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GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE's Z170X-UD5 TH Intel Z170 based motherboard comes packed with lots of features including Thunderbolt 3.0, and a solid price tag.

@StevenBassiriTT
Published Fri, Nov 13 2015 5:15 PM CST   |   Updated Tue, Nov 3 2020 6:59 PM CST
Rating: 94%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing

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VIEW GALLERY - 107 IMAGES

GIGABYTE's Intel Z170 offerings are segmented into three distinct product lines; Ultra Durable, Gaming, and SOC. Recently the first Thunderbolt 3 certified motherboard hit the market, GIGABYTE's Z170X-UD5 TH. The board is positioned to satisfy those who want workstation features at an affordable price. While the Z170 chipset has greatly expanded basic chipset features, it hasn't done much to introduce newer features to the market.

Apart from USB 3.0, SATA 6G, and PCI-E 3.0, the Z170 chipset does not offer much more connectivity. At the launch of the Z170 chipset, Intel also debuted the "Alpine Ridge" USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 controller, offering the ability for manufacturers to use a single chip and implement it different ways to produce different offerings. Of all the different configurations the chip offers, Thunderbolt 3 is the strongest and most feature rich. Let's take a look at the Z170X-UD5 TH!

Specifications

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The Z170X-UD5 TH does not just have Thunderbolt 3/USB 3.1, it also carries HDMI 2.0 support, Intel LAN, 32Gb/s M.2, and SATA Express. Intel's USB 3.1/Thunderbolt 3 controller can support multiple protocols through the Type-C reversible connector including USB 3.1, Thunderbolt 3 at 40Gb/s, and DisplayPort 1.2.

GIGABYTE's dual Type-C implementation supports USB power delivery 2.0, up to 12 daisy chained devices, two 4K displays or a single 5K display, and is backwards compatible with all USB specifications (as long as they use the Type-C connector).

Pricing

At the time of writing, the GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH is quite competitively priced at $220 on Newegg.

Packaging and Z170X-UD5 TH Overview

Packaging and Overview

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The Z170X-UD5 TH's box is basic, and if you hadn't already figured it out, the motherboard supports Thunderbolt 3. Packaging is also quite basic, but effective and GIGABYTE did employee anti-static protection.

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The board comes with a few accessories; 4x SATA 6Gb/s cables, IO Shield, SLI Bridge, G-Connector, IO dust covers (for Type-C connectors and HDMI), case badge, driver DVD, and manuals.

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The GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH has six onboard fan connectors. The CPU fan connector circled in blue is a PWM mode header, while the five other headers circled in red are voltage mode. A single 3-pin connector circled in green provides 12v at all times. The black, gold, grey and silver aesthetics aren't too shabby. The lighting used during the photo shoot don't correctly capture the true golden hue of the heat sinks, that being said, they do look better (darker) in person. The hints of gold of the audio capacitors do match that of the heat sinks, and the audio PCB divide is illuminated by yellow LEDs. The back of the motherboard is pretty much bare except for the screws that hold down the heat sinks and the 14 yellow LEDs around the audio divide.

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The IO panel is what this motherboard is all about; 4x USB 2.0, 4x USB 3.0, 2x Type-C (USB 3.1/TB3/DP1.2), HDMI 2.0, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, 1Gbit NIC, and S/PDIF with TOSLINK for audio.

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Each of the full sized PCI-E 16x slots is reinforced by single piece metal shields that should help reduce wear from heavy GPUs. The first and second 16x slots are connected to the CPU and operate at 16x/0x or 8x/8x. The last full sized slot runs at 4x PCI-E 3.0 and shares bandwidth with the M.2 connector (it's connected to the PCH).

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There are three SATA Express connectors that operate as two SATA6Gb/s ports each when not being used as SATA Express. The M.2 slot and the last PCI-E 4x slot are mutually exclusive, and if you install an SATA-based M.2 drive into the M.2 slot, you will lose one SATA port. You can refer to the manual to determine which SATA port will be disabled.

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GIGABYTE provides two USB 3.0 internal headers that are both directly connected to the PCH (in fact all USB 3.0 on the board is directly connected to the PCH without any hubs or switches). Surprisingly GIGABYTE provides a right angled SATA power receptacle for extra PCI-E power. Overclocking features are also present and include power, reset, clear CMOS buttons, as well as voltage read points.

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The audio section is decked out with fancy stripes and audio capacitors. The NIC, clock generator, and audio codec are all hidden under metal shields. The VRM on this board is exactly like that on the Z170X-UD5, it's an 8+3 phase VRM.

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The heat sinks are all screwed down, and they seem to make good contact with the components they cool.

GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH Circuit Analysis

Circuit Analysis

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Z170X-UD5 TH in its birthday suit.

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The main CPU VRM only powers the VCC and VCCGT, and the VCCSA and VCCIO are derived from a linear regulator located right below the CPU socket. The VRM is an 8+3 phase (VCore+iGPU) powered a 4+3 phase VRM. The inductors have a fancy logo on them and are part of a custom batch of inductors seen on some other GIGABYTE boards. The capacitors are custom made 10K Chemicon black solid polymer capacitors.

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GIGABYTE uses an Intersil ISL95856 hybrid-digital PWM that supports a maximum of 4+3 phases of output. While the PWM provides 2+1 integrated drivers, four extra Intersil ISL6625A labeled "5AZ" are needed to utilize all the PWM's phases. These four drivers are located around the VRM, and each driver for the iGPU phases is directly connected to one pair of MOSFETs while each driver for the VCore phases is connected to two pairs of MOSFETs.

The MOSFETs are from Vishay Siliconix. Each phase uses a SiRA12 and a SiRA18 TrenchFET for the low-side and high-side. The VCCIO and VCCSA are powered by a linear regulator located below the CPU socket.

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The memory VRM is powered by a single phase PWM with integrated drivers, the Richtek RT8120. The single phase VRM utilized two SiRA12 for the low-side and a single SiRA12 for the high-side.

GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH Circuit Analysis Continued

Z170X-UD5 TH Circuit Analysis Continued

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The main chip that provides the dual Type-C ports with Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and DP 1.2 support is the Intel "Alpine Ridge" controller labeled DSL6540. To fully support USB power delivery 2.0 specifications, GIGABYTE uses two Texas Instruments TPS65982 USB PD 2.0 controllers (Intel's preferred controller).

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The "AMP-UP" and "Intel Inside" shields cover up a Realtek ALC1150 and an Intel i219v for audio and Gbit LAN. The audio section has a Texas Instruments OP1652 audio amplifier and 11 Nichicon Gold series audio capacitors. The audio section is clearly separated from the rest of the PCB, and the separation is illuminated by 14 yellow LEDs on the backside of the PCB.

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HDMI 2.0 is not part of the standard Z170 platform, so GIGABYTE implemented a Mega Chips MCDP2800BB to provide HDMI 2.0 functionality. Under the "Turbo B-Clock" cover is an ICS clock generator for higher BLCK overclocking margins.

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The main SuperIO on the motherboard is an IT8628E, which provides PS/2 support and fan, voltage, and temperature monitoring and support. Dual 128Mbit (16MB) BIOS ROMs provide "DualBIOS" functionality.

BIOS and Software

BIOS

The Z170X-UD5 TH has a single BIOS mode that contains every setting you might need to overclock the system, configure devices, and monitor system parameters. Overall, the BIOS is quite functional, and layout is intuitive.

Overclocking settings are plenty, everything you might need for overclocking the CPU and memory are present and in full force. Even settings you might not find on most boards, such as IMC timing control, are available for user tweaking.

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Fan control is present, but it's a bit basic. You can set a fixed linear curve for the fans, but the reference temperature is pre-determined. Thunderbolt 3 also has its own set of parameters that are available for tweaking, but since I do not have a Thunderbolt 3 device to test with I am not able to determine exactly what the settings do. Overall, the BIOS feels stable, and overclocking was quite simple.

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Software

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GIGABYTE provides a lot of software under their APP Center application. Home Cloud, Smart TimeLock, Smart Backup, Cloud Station, Ambient LED, @BIOS, USB Blocker, EasyTune, and System Information Viewer are just a few of the programs. System Information Viewer can be used for Windows based fan control, and it offers much more extensive features than the BIOS.

Test System Setup

Steven's Motherboard Test System Specifications

The new test bench is designed to test every aspect of the motherboard and IO. I have designed it so that the motherboard sits in a case and is cooled by fans always on at a constant rate to keep the conditions similar during all tests. I have cut out part of the case behind the motherboard so I can get thermal images of the back of the PCB where the VRM heat spreads. System and CPU power measurements are now digitally logged.

I am also using a Netgear Nighthawk X4 AC2350 for our network (including wireless AC) tests. The latest M.2, SSD, and USB technologies are also being utilized to test the maximum potential of the motherboards that are tested.

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The motherboard looks quite good with gold cable combs, and silver/white accessories match it well.

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Here you can see what the gold looks like inside a semi-dark case, and you can get a glimpse of the yellow from the LEDs.

Overclocking

Overclocking Results

CPU Overclocking

I have decided to reduce the CPU VCore to 1.4v applied (I will measure real VCore at the output capacitors), and see how high I can validate. On most boards its 5.0. I have also decided to add real voltage levels compared to what is set for all motherboards, if they don't have voltage read points I will mark where I got the readings from.

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The Z170X-UD5 TH is doing 5.0GHz just like the high-end motherboards, which isn't surprising at all.

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I tested stability at 4.8GHz CPU, 4.1GHz Uncore, and 2666MHz on the memory with 1.4v on the VCore. I am using HandBrake to transcode a 2GB video, and it is very telling since it pulls all cores to the maximum frequency and load. Handbrake is good for a quick stability check, plus I get a log of the encoding speed and the number of errors. It is very easy for the queue not to finish all the way and just error out, so it has to proceed without errors to finish.

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The LLC only comes in two variants, but the "High" setting is all you need for overclocking.

Memory Overclocking

Test 1: 4x4GB (32GB) Corsair VENGEANCE LPX 2666MHz C16

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The Z170X-UD5 TH passed this test quite easily.

Test 2: 4x4GB (16GB) Corsair Dominator Platinum 3200MHz C16

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The Corsair Dominator Platinum is kit meant for X99, but it worked fine on this Z170 motherboard.

Test 3: 2x4GB (8GB) G.Skill Ripjaws V 3600MHz C17

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The Ripjaws V kit doesn't work on all motherboards, and I was surprised it worked on the Z170X-UD5 TH considering it isn't an overclocking motherboard.

CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks

CINEBENCH 11.5

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wPrime

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AIDA64 AES and HASH

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AIDA64 FPU

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AIDA64 Memory

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PCMark8 Home Test

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3DMark: Cloud Gate

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3DMark: Fire Strike

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3DMark: IceStorm

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GIGABYTE's Z170X-UD5 TH is a solid motherboard without any quirks or performance pitfalls when it comes to CPU, memory, and GPU subsystems. It does look like it's using some form of multi-core enhancement at stock. Overall performance is strong, and there are no pitfalls.

Some motherboard reviews put a lot of weight into motherboard CPU, memory, and GPU benchmarks, but for me CPU, memory, and GPU benchmarks on motherboards should be more about finding anomalies, and I do that at standard settings (4.5G in graphs).

System IO Benchmarks

CrystalDiskMark SATA6G:

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CrystalDiskMark M.2:

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CrystalDiskMark USB 3.0:

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ixChariot Network Throughput:

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The Z170X-UD5 TH's storage and IO performance is decent, but you can see that the M.2 speeds are quite low, almost as if it is getting two lanes of PCI-E 3.0 instead of four lanes of PCI-E 3.0. I contacted GIGABYTE, and they said this would be addressed with a BIOS update. Otherwise, performance is decent, but I was not able to test the Thunderbolt 3 ports because of a lack of Thunderbolt 3 devices.

Audio RMAA 5.5:

I disable all audio features, set the correct bitrates, and then test the audio with a loopback test.

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Sound Judgment by Ear: Very Good. There are five ratings for audio: 1. Problems, 2. Okay, 3. Acceptable, 4. Very good, 5. Excellent

Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption

System power usage is measured at the AC/DC PSU (the Corsair AX1200i) which I have connected to another system to measure the test system, and as a backup I have a wall meter to verify. The CPU power is measured through the 8-pin connector, which is hooked up to a hall effect IC, which measures current and puts out a voltage in proportion to the current. That voltage is logged by a National Instruments ADC, which logs the DC voltage level that I then convert into current.

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Note on Thermal Images: In the temperature section, we use our Seek thermal imaging camera to capture the surface temperatures of major components on the board. I look at the VRM and then all other things that light up the screen. If there is something to worry about, then I will state it. Otherwise, I will just show the hotter running parts of the board for fun. Unless some component is over 80-90C, then there isn't anything to worry about.

All systems will act differently, so I will look for commonalities, such as how far from the VRM the heat spreads through the PCB and the difference in temperature between the front side and backside of the PCB. Keep in mind, the majority of the heat from the VRM goes into the PCB as it is a giant soldered on copper heat sink. A larger difference in temperature between the back and front of the PCB points towards a more effective heat sink.

Thermal Testing at Stock Speeds:

The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i GT) radiator are turned on to high (12v).

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Full frontal.

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Up-close of the front of the VRM.

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Up-close of the back of the VRM.

Thermal Testing at 4.5GHz Overclocked Speeds:

The image on the left is always at idle, and the image on the right is at load. During ALL TESTS, fans above the VRM that cool the CPU cooler's (Corsair H110i GT) radiator are turned on to high (12v).

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Full frontal.

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Up-close of the front of the VRM.

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Up-close of the back of the VRM.

The VRM on the Z170X-UD5 TH isn't built for hardcore overclocking, but it is fairly decent even though it isn't using the praised IR digital PWM and integrated power stages. The Z170X-UD5 TH also has more copper in the PCB than other motherboards to improve thermals and signaling (perhaps to pass TB 3 Certification) which in turn helps reduce temperatures.

Overall, I did not see any crazy increase in stock to OC temperatures because the BIOS did apply an aggressive multi-core enhancement profile at stock, meaning the overclocked conditions are very similar to stock conditions.

Anything under 60C is great, 60-80C is acceptable, and anything above 80C is a bit worrisome (if at stock).

What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts

Here are key points about the GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH.

What's Hot

Thunderbolt 3 with Dual Type-C Ports: The Z170X-UD5 TH released a few weeks ago as the first Thunderbolt 3 certified motherboard. The controller that provides Thunderbolt 3 is also the same one that provides USB 3.1 and is the first USB-IF certified USB 3.1 controller. This Intel chip is very powerful, and when paired with proper USB Power Delivery 2.0 chips from TI can support up to 12 daisy chained devices, dual 4K monitors (or a single 5K monitor), and still provides up to 40Gbps of bandwidth. Needless to say, GIGABYTE implements the chip well and provides a Thunderbolt 3 implementation that is rare.

All Intel without Hubs: The circuit analysis I did on the Z170X-UD5 TH was one of the shortest I have ever done. This is because most everything on this board is powered directly through Intel chipsets. All eight USB 3.0 ports come directly from the PCH (2 more than standard FlexIO configurations). Networking is Intel. Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1 also both come from an Intel controller. Compatibility with certified devices should be quite good, and headaches that sometimes arise from hubs should be nonexistent.

Overclocking Features: I was surprised to find voltage read points, a POST code display, and onboard buttons for overclocking. Usually, these features aren't found on motherboards targeted at workstations, but GIGABYTE made sure to include them to make tweaking more simple.

Aesthetics: GIGABYTE's recent gold/black/silver aesthetics has grown on me a little bit. The shade of gold they are using along with the yellow LEDs and gold audio capacitors matches quite well. The shields over the audio codec, NIC, and clock generator and the metal braces for the PCI-E slots create a theme that makes the motherboard look protected and equipped for hard work.

What's Not

UEFI Fan Control: While GIGABYTE's fan control in the UEFI does provide manual control over the headers, control is much more basic than some might want. GIGABYTE says this is for ease of use, but it would be nice to have the same controls from their Windows application present in the UEFI, so there is no need to install extra software.

Final Thoughts

Motherboards are all about features, quality, and performance. They not only connect all other components but also act as hubs for the majority of input and output devices. The benefit to buying higher-end motherboards is that they usually carry novel features, and they have higher quality parts.

The Z170X-UD5 TH carries one very novel feature, Thunderbolt 3.0. Not only does it operate at a maximum of bandwidth forty times that of your 1Gbit NIC (40Gbps), but it supports multiple devices (including monitors) off a single Type-C connector. People are looking at Thunderbolt 3 as the first consumer grade feature capable of handling the bandwidth to support external GPUs. Intel's drive to toss in a versatile controller also seals the deal. The Z170X-UD5 TH supports either USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3 over its ports, and since the Type-C port is becoming more common, hopefully we will see more devices utilize the new technology.

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Looking at features other than Thunderbolt 3, the differences between the Z170X-UD5 and Z170X-UD5 TH dwindle. The original Z170X-UD5 has an extra NIC along with some extra OC features and costs $50 less than the Z170X-UD5 TH. Nevertheless, Thunderbolt 3.0 is not a common feature, and it is not cheap. GIGABYTE's Z170X-UD5 TH is as solid as its little brother, the Z170X-UD5, but comes with the novel dual Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports.

If you consider the total cost of the product, you are paying an extra $50 for the TH version, but it is one of the most affordable motherboards with Thunderbolt 3 on the market. The Z170X-UD5 TH is a solid option if you are looking for a Thunderbolt 3 capable motherboard.

TweakTown award
Performance (including Overclocking)95%
Quality including Design and Build96%
General Features96%
Bundle and Packaging92%
Value for Money90%
Overall94%

The Bottom Line: If you are looking for a reliable motherboard with Thunderbolt 3.0 and a solid Intel centric feature set, then the GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH will do the job without breaking the bank.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

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DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

Steven went from a fledgling forum reader in 2003 to one of the internet's brightest tech stars by 2010. Armed with an information systems degree, a deep understanding of circuitry, and a passion for tech, Steven (handle Sin0822) enjoys sharing his deep knowledge with others. Steven details products down to the component level to highlight seldom explained, and often misunderstood architectures. Steven is also a highly decorated overclocker with several world records.

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