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Seven Sub-$160 Z77 Express Motherboards, Reviewed

Z77 Extreme4 UEFI

A particularly useful feature within the Z77 Extreme4 UEFI’s Main tab, “System Browser” illustrates the position of attached hardware, rather than trying to break it all down in a simple list, as we've seen other vendors attempt. If a part isn’t detected in Windows, a quick trip to the UEFI can show whether it’s an actual interface problem.

Our primary UEFI focus remains on overclocking-oriented features, and the Z77 Extreme4 provides a laudable array compared to the competing models in this price range. ASRock begins by enabling newbie modes like Advanced Turbo 30 (a 30% overclock), built-in overclocking profiles ranging from 4.0 to 4.8 GHz, and several integrated GPU performance-boosting profiles.

Though processor cores can be configured all at the same time, the only way we found to disable Intel's Turbo Boost technology was to first set the CPU Ratio setting to “Per Core.” This actually keeps Turbo Boost enabled, but disables the processor’s ability to self-adjust each configuration under normal operation. Thermal and power overrides still apply.

Following several complaints by multiple readers and one manufacturer, we decided to scale back our processor’s overclocking voltage to 1.25 V. This gets us within 2.5% of our previous super-high overclocks, while reducing maximum power consumption by around 25%. Setting 1.24 V CPU and Level 1 Load-Line Calibration in ASRock's UEFI got us very close to our 1.25 V full-load goal, and the Z77 Extreme4 approaches 4.7 GHz at 46 x 102 MHz using these settings.

Scrolling all the way to the bottom of the Z77 Extreme4’s OC Tweaker menu, we find three user-definable overclocking profile registers.

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The DRAM Configuration submenu provides a full set of primary and secondary timings.

  • 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