Accompanying the launch of the Intel Ivy Bridge processors is the new Intel Z77 Express chipset architecture which has native support for PCIe Gen 3.0, courtesy of the new processors. The main improvement from adopting the new PCIe specification support is the theoretical doubling of maximum graphics bandwidth to 32GB/s (considering bidirectional transfers). Integration of a USB 3.0 controller into the chipset is yet another highlight of this top tier chipset for enthusiasts.
Since its launch, motherboard manufacturers launched various board iterations by incorporating more third-party controllers and other innovative hardware/software features to ensure their boards standout. We looked across the various models and rounded up the widest class of enthusiast Z77 boards available as there are a few really high-end niche models that are very much in their own class. Here then are our nominees:
The Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi is a feature-rich board that turned in high performance scores consistently during our testing. This is targeted at users who are looking out for a performance-class board but don't intend to empty their wallet. An interesting point to note is that Gigabyte has mounted some of the MOSFETs of the power regulation system at the bottom of the PCB, freeing up precious real estate on the front. The inclusion of an mSATA slot for the installation of a small-capacity mSATA SSD to take advantage of the Intel SRT is a nod to power users who want to speed up their systems, but not spending too much on a large primary SSD unit.
The board has implemented a user-friendly 3D UEFI BIOS utility to make configuring the board’s BIOS a pleasant affair. With its proprietary DualBIOS feature, it allows for users to switch between the BIOSes at their own convenience. To top off its package, there is a bundled PCIe expansion card that offers Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi connectivity, all for an attractive price of S$319. With its high performance levels, rich features, and good value, it is in our view the best overall motherboard for the Intel Z77 chipset. Here are select benchmark results from our shootout to better support our findings:
|Criteria/Model||ASRock Z77 Extreme6||ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe||Biostar TZ77XE4||ECS Z77H2-AX||Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H-WB WiFi||MSI Z77A-GD65|
For more details on how we selected our winners, check out the full reviews and articles listed at the References section at the end.