Another week goes by, and I've got another board on my test bench, this time from Gigabyte. I've had the opportunity to take a look at a couple of other Gigabyte products based on Intel's Z77 Express PCH over the past couple of months, and I've been left very impressed by what they have to offer this time around. Those other products were gaming- and enthusiast-class products, but what about mainstream users? Gigabyte's B75M-D3H is a product designed with mainstrem users in mind, rolled together using Intel's B75 Express chipset and Gigabyte's Ultra Durable 4 technologies, bringing next-gen functionality to the business-oriented B75 platform. Since the B75M-D3H is a mainstream product, it also features mainstream pricing, sure to make anyone's wallet happy about the cost savings. I expect a lot from this product, considering its Z77 Express brethren; does it live up to the hype? Let's take a look.
2nd and 3rd Gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processor family for the LGA 1155 Socket
1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 slots 1 x PCIE 2.0 x16 slot (x4 electrical) 2 x PCI slots
2 x SATA 6.0 Gb/s (Intel B75) 4 x SATA 3.0 Gb/s (Intel B75)
1x Realtek PCIe Gigabit LAN
14 x USB 2.0 ports (8 at back panel, 6 at front panel) 4 x USB 3.0 ports (2 at back panel, 2 at front panel) 2 x eSATA port 1 x RJ45 LAN connectors 1 x Audio port with 5 audio jacks 1 x SPDIF Output(Optical) 1 x BIOS Button 1 x O.C. Button 1 x IEEE1394 port
Realtek ALC887 HD CODEC
mATX Form Factor (244 mm x 220 mm)
Xpress Recovery 2
Ultra Durable 4
Intel Small Business Advantage
Intel B75 Express Chipset
Intel launched its latest desktop platform in the first half of April 2012, just a little while ago, beginning with board products. The Intel B75 Express platform is an incremental upgrade from previous platforms, adding additional features and providing a wider level of functionality, while adding full support for the third-generation Core i5/i7 family of CPUs, commonly called Ivy Bridge in enthusiast circles.
The Ivy Bridge CPUs are made using a new 28 nm process technology that lowers power consumption as well as offers a bit more performance per clock than previous Intel second-generation Core i5/i7 products. Also changed is the onboard GPU that's part of the Ivy Bridge silicon, which now takes up more of that slice of silicon that sits under the integrated heatspreader.
The integrated PCIe bus on the CPU is also upgraded and can be split differently than with Sandy Bridge CPUs, with Ivy Bridge natively supporting three devices over a single bus with 16 lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity, compared to the two devices and PCIe 2.0 link that is found inside Sandy Bridge products. Taking advantage of that added PCIe functionality requires a motherboard design change from previous Sandybridge-supporting motherboards, yet backwards and forwards component compatibility for both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge platform products including CPUs and chipsets is possible with updated firmware for older Socket 1155 board products. Using a new IvyBridge CPU with an older P67 Express or Z68 Express motherboard may limit PCIe functionality, and, naturally, with SandyBridge only supporting two devices, the tertiary slot provided on some Z77 Express boards will not work on some products when a SandyBridge CPU is installed. The B75 Express chipset differs in that its design only supports a single PCIe 3.0 link from the CPU itself and adds Intel's Small Business Advantage technology, which is designed to make deployment in the office space much easier.
The Gigabyte B75M-D3H is a business-oriented product that captures all of Intel's B75 Express features and then adds some of Gigabyte's own flavor, while still keeping the cost of deployment low. It's very much a value-oriented product, so I don't expect too much from the B75M-D3H, but am I underestimating it? Perhaps so.