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ASUS Z77 LGA1155 Motherboards Preview

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MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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A little over a week ago, we had the opportunity to check out and even briefly go hands-on with next-generation ASUS motherboards based on a yet-to-be-released Intel 7-series chipset, specifically the enthusiast-grade Z77 Express. Now chances are you know what is coming up from Intel, and you likely even know what is it called if you follow tech news closely or have simply read the conclusion of our Core i7-3820 review, but for the purposes of this article we are only allowed to called “it” the 3rd generation Intel Core processor family.

While we have to tap dance around any specifics regarding the chipset or the processors themselves, one of the details that we can confirm is that these new motherboards will be based on the current LGA1155 socket and will support the current 2nd generation Intel Core processors, otherwise known as Sandy Bridge. With that out of the way, it is time to show you what ASUS’ motherboard line-up is going to look like and detail some of cool new features that they have developed. We are particularly interested in highlighting the proprietary technologies that will be featured on all the upcoming ASUS motherboards based on the 7 series chipsets.

First of all, the onboard TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) and Energy Processing Unit (EPU) controllers have been carried over and upgraded to form Dual Intelligent Processors 3, with the expressed purpose of increasing overall performance while reducing energy consumption via optimized power management. More importantly, D.I.P 3 now works in coordination with the new DIGI+ Power Control, which are a series of digital voltage controllers that permit very precise tuning of CPU, iGPU and DRAM power delivery. To make best use of the versatile PWM technology, ASUS have also introduced one-click performance optimization settings and Smart CPU Power Level profiles, which we will take a closer look at in our upcoming reviews.

While optimizing performance and power consumption is great, equally important are a cool and quiet-running system. With this in mind, ASUS have unveiled FAN Xpert 2, which offers by far the most customizable and capable fan controls ever offered on any motherboard. We won't go over everything, but this hardware-based solution features a Fan Auto Tuning Mode that scans fans individually to determine their minimum and maximum rotational speeds, as well as everything in between, and creates automatic system-specific fan profiles or allows for very precise manual control of the fan curves for each fan header.

Another noteworthy addition to the upcoming Intel 7-series chipset motherboards from ASUS is Wi-Fi GO! technology. More than just a means to a wirelessly connect to the internet, Wi-Fi GO! allows for easier and more seamless use of functions like DLNA for streaming/receiving media content from a variety of devices. We saw it flawlessly stream an HD movie from one desktop to another and from one desktop to an Android tablet. It also has a Remove Desktop feature so you can remotely access and control a desktop system from a mobile device, basically giving you access to a virtual version of your actual desktop that's always at your finger tips. The utility they have developed for Wi-Fi GO! also has the capability to turn your desktop into a router, just in case you need to create an ad-hoc wireless network.

By the way, as you may have noticed in the above paragraph, this article makes heavy use our fancy zoom feature so if you see any reddish words, click on them because something informative is going to pop-up. Enough with the words though, let's move onto the pictures.

 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
P8Z77-V PRO / P8Z77-V / P8Z77-M PRO

P8Z77-V PRO / P8Z77-V / P8Z77-M PRO



As you can see, ASUS are continuing the P8-moniker used on all their current LGA1155 motherboards, and although we were only show models based on the Intel Z77 chipset, we expect motherboards based on other upcoming H77 and Q77 chipsets to follow a similar naming scheme. The P8Z77 series are the mainstream models that ASUS have designed around the new Intel Z77 chipset, optimized for the the 3rd generation Intel Core processors but also perfectly compatible with Sandy Bridge chips.

Without further ado, here are some of the models that you will have to look forward to:

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First and foremost, we have to start with the model that will ostensibly be the most popular, the P8Z77-V PRO. Like all ASUS PRO motherboards before it, this model comes with just about every feature that we would want in motherboard, but without breaking the bank. This full-sized ATX model features a 12 + 4 + 2 digital phase power design, three PCI-E x16 slots with 2-Way SLI / 2-Way CrossFireX / LucidLogix Virtu MVP support, DisplayPort/DVI/HDMI/VGA outputs, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.0 headers, eight SATA connections, one Intel-powered GbE LAN port, 8-channel HD audio codec, etc. Single-band Wi-Fi 802.11n will also come standard, but Bluetooth support is missing on this model.

Like all models from this series, the P8Z77-V PRO features the new USB 3.0 Boost technology. Basically, some of the supplied USB 3.0 ports are courtesy of a new ASMedia controller that supports the USB Attached SCSI Protocol (USAP), which ASUS claim offers better performance than native USB 3.0 solutions, particularly at higher queue depths. Speaking of USB ports, one USB 3.0 port on each motherboard will feature USB Charger+ functionality, which can supply up to 1.5 amps and will allow you to charge your mobile devices quicker, and even when the system is shutdown.

When the system is off, you can also update the bios via the USB BIOS Flashback feature, which can read the .ROM file from a thumb drive and flash the BIOS all with the touch of one button.

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The P8Z77-V is a more entry-level model compared to the PRO, but not my much. It features a slightly simpler 8 + 4 + 2 PWM and one less USB 3.0 header, but otherwise it is basically identical to its higher-end sibling. ASUS have not cheapened out anywhere, and even this model comes with an Intel Gigabit LAN controller instead of a cheaper Realtek unit. You can manage the onboard LAN interface with Network iControl, which allows you to assign and control packet priority, traffic shaping, and bandwidth.

On the audio front, both P8Z77-V models come with the usual Realtek ALC892 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC, albeit now enhanced with support for DTS Ultra PC II and DTS Connect. Nothing to rival a discrete sound card, but every little bit helps, especially if you have an elaborate multi-channel speaker system connected to your computer.

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Thankfully, the compact micro-ATX P8Z77-M PRO doesn't lose much during the shrinking down process. It has a simpler PWM and two less SATA ports, but it still packs in three full-sized PCI-E x16 slots. On the rear I/O panel, there are four USB 3.0 ports, and while the DisplayPort is missing it has been replaced by two eSATA connections.

Not pictured here is the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe, a diminutive mini-ITX model that features everything that you have read above, just in a much smaller package. This model features a very unique riser card on which all the DIGI+ VRM elements are located , which ASUS claim will allow this motherboard to overclock as well as the larger models. We are definitely anxious to put that statement to the test!
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
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Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
P8Z77 WS & Sabertooth

P8Z77 WS & Sabertooth



Since there's no reason to beat around the bush, of all the models revealed so far (hint!), the P8Z77 WS is our favourite. This is the model that real power users should be looking at.

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As you would expect, this Workstation model will natively support the Xeon variants of the 3rd generation Intel Core processor. it also features the most robust VRM, with 16 + 4 + 2 digital phase power design. That is good news, but not particularly exciting for most people. However, what is noteworthy is that thanks to a new PLX PCI-E Gen.3 switch this model will support 4-Way SLI and 4-Way CrossFireX, all while remaining in PCI-E 3.0 mode. This new switch is apparently really expensive, so it is not found on any of the other models revealed so far.

On the storage front, this board has been outfitted with a Marvel 88SE9128 controller, which can supply two SATA 6Gb/s ports and is RAID 0/1 capable. This is noteworthy because only this controller is capable of the one-click ASUS SSD Caching feature that we examined in a previous review. The WS also comes with two server-class Intel 82574L Gigabit LAN controllers, which offer better performance, teaming and failover support, not to mention compatibility with a much larger selection of operating systems.

It's only minor shortcoming is that it only features one DVI-I video output, and nothing else. This won't be an issue for those who intend to pack this board with discrete graphics cards.


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Despite its occasionally questionable aesthetics, the Sabertooth has been a hit with consumers ever since it was revealed back in 2009. Thanks to a mix of value, an industry leading 5-year warranty, and proprietary value-added features it is not hard to see why it's so popular.

Now at first glance this new Sabertooth model might look identical to the previous P67 model, but there are whole host of new design tweaks and never seen before features. For starters, ASUS decided to expand the Tactical Vest concept, ie: the large protective piece of ABS plastic that protects the motherboard from physical damage. Renamed to Thermal Armor, this feature now includes Dust Defender, which consists of a bunch of covers that protect the expansion slots and memory slots from dust and miscellaneous debris. Thermal Armor doesn't only protect though, it also helps cool thanks to the Intake Fan and Assistant Cover Fan which help direct airflow to crucial areas of the motherboards. As part of the Fan Overtime feature, these fans will also keep spinning for a few minutes when the system is shutdown, to help dissipate any remaining heat and potentially improve the longevity of various ICs.

It is quite evident that they took cooling very seriously, since the PCB has extra copper channels to draw heat away from hotspots, and there are even Convection Holes to help force hot air through the backside of the motherboard.

From a conventional specs point-of-view, this model features an 8 + 4 + 2 digital phase design, 2-Way SLI / 2-Way CrossFireX / LucidLogix Virtu MVP support, four SATA 6Gb/s ports, four USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.0 header, all the proprietary features mentioned on the previous pages.
 

MAC

Associate Review Editor
Joined
Nov 8, 2006
Messages
1,086
Location
Montreal
Maximus V Formula & Maximus V GENE

Maximus V Formula & Maximus V GENE



You can't have an ASUS motherboard preview without some Republic of Gamers (RoG) models, these ones are sweet.

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The Maximus V Formula represents, at least for the moment, the hardcore enthusiast-oriented motherboard. With that in mind, it features the new ROG Fusion Thermo heatsink that offers the choice of air or watercooling of the VRM area. The M5F features an 8 + 4 + 2 digital phase power design, but unlike the VRM on the other motherboards, this one is labelled as DIGI+ II not just DIGI+. Aside from using better capacitors, we don't know yet know exactly what the differences are, but obviously ASUS wouldn't shortchange their highest-end model.

ASUS is confident enough in the overclocking capabilities of their RoG motherboards that they have unveiled a new overclocking database called ROG Exchange, which will not only allow users to upload their OC profiles, but also browse, compare, and even download the profiles of other overclockers. If you are interested in determining whether your memory settings are optimal, the new MEM TweakIt feature will quickly reveal your memory efficiency and allow you to compare how fare compared to other overclockers.

Below the second PCI-E x16 slot, you can probably spot the PLX switch which is used to create more PCI-E for onboard devices. This is PCI-E 2.0 bridge chip, not the fancier 3.0 variety used on the Workstation model. So with that in mind, you can expect 2-Way SLI and 2-Way CrossFireX capability on this model. On the audio front, this particular model has been outfitted with the new SupremeFX IV unit. While ASUS is touting how it is EMI shielded from the rest of the system, nothing was revealed when it comes to the actual codec used, so we will have to wait until we have a board on hand to see what hardware is being used.

We have kept the coolest bit for last, mPCIe Combo is little riser card that is exclusive to the Republic of Gamers model, and which allows for mini-PCIe and mSATA modules (mSATA SSD caching anyone?) to be installed. Basically, it allows for a huge number of potential upgrades ranging from WiFi, SSDs, Bluetooth, 3G, GPS, etc. Sharing the rear I/O panel are the ROG Connect and USB BIOS Flashback buttons, four USB 3.0 ports, and DisplayPort + HDMI outputs.


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As we have come to expect from ASUS, even after miniaturization the Maximus V GENE does not disappoint. Although it is missing one mechanical PCI-E x16 slot, all the PCI-E x1 slots, and two SATA ports, there is still a lot of capabilites here in a small package. This model not only features same DIGI+ II 8 + 4 + 2 phase VRM as the Maximus V Formula, but the exact same rear I/O panel, which includes the mPCIe Combo cradle. There are also onboard power and reset buttons, an LED debug display, a USB 3.0 header, and a better than average onboard SupremeFX III audio solution.
 
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