ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Conclusion

In an industry that is losing overall sales globally and no new markets opening up, gaining market share involves taking it from your competitors.  One way of doing that is by undercutting the competition, which reduces profit margins and generates a race to the bottom.  The other is by innovation, but again it is hard to innovate if that occurs at great cost and there is no return in a shrinking market.

Nevertheless, ASUS has innovated.  On the P8Z77-I Deluxe, the most striking feature is the motherboard layout which uses a daughter board to provide the power delivery.  Using this extra z-height PCB gives extra space on the main PCB for functionality, at the downside of restricting the motherboard usage is some very-low profile cases.  One of ASUS’ raison d’être is to provide a customer with something no other manufacturer can provide, and options like the TPU and USB BIOS Flashback are part of that equation.

The ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe gives us, inter alia, a regular socket arrangement, a nicely placed 8-pin power connector, onboard WiFi (or WiDi with the corresponding model) with a pair of magnetic ring antenna, options for all four of the main video outputs, a total of eight USB ports on the IO panel (four USB 3.0), a total of six USB 3.0 ports altogether, a pair of fan headers with top-of-the-line fan controls and a pair of eSATA 3 Gbps on the back panel.  This goes on top of a rock solid BIOS and software package.

There are a few issues worth mentioning, such as the positioning of the front panel audio header which will be blocked by a big GPU unless the z-height of the connector is minimal.  Also there is no mSATA like on some other boards, and the SATA arrangement would require all the locking SATA cables being removed if the one at the bottom needs changing.  If a GPU with a backplate is used, it could also obstruct the USB 3.0 port.  On a more personal (and system debugger) note, I would have liked to see a two-digit debug as well.

Performance from the ASUS ranks among the highest, with one test pulling out a repetitive 5-20% lead over the rest.  Among the gaming benchmarks it also scores very highly in the face of the competition.  Power draw on our test bed was qualitatively lower, and Windows 7 POST times sat around the 11 second mark with a discrete GPU installed.

Honestly, if I were constructing a mITX build today, out of the boards tested, it would easily be with the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe.  It comes in at $185 for the normal version and $200 for the WiDi version, which may be pricey compared to the others tested in this review, but in return we have a solid package that is easy to use and well featured.  There may be a different winner if you look at price/performance in the strictest sense, but having the ASUS on the test bed and using it for my testing brought a fuller sense of ease in mITX computing.  

As a result, I would like to give the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe an AnandTech Editors’ Choice Bronze Award, for a combined effort in motherboard innovation and as an overall package.

ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe
AnandTech Editors’ Choice Bronze Award

 

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  • mike_b - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Interesting article, but I have to ask why would someone spend more for a Z77 chipset when using 'just' an i3? Surely a much cheaper H61 chipset could do the job admirably, and at much lower cost.

    Z77 makes sense if you're overclocking, which is excluded from this test...
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    H61 has no chipset USB 3.0, no chipset SATA 6 Gbps, and you are limited to PCIe 2.0. H61 is also technically limited to one single sided DIMM per channel, and no SATA RAID. There's also SRT to consider, that would be advantageous with the ASRock and the mSATA on the rear.

    Ian
    Reply
  • mike_b - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    It might make an interesting comparison to see what net advantage is gained with the added features of the Z77 chipset compared with the H61. If budgets are limited the ~100 dollar cost difference between the Z77 and H61 mainboards makes a big difference; that money saved could be put into something which makes more of a performance difference (SSD rather than HDD for example).

    Anandtech is one of the best tech sites around, you guys do a great job. I do sometimes see though an emphasis on more expensive products when in terms of real-world performance you could get almost the same thing at a much cheaper price. Might be worth mentioning somewhere.

    Not least because with yet another new socket coming with Haswell all these 1155 boards will be seen as out of date soon anyway.
    Reply
  • IanCutress - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    Once we get into the swing with Haswell, we will hopefully covering the whole spectrum. Though it is worth noting that motherboard manufacturers, want to put their best foot forward, and would prefer their halo/channel boards get covered before their OEM / low end offerings. Hence this is why you rarely see many mainstream reviews that are not from forums dedicated to the market segment and users testing their own equipment. We are hoping to rectify the balance in due course. If there are any specific products you might want us to test or examine, drop me an email and I'll see what I can put in my schedule (as full as it is[!]) :)

    Ian
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    This is a major issue, not limited to motherboards: whenever I'm looking for something middle of the road or outright cheap, I can't find reviews.

    These Z77 MBs are a nice example: even though I'm recommending/building PCs regularly, most of them mini-ITX, I never came across a use case for Z77. Nobody apart from teens that still have something to prove overclocks anymore. People who want to do multi-GPU get a big case, and a big board. Are we supposed the extrapolate that the makers of good Z77 boards also make good H77 and H61 boards ?

    I understand you've got to make do with what you're given by the OEMs. And that reviews was very good, as usual. Pity it is irrelevant ?
    Reply
  • Tech-Curious - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    That's an interesting observation. I have to say, I never noticed a significant lack of coverage for low-to-mid-range components (either in general or on Anandtech in particular), until this Fall, when I was in the market for a lower end motherboard.

    I guess I just always gravitated to higher end mobos before. Or maybe the coverage for such products was more comprehensive years ago. My memory's foggy, so it's hard to say.

    In any case, motherboards appear to be the exception. If anything, I think the internet has generally grown more bullish on low-to-mid-range CPUs and GPUs in recent years (probably, in part, as a result of the stagnating console situation, which results in stagnating system requirements for games).

    But all of that rambling aside, yeah. It'd be nice to see more diverse motherboard analysis. When I bought a b75 a couple of months ago, I literally couldn't find a review for that chipset. It wasn't a big deal; it's not like b75's features are any great mystery, after all -- but it is a little nettlesome to trip over sixty bajillion z77 reviews when there's nary peep about any other chipset.

    In other news, Ian's review is a good one -- and given that I've been a faithful user of Asus motherboards for the last 15 years, it's nice to see them take home the prize. :)
    Reply
  • Etern205 - Saturday, January 05, 2013 - link

    My guess would be, why review a cheap board when majority of the readers here won't even bother buying it?
    And as for Asus boards, I've heard, they do something called based-line features. This means all boards from the bottom of the range to the top (Intel B75-Z77) will have the same base-line features, other features are just added like BT, WiFi, extra lan, etc.
    Reply
  • Tech-Curious - Wednesday, January 09, 2013 - link

    Yes, I think the issue is that (at least with respect to Intel chipsets) low-end motherboards don't support overclocking. So they're both less interesting to review (fewer measurable differences in performance among different models), and they're less appealing to the presumed audience of sites like Anandtech.

    Still, the B75 is a perfectly good chipset. If you aren't heavily invested in overclocking, z77's advantages are likely wasted on you. Personally, I'm well beyond my overclocking days; I just don't have the time or the patience to go through the almost endless tuning process anymore. (Even if you find a stable OC at the outset, it can become unstable later, and/or a given application might expose instability that stress testing didn't, weeks or even months down the road).
    Reply
  • jonjonjonj - Friday, January 04, 2013 - link

    just cause you don't overclock doesn't mean other people don't. why wouldn't you? because you want to get the fastest cpu that you can afford means you have something to prove? some people are just idiots. Reply
  • Zap - Monday, December 31, 2012 - link

    But there isn't a $100 difference between H61 and Z77. There is a cheaper Gigabyte Z77 ITX board that's only around $60 more than the cheapest H61 ITX board, and it was even on sale recently for another $13 off making it less than $50 difference.

    Alternately one can go the H77 ITX route and get all the Z77 goodies except for overclocking, for around $30 less than the cheapest Z77 ITX. I think $30 more than H61 is reasonable for those extra features, plus guaranteed out-of-the-box BIOS support for Ivy Bridge.

    I do agree with your (mike_b) first post regarding the choice of CPU used. Ian Cutress, didn't you have a spare K CPU laying around? There are so many people building overclocked ITX rigs these days. I did in a Silverstone SG05 with low profile air cooler to hit 4.2GHz. Plenty of others use the Bitfenix Prodigy and liquid cooling to hit clocks normally reserved for ATX rigs. Another review site (Tweaktown) tested overclocking on Z77 ITX boards and the ASRock hit near 4.8GHz. THAT'S what I want to see.

    Of course this AnandTech roundup has some very useful information too, such as DPC latency tests and POST times. Keep up the good work there! But please, know your audience. Next time if the board is supposed to be overclockable, test that feature.

    Maybe there can be a companion article about overclocking and heatsink clearance? Would be a shame to not overclock this nice collection of Z77 ITX boards.
    Reply

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