Z77 Motherboard Round-Up: MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte, Intel - HotHardware

Z77 Motherboard Round-Up: MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte, Intel

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In preparation for the impending arrival of the company’s 3rd Generation Core processor products based on its Ivy Bridge microarchitecture, Intel has readied a new chipset dubbed the Z77 Express. We have already been able to show you a number of Z77 Express-based motherboards, thanks to a handful of sneak peeks while out at CES early this year and a few briefings that took place afterwards, but today we can finally give you the full monty on the chipset itself.

We have been playing with a few Z77 Express-based motherboards for the past couple of weeks, evaluated their performance, and have gathered up our data for you here. On tap in this round-up we have motherboards from MSI, Gigabyte, Asus and Intel. Considering the fact that the Z77 Express is designed for next-gen processors and targets the high-performance desktop segment, it should come as no surprise that all of the motherboard we’ll be showing you here are aimed at enthusiasts. The MSI Z77A-GD65, Gigabyte Z77Z-UD5H, Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe, and Intel DZ77GA-70K are all high-end motherboards, packed with integrated features, and a full complement of overclocking tools. However, while they may all be built around the same chipset, these boards are configured quite differently in terms of their I/O capabilities and their UEFI menus. As you’ll see, nearly gone are the days of similar-looking, blue-and-yellow, text-based BIOS menus.

One thing we should point out though, is that we tested all of these motherboards using a Sandy Bridge-based processor; a Core i7-2700K to be more specific. Intel is ready for the Z77 Express to officially make its debut, but Ivy Bridge and Intel’s 3rd Generation Core processor products are still a few weeks out. Regardless, at least you’ll get to see what Intel and its motherboard partners have in store...


Intel Z77 Express Chipset Block Diagram

Before we show you the motherboards themselves, we should take a bit about the Z77 Express chipset at the heart of all the ‘boards. The high-level block diagram above gives a good visual representation of the Z77 Express chipset’s main features. Like the Z68 (and a few generations to come before it), the new Z77 Express chipset is essentially an I/O hub, as all of the traditional Northbridge functionality previously found in a Northbridge chip has long since been integrated into the processor itself.

As you can see, Intel’s socket 1155 Core processors offer 16 lanes of PCI Express 2.0 or 3.0 connectivity on-die, which can be configured in a number of difference ways (i.e. 1x16, 2x8, etc.) and they feature integrated dual-channel, DDR3 memory controllers with maximum officially supported speeds of up to 1600MHz (much higher speeds are possible with overclocking, however).

The processors are linked to the chipset via Intel’s FDI (Flexible Display Interface) and 20Gb/s DMI 2.0 interface. The chipset itself is outfitted with 8 more PCIe 2.0 lanes, along with various other I/O, like six ports of SATA (II and III), an integrated Gigabit MAC, and digital display outputs for up to three displays. Making its debut in an Intel chipset is also native USB 3.0 support. The Z77 Express has four USB 3.0 and ten USB 2.0 ports built in. The chipset also has support for Intel’s Rapid Storage Technology (RST), RAID, Smart Response Technology, or SRT, and other features like FastBoot.

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Good to see these boards making it into the market.

I liked the ASUS board the most, but as you guys said, even the cheapest one of them is a damn nice board.

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Impressive performance ! Hope and trust you will retest when the Ivy Bridge - Oops ! «3rd Generation Core processors» - become available !...

Henri

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You didn't think that Intel motherboard showed up without an Ivy Bridge CPU in it, did you? :)

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Marco, as you know, I personally possess no special knowledge as regards which processor was included with the Intel motherboard, but I do presume that all the tests were performed with a Core i7-2700K, as per your headsup : «One thing we should point out though, is that we tested all of these motherboards [emphasis added, MHD] using a Sandy Bridge-based processor; a Core i7-2700K to be more specific». What I attempted to express above was my hope that you will retest all these mainboards when the Ivy-Bridge processors become generally available....

Henri

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Got my hands on the Z77 boards at Pax (Some of them even had Ivy bridge chips in them) Man these things are nice. I find the power efficiency improvements to be pretty impressive.

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Great article, but what does "Thunderbolt Ready" mean? Are the MB people planning on releasing a card that I can stick in there? Is there an ETA on when the card would show up or any details about it? Same size connector as the mac version of ThunderBolt?

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Hey Optimus while you are entitled to your own opinion all I see you do is flame marco nonstop, whats with all the negativity? 

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We tested the MSI board and were able to hit a stable 5.3GHz with a 2600K for our review, same goes with our Gigabyte sample, but it was the Z77 UD3, even our Biostar Z77 board was able to hit 5.3GHz, ASRock Extreme6 4.9GHz. We just receive five more Z77 boards and should have those results up shortly

AS far as the comments left by OPT, every review site has to put up with someone like this, he should be posting his own results before resorting to this type of crap

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I liked the ASUS board the most, but as you guys said, even the cheapest one of them is a damn nice board.

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What I attempted to express above was my hope that you will retest all these mainboards when the Ivy-Bridge processors become generally available..

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