Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Asus P8Z77-V Pro

A $220 price that tops the mid-range enthusiast market could be justified by special features added to Asus’ P8Z77-V Pro. An I/O panel PCIe-based module adds Wi-Fi connectivity to the chipset’s native gigabit Ethernet, two added USB 3.0 controllers add four ports to those controlled by the chipset, an extra SATA 6Gb/s controller supports two extra drives, a sixteen (12+4)-phase CPU voltage controller adds stability for overclocking, an I/O panel CLR_CMOS button helps overclockers recover from ill-conceived settings, and an extra firmware ROM allows tuners to start over when resetting doesn’t work.

In a truly brilliant move, Asus retains back panel-based USB 2.0 ports specifically to address keyboard and mouse connectivity needs. Four more headers add eight ports for front-panel connectivity, and that’s in addition to the two dual-port USB 3.0 front-panel connectors.

Asus-exclusive features like MemOK, TPU, and EPU and USB BIOS Flashback are still present. MemOK temporarily underclocks memory to allow access to UEFI for manual tuning, and has come in useful for booting certain poorly-programmed modules in the past. TPU automatically overclocks the system to a preset level defined by Asus, while EPU automatically undervolts the CPU core for additional power savings. USB BIOS Flashback allows the system ROM to be updated from a flash drive using a designated port, but we also found that bumping it allowed the system to boot using a different profile.

We also find three x16-length PCIe slots, though only two of these run at PCIe 3.0 data rates through Intel's integrated Ivy Bridge-based controller. The second slot takes eight lanes from the first when a card is detected, while the third slot offers four lanes from the chipset’s PCIe 2.0 controller. Asus knows that most gaming enthusiasts will treat this as a two-way graphics design, and spaces its two primary PCIe slots three slots apart to aid GPU cooling.

Replete with (six) four-pin fan headers that each support advanced management techniques, the P8Z77-V Pro begins to look like a truly high-end product until we start noticing features that aren't present. The board, for example, lacks any diagnostics display, though it does have LEDs next to various devices to show when they’re being initiated. The lack of on-board power and reset buttons will similarly disappoint some bench-testers, though those things don’t matter once the motherboard is installed in a case. The lack of voltage detection points will cause some tuners to hunt for places to connect their meters, though Asus prefers that we trust its software readings. The long-expected FireWire controller is also missing, though most users no longer use it. And one of the added USB 3.0 internal headers would be blocked by a third graphics card, if not for the fact that most enthusiasts wouldn’t dream of putting a high-bandwidth card in a four-lane, second-gen slot.

Apparently, smart cost-cutting measures could put an otherwise high-end board into a mid-budget PC, except that any motherboard over $200 should probably include eSATA. Asus does add an eSATA/USB 3.0 breakout plate, and we’ll reserve our final thoughts on value for this article’s conclusion.

The P8Z77-V Pro’s 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter installs between the USB 2.0 and display connectors of its I/O panel, its antenna connector accessible from outside the I/O shield. Also included in the installation kit are four SATA cables, the external Wi-Fi antenna, and a two-way SLI bridge.

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  • TekN9Ne
    Great review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
  • Anonymous
    do you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
  • yougotjaked
    There's a typo on the last page. It says X77H2-A2X instead of Z77H2-A2X :P It's on the second to last paragraph...
  • HMSvictory
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V
  • rickrents
    why not with Pci-e 3.0?
  • confish21
    Nice article thank you!
  • confish21
    One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
  • Crashman
    TekN9NeGreat review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
    I don't think the article stated anything like that. It comes down to the features you want and the cards you plan to use. In the MSI vs ASRock debate, it's x8-x4-x4 with all three slots in PCIe 3.0 mode, or x8-x8-x4 with x4 in PCIe 2.0 mode, and you're definitely wiser to pick between them based on WHAT you plan to use in the third slot.
    simone saysdo you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
    It's Monday here, and editorial has very little contact with news.
    HMSvictoryI am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V [...] 6813131820
    Tom's Hardware didn't "include" anything in the review. A couple boards were excluded based on price, and everything else was let in. The P8Z77-V Pro was the cheapest board Asus sent.
    rickrentswhy not with Pci-e 3.0?
    Editor had no PCIe 3.0 cards. And the reason he didn't get one yet is because it didn't matter. The only thing that really mattered in a single-GPU MOTHERBOARD comparison was to use the same card on all platforms.
    confish21One thing i was looking for was the part about asrock not having true "digital" PWM and going with an analog PWM. Does this really matter?
    Some digital voltage regulators have been garbage, take a look at a few of the older reviews to see this. Very few have been very good. And many more analog voltage regulators have been garbage, while many more analog voltage regulators have been very good. Quality of execution is more important than the underlying technology.
  • hellfire24
    UD3H seems to be an excellent value board.
  • HMSvictory
    would it be possible to review the asus z77 and gigabyte ud5h in a future review.
  • tacoslave
    this review needs crossfire/sli results
  • AlexIsAlex
    Still no boot/post time comparison? With all performance scores being almost identical, I would have thought this could be a useful differentiator.
  • sosofm
    Is good a test with PCIE 3.0 video card to see if is a real benefit compare to PCIE 2.0.
  • valuial
    z77 sabertooth wanted !
  • jaquith
    Thanks Thomas another Great Article! Don't like what I see, but I digress.

    Something's gotta be pooched with the ASUS P8Z77-V Pro BIOS (UEFI) -- hopefully. In the past the ASUS Pro line has been the meat & potatoes for my recommendations, and this is not the only review with similar performance numbers.

    Voltages, I am going to have a hard time recommending a vCore >1.2Xv, VCCSA and CPU VTT of 1.20v on the IB. I still need to see otherwise. From what I've seen the IB is more 'girlish' with voltages than the SB or SB-E, and there's little point having the fans spinning 'through' the case and creating high dBA with a high vCore. RAM (voltage), it goes back to my feelings that 1.50v DIMM was a bunch of Urban Myths especially since the SB-E and seemingly the IB can handle 1.65v DIMM RAM.

    Yeah, I noticed the XMP tried to set 1.25v VCCSA, or at least the set is encoded that way. Further, I don't wan to debate the OC until I get my hands on an IB, it should be any day now.

    Further, either the Engineers were dead wrong on the SB (1.50) or IB (1.65) they're wrong in both instances. I 'get' ultra fast kits (today) >DDR3-2133 e.g. DDR-2400 or faster are 1.65v kits, but only a few months ago IF 'I' recommended SB + 1.65v I'd have 20+ negative comments in the Forum. Seems counter intuitive step in DRAM voltage.

    Also, I am assuming you're testing the IB ES and I wonder how much of an impact that has in that the CPUID are geared towards the Retail. I remember all of the E5 (ES) problems and drops in performance compared to the Retail sisters.

    OC observation only, you seemed 'wimpish' with the SB-E compared to the IB - interesting?!
  • notsleep
    i don't understand why the mobo don't have all sata6 and usb 3.0? i mean they're backwards compatible. why even include the old stuff? why not have 8 sata 6 and 8 usb 3.0 with 0 sata 3 and 0 usb 3.0? :?
  • spyfish
    Good review, I read a similar review before i decided for MSI Z77A-GD65.

    A chose this board as it has a better Audio Chipset then the Competitors. This board comes with ALC898, while the other ones come with ALC892. Apparently ALC898 is far better than ALC892.

    So far i am quite happy with the board.

    Just 1 note, if overclocking do not disable "Power technologies", it will prevent overclocking. If i disabled the power saving features 1 by 1 i had no problems.
  • xtreme5
    like it good review!
  • Pezcore27
    Just curious as to what made you pick the GA-Z77X-UD3H for $160 over the GA-Z77X-UD5H for $189? Is there not that much difference between the 2 boards?
  • CaedenV
    Fun mobo review as always!
    I have always loved ECS for cheap 'value' builds (in fact I am using a 6 year old ECS board in a little htpc I am throwing together, it doesn't do much, but it has never let me down either), it is wierd seeing them in the 'high end' market like this, and (unlike previous boards they have produced) it looks stunning!
    The first time I saw the gold on black look was with my ex3 gen3 board, which looked odd in pictures, but great in real life, and this new ECS board looks absolutely gorgeous in pics, so I am sure it looks great in real life as well.

    Still, at the end of the day I am not sure that I would go for ECS on a high end build, but it is good to see that they are getting somewhere.

    Also, it is good to see that ASRock is still doing OK now that they are no longer under the ASUS umbrella.

    As for the review: Why even do the program benchmarks? We all know that the mobo is merely for the feature set, parts cooling, and power management quality for OCing (and truth be told aesthetics as well), and has next to no bearing on how fast things get processed at any specific frequency. All that I personally care about is the feature set, OC ability, and subjective ease of use for the UEFI and keeping it updated, vs the overall cost of the board.