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Intel DZ77SL-50K

Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed

Intel’s latest effort to establish itself as an enthusiast-oriented motherboard vendor comes from the amazingly low-priced DZ77SL-50K. The company knows that its customers don’t expect big features at this price, so it instead aims for budget-oriented enthusiasts with its reputation for stability and an overall clean aesthetic.

Intel’s famous Back to BIOS button is missing from this particular model, though overclockers will still find the setup jumper on the board’s top. Enabling it allows the motherboard to bypass current settings and boot using defaults, whereby users can enter UEFI, see the settings that prevented their system from starting up, and make any needed changes.

The scarcity of add-in features could have also made this a great board for white-box builders, except for its lack of DVI and VGA ports. The solder points for several of the board’s omitted features are easily seen in the above photo, while the below photo also shows the omitted serial and parallel ports used almost exclusively in commercial and industrial environments. We wouldn’t be surprised to see multiple variations of this PCB bearing different model names.

The DZ77SL-50K is one of only two products in today’s round-up expressly designed not to support high-bandwidth dual-card graphics arrays, as the cost of the associated PCIe switches would have prevented this from being the least-expensive product reviewed. Instead, we find an open-ended second-gen PCIe x4 slot, which supports the added length of a secondary PCIe x16 graphics card through that slotted end. The bandwidth may not be appropriate for games, but you could drop a secondary card in to add more monitor outputs.

Although it seems to be missing two SATA 3Gb/s ports from the Z77 chipset’s controller, those ports were simply moved: one to the I/O panel (eSATA) and the other to an outward-facing port located slightly behind the front-facing SATA 3Gb/s ports. That single outward-facing port could potentially be blocked by a long graphics card in the x4 slot, but we don’t think any experienced builder would put a big graphics card in such a low-bandwidth slot.

The same can be said of the internal USB 3.0 header, since it’s found between the PCIe x4 and first PCI slot. This could potentially be blocked by a single-slot graphics card, however, so we think that Intel could have thought that placement out a little better.

Some users trying to upgrade older systems will find the bottom-rear corner header for front-panel audio to be beyond the reach of their cables, and others may find that an older case's lower drive cage blocks access to the forward-facing SATA ports. But both issues were addressed a long ago by most chassis manufacturers and shouldn't be a problem for new builds.

Intel proves its environmental commitment by including only a basic installation sheet in the DZ77SL-50K kit, relying on the bundled software disc to hold the full-length manual. There definitely aren't any resources wasted on unneeded cables either, since the two included are required by most users to install one hard drive and one optical drive.

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