GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Force Motherboard Second Look Review
GIGABYTE designed the Z87X-OC Force with two distinct heat pipe cooling solutions to cool the heat critical onboard components. The CPU VRMs are cooled by a heat pipe connecting the heat sinks above and to the right of the CPU socket. The onboard PCIe bridge chip chip and Intel Z87 chipset are cooled by a separate heat pipe solution connecting the bridge chip and Z87 heat sinks. While both heat pipe solutions have integrated 40mm fans, the CPU VRM cooler as doubles as a water cooler with integrated 3/8" barbs.
The cooling apparatus for the CPU VRMs consists of two large aluminum heat sinks tied together by a nickel-plated copper heat pipe. The cooler has an integrated 40mm, 3-pin fan as well as 3/8 inch water barbs. The barbs are hard attached to the cooler and cannot be switched out for different fittings unfortunately. The cooler comes from the factory with pre-applied thermal tape to act as an interface medium between the VRM chips and the aluminum heat sink surfaces.
Once the cooling apparatus is removed from the board, the CPU power circuitry is unveiled in all its glory. Above and to the right of the L-shaped choke layout are the 16 chips making up the CPUs 16-phase digital power delivery system.
The VRM chips used for regulating the CPU and memory power are IR (International Rectifier) PowIRstage™ IR3550M MOSFETs, capable of current output up to 60A and a 95% operational efficiency at a 1.2V output. See the IR specs for the IR3550M MOSFETs here for more information.
The 2-pin fan header for the VRM cooler is located in the upper right quadrant of the board, to the left of the 4-pin ATX12V power connector and just above the upper row of VRMs.
The cooler for the PCIe bridge chip chip and Intel Z87 chipset is similar to the CPU VRM cooler with aluminum heat sinks cooling both chips interconnected by a nickel-plated copper heat pipe. A 40mm fan is integrated into the Z87's heat sink. This cooler does not include water barbs, nor is it connected to the CPU VRM cooler.
The PLX Technologies PEX 8747 chip was selected by GIGABYTE to allow the Z87X-OC Force to support up to quad-card graphics mode. The chip itself is an FCBGA chip covered by an aluminum heat spreader, capable of providing up to 48 PCI-Express 3.0 lanes over five ports (1 input port and 4 output ports). The chip takes 16 incoming PCI-Express x16 3.0 lanes and supports up to four ports with a total of 32 lanes of bandwidth in x16 or x8 lane configurations. More detailed information concerning the PEX 8747 chip can be found here.
The chipset heat sink covers a large area, considering that its target is the small die area of the Z87 chipset. The heat sink is held to the board via the four holes surrounding the chipset. The cooler's 2-pin fan header is located to the left of the ITE controller chip.
The Intel Z87 chipset is very similar in design to a naked CPU with a much small die size. The area directly surrounding the chipset is empty of large components to ensure efficient thermal mating between the heat sink and the chipset die surface.