GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH Motherboard Review
So far this year we have had the privilege of reviewing the entry-level GIGABYTE Z170-HD3, the gaming-oriented Z170X-Gaming 3, and the still gamer-focused but slightly higher-end Z170X-Gaming 5.
All of these proved to be very good motherboards in their respective niches, so it shouldn't come as any surprise that we have been looking forward to reviewing another one of GIGABYTE's offerings. With this in mind, we are happy to present you with the Z170X-UD5 TH, which retails for about $200 USD / $265 CAD. While this model shares a lot of DNA with its Z170X-UD5 sibling, it is the cutting-edge connectivity options that really make it special.
As you may have figured out, the "TH" in this motherboard's model name stands for Thunderbolt. What you may not know is that the Z170X-UD5 TH was actually world's first Intel Thunderbolt 3 certified motherboard, which was accomplished by using the now well-known Intel Alpine Ridge controller. While many motherboards use this chip for its USB 3.1 capabilities, very few use it to add Thunderbolt support since it requires two more PCI-E lanes and some hefty power regulation components. The new Thunderbolt 3.0 standard provides 40Gbps per port, uses the future-proof USB Type-C connector, and has versatile capabilities like video output, external storage, daisy-chaining, and high wattage power delivery. Even if you don't need it now, with this level of flexibility it is a good investment for the future.
The Z170X-UDH 5 TH features an 11-phase CPU power design, three steel-reinforced PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots with support for 2-way SLI or 3-way CrossFireX, three PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots, six SATA 6Gb/s ports or three SATA Express ports, and a full-speed M.2 x4 connector. Rounding things out are a single Intel-powered gigabit LAN port, a healthy assortment of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports, and an onboard audio subsystem that is based on the proven Realtek ALC1150 codec and that features a headphone op-amp and EMI protection. This is all fairly conventional for a motherboard in this price range, but as mentioned above this is one of those rare motherboards that is defined by its next-generation inputs and outputs.
This model has been outfitted with a pricey dual-port Alpine Ridge controller that feeds into two USB Type-C ports with support for not only Thunderbolt 3 and USB 3.1, but DisplayPort 1.2 as well. What this means is that when using integrated graphics, the Z170X-UD5 TH can handle two 4K displays at 60Hz or a single 5K monitor at 60Hz. GIGABYTE have also included support for the Power Delivery 2.0 standard, so each of the ports can output up to 36W and also daisy-chain up to 6 devices.
The other technological highlight is obviously the inclusion of a HDMI 2.0 output, which is not natively supported by Intel on this platform. An aftermarket controller adds this functionality, and provides those with 4K displays the means to broadcast to them at full resolution and at 60Hz too. This HDMI 2.0 port and the dual DisplayPort 1.2 via USB Type-C are it when it comes to video outputs though, so if you need something a little more old school like DVI-D or VGA you are out of luck with this model.
With the pleasantries out of the way, it is time to take a closer look at what exactly the Z170X-UD5 TH has to offer in terms of hardware and software, and whether the whole is implemented in a way that leaves us impressed with the overall product. If that sounds good to you, keep reading!
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