Z77 Mobo Roundup II: EVGA, ASRock, Gigabyte, Zotac

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Both the ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional and Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H have graphically impressive UEFIs (Unified Extensible Firmware Interfaces) to replace tired text-only BIOSes, as do most motherboard makers these days. Both have two ways of interacting with the BIOS--a straightforward, familiar menu enhanced by tastefully subdued graphics and navigable by both mouse and keyboard and a “3D” image of the motherboard that makes it a little easier for users to find the area they want to tweak--they just mouse-over various areas and click the menus that pop up.

    
ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional UEFI

That is where the similarities end. We were initially excited to use Gigabyte’s 3D Bios when it first debuted on the company’s X79 boards but found it somewhat lacking. It was relatively slow, and it was sometimes impossible to navigate accurately. We gave Gigabyte a mulligan because the 3D BIOS was so new, but it hasn't matured well with their Z77 boards. The performance problems persist, and the cool photorealistic 3D image of the motherboard--one of the few saving graces of the UEFI--is now mostly a plain gray. Not to beat a dead horse or seem cruel, but there are even typos littering the UEFI. (Have fun looking for them. You get a nickel for each one you find.)

    
Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H UEFI

ASRock’s UEFI by contrast is snappy and intuitive, and although past versions have been fine, the addition of the motherboard image is a nice touch that provides users with another means to interact to certain settings.


EVGA Z77 FTW UEFI

Although EVGA’s BIOS doesn’t exactly look much like a UEFI, it is indeed navigable by mouse and performs well. The company kept the menu options fairly concise, and the overall design, look, and color scheme matches EVGA’s website exactly. Despite the somewhat subdued look of the UEFI, there are plenty of options for tweaking and fine-tuning this board to keep even hardcore overclockers happy. Actually, the lack of a flashy interface makes for a nicely uncluttered space with few distractions that some overclockers may prefer.


Zotac Z77-ITX WiFi

Like Gigabyte until recently, Zotac was one of the last holdouts in terms of implementing a UEFI. Now, the company has a simple, nice-looking UEFI, and although there’s still no way to navigate the menus and submenus with a mouse, it’s a fine upgrade from the old blue and gray, text-only BIOS we saw on Zotac’s Z68 boards. It’s easy enough to find your way around, and there’s nothing flashy to distract you.

It's not overflowing with overclocking options, but there's no need; this is a board designed more for HTPC applications than gaming, so users are more likely to want to check temperatures and adjust fan speeds (which are conveniently located under the PC-Health tab) than push the CPU and memory clocks and voltages to their limit.

Overclocking with the Z77 Express Chipset
Taking Things Up A Notch or Three
As always, we overclocked each board in turn to see what they were capable of, using air cooling and stock voltages. As we saw before with our particular CPU, we came a hair short of 4.6GHz; a base clock of 104MHz and a multiplier of 44 was just about the sweet spot with the Zotac, ASRock and Gigabyte boards. However, the EVGA Z77 FTW did much better than the other boards with a stable overclock of 4.83GHz.

Take that with a grain of salt, though, because each board has plenty of overclocking options to toy with, so with a little patience and tinkering, and better cooling, all four boards should easily be able to hit higher overclocks and please all but the more hardcore overclockers.

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