Articles: Mainboards

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Testbed Configuration

We carried out our tests on a testbed that included the following components:

  • Asus P8Z77-V Premium rev.1.02 mainboard (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version 1504);
  • Intel Core i5-3570K CPU (3.6-3.8 GHz, 4 cores, Ivy Bridge rev.E1, 22nm, 77 W, 1.05 V, LGA 1155);
  • 2 x 4 GB DDR3 SDRAM Corsair Vengeance CMZ16GX3M4X1866C9R (1866 MHz, 9-10-9-27 timings, 1.5 V voltage);
  • Gigabyte GV-R797OC-3GD graphics card (AMD Radeon HD 7970, Tahiti, 28 nm, 1000/5500 MHz, 384-bit GDDR5 3072 MB);
  • Crucial m4 SSD (CT256M4SSD2, 256 GB, SATA 6 Gbps);
  • Scythe Mugen 3 Revision B (SCMG-3100) CPU cooler;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • Enermax NAXN ENM850EWT PSU;
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.1, Build 7601: Service Pack 1) operating system, Intel Chipset Software Installation Utility version, AMD Catalyst 12.4 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Since Asus P8Z77-V Premium is not the first Asus mainboard on Intel Z77 Express chipset in our lab, we could probably predict with high degree of probability what we would see. Earlier we pointed out that the board has a very convenient layout and therefore we didn’t have any problems with the system assembly. The first start-up was a success, and it continued to work flawlessly and reboot without any problems later on. There is a start-up image you see on every boot-up, which may differ on different mainboards. The only useful information displayed with the start-up image is the reminder of the “Del” key, which will let you into the BIOS. No other hot keys are mentioned there. In our opinion, it is a drawback, because other mainboard makers display a reminder of the active hot keys for greater user convenience. It would make sense to mention that F8 will display the startup menu, and the “Tab” key will turn off the start-up image and reveal the basic system information. I am sure there are other hot keys, but we do not know what they are, because this information remains hidden from us for some reason. We have already given up hope that this will ever be fixed in the current lineup of Asus mainboards, although we would like to believe that the new boards generation will be free from this issue.

If you press the “Tab” key during start-up, you will disable the start-up image and see the basic system info displayed at this time. Many mainboard makers would duplicate the active hot key reminder list here, too, but Asus is not one of them. We noticed yet another strange thing in the startup screen: the mainboard always displays the nominal CPU clock frequency, and not it actual frequency at the time. For some reason, only ROG (Republic of Gamers) mainboards can display the current CPU frequency correctly, while regular and TUF (The Ultimate Force) mainboards do not know how to do that. Unfortunately, this situation has been going on for a while now, and nothing is being done to change it.

However, we can’t say that we knew everything about Asus P8Z77-V Premium right from the start. In fact, it does have some peculiarities, which we haven’t yet seen before. First of all, it is the pre-installed SSD drive. We were very skeptical about this innovative solution, although previously in our Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3-iSSD review we were very pleased with a drive like that and gave it a highly positive review. There are several reasons for this. Gigabyte mainboard is an entry level mainboard. It is quite possible that upon transition to a new platform the user may want to keep his old hard drive, but speed the system up with the help of a pre-installed small SSD. That is why it could come in very handy in a situation like that. Asus P8Z77-V Premium mainboard is a very expensive flagship product. It is really hard to believe that the owner of a mainboard like that will not invest in a fully-functional high-capacity SSD, especially with all the choices available today. In this case, he or she will have absolutely no use for the small SSD, won’t be able to use Intel Smart Response technology, so the only way this small SSD could be utilized would be for the less popular Intel Rapid Start technology.

However, the most important reason why we gave the pre-installed SSDs on these two mainboards such different assessments is the fact that Gigabyte offers us a choice, and Asus doesn’t. What if all our assumptions are wrong and the owner of an entry-level mainboard also purchases a fast and relatively large SSD instead of the old HDD? In this case he won’t need the pre-installed small SSD that comes with the board that is why we can go and buy the exact same board but without the SSD – Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3. Unlike Gigabyte, Asus doesn’t offer us any options. You can either get a mainboard with this SSD, which may be absolutely useless in many cases, or you can give up Asus P8Z77-V Premium altogether and look for an alternative among the competitors. This is the reason why in our opinion, the pre-installed small SSD is not an advantage in this particular case. Many users won’t even need it, but there is no way to get a mainboard without it. And the 32 GB Lite-On LMT-32L3M drive is actually a pretty common drive. AS SSD utility shows that its read speed is quite decent, but its write speed is suspiciously low.

In our Asus P9X79 Deluxe mainboard review we discussed the company’s proprietary “Asus SSD Caching” program and were very pleased with its performance. On some occasions marketing promises may be noticeably different from the actual results, but they promised us to triple the performance, and this was exactly what we got. The results were particularly valuable, because Intel Smart Response technology didn’t work on Intel X79 Express based mainboards, so it was the only way to speed up the hard drive performance. In case of Asus P8Z77-V Premium mainboard, we see a new four-port Marvell 88SE9230 controller for the first time, which functionality can be unveiled with the help of “Asus SSD Caching II” utility, which uses Marvell HyperDuo Plus technology. Thanks to the four SATA 6 Gbps ports we now have more drive combination options. For example, you can accelerate one HDD using three different SSDs, or combine two HDDs with two SSDs.

Almost all Asus mainboards on Intel Z77 Express chipset use similar algorithms for automatic processor overclocking. If you use the “OC Tuner” parameter in the mainboard BIOS, the base clock will increase to 103 MHz, which will affect all connected frequencies, including the memory frequency. In this case, the processor clock frequency multiplier will increase to 41x. These two factors alone will boost the processor speed to 4224 MHz. it is important to mention that all processor power-saving technologies will remain up and running and will continue to lower the processor clock frequency multiplier and core voltage in idle mode.

We got the same result on Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe, Asus P8Z77-V LX and Asus Sabertooth Z77. However, Asus Maximus V Formula turned out more of a disappointment in this respect. It uses different algorithms for automatic overclocking, which are completely unfit for Ivy Bridge processors. As a result, both overclocking options involving “Gamer’s OC Profile” and “CPU Level Up” parameters turned out non-operational, because they would cause throttling, which lowered the performance instead of boosting it. However, everyone knows that no automatic overclocking can be as effective as manual search for the most optimal parameters. Unfortunately, Asus P8Z77-V Premium mainboard didn’t let us overclock our test processor to its maximum frequency of 4.6 GHz, but it easily reached 4.5 GHz. We also increased the memory frequency and adjusted the timings accordingly.

Now I would only like to remind you that we always overclock mainboards in such a way that they could be used for a prolonged period of time in this mode. We do not try to make our life easier by disabling any of the mainboard features, such as onboard controllers, for example. We also try to keep the CPU's power-saving technologies up and running normally to the best of our ability. And this time all power-saving technologies remained up and running even during overclocking lowering the CPU voltage and frequency multiplier in idle mode.


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