Articles: Mainboards
 

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Testbed Configuration

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

  • Asus P8Z77-V rev. 1.02 mainboard (LGA 1155, Intel Z77 Express, BIOS version 1805);
  • 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);
  • Noctua NH-D14 CPU cooler;
  • ARCTIC MX-2 thermal interface;
  • Enhance EPS-1280GA 800 W PSU;
  • Open testbed built using Antec Skeleton system case.

We used Microsoft Windows 8 Enterprise 64 bit (Microsoft Windows, Version 6.2, Build 9200) operating system, Intel Chipset Device Software driver package version 9.3.0.1026, AMD Catalyst 13.1 graphics card driver.

Operational and Overclocking Specifics

Today’s mainboards are generally well-designed and user-friendly products and you don’t have to install a lot of expansion card but can limit yourself to the graphics card only. So it was quick and easy for us to put our testbed together. We didn’t even have to update the mainboard’s BIOS since it had come to us with the latest version 1805.

By the way, the P8Z77-V offers the USB BIOS Flashback feature which is missing on its junior cousins (and on other manufacturers’ mainboards, too). Some mainboards require that you install an OS to update their BIOS because they lack a BIOS-integrated update tool but here you don’t even have to assemble your PC – no CPU, no memory and no monitor is required. You only have to connect the power, attach a USB flash drive with firmware to a mainboard’s USB port, press the USB BIOS Flashback button and wait for the update procedure to complete. This solution solves a lot of BIOS-related stability and compatibility problems, like when the system wouldn’t start up because the mainboard couldn’t identify your latest CPU. USB BIOS Flashback is going to save you a lot of trouble in such cases whereas ASUS and its tech support may have some rest.

There are two things you should know about this feature, though. The first one is that the flash drive must be connected to a certain USB port. It is mentioned in the user manual and indicated on the included I/O shield, so that you didn’t miss it. And the second thing is that you have to rename the firmware file you copy to your flash drive. For example, the file with the latest BIOS for the P8Z77-V is called “P8Z77-V-ASUS-1805.CAP” but you have to rename it into P8Z77V.CAP for the USB BIOS Flashback feature to recognize it. It’s easy and the renaming rules are described in the document “Z77/H77 BIOS Renaming Rule for USB Flashback”, downloadable from the ASUS website, but you can also use a simple program for that. It’s called “Bios Renamer for USB BIOS Flashback”. Just copy it to the folder with your new BIOS file, launch it and it will rename the file as necessary.

When starting up, the ASUS P8Z77-V shows a standard ASUS picture where we’ve already despaired to find any hotkey prompts besides the Del key which can be pressed to load the BIOS interface.

If the startup picture is disabled, the mainboard reports the amount and clock rate of system memory correctly but shows the default rather than the real clock rate for the CPU. ASUS’s Republic of Gamers products don’t have this problem and it’s odd that it persists with ordinary ASUS mainboards. Another long-time error is that your turning off the startup picture is not saved in BIOS profiles. This is typical of all ASUS mainboards irrespective of the particular series (standard, Republic of Gamers or The Ultimate Force).

Well, today’s mainboards start up so fast that it’s hard not only to read what they output on the screen but even to press the button to enter their BIOS. That’s why the ASUS P8Z77-V comes with the Exclusive Boot Features brochure which describes features like Fast Boot, ASUS Boot Setting, Direct BIOS Access and Windows 8 BIOS Boot Settings. As you know from our ASUS P8Z77-V LK review, the ASUS Boot Setting utility can be used to automatically load the BIOS interface from Windows. As for us, we just turned off the Fast Boost option in the mainboard’s BIOS (it’s in the Boot section) for the duration of our tests.

In our review of the Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H we called it a problem-free mainboard. The same can be said about the ASUS P8Z77-V. All of the power-saving technologies available in Intel CPUs are enabled on it by default and work correctly. Additionally, you can turn on EPU Power Saving Mode using a corresponding BIOS option or an onboard switch. The CPU worked at its default settings indeed, in full compliance with its official specs, and we could easily accelerate it by enabling ASUS MultiCore Enhancement, which increased the CPU’s frequency multiplier to the maximum level as normally permitted by the Intel Turbo Boost technology for single-threaded load only. To reach higher performance, you can also use the OC Tuner option, which overclocks the CPU automatically, but we tried to find optimal settings manually and easily made the CPU stable at its maximum clock rate of 4.6 GHz. We also increased the memory frequency to 1866 MHz and adjusted memory timings as was necessary.

We want to remind you that we prefer “sustained” overclocking, which means that the overclocked system can be used continuously. We don’t disable any features or controllers. We keep Intel’s power-saving technologies up and running so they lower the CPU’s frequency multiplier and voltage, disable unused CPU subunits and switch the CPU into power-saving modes at low loads.

We only had one inconvenience with the ASUS P8Z77-V because, like the majority of other mainboards excepting ASRock and Gigabyte ones, ASUS mainboards cannot regulate 3-pin CPU fans. That’s why we had to use a Zalman ZM-MC1 adapter to adjust the speed of the CPU fans manually as we wanted.

 
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