Closer Look at ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe
We’ve already learned about the advantages of the Z77 compared to its predecessors, but none of them seems to bring us any tangible benefits. They only look like minor improvements. That’s why mainboard makers have joined the effort of making the new platform more attractive and introduced very exciting and technologically rich products. The product we used for this review is ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe and it’s one of the most advanced LGA1155 mainboards based on the new Intel chipset.
As is typical of ASUS, the company offers a dozen Z77-based models, the P8Z77-V Deluxe being the most functional of them. Moreover, this mainboard seems to be the most advanced of all LGA1155 products currently offered by ASUS which is indicated by its exclusive 20-phase CPU voltage regulator.
Even compared to the second-generation Z68-based Deluxe mainboard from ASUS, the one with PCI Express 3.0 support, the P8Z77-V Deluxe has a number of advantages. First of all, it can clock system memory at higher frequencies. Thanks to a new wiring of DIMM slots and a digital power system, the new mainboard enables memory modes up to DDR3-2600 and also supports XMP version 1.3. Second, the Z77-based product can overclock the integrated graphics core and has two video outputs: HDMI 1.4a and DisplayPort 1.1a. Third, the new mainboard has more I/O interfaces including Wi-Fi and more USB 3.0 ports. And fourth, the P8Z77-V Deluxe supports all of the technologies associated with the new chipset, including Lucid Logix Virtu MVP.
So, even though the Z77 chipset doesn’t look much compared to its predecessor, the P8Z77-V Deluxe seems to be a highly appealing upgrade option even if you’ve got a rather modern Z68-based mainboard. The P8Z77-V Deluxe has impressive specs indeed.
We can take note that it has quite a number of PCI Express ports. Yes, PCI has been relegated to the category of legacy interfaces by Intel, so it’s no wonder that PCI Express has come to replace PCI. Still, the P8Z77-V Deluxe has a huge number of them. The 16 PCI Express lanes in the CPU and 8 such lanes in the chipset are enhanced with more lanes from a PEX8606 switch. As a result, the mainboard offers two PCIe x16 3.0 slots (which work together in x8+x8 mode), one PCIe 2.0 x16 slot (in x4 mode), and four PCIe 2.0 x1 slots.
ASUS wasn’t satisfied with the Z77’s capabilities in terms of USB and SATA. So, besides the six standard SATA ports, two of which are 6 Gbit/s, there are a couple of additional SATA 6 Gbit/s ports based on a Marvell 9128 controller. These extra ports support SSD Caching technology which is similar to Intel Smart Response but can be enabled with a couple of mouse clicks after you’ve connected an HDD and an SSD to them. The number of USB 3.0 ports is expanded, too. The four chipset-based ports are split up in two pairs. One pair is available on the mainboard’s back panel and another as an onboard header. The remaining four back-panel USB 3.0 ports are implemented via ASMedia controllers.
The P8Z77-V Deluxe’s back panel is densely populated. Besides six USB 3.0 ports, it offers four USB 2.0 connectors; six audio connectors (based on an ALC898 codec); an optical SPDIF; one HDMI and a DisplayPort; two Gigabit Ethernet connectors (based on Intel 82579V and Realtek 8111F controllers); and a couple of eSATA 6 Gbit/s ports (based on an ASMedia controller). There is also a USB BIOS Flashback button here that lets you update your mainboard BIOS even without a CPU installed. Topping all this are the antenna connectors of a Wi-Fi card which is included with the mainboard.
The mainboard’s PCB features high component density, too. Fortunately, this doesn’t make it harder for us to use it. The CPU socket is far enough from both the edge of the PCB and the first PCIe x16 slot. Cable connectors are all distributed along the edges of the mainboard, so we don’t think there can be any problems with assembling and connecting any components. ASUS has tried to simplify the process by providing a lot of diagnostic LEDs. There is a POST controller and a few buttons: Power On, Reset, MemOK!, Clear CMOS. Some BIOS features such as automatic overclocking or power-saving modes are duplicated with dual-position switches.
The chipset and CPU voltage regulator are covered by massive aluminum heatsinks which are secured with screws. There is also an additional heatsink in the middle of the mainboard. It’s connected with a heat pipe to the main heatsink but doesn’t do much cooling on its own. In fact, the elaborated cooling system of the P8Z77-V Deluxe is due to the mainboard’s premium positioning. The heatsinks do not get very hot at work.
The mainboard has as many as six 4-pin fan connectors, two of which are for the CPU cooler, so you can implement any idea about cooling your computer. To help you control and set up your fans, the P8Z77-V Deluxe offers a special feature called Fan Xpert 2.
And now we’ve reached what is perhaps the biggest point of pride of the developers of this mainboard. It is the digital power system Smart DIGI+. Including a total of 22 phases, it has 16 phases for the CPU core, 4 phases for the CPU-integrated graphics, and 2 phases for the memory slots. Besides a high load capacity, Smart DIGI+ delivers very stable voltages at any load and supports multi-level Load-Line Calibration. As for energy efficiency, the number of active power phases is dynamically adjusted to minimize power loss. Smart DIGI+ provides flexible control options which are available in a dedicated BIOS page.
Well, the BIOS of the P8Z77-V Deluxe hasn’t actually changed much compared to ASUS’s Z68-based products. It contains Rapid Start and Smart Connect settings, though.
And there are more options for controlling fans:
There’s nothing new about overclocking since the Intel Z77 provides the same overclocking options as the Intel Z68.
The Z77 using the same base clock rate for clocking both the chipset controllers and the CPU, you can only overclock you system by changing the CPU frequency multiplier. So, Z77-based mainboards can’t affect the popularity of the K series CPUs.