The lesser of the Intel range has had a somewhat rocky period in its short life. We had the P55 LGA1156 based socket for a very short period of time, and that was quickly replaced by the P67 based LGA1155. That itself came with a few niggles which forced a B3 revision rerelease and within a small time scale we had the Z68 chipset which settled things down to a far more reasonable level. Indeed once Intel had got things worked out we really enjoyed some excellent performing motherboards and CPUs, all for a sensible price.
Now a year after the Z68 we're girding our loins for the 3rd Generation of Intel Socket 1155 processors and Intel have brought us the Z77 chipset in preparation.
Firstly what is new with the Z77? We have support for the 22nm 3rd Generation Intel Processors. Built in support for PCI Express 3.0, SATA 6Gbp/s and USB 3.0 are the main charms, and any time you can integrate connectivity options into the main chipset it is one less thing that you need to go hunting potentially conflicting drivers for. The other major change is the inclusion of the latest Lucid Virtu MVP technology which conceivably brings both the latest VSync improvements we've seen from the current flagship GPUs, alongside some performance improvements.
So the big question is, if you're a current owner of a Z68 does the Z77 supply enough new features to make it worthy of an upgrade, or are you better off awaiting the CPUs to go alongside them?
As always with ASUS motherboards you're getting a wealth of extra features. One of the most obvious choices is the use of an Intel Gigabit LAN which makes a big change from the standard Realtek solution we see. The other two standout features are things we looked at a while ago, namely the ASUS TPU and EPU dipswitches. The EPU helps improve your energy efficiency, and the TPU helps the AI overclocking.
|CPU||Intel® Socket 1155 for 3rd/2nd Generation Processors |
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
|Memory||4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory|
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
|Graphic||Integrated Graphics Processor |
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB/DisplayPort ports
- Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
- Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536 @ 75 Hz
- Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
|Multi-GPU Support||Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology|
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology
|Expansion Slots||2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)|
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black)
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
|Storage||Intel® Z77 chipset : |
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), blue
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology
ASMedia® PCIe SATA controller :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
|LAN||Intel® 82579V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)|
Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
|Wireless Data Network||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n|
Supports single band frequency 2.4GHz
|Audio||Realtek® ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC |
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- DTS Ultra PC II
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
|USB Ports||ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :|
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z77 chipset :
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z77 chipset :
10 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, black, 8 at mid-board)
|Overclocking Features||Overclocking Protection :|
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
|Special Features||ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 3 - SMART DIGI+ Power Control :|
SMART DIGI+ :
- Smart DIGI+ Key- quickly delivers higher VRM frequency, voltage and current for superior CPU/iGPU/DRAM overclocking performance with one switch.
- Smart CPU Power Level (Intel® VRD 12.5 Future Power Design)- provides the best digital power saving conditions.
ASUS TPU :
- Auto Tuning
- GPU Boost
- TPU switch
ASUS EPU :
- EPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design :
- Industry leading Digital 16 Phase Power Design
(12 -phase for CPU, 4 -phase for iGPU)
- Industry leading Digital 2 Phase DRAM Power Design
- CPU Power Utility
- DRAM Power Utility
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
- Wi-Fi GO! Function: DLNA Media Hub, Smart Motion Control, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer, Capture & Send
- Wi-Fi GO! Remote for portable Smartphone/Tablet, supporting iOS & Android systems
- Wi-Fi Engine for network sharing and connection: Client Mode, AP Mode
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- USB BIOS Flashback
- AI Suite II
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
- Network iControl
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- Stylish Fanless Design Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- ASUS O.C. Tuner
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Shield
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
|Back I/O Ports||1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)|
1 x DVI-D
1 x D-Sub
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x WLAN connector(s) for ASUS wireless module
|Internal I/O||2 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)|
4 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 8 USB 2.0 port(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s)
1 x Optional Fan connector(s)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button(s)
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! card(s)
1 x Wi-Fi Ring Moving Antenna(s)
Up Close Pt1
As always with the P series of motherboards from ASUS the packaging is professional and understated. Although ours seems to have gained a sticker on the back which definitely isn't part of the box art.
The included accessories are all fairly standard items, but one thing that definitely makes us widen our eyes in the inclusion of a WiFi adaptor. It doesn't even need a PCI slot, but rather nestles between the USB 2.0 ports and HDMI ones.
The board itself reminds us a lot of the other P series motherboards from ASUS. A nice departure from their ROG style red and black, although the decision to use different blues nearly everywhere is a bit of a blah. We understand that you need to make certain parts of the motherboard obvious, but do we really need four different colours for the PCI slots? Away from certain aesthetic choices the P8-Z77V is a good looking board as far as the solid, no-name sector of the market goes.
Up Close cont
Another upgrade to the Z77 is the support for 2400MHz RAM. It's something that crept in to the very top end Z68 motherboards, but with what we're hearing about the way memory can be worked with the next generation of processors it's something we expect to see more of.
The big change with the Z77 is the inclusion of PCI Express 3.0 slots which are supported by the 3rd Generation CPUs. Supplying double the bandwidth of PCI Express 2.0 we will see the benefits of this when we get the 22nm Processors in for review. With the inclusion of USB 3.0 on the Z77 we can see a host of USB headers at the leading edge of the P8-Z77V Pro. A whopping 10 extra USB ports available internally.
Just below the SATA ports are the EPU and TPU dip switches. The EPU provides even better power saving potential than is normally provided, by monitoring all of the components within the system and increasing energy efficiency whenever possible. The TPU switch we've seen before and it's an part of the automatic AI Overclocking and should help provide extra performance when using the ASUS automatic overclock.
At the rear we have a host of connection options. As well as four USB 3.0 ports, two of which support ASUS Boost mode, we have all four of the display outputs (DisplayPort, HDMI, DVI-D and VGA) and the normal SPDIF and Audio ports. The P8-Z77V Pro supports USB 3.0 booting as well, which helps those of you with external drives or copies of Windows on thumb drives.
The storage options are four SATA 6Gbp/s (two dark blue supplied by the Z77 chipset and two white by the Asmedia chip) and four light blue SATA 3Gbp/s.
As we've come to expect from ASUS their UEFI BIOS is both responsive and easy to use. You have an array of overclocking options, from the auto tuning available with the AI Overclock/TPU switch, through XMP based overclocks, and of course the ever reliable manual overclocking option.
Voltages can be adjusted either using an offset mode (CPU Voltage + x), or the more finely tuned manual mode where you just input the voltage you wish to use.
Something that is very much a part of all modern motherboards, and especially so with the ASUS models, is the seemingly endless power tuning options. Whereas we once saw power and voltage adjustments as solely there to enable higher overclocks, we now see those alongside the opposite end of the spectrum in desiring maximum energy efficiency.
Moving on to the advanced tab we find everything you're used to seeing in your BIOS, allowing you to turn off those features you don't use, or adjust the more, erm, advanced features of both the motherboard and your CPU.
Finally the standard boot options and the hardware monitoring.
Today we're taking a look solely at the ASUS P8-Z77V Pro as an upgrade option for current owners of LGA1155 systems, and to that end we'll be using our current i5-2500K setup to see if the Z77 has enough to justify the switch.
Throughout the Z68 testing we utilised our little Corsair SSD as a cache drive via the Intel Rapid Storage Technology option that is available throughout the LGA1155 range. As we're moving into the 3rd Generation of Intel CPUs, and the price of a basic SSD is now easily within reach of everybody we have swapped to using our Corsair Force F80 SSD as the backbone of our test setup. The reasons are two-fold. Firstly IRST gets close to SSD speeds anyway, and secondly we didn't want to move to something fiercely expensive and high-end, but rather keep to the principles of testing something within the financial reach of everyone, which matches the strategy Intel have for the LGA1155 based systems. Hence the SATA II Corsair Force F80.
ASUS P8 Z77V Pro
Intel Core i5-2500K
Kingston Genesis 2133MHz
Cougar CM1000 PSU
Corsair F80 SSD
Thermalright Silver Arrow
Windows 7 x64
Because we're using the 2nd Generation i5-2500K we're still stuck at around 100 BCLK and mainly relying on multipliers to get the overclocking done. The AI Tweak software brought us to 4.3GHz which is pretty good for a automatic overclocking option, but manually overclocking will always reap larger rewards and so it was here with a final CPU rating of 4.8 GHz.
This was stable in all of our testing except for PC Mark 7, and so we had to back off a little to pass all of our tests down to 4.7GHz. Considering that only a minor voltage tweak and an increase in the multiplier was necessary it's proof once again that Sandy Bridge really is so easy to get a decent overclock out of it's almost like Intel are encouraging us.
In the CPU tests at least it's clear that the i5-2500K produces the same kind of performance that we've come to expect, both in stock trim and with the overclock.
Even the memory testing gives us much the same results. Indeed the overclocked CPU really seems to bring the best out of our Kingston Genesis, nicely matching the write and read speeds.
Sandra is brilliant at separating the CPU from the rest of the hardware and because of this we see that on the Z77 we get exactly the performance we've seen on the earlier chipsets. It's so heavily reliant upon clock speed that you can almost work out the overclock we managed to achieve on each motherboard merely by looking at the end result.
It's becoming pretty clear that, at least if you're planning to stick with your current LGA1155 processor, the Z77 doesn't give you any particular reason to upgrade so far. CineBench R11.5 replicates the results we've seen so far from AIDA and Sandra.
Finally we see an improvement and it's POV-Ray that provides it. The P8 Z77V Pro with the i5-2500K at stock manages to outperform our result with a P67 motherboard. One thing of note is how well each individual core performs (the Per CPU result) when compared to the threaded processors that make up the rest of the graph. Over double the performance you're getting from each core of an i7-3960X. Indeed your extra 8 threads don't even double the i5-2500K result.
PC Mark Vantage
Naturally with the F80 moved from cache to the main drive the increase in PC Mark is visible. What stands out is how the overclock of our CPU is carried through on the P8-Z77V Pro to improvements in every result. A 40% overclock gives around a ten percent increase. Good stuff.
PC Mark 7
The latest version of the PC Mark test suite is obviously better designed for the modern technologies available to us and it's clear it took advantage of the IRST when the F80 was used as a cache drive, because as the main drive it only has a slight improvement. Even still the stock results on the P8-Z77V Pro are particularly good.
3D Mark Vantage
Finally the ever popular 3D Mark. We know that this is heavily weighted to the GPU, just like games really, and so we're unlikely to see any great improvements from the Z77. Of course there is some extra bandwidth from the PCI Express 3.0 slot, but that requires the 3rd Generation Intel CPUs to take advantage of. Still we get nearly 30000 P Score from our GTX570.
3D Mark 11
A clearer demonstration of the GPU bias you're unlikely to see. At stock and with our 4.7GHz overclock the scores are nigh on identical.
So at the start we wondered if those of you who are currently in possession of a LGA1155 CPU should upgrade to the latest Z77 chipset.
Judging from our testing the honest answer for those with a Z68 motherboard is no, it doesn't bring enough new things to the table, and certainly not enough performance, to make it worth the upgrade expense. However if you were a very early adopter of the P67 chipset then there are enough new features to at least make it something worth considering. Just as the Z68 had incremental improvements to the P67 boards, so this has some small upgrades over the Z68 which all add up to something that will at least make your life much easier, even if it doesn't bring an eye-popping amount of new features.
For those of you who are thinking of moving from your current setup to an LGA1155 based one then the situation is clearer, even if it's very early days to be able to make a firm recommendation. After all if you're planning to leap into the 22nm 3rd Generation Intel CPU market then you have to choose a Z77 to take advantage of all it has to offer, including excellent Memory overclocking speeds, and the bandwidth that PCI Express 3.0 brings. The ASUS P8-Z77V Pro has a wealth of those little touches that ASUS are famed for.
The BIOS is as easy to use as anyone could hope, being clearly laid out, responsive, and having no obscure ways of achieving what you want to do. The automatic overclocking of the AI Overclock Tuner when combined with the TPU switch allows anyone to get some easy, stable and free performance without the nervousness and fear that someone new to overclocking always experiences. There are more USB ports than you're likely to use even with all the latest gadgetry and the inclusion of a WiFi adaptor really helps the P8-Z77V Pro stand out from the rest.
However, and there is always a however, this is the first Z77 motherboard that we've tested and a lot of the extra features we can't fully explore until the 22nm chips are upon us. Given that it doesn't make much sense to upgrade to this board just for your 2nd Generation processor, and we know that a veritable cornucopia of other Z77s will be released alongside the 3rd Gen CPUs, not least the RoG ones from ASUS themselves, then we will only know how highly to recommend the P8 Z77V-Pro when we find out what features the rest of the Z77 boards bring to the table.
So the ASUS P8 Z77V Pro then. It's well built, with an array of nice features, plentiful connectivity and a great BIOS. It's not worth upgrading to until the CPUs come along that can really take advantage of the various features. Looking at it purely as a motherboard for a 2nd Generation CPU it is a good performer with just enough extra bells and whistles to make it worthy of consideration and for that reason we're going to award it our OC3D Silver Award.
Thanks to ASUS for supplying the P8-Z77V Pro for review. Discuss in our forums.