I'm a photographer who uses lightroom and photoshop a lot, as well as enjoys a bit of PC gaming on the side. (Also I wish 3D TV gaming took off, because when it works, it looks incredible these days).
I'm focusing on single core clock performance, since that's the biggest metric to get lightroom and photoshop working at peak performance. Beyond 4-6 cores, real world performance does not change.
I'm migrating all my old hard drives over just for an easy move but buying what seems to be the fastest SSD connected by M.2 for my lightroom catalog and OS. At these speeds, a RAID array appears to be mostly obsolete so I'm ignoring RAID.
I'll be storing the PC in the living room next to the 4k TV for gaming and media center fun, but I'm running an HDMI cable into the office in the room next to it so I can use the sit stand desk and work in there too. So it will primarily be a powerful work media machine for lightroom, photoshop and video editing, then double as a gaming pc in the living room.
We managed to overclock to 4.6ghz which is what I was expecting. Curiosity dictates I should try for 4.8 ghz but we are having trouble getting it stable beyond 4.6.
Originally, we had decided to purchase a Gigabyte Z170x-UD3. This decision was based on features, decent reviews, and the price (180 CAD at the time). After getting the UD3 home we discovered that installing an M.2 SSD in the main port would cause it to be covered by the GPU exhaust. It’s like they were literally trying to get us to sandwich the NVMe SSD into the board with the side of the GPU, it was ridiculous and the heat could cause the SSD to throttle. Using the other M.2 port would disable many of the SATA ports. We assumed the UD3 Ultra would be just as good as the UD3, and the M.2 placement was above the GPU, giving it cooler air flow. Therefore, we bought the Ultra for 185 CAD minus a 10 CAD rebate (175).
So far the UD3 Ultra has performed well and given us no issues. I feel like it has some nice features and "future proofing" that aren't available in other boards at this price point.
The blue lighting effects are cool if you want them or they can be turned off (Solid, Pulse, Off). There are no other colours. I wasn’t going too much for looks as far as the inside is concerned but I do say it is neat looking at it glow sometimes.
The Ultra is slightly larger than the basic UD3, so it covers all the motherboard stand-offs, and is sturdy when installed. (Reviews of the basic UD3 indicated the one edge awkwardly hangs free).
After buying the Ultra, a free Thunderbolt 3 driver update was added. I don't know what to use it for, but it's great to have for the future. This is also a standard USB-C 3.1 port. I imagine later down the road some of my backup solutions will take advantage of it, so it's nice to know it's there and ready.
The USB-C port can supply up to 100 W. Again I don't know what to use it for, but it's great for the future. I can fast charge my Nexus 6p but I don't use it regularly.
There is a DisplayPort mini input that can be used to take the output from a graphics card and feed it through a TB3 connection. I haven’t tested it yet.
The SATA / PCIE SSD interactions were more straight forward than the basic UD3. Check the manual for your exact configuration, but generally each PCIE x4 drive disables 2 SATA ports.
There more USB 3.0 ports at the back than the basic UD3. Our case only has 2 USB 3.0 ports in the front, and the UD3 Ultra provided exactly that number.
There is a USB 3.1 Type A port at the back
Plenty of fan headers and some can switch between PWM and Voltage control.
Decent GPU spacing.
U.2 port adds another connection type for PCIE x4 SSDs.
XMP didn't work on the shipped firmware. Version 5 should fix the issue. I downloaded the beta (5b) and it's working without issues.
The BIOS isn't as intuitive as I would like, but it's probably not any worse than other Gigabyte boards. I completed a manual overclock to 4.6 GHz, but couldn't figure out how to enable adaptive voltage. With an automatic overclock in the BIOS to "i7-6700k 4.6 GHz", it does utilize adaptive voltage, so I stuck with that. It's a hard to tell how the board is setting the Vcore voltage because of droop under load (~1.275) and otherwise low values from adaptive voltage. However, it's stable so far.
Fan control in the BIOS is available, but the profiles are limited. The included software for windows can enable more complex profiles if you want them.
Apparently the Realtek Audio codec is an older model than the one in the basic UD3. However, we output most audio digitally to the surround sound receiver. The Stereo 2.1 output to our other speakers did not have any quality issues. Maybe an audiophile would have more to say.
I would recommend this board for up-to-date features (Thunderbolt 3, USB-C @ 100W, M.2, U.2) and aesthetics. The bonus of extra connectivity makes this a surprisingly good buy at this price point.