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Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed
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Combining the newest features with moderate expandability, Intel’s mainstream platforms provide high value to most gaming and overclocking enthusiasts. We compare six examples with Z77 Express to find the best features, overclocking, and efficiency.

The components of Intel’s Maho Bay platform, including the Z77 Express chipset and Ivy Bridge-based processors, have been floating around our SoCal lab all year. And yet, the company waited until April to to slowly roll its parts out, allowing channel partners to clear as many Sandy Bridge-based machines as possible before relegating the architecture to "prior-gen."

The Z77 Express chipset was quickly followed by Ivy Bridge-based processors, and both of our stories on those parts came to the same conclusion: mainly, that the new generation of hardware is barely better than the Z68 Express and Sandy Bridge architecture it replaces. 

Nevertheless, Maho Bay's improvements still make it the preferred choice for anyone replacing an older system. If you're already running a machine that center on Sandy bridge, an upgrade doesn't make sense. But if you're stuck with a Core 2- or Phenom-based box, Z77 Express and an Ivy Bridge-based processor are the logical path forward.

If you're patient enough to hold off on Sandy Bridge, sticking with two- or three-year-old hardware for this long, then X79 is probably totally out of the question. It's a good thing, then, that the Maho Bay platform inherits its predecessor's mainstream pricing. On the other hand, if you're savvy enough to read Tom's Hardware, then you probably also share our high expectations for quality, stability, and robust features.

With that degree of frugality in mind, we begin our Z77 Express-based motherboard round-ups right in the middle of the enthusiast market: between $160 and $220.

Motherboard Features
 ASRock
Z77 Extreme6
Asus
P8Z77-V Pro
Biostar
TZ77XE4
PCB Revision1.021.025.0
ChipsetIntel Z77 ExpressIntel Z77 ExpressIntel Z77 Express
Voltage RegulatorTwelve PhasesSixteen PhasesTwelve Phases
BIOSP1.30 (04/12/2012)0906 (03/26/2012)Z77CF412 (04/12/2012)
100.0 MHz BCLK100.46 (+0.46%)100.30 (+0.30%)100.01 (+0.01%)
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x162 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)
PCIe 2.0 x161 (4 lanes from PCH)1 (4 lanes from PCH)1 (4 lanes from PCH)
PCIe x1/x41/02/01/0
Mini PCIe1NoneNone
USB 2.03 (6 ports)4 (8 ports)2 (4 ports)
USB 3.01 (2 ports)2 (4 ports)1 (2 ports)
IEEE-13941NoneNone
SATA 6.0 Gb/s4 (1 shared w/eSATA)44
SATA 3.0 Gb/s444 (1 shared w/eSATA)
4-Pin Fan261
3-Pin Fan4None2
FP-Audio111
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyOutput OnlyOutput Only
Power ButtonYesNoYes
Reset ButtonYesNoYes
CLR_CMOS ButtonNoNoYes
Diagnostics PanelNumericPass/Fail LEDsNumeric
Legacy InterfacesSerial, Floppy, 2 x PCI2 x PCISerial, 2 x PCI
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 2111
USB 3.0442
USB 2.0224
IEEE-13941NoneNone
NetworkSingleSingleSingle
eSATA1 (shared w/SATA)None1 (shared w/SATA)
CLR_CMOS ButtonYesNoNo
Digital Audio OutOptical OnlyOptical OnlyNone
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio566
Video OutVGA, DVI-D, DisplayPort, HDMIHDMI, DisplayPort, VGA, DVI-DDisplayPort, HDMI, VGA, DVI-D
Other DevicesNone802.11n Wi-Fi ModuleNone
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATAASM1061 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
1 shared w/eSATA
ASM1061 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
ASM1061 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
USB 3.0EJ168A PCIe
Intel Z77 Integrated
2 x ASM1042 PCIe
Intel Z77 Integrated
Z77 Integrated Only
IEEE-1394VT6308P PCI
2 x 400 Mb/s
NoneNone
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANBCM57781 PCIeWG82579V PHYRTL8111E PCIe
Secondary LANNoneAR9485 PCIe Wi-FiNone
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC898ALC892ALC898
DDL/DTS ConnectNot SpecifiedDTS ConnectNot Specified


Motherboard Features
 ECS Golden
Z77H2-A2X
Gigabyte
Z77X-UD3H
MSI
Z77A-GD65
PCB Revision1.01.02.1
ChipsetIntel Z77 ExpressIntel Z77 ExpressIntel Z77 Express
Voltage RegulatorEight PhasesEight PhasesTwelve Phases
BIOS120328 (03/28/2012)F7 (03/28/2012)V10.3 (03/27/2012)
100.0 MHz BCLK99.77 (-0.23%)100.89 (+0.89%)100.0 (+0.0%)
Internal Interfaces
PCIe 3.0 x162 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)2 (x16/x0 or x8/x8)3 (x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, x8/x4/x4)
PCIe 2.0 x16None1 (4 lanes from PCH)None
PCIe x1/x42/03/04/0
Mini PCIe1NoneNone
USB 2.01 (2 ports)3 (6 ports)3 (6 ports)
USB 3.01 (2 ports)1 (2 ports)1 (2 ports)
IEEE-1394NoneNone1
SATA 6.0 Gb/s424
SATA 3.0 Gb/s24 (1 shared w/mSATA)4
4-Pin Fan153
3-Pin Fan2None2
FP-Audio111
S/PDIF I/OOutput OnlyOutput OnlyNone
Power ButtonYesYesYes
Reset ButtonYesYesYes
CLR_CMOS ButtonNoYesNo
Diagnostics PanelNumericNumericNumeric
Legacy InterfacesSerial, 2 x PCINoneNone
I/O Panel Connectors
P/S 2None11
USB 3.0462
USB 2.04None4
IEEE-1394NoneNoneNone
NetworkSingleSingleSingle
eSATA12None
CLR_CMOS ButtonNoNoYes
Digital Audio OutOptical OnlyOptical OnlyOptical+Coaxial
Digital Audio InNoneNoneNone
Analog Audio566
Video OutVGA, DVI-D, HDMIVGA, DVI-D, HDMI, DiplayPortHDMI, VGA, DVI-D
Other DevicesBluetooth, 802.11n Wi-FiNoneNone
Mass Storage Controllers
Chipset SATA2 x SATA 6Gb/s
2 x SATA 3Gb/s
1 x eSATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
4 x SATA 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATAASM1061 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
88SE9128 PCIe
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
ASM1061 PCIe
2 x SATA 6Gb/s
USB 3.0ASM1042 PCIe
Intel Z77 Integrated
VL800-Q8 PCIe
Intel Z77 Integrated
Z77 Integrated Only
IEEE-1394NoneNoneVT6315N PCIe
1 x 400 Mb/s
Gigabit Ethernet
Primary LANRTL8111E PCIeAR8151 PCIeWG82579V PHY
Secondary LANAR9271 USB Wi-FiNoneNone
Audio
HD Audio CodecALC892VT2021ALC898
DDL/DTS ConnectNot SpecifiedNot SpecifiedNot Specified
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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , April 30, 2012 6:39 AM
    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-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 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.

  • 10 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 6:16 AM
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
Other Comments
  • 8 Hide
    TekN9Ne , April 30, 2012 5:04 AM
    Great review! At the end of day, it comes down to brand loyalty.
  • -8 Hide
    Anonymous , April 30, 2012 5:18 AM
    do you mean nvidia and intel gets news during weekends not only news but featured articles?
  • 2 Hide
    yougotjaked , April 30, 2012 5:44 AM
    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...
  • 10 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 6:16 AM
    I am surprised that you guys did not include the Asus z77-V

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131820
  • 4 Hide
    rickrents , April 30, 2012 6:27 AM
    why not with Pci-e 3.0?
  • 0 Hide
    confish21 , April 30, 2012 6:29 AM
    Nice article thank you!
  • 1 Hide
    confish21 , April 30, 2012 6:31 AM
    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?
  • 10 Hide
    Crashman , April 30, 2012 6:39 AM
    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-Vhttp://www.newegg.com/Product/Prod [...] 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.

  • 2 Hide
    hellfire24 , April 30, 2012 7:05 AM
    UD3H seems to be an excellent value board.
  • 3 Hide
    HMSvictory , April 30, 2012 7:38 AM
    would it be possible to review the asus z77 and gigabyte ud5h in a future review.
  • 5 Hide
    tacoslave , April 30, 2012 7:42 AM
    this review needs crossfire/sli results
  • 9 Hide
    AlexIsAlex , April 30, 2012 8:42 AM
    Still no boot/post time comparison? With all performance scores being almost identical, I would have thought this could be a useful differentiator.
  • 1 Hide
    sosofm , April 30, 2012 8:50 AM
    Is good a test with PCIE 3.0 video card to see if is a real benefit compare to PCIE 2.0.
  • 2 Hide
    valuial , April 30, 2012 9:45 AM
    z77 sabertooth wanted !
  • -1 Hide
    jaquith , April 30, 2012 11:41 AM
    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?!
  • 0 Hide
    notsleep , April 30, 2012 12:02 PM
    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? :?
  • 0 Hide
    spyfish , April 30, 2012 12:33 PM
    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.
  • 0 Hide
    xtreme5 , April 30, 2012 12:37 PM
    like it good review!
  • 1 Hide
    Pezcore27 , April 30, 2012 1:13 PM
    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?
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , April 30, 2012 1:42 PM
    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.
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