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Five Z87 Motherboards Under $220, Reviewed

Z87-Pro Firmware

Asus’s latest firmware generation is feature-packed, from an extra XMP button placed on the "Easy Mode" screen to a custom-configurable home page that includes only the settings you choose. The company spent about 30 minutes going over just its firmware with us, and I'm sure it'll have a public version of its presentation soon.

Jumping straight to the tuning parts, setting our overclock with Ai Tweaker began by choosing its XMP option, which loosened our memory timings to DDR3-3000-rated values, increased the multiplier to Intel’s top 2,933 MT/s data rate, and bumped the base clock to 102.3 MHz.

Backing down BCLK to 100 MHz allowed the CPU to run at an astounding 47x multiplier, though added voltage was needed to make it stable.

I’ve recently been informed that a 1.30 V core is nearly impossible to keep cool on Intel’s Haswell-based processors while taxing their AVX pipelines specifically. But this news came to me only after I was able to use that voltage stably, albeit while running Prime95. Maybe my old MUX-120 cooler is just that good. Maybe I should have tried this in a heated room. Or maybe I just didn’t use an application that was capable of touching the core's most heat-sensitive areas. At any rate, Prime95 and Intel’s stability test running in tandem couldn’t push my configuration past the low 90s in °C, so my CPU sample remained stable at 4.7 GHz. Thanks Intel; thanks Asus!

Asus is the only motherboard manufacturer in today’s round-up to honestly report DIMM voltage, as confirmed with a volt meter. Defaulting to 20 mV over XMP, that extra 20 mV was correctly reflected as 1.655 V after I manually dropped the setting to 1.635 V.

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The Z87-Pro includes primary, secondary, and tertiary memory timing controls that can be individually configured without affecting other, automatic settings.

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