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Five Z87 Motherboards Under $220, Reviewed


BIOS Frequency and Voltage settings (for overclocking)
ASRock Z77 Extreme6Asus Z87 PROECS Z87H3-A2X ExtremeGigabyte Z87X-UD4HMSI Z87-GD65 Gaming
Base Clock90-300 MHz (0.1 MHz)80-300 MHz (0.1 MHz)99.5-300 MHz (0.1 MHz)80-267 MHz (0.1 MHz)90-300 MHz (0.1 MHz)
CPU Multiplier8.0-120x (1x)8.0-80x (1x)16-80x (1x)8-80x (1x)8-80x (1x)
DRAM Data Rates800-4000 (200/266.6 MHz)800-3200 (200/266.6 MHz)800-3000 (200/266.6 MHz)800-2933 (200/266.6 MHz)800-3200 (200/266.6 MHz)
CPU Vcore0.80-2.00 V (1 mV)0.001-1.92 V (1 mV)0.00-2.00 V (1 mV)0.50-1.80 V (1 mV)0.80-2.10 V (5 mV)
VCCIN1.20-2.23 V (10 mV)0.80-3.04 V (10 mV)-1 to +1 (Offset Only)1.00-2.91 V (10 mV)1.80-3.04 V (10 mV)
PCH Voltage0.97-1.32 V (5 mV)0.70-1.50 V (12.5 mV)1.06-1.68 V (10 mV)0.65-1.30 V (5 mV)1.05-1.68V (10 mV)
DRAM Voltage1.17-1.80 V (5 mV)1.20-1.92 V (5 mV)1.10-1.82 V (5 mV)1.15-2.10 V (5 mV)0.30-2.45 V (25 mV)
CAS Latency4-15 Cycles1-31 Cycles4-18 Cycles5-15 Cycles5-15 Cycles
tRCD3-20 Cycles1-31 Cycles4-18 Cycles4-15 Cycles5-15 Cycles
tRP4-15 Cycles1-31 Cycles4-18 Cycles4-15 Cycles5-15 Cycles
tRAS9-63 Cycles1-63 Cycles10-40 Cycles5-63 Cycles10-40 Cycles

Most of the firmware ranges presented by today’s motherboards are extremely unrealistic, as LGA 1150-based processors are generally limited to around 10% base clock alteration (beyond base clock ratio changes) and a maximum DRAM data rate of 22x 133 MHz (2,933 MT/s). Higher memory multipliers aren’t supported by Haswell CPUs, but combining a functional multiplier with a higher base clock is still an option.

Gigabyte ties Asus for the highest CPU clock, with MSI trailing only slightly behind. ECS reaches 4.5 GHz, but I wasn’t able to prevent it from using the standard two-ratio drop to 4.3 GHz when loading four cores.

Asus and Gigabyte also have the highest base clock, though Intel told our editor-in-chief, Chris Angelini, that ratio selection isn’t available for multiplier-locked Haswells. Other boards had trouble using the 166 MHz ratio, though we don't see any practical reason to do so with our air-cooled Core i7-4770K.

ECS bragged to me that it had the best-overclocking motherboard, and when I told the company otherwise, it referred to memory data rate. Indeed, the Z87H3-A2X ties Asus’ Z87-Pro for top memory clock.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.