Four Z87 Express Motherboards For Three- And Four-Way SLI

Z87 Extreme9/ac Firmware

The Z87 Extreme9/ac OC Tweaker menu leads with a list of factory-configured overclocking presets from 4.0 to 4.8 GHz, but most of those require too much voltage to run for more than a few seconds on our CPU before thermal throttling kicks in and knocks it back down. Next on the menu are CPU ratio and BCLK settings for manual O/C configuration.

The motherboard properly detects this memory’s DDR3-3000 XMP profile and Haswell’s DDR3-2933 memory controller limit, choosing that ratio and increasing the base clock to 102.3 MHz to compensate.

Everyone major motherboard company has figured out ways to override the CPU’s integrated voltage control. The 1.235 V setting produces a nominal voltage of 1.25 V on the Z87 Exteme9/ac, and load compensation pushes it a little past 1.26 V. Even if a company were to figure out a way to fool the volt meter, full-load temperatures would be a dead giveaway.

All major manufacturers also cheat on DIMM voltage, pushing 10% or more past the set limits to allow a higher overclock at a setting users believe is safe. Our volt meter showed an actual 1.65 to 1.655 V when using the motherboard’s 1.635 V setting.

Primary, secondary, and tertiary memory timings are adjustable over a wide margin to allow super-high memory overclocks.

The Tools menu shows an image of detected components (System Browser), allows flashing firmware from the UEFI GUI (Instant Flash), and stores up to three O/C configurations as user profiles.

Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • iam2thecrowe
    Am i missing something here? I dont see the point of reviewing 3 and 4 way sli boards and not testing 3 and 4 way sli. Seems rather pointless since any average motherboard will perform well in adobe, productivity etc benches dependent on the cpu....
  • Crashman
    This was really just about finding any board that supports Nvidia's requirements about how that third card is connected. We found some, I overclocked them, now I have enough data to pick a board for the System Builder Marathon. But that only explains why overclocking took priority!

    After spending two days per board on a "one week" article, I couldn't add more tests. The general benchmark set looks for unintended overclocking/underclocking, power and memory bandwidth issues, so you can see the performance difference attributable to each board's CPU and DRAM configuration differences. It runs from a .bat file, so it didn't add significantly to the article's completion time.

    The PLX bridge that these all share represents the "great equalizer" when it comes to CrossFire and SLI configuration, so that portion of all three boards should be identical. I understand that things that should be the same in theory are occasionally different in practice. My apologies for not having the extra 1-day per board for additional tests.
  • iam2thecrowe
    12341788 said:
    They all use the same PLX bridge, so you would have seen a whole bunch of identical gaming results. The general benchmark set looks for unintended overclocking/underlocking, power and memory bandwidth issues, so you can see the actual performance difference. And there's still an overclocking section.

    These boards had to be tested for general performance and stability like any other boards. The PLX controller is the equalizer when it comes to games.

    I think testing 3/4 way sli would still be valid, as it doesn't always work properly, in the past there have been compatibility problems with certain gpu's/boards/firmware/controllers and certain benchmarks completely failed.
  • Kraszmyl
    "internally-mounted external USB 2.0 port for ReadyBoost fanatics" on the asus z87.

    Those have nothing to do with readyboost. The internal usb ports are very common on workstations and you put CAD dongles and equivalent items in them so that you can lock them inside the case and don't have to worry about some one stealing them from the outside or them taking up an outside usb port.
  • Memnarchon
    I would love to see Asus Maximus VI Extreme, but it seems ASUS didn't want to give a 2nd board and prefered the Z87 WS....
  • markaflias
    Where are the sli/cfx tests ? Non sense
  • west7
    no cfx test i think the review title is misleading
  • Traciatim
    where are the sli/crossfire benchmarks and comparisons with traditional non-switched setups?

    Hey guys, we have these awesome new setups for supreme graphics pumping power! Watch it zip files like every other board!
  • chumly
    Those heatsinks on the Asus look like the would interfere with large CPU coolers.
  • duramax08
    Why are they still making motherboards with PS/2 connections? Its time to move on, replace those baby's with some USB 3.0!