From a formal point of view, the Intel Z77 might be described as a new chipset that simplifies mainboard design and makes computers more responsive and functional. We won’t write this, however, because we can’t see any real benefits the new chipset brings about.
If we take two mainboards, one with the new Z77 and another with the old Z68, it is going to be very hard to tell them from each other. The only notable difference of the newer platform would be the lack of PCI slots, but some users won’t view this as an advantage even. The rest of the Z77’s innovations are far from tangible. Mainboards have long featured USB 3.0, and it doesn’t matter for end user if this interface is based on the chipset or an onboard controller.
The Rapid Start and Smart Connect technologies are software solutions that won’t be useful for all users and can even be enabled on older mainboards. The Z77’s support of up to three monitors simultaneously when using the CPU-integrated graphics core is not going to be a demanded feature, either.
Considering that the Z77 doesn’t provide any performance or overclocking benefits, we have to admit that it’s a rather dull product. Well, it could hardly be something else since the key components of modern platforms (memory controller, integrated graphics and PCI Express controller) reside in the CPU whereas the chipset is only responsible for I/O interfaces. Of course, there can be changes in terms of I/O interfaces as well, but not this time around. SAS or Thunderbolt are not yet added to the list of standard features of the LGA1155 platform.
We can find one positive thing about the Z77, though. Being a companion chipset for the new Ivy Bridge processor family, it has become a catalyst for the creative process among mainboard makers. Building on its foundation, they have prepared highly innovative and attractive products like the ASUS P8Z77-V Deluxe we’ve discussed today. The Z77 has started a new generation of LGA1155 mainboards which offer various enhancements while costing as much as their predecessors.
It doesn’t mean you have to upgrade your Z68-based system right now. The older mainboards will be compatible with the Ivy Bridge processors and, in many cases, will acquire PCI Express 3.0 support along with the new CPU. However, if you are going to build a new computer with an LGA1155 processor, you should certainly prefer a mainboard with a 7 series chipset.