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We normally begin our final thoughts with remarks on value, but a more newsworthy development occurred that caught our attention: ECS can finally overclock! While the company's Golden Z77H2-A2X didn’t attain the highest CPU frequency, even adequacy in that department is a huge step forward for a company that spent years trying to get more competitive in the enthusiast space.
And then there’s the so-called value chart that, by excluding the real value of on-board features, makes low-cost products appear to be top contenders. Biostar probably would have landed at the top of this chart if we used its actual $150 Web price. However, the firm was adament about competing in our $160+ round-up, so we're sticking to the higher price, which can also be found online.
More important than hitting the lowest possible price is offering the best feature set for an enthusiast's dollar. Asus’ $220 P8Z77-V Pro should have the best feature set, but its Wi-Fi card and four added USB 3.0 ports are approximately matched by the two added USB 3.0 ports, USB-based Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth of ECS’ Golden Z77H2-A2X.
Biostar’s low-cost overclocker might have won the title in a round-up of less-expensive products, but it simply couldn't beat Gigabyte's $160 Z77X-UD3H in any particular discipline. Because $160 sets the baseline price for today’s story, Gigabyte takes the nod in that particular comparison.
The tightest overall competition pits ASRock against MSI. MSI wins overall CPU overclocking and ASRock has the highest CPU base clock. ECS might have joined the value-overclocking race with the highest dual-DIMM memory data rate, but its $220 price tag is significantly higher than its competition. MSI’s PCIe 3.0 x4 slot beats ASRocks PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for bandwidth, while ASRock’s x4 slot has the advantage of not stealing lanes away from the two primary graphics slots.
While we’re sure any of today's competitors would have liked to see an award, we think half of today's field deserves praise. A two-way value tie between ASRock's Z77 Extreme6 and MSI's Z77A-GD65 is difficult to settle. That forces us to a single conclusion: buyers should carefully consider the overall feature set of both contenders before picking the one that best suits their individual needs.