GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Force Motherboard Review
Features and Motherboard Layout
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
- Supports 4th Generation Intel® Core™ processors
- GIGABYTE Ultra Durable™ 5 Plus Technology
- All IR Digital Power design
- GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOS™
- Exclusive GIGABYTE OC Features
- Unique OC Touch Feature
- Unique OC Ignition Feature
- Unique OC Brace Feature
- Gold plated DDR/PCIe Slots and power connectors
- 4-way Graphics Support
- Durable black solid capacitors
- GIGABYTE On/Off Charge™ 2 for USB devices
- Dual Intel® LAN with high ESD Protection
- Extreme Heatsink design with 9 system fan connectors
- Realtek ALC898 with High Quality 110dB SNR HD audio
- GIGABYTE Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi Card
For their Z87X-OC Force board, GIGABYTE went with the orange and black color scheme typical of their high-end boards. The board is masterfully designed with plenty of room for all the features packed into the board in no small part because of its E-ATX form factor design. One of the nicer features is the active cooling embedded into the CPU VRM and chipset coolers, as well as the ability to water cool the CPU VRMs.
The board's back is almost entirely free of components with some small components laying directly underneath the VRM chips. The area directly underneath the CPU is entirely free of components, so there is no risk of crushing any sensitive circuitry with the CPU cooler back plate.
GIGABYTE chose to integrate the following ports into the Z87X-OC Forces rear panel: a PS/2 keyboard and mouse port, 6 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Renesas controller, 2 USB 2.0 ports, dual Intel GigE NIC ports, two HDMI video ports, a DisplayPort video port, an optical audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports.
The Z87X-OC Force contains a total of 5 PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots, and two PCI-Express x1 slots. The black colored PCI-Express x16 slot should be used when running the board with a single video card because that port bypasses the integrated PLX chipset. The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card (in the black colored PCI-Express x16 slot), x16 bandwidth in the primary and second orange colored slots, and x8 bandwidth in the third and forth orange colored slots. The one shortcoming in the design is the lack of usable PCI-Express x1 slots when using more than two video cards in the system.
In the upper left quadrant of the Z87X-OC Force are the front panel audio header, the S/PDIF input header, the S/PDIF output header, a serial port header, and the Dual BIOS (SB) and active BIOS (BIOS_SW) switches. The DUAL BIOS switch enables the use of both onboard BIOS chips when set in the 1 position to the left. The active BIOS switch allows for selection of the main BIOS in the 1 position (left) or the backup BIOS in the 2 position (right).
To the lower left of the fifth PCI-Express x16 slot are three fan headers, two USB 2.0 headers and the 2-pin power header for the integrated chipset fan.
The Renesas controlled USB 3.0 header, the front panel header, the CMOS clear jumper, CMOS reset button, and three system fan headers are located in the bottom left corner of the board.
The Intel Z87 Express chipset is covered by a large aluminum, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is flat black with orange accents and a chrome inlay embossed with the GIGABYTE logo. The heat sink is also integrated into the board's heat pipe cooling solution and sports an embedded fan. In use, the fan noise was negligible at best.
GIGABYTE integrated a total of 10 on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports into the Z87X-OC Force with the ports and the OC_PEG auxiliary power connector are located just under the chipset cooler. The six Intel controller SATA ports are the black colored ports to the right of the port assembly with the two Marvell controlled ports to the left, colored grey. The OC PEG power connector can be used to provide extra power to the PCI-Express x16 slots when using the board in multi-card mode. Simply plug a female SATA power connector from your PSU into the port. Its placement at the board's edge is masterful, removing it from interfering with the PCI-Express card seating and rotating it 90 degrees so the cable lays flat while engaged.
The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the board's lower right quadrant. According to the GIGABYTE specs, dual modules can be placed in either set of like colored slots to enable dual channel memory mode. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at up to 1600MHz.
To the lower left of the DIMM slots are the Intel controlled USB 3.0 header, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and the OC PCIe switch block (PCIE_SW). The OC PCIe switches are used to disable the the four orange colored PCI-Express x16 slots. Note that the black PCI-Express x16 slot is automatically disabled by the board when cards populated any of the orange colored slots.
To the lower right of the DIMM slots are the voltage measurement points, the power, reset, OC Ignition, OC Tag, OC Turbo, Gear, CPU base clock up/down, and CPU ratio up/down buttons, OC Trigger switch, and the 2-digit diagnostic LED display. The diagnostic display is useful for troubleshooting system boot-related issues by cross-referencing the displayed code with the table in the user manual. The voltage measurement points allow for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.
For bare-board overclocking and LN2, the Z87X-OC Force offers many onboard avenues. The OC Ignition button (lightning symbol) provides power to system devices and fans without powering up the board or CPU. The OC Tag button forces loading of settings tied to the Tag profile in the BIOS after a CMOS clear event. The OC Turbo button enables the BIOS-moderated overclocking engine, loading overclocking settings optimized for your system configuration. The Gear button changes the base clock stepping from 0.1 MHz to 1 MHz intervals. The CPU ratio is controlled by the + and - buttons to the left of the OC Gear button. The CPU base clock speed is controlled by the + and - buttons to the right of the OC Gear button. The OC Trigger switch forces the board into safe mode when set to the 2 position (right) with BIOS or application regulated settings enforced in default mode (left). In safe mode, the board reverts to default process ratio and base clock settings, regardless of the active BIOS settings.
The CPU and CPU water cooling (CPU_OPT) fan headers are located to the upper right of the DIMM slots. The additional fan header is included to connect to a water pump if pump RPMs need to be monitored.
Even thought the CPU socket is surrounded on three sides by the heat pipe cooler, the socket area is laid out for unimpeded use of even the larger CPU coolers. With a full 16-phase IR PowIRstage™-based digital power system, you should have absolutely no issues pushing your CPU to its limits.
The heat sinks covering the CPU VRMs and connected via heat pipes to the other board sinks have dual cooling methods provided. Not only did GIGABYTE include a silent yet effective fan imbedded into the block, but made the VRM block itself water capable with 3/8 inch inlet and outlet barbs integrated into the block to the top and right of the socket. Barb caps included to keep dust and debris out of the block when not using liquid cooling. While inclusion of the barbs are a nice touch, 3/8 inch barbs are small for most enthusiast builds. Adding G1/4 ports would have been a more flexible solution instead of using fixed barbs.
To the upper left of the CPU socket are and hidden in between the VRM heat sink and the primary PCI-Express x16 slot is an additional 4-pin system fan header.
For additional CPU power, both 8-pin and 4-pin ATX12V power connectors are provided in the upper right quadrant of the board just below the rear panel assembly.