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Asus Z87-Pro

Five Z87 Motherboards Under $220, Reviewed
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Rather than configure dual Ethernet connections, Asus adds its dual-band 802.11n/Bluetooth module to a single Intel gigabit PHY in its $210 Z87-Pro. The I/O panel-based wireless connection (sporting two transmit and two receive antennas) can also be configured as an access point for other devices when using the wired gigabit connection for Internet access, and Asus even adds a couple of extra USB 3.0 ports next to it.

Starting off with a good I/O section doesn’t make the Pro a Deluxe-class board—Asus sells a Deluxe model for those customers—and some readers will be surprised to see that the Z87-Pro uses a maximum of four of the chipset’s PCIe 2.0 lanes to feed its third "graphics" slot. The top two x16-length slots still run at PCIe 3.0 signaling, switching from x16-x0 to x8-x8 mode when the second card is added. But builders who want to place a slower device in the bottom slot will also be happy that it doesn’t steal lanes from the top two x16 slots.

Using the bottom slot in x4 mode requires that the three PCIe x1 slots above it get disabled, leaving only a single functioning x1 slot at the top of the board. The alternative is to treat the bottom slot as x1, since that’s the default configuration.

Next to its bottom-edge power button and diagnostics panel, the DirectKey button signals the board to boot directly into UEFI. Knowing that this button won’t be easily accessible in a finished build, Asus even adds a set of pins to connect a front-panel switch, and suggests that users who favor this function over the standard reset might connect their reset buttons here. This is particularly useful in Windows 8, where you don't get enough time to hit F2 or Delete before the operating system starts booting.

Moving a bit farther forward, the BIOS_Flash button accesses Asus’ USB BIOS Flashback ASIC to flash the firmware from a thumb drive, even if other components (such as the CPU) are missing. It's too early for us to tell, but this could come in useful down the road if Intel updates its Haswell line-up and you find yourself needing a new firmware with a compatible processor to plug in.

Near the front edge, a TPU switch enables automatic overclocking, an EPU switch enables automatic voltage reduction, and a MemOK button next to the memory sets a custom memory underclocking mode that was formerly needed to make certain poorly-programmed high-voltage RAM bootable at default voltage levels.

Asus improves its Z87-Pro layout in two ways compared to most competitors. First, it moves its front-panel audio connector forward by around 1.5 inches to ease short-cable concerns that affected a couple of contenders in our recent round-up. Second, it flips its EPS12V (CPU) power connector upside-down so that the latch is on the bottom, making it easier to unlatch when its cable is wrapped over the top of the board.

The Z87-Pro targets mid-market builders by including only four SATA cables. Its SLI bridge is flexible, and its 2x2 Wi-Fi antenna is foldable.

Display all 91 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , June 4, 2013 2:09 AM
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2013 2:20 AM
    Quote:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Intel says it doesn't cherry-pick chips for reviewers...
  • 0 Hide
    Memnarchon , June 4, 2013 2:26 AM
    Thank you. I was looking forward for a review like this. I read some reviews and the o/c was varying from mobo to mobo lot. So if the same cpu was used, 4,3Ghz to 4,7Ghz is a lot of difference. Because if your cpu would o/c to 4,3Ghz most we would tell its a crap sample Haswell sucks on o/c etc etc, but if it was be able to clock to 4,7Ghz we would say its a nice sample.
  • 6 Hide
    cangelini , June 4, 2013 2:27 AM
    Quote:
    Who did you get the CPU from? Given the Haswell launch article said they were unlikely to be able to hit 4.5GHz+, is this a cherry-picked chip from Intel?
    Could we see some MBs around the $130-$140 mark? They're the interesting ones IMO, and would toast most of these in terms of value.

    Yes, the CPU comes from Intel. Almost certainly it was cherry-picked. But this is why we didn't rely on these CPUs for our launch coverage--it makes a lot more sense to go to a source with hundreds of boxed processors on the bench to get a real sense for what Haswell will do in the wild. At least for this round-up, the variable changing is the motherboard. So, we derive as much meaning as possible with a review sample that hits 4.7 GHz on one board and 4.5 GHz on another.
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , June 4, 2013 2:38 AM
    Yeah - but if people think that their chip is going to hit 4.7 on a good board, then find they can't get 4.5, they can be upset.

    OTOH, the launch coverage said that was at 1.2V, while this is 1.3V, so I guess a few hundred MHz extra is reasonable.

    Lot more variation than on IB's review: http://media.bestofmicro.com/X/O/335580/original/image019.png
  • 0 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , June 4, 2013 2:46 AM
    Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
  • -1 Hide
    Jason Louie , June 4, 2013 2:46 AM
    do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
  • 2 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2013 2:53 AM
    Quote:
    Isn't there a flaw in the Z87 technology regarding sleep mode? Was it mentioned in the article? I didn't see it.
    Did you read the Haswell review? All current boards are affected, no future boards will be, there's nothing to update here, and the flaw is virtually meaningless.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/core-i7-4770k-haswell-review,3521-9.html

    If you have one of the affected drives and can't be bothered to reconnect it when it goes offline, wait a couple weeks and buy a board from the new batch.

    The differences between boards in today's review are overclocking, power consumption, and onboard features. None of those things will change with the new PCH batch, and firmware updates should improve both batches equally.



  • -3 Hide
    Jason Louie , June 4, 2013 3:36 AM
    do these board suffer from the rumoured usb3 sleep issue? or are they the fixed B3 steppings ?
  • -3 Hide
    sna , June 4, 2013 3:38 AM
    Hello,
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
  • 0 Hide
    Someone Somewhere , June 4, 2013 3:48 AM
    Quote:
    Hello,
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.


    Haswell does have another pair of USB3.0 ports... I agree though, it's kind of disappointing.
  • 0 Hide
    Tedders , June 4, 2013 6:34 AM
    I bought the MSI board. The features looked good to me for what I wanted. I was really looking at the ASRock boards until I found that they only have a 1 year warranty.

    Edit: ASRock has a 3 year warranty as I see now. Still happy with my choice when looking around the interwebz and seeing how people seem to really like the MSI board.
  • 0 Hide
    vmem , June 4, 2013 8:47 AM
    ahh, the perfect review that I was looking for :) 
    now only 2 things left to do:
    1. wait a few months to wait for the C2-revision to proliforate so that I don't have weird USB3.0 annoyance
    2. wait for a review on the high-end: z87 delux, sniper, M-power max, ROG extreme etc. just to see whether it's worth the price difference (at least to me )

    UPDATE:
    well, was hoping for slightly more out of MSI's gaming board, but it seems it can't fully satisfy the overclocker in me. still a damn nice board though. all in all it looks like once again ASUS and ASrock come out as the top players for this range. looking forward to seeing if a ROG Extreme is what I ultimately need/want :D 
  • -8 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 4, 2013 9:41 AM
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?
  • 2 Hide
    InvalidError , June 4, 2013 10:04 AM
    Quote:
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.

    Since Haswell uses the same DMI2.0 bus between the CPU and chipset, total IO performance is capped to ~2GB/s... the equivalent of 4x USB3 ports or 3x SATA3 or one x4 PCIe 2.0 device.

    From what I read, the z77 and z87 chipsets are interchangeable - a motherboard manufacturer could pair z77 with Haswell or z87 with SB/IB if they wanted to. The main thing that prevented Intel from reusing LGA1155 is FIVR.
  • 1 Hide
    cangelini , June 4, 2013 10:32 AM
    Quote:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy!
    Chris
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2013 10:53 AM
    Quote:
    Hello,
    Can you guys please test 6 SSD in Raid 0 on these mobos ? this is the only Advantage of upgrading to a Haswell over ivy/sandy bridge.
    Check InvalidError's valid answer, this is also mentioned in the article. 6-way RAID 0 might be useful for HDD's (I'd go RAID 10), but SSD's will simply overwhelm the DMI.

    But most users (even in the enthusiast market) don't do that anyway. There are very few "storage enthusiasts" in the general "performance enthusiast" market. And for most of us, having more than two SATA 6Gb/s ports simply means our storage drives won't use up the SATA 6Gb/s port needed for our system drive.

    I'd still like to see our storage guy add this controller to his next big article :) 
  • 0 Hide
    Onus , June 4, 2013 11:20 AM
    I agree with BigMack70; the new CPUs offer meaningless differences in actual use, but the motherboards certainly do, especially with their additional SATA 6Gb/s ports.
    It seems to me Asus teased something about a driver that would visually identify the location of sound sources on screen with [one of] their Z87 boards. Can you shed any light on this?
  • 0 Hide
    slomo4sho , June 4, 2013 11:26 AM
    Quote:

    This is simply not true. Desktop Richland has not yet launched. Desktop Richland drops into FM2, just like Trinity. So, when it does launch, we can revisit the FM2 market to see if there's a reason for another round-up. In the meantime here's a round-up of motherboards that'll support Richland: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html. Hope you enjoy!
    Chris


    I don't know who dropped the ball but the launch of Richland was today. It is available for sale on multiple retail sites including Newegg, Aria, and Microcenter.
  • 0 Hide
    Crashman , June 4, 2013 11:35 AM
    Quote:
    Richland APUs were released and not a single article about it... Can you at least attempt to conceal the Intel bias on this site?

    I didn't answer this earlier because I'm not a CPU editor. But since you're going on about bias, listen up: This was a motherboard review. Your comment has nothing to do with the topic, unless you can show me a new chipset upon which I can justify a roundup. Otherwise, the motherboard roundup you're requesting was published 8 months ago...http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/socket-fm2-motherboard-review,3337.html

    Now, if we can find a group of guys with a high interest in an FM2 update, that would create a market for the new motherboard article. Does anyone else want to chime in with their opinions on an FM2 update?
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