Z77 Motherboard Round-Up: MSI, ASUS, Gigabyte, Intel
UEFI Comparisons and Overclocking
Although not every motherboard on the market has made the switchover, with these new Z77 Express-based motherboards, the boring text-based BIOS menus of the past are no more. All four of the Z77 Express-based motherboards in this round-up feature graphically-rich, mouse-enabled UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) menus that are very different from one another.
These first two shots are of the main menu and CPU overclocking menu of Intel’s Visual BIOS, installed on the DZ77GA-70K. As you can see, the menus are well laid out and labeled and items can be tweaked easily via simple sliders. With unlocked K-Series processors, overclocking is as easy as dragging a slider to your desired speed and voltages and other items can be tweaked just as quickly. We really liked what Intel has done with their Visual BIOS; it is a huge step up in appearance and usability from their older text-based menu system.
Gigabyte has taken a much different approach to their UEFI than the other manufacturers represented here. The Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H sports that Gigabyte is calling their 3D BIOS. What’s unique about its setup is that there is actually a clickable (and rotatable) 3D rendering of the actual motherboard pictured in the UEFI, and if a user would like to alter the settings of say the CPU or memory, all they have to do is click on them in the image. It’s a pretty cool setup, but be found it to be somewhat less responsive to mouse input than the others. There is, however, and advanced view also available with a simple to navigate list of options as well.
Asus has been offering UEFI menus on their enthusiast boards for quite a while now, and it shows with the P8Z77-V Deluxe. The P8Z77-V Deluxe’s UEFI feels more refined than the others; it is well laid out, responsive, intuitive, and it is rife with advanced features. One-touch overclocking is available and the main menu shows a wealth of status information immediately upon entering the UEFI. An advanced view, however, offers a much more comprehensive list of tweakable options.
And here we have MSI’s Click BIOS II. MSI has done a good job appointing Click BIOS II with plenty of features, but we wish the actual menu lists were somewhat larger. A significant portion of the screen is taken up by huge, clickable buttons on either side with the actual menus crammed in between. One of the more interesting features of the Z77A-GD65’s UEFI is its built in browser. It’s not accessible without installing a utility on the system (and reserving a bit of drive space), but when it is, it gives users the ability to access the web and e-mail without having to boot the OS.
Of course, all of these motherboard sport extensive hardware monitoring and overclocking features, so we set out to overclock our Core i7-2700K using a stock Intel air cooler and default voltages to see if there were any major differences between the boards. Ultimately, however, there was not.
As you probably know by now, there is very little wiggle room with Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors to alter the base clock, so overclocking is mainly done via multiplier manipulation. With our particular CPU and a stock cooler, we have peaked at just about 4.6GHz in the past, and that’s exactly what we were able to do again with these board. We were able to hit a perfectly stable frequency just shy of 4.6GHz using a base clock of 104MHz with a multiplier of 44x. Higher frequencies would be possible with more voltage and a higher-performing cooler, but as is always the case with overclocking, your mileage will vary. Regardless, all four of these Z77 Express-based motherboard offers something to overclockers.