- Intel Z77
- Core i7 / i5 / i3 (LGA1155)
- DDR3 3000(OC)/2800(OC)
Really sweet and stylish gamer board! 05/18/2013
* Installation & Motherboard Layout -- A roomy ATX board with very nice design. Four RAM slots to accommodate my four RAM modules which have full size heat spreaders. There's a header for USB 3.0 if you have a newer case, and the front panel quick connectors are a very nice touch. There are five fan headers - a CPU fan header and four SYS fan headers which are nice, though only two of the four can utilize fan speed control in the BIOS. The board also has onboard power, reset, and "OC Genie" buttons to make verifying and troubleshooting your build easier even outside of a case. There's also an LED 2-digit debug code readout that can also display your CPU temp (OS-dependent, I am testing in Win 7, though the manual indicates this will work in XP and Windows 8 also).
-- The manual is seriously one of the most well-written and illustrated of all the products I've bought or evaluated (I have seen my share of lousy ones,) helping make building this system a breeze and answering every question I encountered about the features.
* UEFI BIOS Interface -- Fairly easy to navigate IMO, though first-timers may need the manual. An improvement over legacy BIOS menus. I personally love the red-and-black color scheme. This is the first system I've built where I'm leaving the boot logo display on instead of setting it to display POST information.
* I/O & Peripherals:
-- SATA III (AHCI) performance is excellent. Two SATA 6Gb/s & Four 3Gb/s from the Z77 chipset and two more SATA 6Gb/s ports on an ASM1061 Asmedia controller. My cheap ADATA SSD is performing better than on two previous AMD builds and it's definitely noticeable.
-- RAID Options: 0/1/5/10 on SATA Ports 1-6 - I'd love to do a RAID 5 for capacity + redundancy with three 2TB HDD's in the future.
-- Audio was great for me, using an 8-year old analog 5.1 speaker system connected to the motherboard ports.
-- Killer LAN works great, with some nice driver features such as traffic management, which I've never seen before in an on-board LAN.
-- PCI-E 3.0 16x (8x/8x or 8x/4x/4x with multi-GPU configurations) - PCI-E 3.0 is twice the bandwidth of 2.0 so don't be thrown off by the lane speeds if you're coming from AMD (as I was), as long as your multi-GPU setup is PCI-E 3.0 you'll be golden with an Ivy Bridge CPU. Take note that another reviewer stated he's getting 8x/8x with a non-GPU device in the third lane.
After a weeks' evaluation I could find nothing I'd call a con. Some might find the green color of the debug LED display to clash if they have a windowed case. There are also a number of other blue LEDs on the board.
* Build Information
--- The Windows Experience Index isn't a great benchmark but it is easy to compare system to system using it, so that's why I mention WEI rather than specialized benchmarks. RAM and Storage scores can be indicator of controller performance. These are based on Windows 7's ratings, which cap at 7.9. I plan to update my review for this board when I get Windows 8 and/or hardware upgrades (Core i5 3570k, multi-GPU config).
- WEI 7.2 - Processor: Ivy Bridge Intel Core i3-3220 3.3 GHz Dual Core (stock cooling but replaced the thermal pad with Arctic Silver 5)
- WEI 7.6 - RAM: Intel XMP Extreme Memory Profile worked with ease to configure my (4GBx4 DDR3-1866 CL9) G. Skill Ripjaws X
- WEI 7.1/7.1 - Desktop/Gaming Graphics: EVGA GeForce GT 640 2GB (standing in for a future upgrade)
- WEI 7.9 - Primary Storage: ADATA S511 120GB for boot/system & a Seagate 500GB SATA3 drive for data
- No crashes/hangs after 1 week burn-in (Borderlands 2, Kingdoms of Amalur, and some MMOs were played regularly during this time)
- Powered by a PC Power & Cooling Silencer Mk III 400w Modular PSU
* Overclocking Features
--- This board is built with the enthusiast in mind and the BIOS options reflect that. Power users can fine tune everything you'd expect with an overclocking board, and take comfort in the failsafe that a secondary BIOS provides. Unfortunately, at present, I have a processor with a locked multiplier, and only the stock cooling kit - so I can't more thoroughly evaluate the OC features.
* Bottom Line
--- This is a really sweet board for a tinkerer and a gamer, but it's also a great board for an typical internet and multimedia consumer who just wants confidence in the stability of the most difficult piece of hardware in a system to replace.
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