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Six $160-220 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Z77 Express: The Perfect Replacement For Older Machines

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 Extreme6Asus P8Z77-V ProBiostar 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/s2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s2 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/eSATAASM1061 PCIe 2 x SATA 6Gb/sASM1061 PCIe 2 x SATA 6Gb/s
USB 3.0EJ168A PCIeIntel Z77 Integrated2 x ASM1042 PCIeIntel Z77 IntegratedZ77 Integrated Only
IEEE-1394VT6308P PCI 2 x 400 Mb/sNoneNone
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-A2XGigabyte Z77X-UD3HMSI 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/s2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s2 x SATA 6Gb/s 4 x SATA 3Gb/s
Chipset RAID Modes0, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 100, 1, 5, 10
Add-In SATAASM1061 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s88SE9128 PCIe2 x eSATA 6Gb/sASM1061 PCIe2 x SATA 6Gb/s
USB 3.0ASM1042 PCIeIntel Z77 IntegratedVL800-Q8 PCIeIntel Z77 IntegratedZ77 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