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Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed

Overclocking With ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility

We can’t forget ASRock’s overclocking and hardware monitoring utility, which allows users unfamiliar with or scared of UEFI changes to attempt an overclock within Windows. More hardware overclockers occasionally use the same type of software to make minor adjustments beyond what they’ve already set in a board's UEFI.

ASRock Extreme Tuning Utility opens to its hardware monitoring page, showing most of the voltage, fan, and temperature readings also found in the UEFI, without needing to exit Windows.

AXTU provides temperature-based fan control only for the CPU fans and one chassis fan header. Manual adjustment is available for the two CPU and three chassis fan headers, and our tests demonstrate that feature to work as advertised.

We slid the clock and voltage controls all the way up under AXTU’s Overclocking tab to show how far these scale. Although we didn't apply those extreme settings to our delicate hardware, we did find smaller changes in BCLK, CPU ratio, and CPU voltage reflected in CPU-Z.

UEFI overclocking profiles are repeated into AXTU’s OC DNA menu.

ASRock Inteligent Energy Saver gets a tab, but we didn’t find settings beyond On and Off.

XFast RAM is ASRock’s RAM drive utitility. RAM disks provide a super-fast place to temporarily store files while working with them, such as large images that are being manipulated in Photoshop. The capacity of any RAM-based drive is subtracted from total available system memory. ASRock points out that putting temporary files on the RAM drive minimizes strain on SSDs, and the firm even has a video that shows XFast RAM using unavailable memory (installed memory beyond the 4 GB limit) within a 32-bit operating system.

  • SpadeM
    LAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    SpadeMLAN performance .. ISC performance ... USB 3 .. well that's it then.Tom's Hardware has several controller comparisons, and publishes new ones frequently. So unless you think one of the boards has a broken controller, wysiwyg.

    The things that actually get screwed-up are typically related to the clock generator, multiplier control, memory timings and power options.
    Reply
  • nikorr
    I would place the ASRock and Gigabyte on the top as well : )

    Nice review.
    Reply
  • jaquith
    I always appreciate your Articles! :) I know how much work you do to get them done.

    You're kidding - Biostar. I guess this article is not about the 'Best Sub-$160 Z77' MOBO's but about the best manufacturers sent you. The cheapest MOBO I recommend for the SB/IB (K) is the ASUS P8Z77-V which pops your 'unique' budget cap depending where you shop; found it here for $159.99 - http://www.gadgetneeds.net/asus-p8z77-v-atx-intel-motherboard/
    Interesting you didn't get an ASUS P8Z77-V LK ~$120 which offers SLI. The ASRock Z77 Extreme4 and Gigabyte Z77X-D3H for the price aren't bad.

    There's NO WAY I'm recommending Biostar in the forum, folks and myself would thing I've lost my mind.
    Reply
  • jimishtar
    It would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    jimishtarIt would be nice to see the CPU voltage for every board when overclocking.1.25V
    Reply
  • gorillagarrett
    No peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other.

    Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    gorillagarrettNo peripherals performance tests? Those are the only tests that differentiate those motherboards from each other. Would really like to see how the UD3X Atheros Ethernet controller fares against the Intel and broadcom ones.I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared :)
    Reply
  • gorillagarrett
    I'll let the integrated controller guy know you'd like to see those parts compared

    Thank you!
    Reply
  • rolli59
    I would have liked to see the Asus P8Z77V-LK version instead of the LX since it is better equipped.
    Reply