Voltage Regulator Analysis
With more and more things being integrated into the CPU and PCH, there isn't much that sets motherboards apart, but the voltage regulator is still one part of the motherboard that differs greatly between motherboards. It is important to review the hardware to see exactly what you are paying for.
The CPU VRM features a total of 8 phases with Vishay PowerPAK Low RDS(ON) MOSFETs (Vishay calls them TrechFETs). These PowerPAKs are common MOSFETs used by a wide variety of manufacturers in lieu of traditional D-PAK MOSFETs. They are cooled by a pretty big heat sink with a built-in water cooling pipe with threads instead of an attachment like last generation G1 had, this makes it easier for custom water cooling guys to incorporate the VRM block into their loop. There are a total of 8 output capacitors, each at 560uF for a total of 4480uF slightly above the average we have seen on Z97 boards in this price range, these are custom made 10K capacitors from Nippon Chemi-Con. There are also 8x 0.5uH ferrite core inductors.
GIGABYTE is using the International Rectifier IR3580, an 8 phase digital PWM, the latest one that is offered by International Rectifier. The difference between this PWM and the IR3563 is that this PWM features special low power operation modes such as single and dual phase operation.
GIGABYTE has used the Vishay SiRA12 TrechFETs for both the high-side and low-side MOSFETs. They have used two MOSFETs per phase; there are a total of 16 of these MOSFETs in the entire CPU VRM. All 8 phases of the PWM are being used, and four sets of two PWM outputs are routed to a total of four IR3598 doublers/dual drivers. In this case, the IR3598 is being used as a dual driver, saving space, there is no phase doubling going on. The use of all International Rectifier control chips allows GIGABYTE to take full advantage of most of the PWM's features. There are no backside components on this VRM, and the board uses 2oz of copper in the power and ground layers, which provides cooling capacity through the PCB and better signal quality.
The memory VRM is made up of two phases using Vishay SiRA18 TrechFETs both for the low-side and high-side. The low-side features two MOSFETs per phase, while a single MOSFET is used for the high-side, this makes for a total of three MOSFETs for each phase. The third MOSFETs of each of the memory phases are located on the backside of the motherboard. An International Rectifier IR3570 digital PWM is used for the memory, it's a 3+2 phase PWM, and a single IR3598 is used as a dual driver.
Since this is the VRM section, I will cover two other atypical motherboard VRMs; the PEX8747's VRM and the USB DAC-UP VRM. Pictured above is the PEX8747 a 48 lane PCI-E 3.0 switch chip, it can be fed 8x or 16x PCI-E 3.0 lanes and it outputs 32x PCI-E 3.0 lanes downstream providing 4-way SLI and CrossFireX ability at 8x per slot. At 8 watts, this IC is one of the more power hungry ICs on the motherboard, and thus requires its own switching converter. A single RT8120 is a single phase PWM and it powers a single phase VRM using two Vishay SiRA18 MOSFETs.
This is the USB DAC-UP circuitry which GIGABYTE claims provides cleaner power than typical 5v motherboard USB ports. This is to ensure stable and less noisy power to external DACs, which are sensitive to these things. The benefit here is that one can disable the USB power to the ports while still getting USB data through, many DACs have their own external power source, and being able to only output data from the USB port can help reduce noise on the USB input to the DAC.
The RT8288 above is an all-in-one VRM, featuring 3A continuous output with a wide output range. This chip powers two USB 2.0 ports, and their typical current output is 500mA (0.5A), so 3A should be more than enough.
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