Asus P8Z77 WS Reviewccokeman -
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ASUS Workstation boards have gained a lot of traction over the years with the enthusiast community, thanks to ASUS' penchant for finding a way to deliver motherboards that support multiple graphics cards in three and four way configurations on top of the exclusive feature set. In this case you get up to four way Gen 3 PCIe graphics support for both SLI and CrossfireX configurations. This will prove quite useful for the content creation professional as well as the hardcore gamer that is looking for a feature set that differs from the ROG based boards like the Maximus V series.
The WS series are built with server class reliability for the business user. Features such as Dual Intel based Server-Class Gigibit LAN that drastically reduces the CPU overhead required, business class integration with RAID and plug-in LAN cards, and ASUS TPU with SMART DIGI+ for unparalleled control of the power envelope and CPU clock speeds. Along with the business class implementations you get the rest of the feature set in the P8Z77 product stack including SSD caching, USB BIOS flashback, USB 3.0 Boost, Fan Xpert 2 and a world class UEFI BIOS implementation.
Pricing is on the upper end of the spectrum for a Z77-based motherboard at $339, but as jam packed as the P8Z77 WS is you alone will need to determine if the feature set is right for your build. Let's take a look at this board and see how it performs against other Z77 motherboards and what kind of upside it brings to the table.
The graphic on the packaging is much the same as that seen on the Z68 and P67 offerings of ASUS' mainstream line up. The front panel illustrates most of the features of the board from the ability to see a 50% boost via quad graphics card support, Hybrid graphics via Lucid Logix Virtu MVP software, iNetwork, Z77 chipset DTS Connect and PCII, and one click overclocking via AI Suite II. The back panel illustrates the hardware specific features of the board, such as the Dual Intel server class LAN ports, and talks about how the discrete and Intel Third Generation processors' Integrated GPU can show an up to 60% Hybrid Graphics boost and up to three times faster video encoding.
The board layout and the hardware that makes up the P8Z77 WS is detailed. The front cover of the package opens up to further detail many of the ASUS specific features of the P8Z77 WS. While items such as SSD Caching and USB BIOS Flashback, USB 3.0 Boost, TPU, EPU and Smart Digi+ are items that flow across the product stack, you get a specific set of features on the "Work station" boards that allow them to function in that capacity. Network iControl, Quick Gate, server level compatibility with RAID and LAN cards, WS Diagnostic LEDs and a three color LED that visually shows the state of the computer via a multicolored LED. This packaging design lets the end user know right up front what the P8Z77 WS has to offer.
Inside the packaging the P8Z77 WS and the accessory bundle are housed. The expansive bundle of accessories is on the upper level with the board held under the divider. The board is shipped inside a static resistant bag even though the P8Z77 has world class ESD protection built in to the design.
Accessories can make or break the board when it comes to using all of the features and the ability to use each of them. In this respect ASUS delivers a substantial bundle that includes the usual product manual and driver disk but goes much further. You get an I/O shield with EFI reduction characteristics, SATA 6Gb/s and 3Gb/s cables for a total of eight in both straight and angled varieties, ASUS Q-Connectors, USB and Serial port expansion brackets and dual, triple and quad SLI bridge connectors to take advantage of the up to Quad SLI capability.
A full feature set and excellent bundle of accessories are the expectation with a WS series motherboard from ASUS. Let's dig a little deeper and take at look at the P8Z77 WS. Past history shows that ASUS' design team puts together a pretty potent package that is well laid out and functional.