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Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed


Intel’s newest UEFI opening screen reads “Welcome to the Future of BIOS.” That ambitious-sounding statement accompanies menus that primarily focus on pre-programmed overclocking techniques.

Fortunately, a small tab on the top of the above menu switches us to Classic Mode, where we can cover all of the important manual overclock settings within a few pages.

Though it's now more colorful and sports spiffier icons compared to Intel’s previous UEFI, the Performance tab of Classic mode still provides only a few overclock settings, of which Host Clock Frequency is primary.

Even after disabling low power states and setting Processor Idle State to “High”, our CPU would idle down when not loaded. Full load voltage was our biggest problem, though, as the shift from partial to full load caused a voltage spike of around 50 mV, even with Processor VR Droop Control set to “High V-droop”. Things got even worse at lower Vdroop modes, forcing us to use the 1.205 V setting to reach our 1.25V full-load goal.

Our maximum stable CPU clock dropped to 4.64 GHz. Less than 2% behind today’s leader, the compromise appears barely worth mentioning in spite of the time we wasted trying to overcome it.

Intel doesn’t offer automatic settings for individual timings, but gives us the same benefits in a different way. Switching from Auto to Manual modes causes the board to retain SPD values, while switching from an XMP profile to Manual modes causes the board to retain those XMP timings. This allowed us to adjust the memory’s data rate without taking time to manually configure XMP values, though the maximum multiplier supported by this board (DDR3-2400) is actually lower than our memory’s DDR3-2666 rating.

Up to five custom UEFI configurations can be saved as user profiles on the DZ77SL-50K.