG FLATRON E2290 22″ LED
OS Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64 SP1 (Updated)
SOUND CARD CREATIVE Sound Blaster RECON3D
EXT. STORAGE 2TB Western Digital My Passport

We would like to thank GIGABYTEWestern Digital, and AVEXIR for providing our test equipment for this review.

PERFORMANCE (CPU/SYSTEM):
AIDA64 is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users. We’ll use the built-in CPU benchmark tools of the AIDA64 to determine the system’s CPU performance.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (1)

CINEBENCH R11.5 is a real-world cross-platform test suite that evaluates the computer’s performance capabilities. 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.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (5)

wPrime is a multi-threaded benchmarking application designed to measure the raw computational power of a CPU. It can be configured to run on a custom number of threads to accommodate multi-core CPUs.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (3)

SuperPI Mod is another benchmarking tool that utilizes the pure computational power of a CPU. It shows us the performance of a multi core CPU which gives us a good picture of how a processor performs on similar tasks.

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Right off the bat, the GIGABYTE Z87X-OC showed its CPU performance prowess against the competition; winning most of the benchmarks with ease. It fell short when it comes to the wPrime benchmark, though.

PERFORMANCE (MEMORY):
AIDA64 is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users. We’ll use the built-in memory benchmark tools of the AIDA64 to determine the memory’s performance.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (2)

 

Memory performance is great too, as the Z87X-OC took the read, write, copy, and latency results all for itself. We are specially loving the boost in read performance. That’s a 12% increase just so you know.

PERFORMANCE (GAMING/3D):
3DMARK (2013) is a multi-platform benchmarking tool from FUTUREMARK, consisting of comprehensive tests that aims to gauge your gaming hardware; be it a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a desktop PC.

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Resident Evil 6, is a survival horror video game developed and published by CAPCOM. It’s one of my favorite PC games, mainly because I’m a fan of the series. It also has a built-in benchmarking tool to measure your PC’s performance. It’s only DirectX 9.0 compatible at the moment, though.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (9)

Tomb Raider (2013) is the fifth game, and the reboot of the Tomb Raider series. It is developed by Crystal Dynamics, and published by Square-Enix. We disabled Tress FX for this benchmark.

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Now this is where things go tricky. You see, the Z87X-OC Formula uses our HD7950, while the Z87X-OC uses a supposedly faster HD 7970. That very HD 7970 proved to be a buggy piece of hardware randomly giving us BSODs with regards to driver stuffs. To make things worse, it could only run at PCI-E3.0 x8. Be the judge.

PERFORMANCE (AUDIO):
RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) is a suite designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. A more common mark is also provided for those unfamiliar with measured technical parameters. – http://audio.rightmark.org

RightMark Audio Analyzer test report

Testing device Speakers (Realtek High Definiti
Sampling mode 24-bit, 48 kHz
Interface MME
Testing chain External loopback (line-out – line-in)
RMAA Version 6.2.5
20 Hz – 20 kHz filter ON
Normalize amplitude ON
Level change -0.0 dB / 0.1 dB
Mono mode OFF
Calibration singal, Hz 1000
Polarity correct/correct

Summary

Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB

+0.07, -0.13

Very good

Noise level, dB (A)

-77.7

Average

Dynamic range, dB (A)

77.0

Average

THD, %

0.131

Average

THD + Noise, dB (A)

-52.7

Poor

IMD + Noise, %

0.258

Average

Stereo crosstalk, dB

-76.4

Very good

IMD at 10 kHz, %

0.329

Average

General performance

Good

As expected, the Realtek ALC892 audio chip proved to be leaning more towards the average side of things. It’s decent enough for menial stuffs, but if you want to experience real satisfaction, a sound card is a must.

PERFORMANCE (STORAGE):
Crystal Disk Mark measures the sequential reads/writes speed of your storage devices. It also measures random 512KB, 4KB, 4KB (Queue Depth=32) reads/writes speed.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (6)

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (7)

Overall storage performance crown is still the Z87 OC Formula, as the Z87X-OC trailed behind by a good amount at write performance. Read speeds, the Z87X-OC is faster but not that far from the competition.

OVERCLOCKING:
The GIGABYTE Z87X-OC motherboard is built mainly for the needs of overclockers, and it would be a shame if it’s not up for the task. That said, we tried and tried to push the said CPU to it limits, utilizing most of what the motherboard could offer. Below are the figures we got:

i 74770K @4.6GHz

i7 4770K @4.9GHz

Mutiplier

46

49

BCLK

Auto

100

vCore

1.280v

1.470v

RING Voltage

1.150v

1.200v

CPU VRIN LLC

Extreme

Extreme

CPU VRIN Voltage

1.700v

2.000v

C-States

Disabled

Disabled

Achieving a stable 4.9GHz is already a feat for a retail 4770K. We could easily achieve 5.0GHz with the OC Trigger, but that would be unfair – for myself at least. Lets check out what the 4.9GHz brought to the table:

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Max OC

4.6GHz proved to be a much more sensible overclock, as it doesn’t need to feed the processor with huge amount of voltages. Below are the comparative benchmarks between the stock i7 4770K vs the 4.6GHz 4770K.

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (12)

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (13)

GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Benchmarks (14)

Overclocking with the Z87X-OC is a joy, and the performance gains we got from it justifies our hard-work. What really separates this board from the rest are not the scores, nor the great performance bumps we got, but is actually the the sheer number of overclocking features it provided for us to achieve our goal. Overall, it’s really a fun motherboard to play with.

POWER CONSUMPTION:
We check to see how motherboard makers tune their default BIOS settings and see how it impacts power consumption. The system is left to idle for 30 minutes before readings are taken, and load data is taken 30 minutes while AIDA64 Stress Test is running. Power readings are taken for the entire system from the socket.

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Power consumption seems to be another strong point of the Z87X-OC. Clearly its 8 Phase VRM design, coupled with little to no third party controllers help a lot. Please do note that the idle and load figures are from the problematic HD 7970. We will acquire an updated power consumption reading once we got our HD 7950.

VALUE/CONCLUSION:
When I think of GIGABYTE, durability and overclocking steps into my mind. Both seems to go along very well, since durability stands for reliability, and a reliable motherboard is what you need for some serious overclocking. With the Z87X-OC, it’s a sounding reality, as the board performed exceptionally well, slicing through most of the benchmarks like a hot knife through butter without any hiccups or what so ever. With this board, the only performance cap you will hit is yourself.

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For a board with broad overclocking features, basic functionality and connectivity is still well taken care of. We’ve got loads of I/O ports found inside and out, along with some extras thrown in the mix without the need of additional third party controllers. Adding to that, this board looks so damn sexy, it just begs to be installed inside a nice windowed case, or have it placed at the top of an open air bench. Do what suits you best. Boards like this one really begs for attention.

Perhaps the only downside of this board is that it only feature an 8 Phase Power Design. Personally, it’s no biggie, since the Z87X-OC, similar to its UD5+ brethren, already features good VRM components. Let’s also be honest here that the Z87 platform paired with even the highest-end Haswell processors doesn’t need hefty loads of power to run stable even when overclocked. The rather cheeky power design also helped a lot to keep the cost down while at the same time, lowering its own carbon foot print. Great for menial tasks.

Price wise, this board is coming in hot at around 10, 000 Pesos ($230), nicely setting itself right in the spot where no other overclocking oriented Z87 motherboards has ever set foot – At least locally. This is already a bargain, since for the price, you’ll get loads of overclocking features, along with some extras that should appeal to aspiring overclockers, and power users alike.

The GIGABYTE Z87X-OC is a motherboard built around the genes of its predecessors, without sacrificing too much to achieve its goal.  It is a proper overclocking motherboard that could proudly stands on its own. Literally.

PROS:

  • Heavy overclocking features
  • Wicked overall performance
  • Board layout & features
  • UEFI/BIOS interface
  • Overclocking potential
  • Power efficiency

CONS:

  • 8 Phase VRM might be a bit baffling for some

EDITOR

PRODUCT PAGE: LINK

Author: Leo Bien Durana

Leo Bien Durana, commonly known as a tech loving Homo sapien, family of Hominidae, is Tech Porn's Chief Editor, and Dragon Slayer. He loves to sip coffee, and stares at pairs of round melons most of the time.

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