Asus P8Z77 WS Review

ccokeman - 2012-04-27 22:21:22 in Motherboards
Category: Motherboards
Reviewed by: ccokeman   
Reviewed on: October 18, 2012
Price: $339

Introduction:

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.

Closer Look:

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.

Closer Look:

ASUS' P8Z77 WS Work Station board is built for use with Intel's Z77 Panther Point Chipset for use with socket 1155 Second (32nm) and Third Generation (22nm) Core series processors. As far as layout goes the P8Z77 WS does not disappoint. The four full length 16x PCIe ports will allow up to four dual slot graphics cards. The CPU area is clean enough to allow for large air cooled as well as just about any liquid cooled configuration. The blue, silver, and black theme used is a way to differentiate the product stack with the ROG boards' traditional red/black theme and the consumer products a blue and black theme with some grey mixed in. The black PCB sets off the look and uses 2oz copper layers as well as a special fiber weave design to minimize interference and current leakage. On the back side of the PCB you can see part of the Digi+ II circuitry is mounted to the right of the socket in this view. Much like the rest of the product stack ASUS is using screws to mount the thermal solutions for the VRM and Panther Point chipset.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting with the I/O panel we have a good deal of connectivity options to look at with this server-class board. Starting from the left is the P/S2 port that can be used with either a keyboard or mouse, two of the four USB 2.0 ports on the back I/O, two ASMedia controlled USB 3.0 ports that support USB 3.0 boost, two ASMedia controlled eSATA 6Gb/s ports, followed by the second pair of USB 2.0 ports, and one of the two Intel 8257 4L GB LAN ports that support teaming and reductions in CPU usage. Next is the SL-DVI port, optical SPDI/F port, USB BIOS Flashback button that is used to flash the BIOS even when the CPU or DIMM sockets are not populated. This offers a significant recovery option by inserting a flash drive with the BIOS on it into the USB 3.0 port next to the button and pressing the BIOS Flashback button for three seconds. The button flashes to show that the feature is enabled and working. Last are the six Realtek® ALC898 controlled ports that support Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking, DTS Ultra PC II and DTS Connect.

The four 16x PCIe 3.0/2.0 ports support up to four GPUs in either Crossfire or SLI configurations as long as the cards will fit due to the spacing of the ports. When run in multiple GPU configurations the ports will run at 16x/16x/0/0, 16x/8/8/0 or 8x/8x/8x/8x. What makes this possible is the use of the Gen 3 PLX bridge chip that adds PCIe lanes to handle the additional bandwidth. In between the four 16x slots are a pair of PCIe 2.0 1x slots that can be used to add in RAID cards or PCIE SSDs in lieu of a ton of graphics horsepower. Between slots two and three is the WS OC Status check LED that tells the user in a visual format the condition of the board. Red is for overclocked, Blue is normal and Green means that the system is running in energy savings mode.

 

 

The bottom of the PCB contains a large percentage of the connectivity and functionality options. From the left is the SPDIF_out, IEEE 1394 port, Serial port, onboard power and reset switches, two USB 2.0 headers that support a total of four ports, Trusted Platform Module connection, a Q-Fan Fan Xpert 2 controller PWM fan header, a USB 2.0 port that can be used to insert a standalone low overhead OS such as Linux, Q-Code Debug LED for troubleshooting boot related issues, and the front panel connection that is used with the Q-Connectors. Just above the front panel connection point is the TPU (TurboV Processing Unit) that enables much of the functionality used in ASUS' own AI Suite II utility including real time overclocking and fan controls.

 

 

Drive connectivity consists of four pairs of SATA ports. In light blue are the four SATA 3Gb/s ports and in white are the 6Gb/s ports; both controlled by the Z77 chipset supporting Raid 0, 1, 5, 10 and Intel® Smart Response, Intel® Rapid Start, and Intel® Smart Connect Technologies. The dark blue ports are Marvell® PCIe 9128 controlled and support RAID 0,1. When utilizing ASUS SSD caching function the Marvel port is used without limits to the size of the caching drive or having to set up a RAID array as you do when using Intel Smart Response technology. By using the ASUS solution you simply connect the solid state drive to the Marvell controlled ports and the spindle drive to the Intel ports and click the enable button in the AI Suite II utility.

Further up the PCB is another one of the six PWM controlled fan headers, the USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connection, and 4-pin Molex EZ Power connection for added current to the board. The TPU switch is used as a one stop shop for boosting the performance of the system without having to boot into the BIOS. Just make sure your cooling is up to par when using this feature. The Mem OK button is used to eliminate memory incompatibility as a barrier to booting the system. By pressing this button the board will run through a series of checks and adjustments including timings and voltages to allow the system to post. A feature that works as advertised.

 

 

Four DIMM slots can be populated with up to 32GB of DDR3 2600(O.C.)*/2400(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1600/1333MHz memory running in a dual channel configuration. Intel XMP profiles are supported. The memory slots are a unique feature with the use of ASUS Q-Dimm slot package that eliminates the traditional locking mechanism on the end of the socket closest to the first 16x PCIe slot to allow the modules to be swapped out even when the top PCIe slot is populated. Simply insert the module and press down to lock, then use the lock on the other end of the DIMM slot to lock the module fully into place.

 

Across the top of the PCB you can see the locking mechanism for the Q-Dimm slots, three more of the PWM Controlled fan headers on the P8Z77 WS including the CPU and CPU Optional header, the top section of the VRM heat sink, 8-pin EATX auxiliary power plug and the Digi+ EPU controller that works when the TPU switch is enabled to intelligently manage power consumption of the board and VRM circuit. The TPU and EPU controller form the basis of ASUS' Dual Intelligent Processors 3 design.

 

 

Designed to use Intel's Second and Third Generation Core series processors, ASUS P8Z77 WS uses an LGA 1155 socket with retention hardware from LOTES. Around the socket are the components of the Dual Intelligent Processors 3 - SMART DIGI+ fully digital, 16+4 Phase power circuit that feeds the CPU, integrated graphics processor, and DRAM. Around the LGA 1155 socket there are a total of twenty alloy chokes, one for each phase, sixteen of which are dedicated to the CPU and four to the IGPU. ASUS power designs have been proven to offer tremendous flexibility and excellent power tuning for both the novice or enthusiast.

 

The cooling package used by ASUS is fairly large. Around the socket is a three part, heat pipe-interconnected series of aluminum heat sinks to pull heat away from the SMART DIGI+ power circuit. The large fins on the heat sinks allow great airflow through the design. Covering the Z77 PCH is a low profile passive heat sink that has fins that flow in the direction of the air flow from the front of the chassis. Silver in color, the heat sinks accent the color theme of the board.

 

 

ASUS' P8Z77 WS offers an expansive business oriented feature set for the professional yet offers that same feature set for the home user or gamer looking for upper crust graphics capabilities.

Closer Look:

ASUS usually pulls together a pretty comprehensive suite of tools for use with its motherboards. Starting with the Intel Sandy Bridge socket 1155 launch, the interface of its popular AI Suite has seen significant improvements in form, as well as function. To start, this implementation has five functional areas, as well as the CPU Level Up function as a primary area. Under the Tool section is the majority of the functionality. Included here are TurboV EVO, Digi+Power Control, EPU, Fan Xpert 2, Probe II, Sensor Recorder, AI Charger+, USB Charger +, USB 3.0 Boost, Network iControl, and ASUS SSD Caching. Each of these specific tools are designed together with the rest of the suite. The CPU Level Up function is part of the TurboV Evo Tool and is ASUS' one-stop-shop overclocking utility — set the level of performance you want, agree to the changes, and the system does a quick test on the hardware and restarts the computer to set and run some stability tests on the overclock. The manual settings in TurboV Evo mimic much of what is found in the BIOS, from the core and memory voltages to the bclock and core clock multiplier adjustments that when applied do not require a reboot. ASUS' AI Suite II is fully functional across the product stack and is tailored to each board's hardware capabilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digi+ Power Control has options to improve the overclocking margins by fine tuning the load line calibration, the CPU and DRAM voltage switching frequency, the CPU and DRAM current capability, and power phase control under the Digi+ Power control. An added feature here is the inclusion of the Smart CPU Power function that sets the processor power envelope to either 35 or 45 watts.

 

 

 

ASUS EPU system delivers measurable energy savings when used to its maximum capabilities. There are three different presets to choose from with each offering a more aggressive approach to energy management. Auto, High Performance, and Max Power saving modes each work around five different aspects of power management to deliver power savings on this board that is built for users who do not worry about power consumption, but rather raw MHz and high-end gaming. CO2 emissions reduced through the use of the profiles are shown on the right hand side of the application.

 

 

Fan Xpert 2 allows the end user to build and use a specific fan profile for each of the fans attached to the system either manually or through the new tuning feature. This new implementation has the ability to tune the fan profile automatically to give the end user the best of both worlds in terms of cooling capacity and noise. Part of the tuning process includes finding the maximum and minimum fan speeds and assigning a dynamically controlled profile that fits within the usable ranges of the fan. As a small part of the AI Suite, Fan Xpert 2 is incredibly flexible in how it manages the thermal load of the chassis or CPU by the profiles assigned. Higher fan speeds would equate to improved CPU overclocking by way of lower temperatures. With a total of six 4-pin PWM fan headers, this tool is especially useful in managing the airflow through the chassis or cooling solution.

 

 

 

 

The Probe II section of AI Suite is full of monitoring tools that provide the end user the ability to monitor the system from within the Windows environment with five different tools: Alert, Temperature, Fan, Preferences, and Alert Log. The first tab, Alert, allows the user to set alert levels for system voltages. The Temperature tab is where the alert levels for system temperatures are set. Under the Fan tab you have the same functionality, but with fan speed. The Preferences tab sets up how the alerts are displayed. The Alert Log shows when the alerts happened over a period of time, in log form.

 

 

 

Sensor Recorder is used to display the voltage and fan speeds over a period of time. This is in addition to the alert tracking. Voltages, Temperatures and fan speeds are all track-able items.

 

 

AI Charger+ and USB Charger+ are applications that allows the user to charge USB BC 1.1 compatible portable devices such as Android-based phones and tablets, Apple devices, and more up to three times faster than through a standard USB port. You can use this feature while the board is in various power states.

 

 

USB 3.0 Boost allows the user to improve the transfer speeds of attached USB devices by using several different protocols. By using an attached USB 3.0 external dock, you can see speeds close to the SATA 6Gb/s maximum transfer rates. Even USB 2.0 devices can see a boost in transfer speed using this feature. Delving further into the level of performance increases you can look for by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature, you can see the performance with and without the Turbo function enabled, using both the Intel and ASMedia controlled USB 3.0 ports. Using this functionality shows tangible gains in both read and write performance of the drive by using the USB 3.0 Boost feature. This will result in less time needed to transfer large files to and from the external drive mounted in the docking station. The left results are through the Intel controller while the right results are from the ASMedia controller.

 

 

ASUS SSD Caching allows the user to connect an SSD to boost up the response of a traditional hard drive. What makes ASUS' implementation so sweet is that you no longer need to set up a RAID array combining the small SSD and large spindle drive to use the feature. With Intel's IRST you have to build the RAID array and reload the OS to take advantage of the technology. ASUS solution does not require all the extra work. Simply connect the SSD to the Marvell-controlled SATA port and run thorough the steps to add the SSD to the system for an immediate boost in spindle drive performance. Using ASUS SSD caching utility you can add or subtract the cache drive to or from the system without an OS reinstallation. The results show that the spindle drive by itself sees a nice boost right off the bat.

 

 

Network iControl is a real time network bandwidth control application used to prioritize your network traffic for the most efficient use of the available bandwidth The application features a one click bandwidth control of running programs as well as a means to schedule program usage for optimized bandwidth.  

 

 

 

Under the Update radio button, you can update the BIOS and change the boot logo that is currently displayed by the BIOS or in another saved BIOS. USB BIOS Flashback is a tool much like most of the AI Suite II utility that allows the user to back up the BIOS and then flash the backed up or downloaded BIOS to the motherboard. This can be accomplished with or without the CPU and DRAM installed. An almost foolproof means to recover the BIOS from a hard crash or bad flash.

 

 

Last are the System information and Settings tabs. The System information tab has three separate windows that list the Motherboard information CPU information and the DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) settings of the installed modules. The Settings tab allows the end user to pick what items are shown on the AI Suite tool bar under "Application," while the actual configuration of the tool bar is managed under the "Bar" tab.

 

 

As a utility, AI Suite II is one of if not the best on the market in terms a flow and function, without the glitches that hamper the user experience on other boards.

Closer Look:

Lucid LogiX Virtu MVP Software is included to take advantage of the Z77 chipset's ability to use dynamic switching between the Intel HD 3000/4000 and an installed discrete GPU. Featuring HyperFormance™ Technology this software boosts the performance of the discrete GPU by up to 60%. Virtual Sync allows the IGP to help eliminate the tearing seen when running with Vsync disabled. LucidLogix Virtu MVP when enabled has the ability to choose the best graphics solution based on the load type whether it is a graphically intense game or just surfing the web. Intel Quick Sync Video 2.0 technology is supported in this implementation for increased speed with 3D rendering and image manipulation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ASUS WebStorage is a "cloud" storage tool that allows the end user to back up, retrieve, and sync data from many different types of devices. 2GB of cloud storage is included for free with this service. In this increasingly mobile world, having access to your files from anywhere means that showing off a treasured picture or listening to your music is just a connection away.

 

 

 

Disk Unlocker is a tool that is used to enable the space above 2048GB on drives larger than 2TB. By using this feature you can use the space above the 2TB limit in Windows. This tool is simple to use and does not require using a GPT format on the drive although that is an option for Win7-based systems using a BIOS that supports drives larger than 2.2TB.

 

ASUS' PC Diagnostics tool is used for basic testing functions that can help with troubleshooting your system. You can view system specific information such as the CPU type, Memory type and specifications, storage devices and more. There are three tabs to this tool each with several options. The Test Items tab allows the user to dive into each device type and test each of them. The keyboard test is shown below. The Stress test function tests the CPU with a Pi calculation while the video gets a series of texture mapping and rendering tests. System memory tests includes a variety of test with the end result being pass or fail.

 

 

 

Looking through ASUS AI Suite II tool shows that ASUS continues to stretch the functionality of the tool with new add ons that integrate well with the existing tools.

Closer Look:

ASUS started using its UEFI BIOS implementation back with the introduction of the P67 chipset socket 1155 motherboard offerings. With each successive chipset the BIOS has become more fluid and feature rich. ASUS' interface is tweaked to add and subtract settings as needed in the BIOS based on the features of the board. A perfect example would be with the ROG offerings where the memory settings are in another league by comparison to the featue rich implementation on the P8Z77 WS. Under the skin is an upgrade to what ASUS has given the end user in the past. For instance, there is a "shorcut" menu to quickly access commonly used functions or areas without having to search the BIOS for them accessed by pressing the F3 key. There is an EZ Mode and an Advanced Mode to accommodate any and all users from the, dare I say it, noob to the extreme overclocker looking for that last MHz.

There are a pair of 64MB Flash ROMs on board in case a BIOS flash goes bad or you just want to switch between BIOSs, if the eight programmable file presets are not enough. ASUS offers BIOS Flash protection via its Crash Free BIOS 3, USB BIOS Flashback, so that the BIOS can be flashed without a CPU or DRAM being installed in the system, 2.2TB+ HDD support, and GPT Boot. Overclocking recovery via CPR (CPU Parameter Recall) makes a failed boot a one-time occurrence. ASUS has a screenshot feature called BIOS Print to allow screenshots of the BIOS to be saved to a flash drive by pushing the F12 key and saveing the image to a flash drive, A useful feature for sharing settings with community members or when reaching out for technical support.

When you look at the UEFI BIOS as a whole ASUS has all the tools to allow the end user the ability to run at both stock and overclocked no matter the position in the product stack. Let's look through this version to see what it offers.

 

EZ and Advanced Mode:

The EZ Mode allows the user to make a limited amount of changes and is more to illustrate the time, date, and the installed hardware configuration. Advanced Mode opens up the entire BIOS to allow the the user to take advantage of all the BIOS has to offer with access to every setting and feature allowed in the BIOS. Advanced Mode consists of six sub-menus to take advantage of the installed hardware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Main:

This section is sparse by comparison to many sections of ASUS' UEFI BIOS. In this section, you'll be able to access the time, date, BIOS revision, CPU information, amount of installed memory, system language, and security features, such as admin passwords.

 

Advanced Mode: AI Tweaker:

This section of the BIOS contains the settings used to adjust CPU and memory frequencies, timings, and the voltages needed to run the system. Up top is the option to overclock the system with AI Overclock tool, which sets a specific set of parameters to boot at enhanced clock speeds. The OC Tuner tool is much like what we have in the AI Suite tools. Voltage adjustments are granular enough that the user does not have to apply much more voltage than is needed to reach the clock speed goals due to the efficiency of the board and the LLC implementation. The DRAM timing section is almost as complex as what you might see in an ROG offering in that it has enough options to allow for some spirited overclocking while still allowing the novice the ability to learn on the job.

 

 

 

Advanced:

Under this tab, one can set the CPU configuration parameters, such as the bclock multiplier, enable Turbo Boost and Intel Speed step, C-states, SATA, USB, and have the ability to enable or disable the onboard device functionality. Under the SATA configuration, you can set the connection type for disk drives to AHCI, RAID or IDE, and turn on or off the hot swap feature. Under the USB sub-menu is the ability to configure how the USB interface is managed. Last but not least, the onboard device configuration allows the user to enable or disable the sound, USB 3.0, LAN, and Boot Rom, as well as the USB 3.0 controllers. Under the System agent tab is where you would set up the graphics configuration including where you would setup the ability to run an Hybrid graphics configuration.

 

 

 

 

 

Monitor:

Under this tab is the monitoring functionality for the board. The voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures can be checked and verified against the set parameters. Q-Fan control can be enabled or disabled. When enabled it allows the user to manually configure the fan duty cycle of the fans attached to the PWM controlled headers. Using Fan Expert 2 in ASUS' AI Suite II is an attractive alternative option on this board as it learns what speeds your installed fans' low and high limits are to dynamically manage the thermals inside the chassis.

 

 

Boot:

The Boot menu is where you set the sequence that the drives are polled for bootable media. The primary drive can be identified when more than one is installed. The full screen logo can be enabled or disabled at POST, Wait for F1 if Errors can be enabled or disabled, the length of time the POST report shows can be altered, and the setup mode that the BIOS will open into can be set to EZ or Advanced.

 

 

Tool:

This section is one that is quite useful for the enthusiast. ASUS' EZ Flash 2 utility is hands down one of the easiest ways to flash a BIOS. It has been imitated, but not duplicated. Search for the BIOS file on any installed media, choose the BIOS file, choose to flash the BIOS, and the process is automated from that point on. SPD Information shows the SPD profile on the memory DIMMs. Under ASUS OC Profile, the end user can save up to eight distinct profiles. BIOS Flashback is used to force the system to boot from either of the BIOS chips or copy the data from one to the other. Drive Expert is a utility that allows the user to choose from three different settings to maximize drive performance and usage.

 

 

 

Exit:

The Exit tab at the top right allows you to load optimized or safe default settings, save or discard changes made to the BIOS settings, launch the BIOS in EZ or Advanced mode, or launch the EFI shell.

 

ASUS' BIOS implementations just continues to get better with each successive generation and are easily the best implementation out so far. All the options spread out in areas that make sense allowing the user to drill down as needed. The shortcut feature accessed by pushing F3 from the BIOS screen allows for quick and easy access to the most used feature sets in the UEFI BIOS.

Specifications:

CPU
Intel® Socket 1155 for 3rd/2nd Generation Processors
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2
The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types
Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
Chipset
Intel® Z77
Memory
4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3 MHz Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
Refer to www.asus.com or user manual for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
Graphic
Integrated Graphics Processor
VGA output support : DVI port
- Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Multi-GPU Support               
 
Supports NVIDIA® 4-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 4-Way CrossFireX Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology *1
Expansion Slots
4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (dual x16 or x16/x8/x8 or quad x8) *2
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
Storage
Intel® Z77 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), white
4 x SATA 3Gb/s port(s), blue
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Marvell® PCIe 9128 controller :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
Support Raid 0, 1
ASMedia® PCIe SATA controller :
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
LAN
Intel® 82574L, 2 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Audio
Realtek® ALC898 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
Audio Feature :
Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
Blu-ray audio layer Content Protection
DTS Ultra PC II
DTS Connect
Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB Ports
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller : *5
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
Intel® Z77 chipset : *5
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z77 chipset :
9 x USB 2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, , 5 at mid-board)
Workstation Feature
4 x PCIe x 16 slot(s)
Quick Gate: 1 x vertical USB 2.0 on board
ASUS SASsaby series Cards support
ASUS WS Diag. LED
ASUS WS 3-color LED
Special Features
                ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 3 - SMART DIGI+ Power Control :
SMART DIGI+ :
Smart DIGI+ Key- quickly delivers higher VRM frequency, voltage and current for superior CPU/iGPU/DRAM overclocking performance with one switch.
Smart CPU Power Level (Intel® VRD 12.5 Future Power Design)- provides the best digital power saving conditions.
ASUS Hybrid Processor - TPU :
Auto Tuning
TurboV
TPU switch
ASUS EPU :
EPU
EPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design :
Industry leading Digital 20 Phase Power Design
(16 -phase for CPU, 4 -phase for iGPU)
Industry leading Digital 2 Phase DRAM Power Design
CPU Power Utility
DRAM Power Utility
ASUS Exclusive Features :
USB BIOS Flashback
MemOK!
AI Suite II
Ai Charger+
USB Charger+
Anti-Surge
ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
ASUS SSD Caching
Network iControl
USB 3.0 Boost
Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
Stylish Fanless Design Heat-pipe solution
ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
ASUS O.C. Tuner
ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
ASUS EZ Flash 2
ASUS Q-Design :
ASUS Q-Code
ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
ASUS Q-Slot
ASUS Q-DIMM
ASUS Q-Connector
Back I/O Ports
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DVI-I
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
2 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
Internal I/O Ports
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
2 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 4 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x Vertical USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x TPM connector(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x Optional Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x 4-pin EZ_PLUG Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Reset button(s)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
Accessories
User's manual
I/O Shield
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x 3-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x 4-Way SLI bridge(s)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
BIOS
64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.5, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS,
ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut Function and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
Manageability
WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, PXE
Support Disc
Drivers
ASUS Utilities
ASUS Update
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

Features:



 

All information courtesy of ASUS @ http://usa.asus.com/Motherboards/Intel_Socket_1155/P8Z77_WS/

Testing:

Testing this latest Z77-based board from ASUS will involve running the P8Z77 WS through OCC's test suite of benchmarks, which includes both synthetic benchmarks and real-world applications, to see how each of these products perform. The gaming tests will also consist of both synthetic benchmarks and actual gameplay, in which we can see if similarly prepared setups offer any performance advantages. The system will receive a fully updated, fresh install of Windows 7 Professional 64-bit edition, in addition to the latest drivers for each board and the latest AMD Catalyst drivers for the XFX HD 7970. To ensure as few variables as possible, all hardware will be tested at their stock speeds, timings, voltages, and latencies – unless otherwise stated. Turbo Boost is disabled to make a fair comparison without skewing results.

 

Testing Setup:

 

Comparison Boards:

 

Overclocking:

When you get down to it ASUS has put together an excellent suite of tools to allow overclocking to become as simple as possible for the novice yet can get complex enough for the enthusiast; that is through the entire product stack. The ROG offerings get a little bit more in terms of memory tweaking but the P8Z77 WS has everything you need to get the most out of your CPU. Manual tweaking can be easy with the use of the Advanced section of the UEFI BIOS under the AI Tweaker section where the CPU and memory parameters and voltages can be applied.

My Core i7 37770K gets a little stubborn when you get up over 4.65GHz and will not go over 4.7GHz. At that level the vcore required 1.325 to 1.335v, which really heats up the CPU to the point the thermal load is not controlled with less than a full water cooling solution. On the P8Z77 WS I was able to pull a fairly decent 4.59GHz clock speed on the Core i7 3770K with over 2200MHz on the memory using just around 1.29v on the CPU and 1.67 on the memory. Both of the overclocks were stable in testing and prove that ASUS build quality carries over from the ROG to the workstation boards.

Manually tweaking the board is the way to get the most your CPU has to offer but not the only game in town. Using the TurboV EVO tool in ASUS AI Suite II allows the user to basically push a button in the AI Suite II GUI and have the system manage the CPU overclock via the CPU level up function applying a series of tweaks including voltage and bclock tuning to deliver a stable overclock. In the past this tool has been on the conservative side when it came to overclocks but through the past few launches has gotten a bit more aggressive. For my limited chip ASUS tool was able to pull a fully respectable 4429MHz with nothing more than pushing the button on the screen. Again in the past this tool would deliver the overclock but prove not 100% stable at the overclock set by the tool. What a change a few generatiosn makes as the 4.43GHz clock speed is fully stable at 1.26v.

 

 

Maximum Overclock:

Each CPU and motherboard has been tested for stability at the clock speeds listed when in an overclocked state. These clock speeds will be used to run the test suite and will show the performance increase over the stock settings in the overclocked scoring.

 

Benchmarks:

Scientific & Data:

  1. PCMark 7
  2. HD Tune 5.0
  3. AIDA64 2.50
  4. Sandra 2012 SP6
  5. x264
  6. HandBrake 9.8
  7. ProShow Gold
  8. ATTO 2.47

Video:

  1. DiRT 3
  2. Battlefield 3
  3. 3DMark 11



 

Testing:

PCMark 7 is the latest iteration of Futuremark's popular PCMark system performance tool. This version is designed for use on Windows 7 PCs and features a combination of 25 different workloads to accurately measure the performance of all PCs from laptops to desktops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

 

  

  

 

  

  

 

 

With the same hardware there are some measurable differences in the level of performance delivered by each the P8Z77 WS and comparison board. The P8Z77 WS out performs the Asrock Extreme 4 in each test.

Testing:

HD Tune measures disk performance to make comparisons between drives or disk controllers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

 

 

AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a software utility designed to be used for hardware diagnosis and benchmarking. I will be using the CPU Queen test that looks for the solution for the "Queens" problem on a 10x10 chessboard. This tests the branch-prediction capabilities of the processor. The FPU Mandel test measures double precision floating point performance through computation of several frames of the "Mandelbrot" fractal.

 

  

  

  

  

 

The trend continues with the P8Z77 WS leading in just about every result in these two tests.

Testing:

SiSoft Sandra is a diagnostic utility and synthetic benchmarking program. Sandra allows you to view your hardware at a higher level to be more helpful. For this benchmark, I will be running a broad spectrum of tests to gauge the performance of key functions of the CPUs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall Score

  

 

X.264 Benchmark: This benchmark is used to measure the time it takes to encode a 1080p video file into the x264 format. The default benchmark is used with an average of all four tests on each pass taken as the result.

  

  

 

 

 

HandBrake 9.5 is an open source application used to transcode multiple video formats to an h.264 output format. The test file size is a 4GB full length movie that is reduced in size to a 1.5GB file.

  

  

 

 

The results in the Sandra overall score show the Asrock Extreme 4 to offer a sizable gain in performance over the P8Z77 WS while the rendering tests favor ASUS' offering.

Testing:

Moving data to and from an external device is something we all do as a means of backing up sensitive data whether it is family pictures, movies, music, or projects. The speed with which this transfer occurs is measurable and can improve with different board partner specific tools. I will be using ATTO version 2.47 to measure an external drives read/write performance through the USB 3.0 interface. The default test algorithm is used for this test. Motherboards that support a boost to the USB spec such as USB 3.0 Boost on the ASUS offering and XFast USB on the Asrock will be used as they show the maximum potential speeds.

ATTO:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

  

  

  

 

In this test the Asrock implementation seems to favor the 4K file size and delivers excellent results as the file size increases. ASUS implementation is short on the 4K file size yet delivers better transfer speeds as the file size increases and is faster from the 128K files size through the rest of the tests. As the file size increases the performance margin the P8Z77 WS enjoys does nothing but increase.

Testing:

3DMark 11 is the next installment for Futuremark in the 3DMark series, with Vantage as its predecessor. 3DMark 11 was designed solely for DirectX 11, so Windows Vista or 7 are required alongside a DirectX 11 graphics card in order to run this test. The Basic Edition gives unlimited free tests on performance mode, whereas Vantage only allows for a single test run. The Advanced Edition costs $19.95 and unlocks nearly all features of the benchmark, while the Professional Edition runs for $995.00 and is mainly suited for corporate use. The new benchmark contains six tests, four of which are aimed only at graphical testing – one that tests physics handling and one that combines graphics and physics testing together. The open source Bullet Physics Library is used for physics simulations and although not as mainstream as Havok or PhysX, it still remains a popular choice.

The new benchmark comes with two new demos that can be watched; both of which are based on the tests, but unlike the tests, contain basic audio. The first demo is titled "Deep Sea" and involves a number of vessels exploring what looks to be a sunken U-Boat. The second demo is titled "High Temple" and displays a location similar to South American tribal ruins, with statues and the occasional vehicle. The demos are simple in that they have no story, but really demonstrate testing conditions. The vehicles have the logos of the sponsors, MSI and Antec, on the sides, helping to make the Basic Edition free. The four graphics tests are slight variants of the demos. I will use the three benchmark test preset levels to find the performance of each card. The presets are used because they are comparable to what can be run with the free version, so results can be compared across more than just a custom set of test parameters.

 

Settings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DiRT 3 is the third iteration of this series. Published and developed by Codemasters, this game uses the EGO 2.0 game engine and was released in the US on PC in May of 2011.

Settings

 

 

 

Battlefield 3 is a first-person shooter video game developed by EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts. Battlefield 3 uses the Frostbyte 2 game engine and is the direct successor to Battlefield 2. Released in North America on October 25, 2011, the game supports DirectX 10 and 11.

Settings

 

 

 

It's really not a surprise to see the parity in the results of the game tests. ASUS' P8Z77 is going to deliver within a specific envelope based on the hardware installed in the board. This it does on cue. The 3DMark 11 testing shows where you can expect to be when installing more than a single GPU with the three 7970 CrossfireX results. Pusing over 20,000 on the Entry and close to 16,000 in the Performance overclocked tests show massive increases over the single card scores.

Conclusion:

First and foremost we know that when motherboards have the same parts installed that they are going to deliver results within a specific performance envelope. That being said the ASUS P8Z77 motherboard I have tested delivered excellent results when compared to another Z77 chipset motherboard in terms of just raw performance. Once you peel away the performance layers you have to look at the build process and the feature set used for the P8Z77 WS. As a workstation product you can guess that the feature set is decidedly oriented towards a business class environment. To that end ASUS has an initiative called 24x24 where the boards are targeted for use 24 hours a day for a solid 24 months to allow the consumer to have a a reliable platform long term.

Workstation features that make this board are PCIe Gen 3 four way CrossfireX or SLI that can offer improved graphics performance over a Gen 2 four way setup for the professional user with a side benefit of allowing for incredible gaming performance with that same PCIe Gen 3 two, three, or four way GPU configuration. A Dual Intel server class Gigabit LAN is used to reduce CPU overhead ergo reducing power consumption and improving productivity by giving those CPU cycles back to the programs that need them. In addition to the professional grade features you get all that ASUS has to offer in the P8Z77 product stack from ASUS New Smart Digi+ power design that works hand in hand with the TurboV Processing Unit. This design incorporates digital controls for the CPU and GPU with a third for the DRAM using a 16+4 phase VRM. Intel® VRD 12.5 specification is met and allows the user to set a specific power envelope that the processor will run at to save on power consumption. This featured part of the Smart Digi+ design has a pair of options as well as being user configurable.

Further down the features list you have Hybrid graphics technology from Lucid Logix, PCIe 3.0, USB 3.0 Boost that provides tangible benefits, ASUS SSD caching for a one click setup of a caching drive, Fan Xpert2 for the ultimate in cooling control, USB BIOS Flashback for again a one push flash of the BIOS without even having the CPU installed, and ASUS UEFI BIOS that is so far the best implementation on the market in that it is easy to use, using a mouse for navigation works, and everything is clickable. It just works.

The performance delivered by the P8Z77 WS is within the expectations based on the installed hardware. That being said the ease with which you can improve the board's performance is as simple as point and click. Manually tuning or using ASUS TurboV Evo tool you can overclock on this board as easy as any in the ASUS P8Z77 arsenal. By using TurboV EVO in AI Suite II the board and software set up a perfectly stable 4.42GHz speed on my clock speed challenged Core i7 3770K. Manual tuning was a bit more rewarding as it usually is at 4.6GHz. While I had the opportunity I even dropped in a couple different sets of DRAM to see just what kind of capability this board had without the specialized tuning options available on the Maximus V Gene. True to form from ASUS I was able to match what the M5G would deliver in terms of memory speeds of up to 2666MHz. Even if you get out of bounds when pushing the limits ASUS overclocking recovery is a thing of beauty. Worst case so far was a complete power down to allow for a successful post and boot back into the BIOS, with all of your settings intact.

Price wise the P8Z77 WS is not going to be your bargain bin value leader at $339. For that amount of money you get a full featured socket 1155 board that supports both Second and Third generation Core series processors and is going to deliver long term performance for both the professional and the enthusiast.

 

Pros:

 

Cons: