Before getting down to our tests we asked a few questions like whether it would be easy to assemble a microATX configuration without a discrete graphics card and whether compact mainboards are as user-friendly in terms of tweaking and overclocking as their full-size counterparts. The ASUS P8Z77-M answers such questions positively. This mainboard is easy to handle. Without a top-end discrete graphics card its power consumption is low at any loads but you get the same computing performance as from a full-size mainboard. So, it’s a perfect solution if you don’t play resource-consuming games. If you do, you have to install a discrete graphics card, losing in energy efficiency but gaining in graphics performance.
We had expected the ASUS P8Z77-M and Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H to be similar products, both being compact and entry-level. The Gigabyte comes with fewer accessories but its specifications are the same as the ASUS’s, except for the employed controllers, yet their capabilities differ a lot. The GA-Z77M-D3H doesn’t let you adjust voltages, so it has limited capabilities when it comes to overclocking the CPU or the CPU-integrated graphics core whereas the ASUS P8Z77-M is no different from other ASUS mainboards in terms of tweaking and overclocking. Besides, the ASUS P8Z77-M offers a lot of extra features. For example, you can easily increase performance by means of the ASUS MultiCore Enhancement option while the OC Tuner feature can help you overclock your computer automatically. USB BIOS Flashback allows to update firmware without assembling the whole computer, so you can avoid potential incompatibility issues. The MemOK! button helps the mainboard start up even if there are problems with system memory, and EPU Power Saving Mode reduces power consumption. The Gigabyte GA-Z77M-D3H doesn’t offer anything like that.
Thus, the ASUS P8Z77-M looks preferable to the GA-Z77M-D3H from any aspect. Choosing the latter only makes sense if it costs less and you are not into overclocking and don’t need any extra features. Well, even in this case, you may want to prefer something like the Gigabyte GA-H77M-D3H. Based on the Intel H77 Express chipset, it is cheaper but has the same PCB design and specifications.