The Gigabyte Z87-D3HP doesn't make a great first impression. For starters, the PCB is thin, flimsy and generally devoid of proper heft. Gigabyte doesn't quote how many layers the Z87-D3HP's PCB has, but it's seriously skinny.

The general air is of a board that's had dollars shaved of the production cost wherever possible. That includes not only the thickness of the PCB and the number of copper layers, but also its width. It's one of those less-than-full-ATX size boards - 16mm narrower than the full ATX standard.

Slim pickings

Does any of this matter? Actually, yes. The narrower board spec means you can't use all the ATX mounting points. Combine that with flimsiness and the result is an alarming amount of bend when hooking up certain components. It doesn't exactly scream long-term reliability.

Then there's the performance. At stock clocks, the numbers are on the mediocre side of uninspiring. Typically, the issue is implementation to Intel's Turbo mode. Some boards push the limits a little more than others. The Z87-D3HP is pretty conservative.

In reality, the gap to the fastest boards in most benchmarks is pretty academic; 8.06 points in Cinebench versus 8.5 for the best isn't the kind of difference you can feel. That said, the 34.5 frames per second it kicks out in Shogun: Total War 2 looks poor when others are achieving nearer 40.

You can, of course, get round some of that with hand-tuned overclocking. Indeed, you get a full range of overclocking options in the BIOS, including quick-jump settings to various pre-baked overclocked levels right up to 4.7GHz with our Intel Core i7 4770K test chip. In fact, you get essentially the same snazzy BIOS with HD res support that comes with Gigabyte's premium-priced boards, for what that's worth.

Benchmarks

Multi-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 8.03
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 8.34
Asus Z87-Pro: 8.05
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 8.06
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 8.05
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 8.11
MSI Z87-G43: 8.5
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 8.48
MSI Z87 XPower: 8.5

Single-thread CPU performance
Cinebench 11.5: Index score: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 1.75
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 1.75
Asus Z87-Pro: 1.76
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 1.75
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 1.72
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 1.77
MSI Z87-G43: 1.72
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 1.71
MSI Z87 XPower: 1.72

Video encode performance
X264 4.0: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 45.5
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 46.3
Asus Z87-Pro: 45.6
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 45.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 45.5
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 45.7
MSI Z87-G43: 45.7
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 46.5
MSI Z87 XPower: 47.5

Memory bandwidth @ optimised defults
SiSoft Sandra: Gigabytes per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 17.38
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 17.24
Asus Z87-Pro: 17.47
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 17.25
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 17.45
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 17.56
MSI Z87-G43: 17.32
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 17.2
MSI Z87 XPower: 17.39

Gaming performance
Shogun: Total War 2: Frames per second: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 38.4
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 39.4
Asus Z87-Pro: 38.1
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 34.5
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 37.1
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 37.9
MSI Z87-G43: 44.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 38.9
MSI Z87 XPower: 39.5

Maximum overclock performance
4770K: Gigahertz: Higher is better

ASRock Z87 Extreme3: 4.7
Asus Sabertooth Z87: 4.7
Asus Z87-Pro: 4.7
Gigabyte Z87-D3HP: 4.0
Gigabyte Z87 G1.Sniper M5: 4.7
Intel DZ87KLT-75K: 4.5
MSI Z87-G43: 4.6
MSI Z87-GD65 Gaming: 4.6
MSI Z87 XPower: 4.7

Anyway, the real bummer is that the Z87-D3HP does that old trick of booting at that higher speed but then throttling down much lower as soon as you give it something to ponder. The same goes for hand-tuned overclocking. It boots successfully at 4.7GHz, which is up there with the best, but give it some multi-threaded number crunching and the clocks drop to 4GHz. Not good.

Verdict

Of course, you have to set the flimsy cheapness, relatively mediocre performance and slightly borked overclocking against the price tag. That's cheap for a Z87 board, but in this case it's also a bit of a false economy. The reason to go with a Z87 board is to ensure access to the best possible performance. If it's not giving you that, then what exactly is the point?