Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed

TZ77XE3 UEFI

If low-cost overclocking is Biostar’s niche, then a solid UEFI has be its first priority. Biostar's O.N.E. menu has changed only slightly in the transition from BIOS to UEFI, retaining all of the straightforward functionality that overclockers love without the glamor and confusion introduced by some competitors.

CPU multiplier and base clock controls are found up top, followed by a few pertinent power settings. We were able to reach almost 4.7 GHz using 46 x 101.80 MHz, and the only thing that could have made those settings easier would have been a decimal point on the base clock menu.

Scrolling past a few more power settings, we were able to reach a DRAM data rate of nearly 2.7 GT/s with two modules installed. XMP works, but setting it blocks access to manual multiplier and timing adjustment. Switching back to manual frequencies also forces tuners to set all timings manually. The baseline are derived from SPD values rather than XMP timings, and automatic configuration doesn’t exist for individual settings.

Biostar's O.N.E. menu continues to display SPD timings rather than current timings, even after setting XMP. Users who want to use XMP values as a baseline for manual overclocking must instead rely on its Biostar Memory Insight submenu to see most of those timings. Unfortunately, the Biostar Memory Insight menu doesn’t show things like tREFI, and UEFI’s reversion to too-tight SPD values forced us to look at screen shots from competing products to see what the missing settings were actually supposed to be. Users who would like to manually configure their RAM but don’t have another motherboard to show them appropriate settings for unfamiliar timings might be stuck.

The TZ77XE4 supports CPU Vcore at both fixed levels and more energy-conscious offset modes. We achieved our 1.25 V full-load target using 1.230 V core with 0% Load Line. Wait, what?

Rather than list load-line as a positive compensation value, Biostar lists it as a negative stock value. So, 100% Load Line means 100% of Intel’s intended droop, and Disabled means 0% droop.

Scrolling a little further down the O.N.E. menu, we find DRAM voltage and the link to the previously-viewed Biostar Memory Insight submenu. Note that 1.620 V gets us to at least 1.644 V. The board responded to our memory’s 1.65 V XMP value by setting nearly 1.69 V!

Five custom UEFI configurations can be saved as user profiles at the bottom of the TZ77XE3’s Exit menu.

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67 comments
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  • SpadeM
    LAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.
    -3
  • Crashman
    SpadeMLAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.
    Tom's Hardware has several controller comparisons, and publishes new ones frequently. So unless you think one of the boards has a broken controller, wysiwyg.

    The things that actually get screwed-up are typically related to the clock generator, multiplier control, memory timings and power options.
    1
  • nikorr
    I would place the ASRock and Gigabyte on the top as well : )

    Nice review.
    0
  • jaquith
    I always appreciate your Articles! :) I know how much work you do to get them done.

    You're kidding - Biostar. I guess this article is not about the 'Best Sub-$160 Z77' MOBO's but about the best manufacturers sent you. The cheapest MOBO I recommend for the SB/IB (K) is the ASUS P8Z77-V which pops your 'unique' budget cap depending where you shop; found it here for $159.99 - http://www.gadgetneeds.net/asus-p8z77-v-atx-intel-motherboard/

    Interesting you didn't get an ASUS P8Z77-V LK ~$120 which offers SLI. The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 and Gigabyte Z77X-D3H for the price aren't bad.

    There's NO WAY I'm recommending Biostar in the forum, folks and myself would thing I've lost my mind.
    0
  • jimishtar
    It would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.
    1
  • Crashman
    jimishtarIt would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.
    1.25V
    4
  • gorillagarrett
    No peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other.

    Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.
    0
  • Crashman
    gorillagarrettNo peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other. Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.
    I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared :)
    3
  • gorillagarrett
    Quote:
    I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared


    Thank you!
    0
  • rolli59
    I would have liked to see the Asus P8Z77V-LK version instead of the LX since it is better equipped.
    -1
  • Crashman
    rolli59I would have liked to see the Asus P8Z77V-LK version instead of the LX since it is better equipped.
    It's also mentioned in the article. It was over $160 (at $165) when the comparison was set up.
    0
  • nevertell
    Why are there no DCP latency tests ? These differentiate the motherboards
    This is what differentiates them performance wise.
    0
  • pacioli
    Wow, Biostar...? I wonder what the longevity of that board is...
    0
  • Crashman
    pacioliWow, Biostar...? I wonder what the longevity of that board is...
    It's hard to tell, but the last Biostar board I had in a system lasted 12 years before it got dismantled for its entire processor selection being too slow.
    0
  • CaedenV
    Nice to see a Mobo review where the charts are not all identical bars lol. It has been a long time sense the stock performance has had much of any variance between brands, and we are getting much more feature variety as well. I thought as more and more parts became integrated into the CPU that the bars would become more and more similar, and mainstream features would become more and more homogeneous.

    Also, I love the True Studio Pro software, if you are running digital audio it really makes any idea of a dedicated sound card a thing of the past. Every computer I build now either has True Studio Pro with the mobo, or I purchase the MB2 software suite, it makes such a difference if using headphones or quality speakers, and much less buggy that Creative's sound cards and driver issues that we all know and love.
    0
  • jamie_1318
    On-motherboard start buttons are a useless feature. Anyone who could actually use it should know they can just short across the power switch header using any piece of metal.
    -5
  • delaro
    At this point SATA 6GB, USB 3 and PCI-e 3.o should be a standered and not a side option.
    0
  • g-unit1111
    As good as Asus motherboards are - why do they include such poorly made I/O brackets? Even Biostar and ECS include ones that are better made than Asus does.
    0
  • goinginstyle
    Another comment about why the P8Z77V-LK board was not reviewed. I own this board now after a total disaster with one of the boards you awarded so why is it missing? The ASUS P8Z77V-LK was priced at $149.99 when I purchased it and is now $139.99 with a rebate down to $119.99 after a quick check this morning. Based on your comments about the Biostar and ASRock boards having additional features like SLI/CF or additional USB 3 ports it is hard to understand why this board was not reviewed. The P8Z77V-LE is priced at $165 not the LK board. As to the 4-dimm testing, did you try the DDR3-2666 ratio or is the test overclocking the 2400 ratio?
    -2
  • Crashman
    goinginstyleAnother comment about why the P8Z77V-LK board was not reviewed.
    Because it was priced at $165 two months ago when the invitations went out. End of story.
    0