Articles: Mainboards

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PCB Design and Functionality

Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard looks quite common, although it does boast a few distinguishing features. The first thing we notice is the smaller mainboard dimensions. While the length of the PCB remains at standard 305 mm, it is only 218 mm wide, which is narrower than the 244 mm of the ATX standard.

I would also like to point out that there are no heatsinks on the processor voltage regulator circuitry components. However, it doesn’t cause any issues during overclocking or mainboard’s operation in nominal mode, because the DIGI+ digital voltage regulator working as 4+1+1 doesn’t heat up that much. As for the memory, Asus P8Z77-V LX mainboard doesn’t differ from any other models in this aspect and allows installing up to 32 GB into four DIMM slots. The supported memory frequency range for Ivy Bridge processors starts at 800 MHz and ends at 3200 MHz. There are no additional drive controllers, which are so popular among mainboard makers. The board has two SATA 6 Gbps ports (light-gray connectors) and four SATA 3 Gbps ports (light-blue connectors), which are implemented in the Intel Z77 Express chipset.

There are two PCI Express x16 slots for graphics cards, but the mainboard doesn’t use the chipset’s ability to distribute the processor PCI Express lanes between the slots evenly. All existing 16 lanes are solely at the disposal of the top PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot. The second PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot uses four chipset lanes. There is no Nvidia SLI support, but you can use these two slots to build AMD CrossFireX configurations. Besides them, there are two PCI Express 2.0 x1 and three PCI slots for other expansion cards.

The mainboard back panel contains the following ports and connectors:

  • Universal PS/2 connector for keyboard or mouse;
  • Four USB 2.0 ports, another six ports are laid out as three onboard pin-connectors;
  • HDMI, D-Sub and DVI-D video outs;
  • Optical S/PDIF and three analogue audio-jacks provided by eight-channel Realtek ALC887 codec;
  • Two USB 3.0 ports (blue connectors) and one onboard pin-connector for additional two USB 3.0 ports implemented in the Intel Z77 Express chipset;
  • Local network port (network adapter is built on Gigabit Realtek RTL8111E controller).

I would like to point out that Asus P8Z77-V LX has very wide and convenient Q-Slot latches on the graphics card slots, but the DIMM slots are of classical design. The MemOK! button is still there and it allows the board to boot successfully even if there are problems with the system memory. The new thing is the “GPU Boost” switch, which allows automatically increasing the frequency of the graphics core integrated into the processor. Out of all Q-Led diodes that help identify the start-up issues, there is only DRAM LED left. Two other diodes are “Standby Power LED” and “GPU Boost LED”.

We summed up the mainboard’s major technical specifications in the following table:

We don’t have anything to point out regarding the mainboard design or functionality, although there are indeed a few little issues. The back panel looks kind of empty, there are only three audio-jacks and to fully utilize the functionality of the eight-channel codec you will have to use the audio ports on the system case front panel. The fan connectors are not in the best spots. There are four of them, which is more than enough for an entry-level mainboard, but they are placed in pairs at the top and in the center of the PCB close to the back panel connectors. It would be nice to have at least one fan connector in the lower right corner of the PCB for additional cooling of the drives. However, despite these little comments, the board is overall very good and its functionality will be more than sufficient for the majority of users.

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