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GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Force Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

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

Motherboard Layout

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

July 19, 2013 | 03:38 PM - Posted by Captain Homey (not verified)

My current build is a Gigabyte GA800GA board with AMD Rhenom 6 core processor and 4 x 4gb g-skil DDR5 rip jaw memory and 2GB Radeon graphics card. Theres 10 x 2TB Caviar Green as well as
8 External HDD's making a total of 38 Terabytes.
This runs through built in Ceiling speakers fed from a Technics Class AA Amplifier..... a 42 inch Panachronic Monitor as well as 2x Hanns-G HH251 25 inch monitors (really BAD monitors compared to the smaller 21" Acer's they replaced as the ancient non HD Acer are FAR superior in every way but screen size even after ten years of use).

I intend to get a huge case.. probably the Caselabs MAGNUM M8 Case as my space is height critical and the Lian Li monster is just too tall

what I'm trying to find out is the absolute BEST motherboards for huge archives of Audio Visual and Photoshop creations etc... Best CPU and Mem and so on

I know this will cost in excess of £2000 as the build above I managed all for £1500 (bar the big Panasonic screen)

I intend to max out the case with something between 15 and 20 4TB Caviar Blacks

I have no interest...or ever will in high end gaming....
my limit is the old space invaders and table top games you used to see in pubs lol

Nor have I any intention of elaborate looking dust trap chassis... hence the clean lined monster mentioned above

any ideas or further input will be gratefully received as I really am a total novice and it was more LUCK on first build attempt

This build absolutely MUST not cut corners on tech in so much as I wont be updating software for some YEARS after this kind of outlay (if all that makes sense)

I'm lost with all tech pointing to high gaming etc.... unless someone can confirm or deny for MY purposes I should be looking for the same spec despite main use as mass entertainment archive heavy webby use and photoshop work

July 19, 2013 | 03:39 PM - Posted by Captain Homey (not verified)

I meant GA-880 motherboard not 800

July 19, 2013 | 04:47 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

If you're looking for high-end performance, you *might* want to consider an X79 based board.  However, that would require the use of an LGA2011-based CPU which are a bit more expensive than their 1150 or 1155 counterparts.  X79 does have the benefit of quad-channel DRAM support though, which may be useful if you are doing intensive photo and graphics manipulation jobs and rendering.

Don't get me wrong, the LGA1150 adn LGA1155 systems are good, but they are memory limited to a maximum of 32MB and support dual-channel mode.

July 19, 2013 | 08:01 PM - Posted by Captain Homey (not verified)

Thanks Morry

To be clear once again.... I'm not limiting the costings
for example if the BEST x79 is vastly superior to the AMD Phenom six core (maxed with 4x4gb 16gb memory) I'm currently running then they are the prices I simply MUST start from

I'm definately intending on a "double sized" case like those mentioned... clean lines and will FILL itwith 4TB drives
(But only when the manufacturers reverse their rip off price controlling... might be a long wait lol) most likely in the region of 20 x 4TB drives perhaps even the 5TB that are due for end of year release... if I'm lucky they may bring on the 6tb at the same time rather than delay them for another year.

From my novices position I KNOW I need maximum sata ports on the board (minimum of ten as opposed to the normal 8)
As with my current build boards to beadded to increase the number...
Graphics cards perhaps two so the pci slots need to be spaced and again best suited to utilise all I need so I can FIT the card adapter to give the extra sata's
I'll use a minimum of 1000/1200 PSU

But I'm after as much advice as poss from you skilled peeps in the know!

July 26, 2013 | 12:11 PM - Posted by meganerd

I am not sure exactly what you mean by "best". With OpenCL support in a lot of the more recent content creation apps the line between a "gaming" rig and a media production rig is blurring.

Based on your description, either a LGA2011 or LGA 1150/1155 will smoke your AMD 6 core. If you need more than 32 GiB of RAM (or 2 CPU sockets), then LGA 2011 is the answer.

I would not worry too much about the number of SATA ports on a given mother board when you can buy cards like these: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16816118127

I would also separate out the storage of media from the production computer. Personally I would use a higher end Synology for the storage, and then build a high end PC to do the actual work on.

My current setup is 19 hard drives stuffed into my "old" Core i7 920 as a storage server, with the media creation/manipulation (mostly multi-track audio, some blender for 3d) on a high end LGA1155 based PC. I will be replacing the i7 920 with a synology within the next year.

Hth,

July 26, 2013 | 07:56 PM - Posted by Captain Homey (not verified)

Awesome info Hth

I'm not doing editing (perhaps one day tho)

imagine a 24/7 media usage plus web and photoshop on the smaller 27-32" screens

My current set up likes to hang occasionally when I'm viewing a movie and shifting from archive to archive (as I'm constantly having to rearrange to keep some sort of order with my 32 Terrible bitties of audio and video files etc.

so from THAT info I don't want to throw money on boards that will offer 100 abilities that I'd simply NEVER use
But on the other hand I DO want to erradicate (as much as possible) the occasional hang up when multitasking.

Thanks once again for the positive feedback ...

it's going a LONG WAY toward enlightening me as to what I actually need and what I don't

as well as what da hell I'm doing lol

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