ASUS Z87-Plus ReviewBluePanda - July 7, 2013
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ASUS Z87-Plus Closer Look:
So, like I said, the black (more brown) and yellow motherboard is out of the box. It's not my favorite color scheme and honestly I avoid the colors even if the board comes with better features, but it is what it is. Taking just a generic top down look on the board you recognize immediately your familiar dual channel memory setup, three PCIe slots, BIOS battery, 8-pin header, and some general cooling sinks on the board in a mix of the gold and black. It's generally pretty simple and has a nice clean appearance with the VRMs now housed on the chip itself (one less melting point on the actual board). I have to say the color scheme reminds me of a dirty old mid-80s Pontiac Trans Am more than a modern piece of technology.
The back of the board is always fun to look at up close - the traces are ever impressive on every PCB, no matter how small. In this case it's no different; pretty solder joints and neatly snipped nipples - it's ever growing flow of brain power (or in this case compute power). The backing plate is about what we've seen on all boards, and all the new Z87 boards - simple and sturdy. Overall the board looks pretty good from first glance, and the price for it makes all the features even more welcome. Let's start around the board to see what is all included.
I'll start with my favorite shot of the board, and oddly it's not really of the board itself; rather it's the I/O panel. I've always liked this perspective (don't ask why) and it can say a lot about about a board rather quickly. Left to right we have the old PS/2 port for either a keyboard or mouse, four blue USB 3.0 ports, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, S/PDIF audio, DVI-D, and VGA ports, your typical network port (LAN RJ45), two more blue USB 3.0 ports, and a full set of six audio ports. There's quite a lot to offer for the inputs and outputs of this board; much fun to look forward to.
Getting into the board itself we find quite a bit for internal I/O. There are two PCIe 3.0/2.0 16x slots (16x or dual 8x), a single PCIe 2.0 16x (2x mode), two PCIe 2.0 1x and two PCI slots to handle whatever you can throw at it; it's ready to go. The BIOS battery sits nicely beneath one of the PCI slots so if you ever have to get to it you may have to pop a card -- but with the easy BIOS flashback button, it's not too likely you'll need access to it. The board is also labeled with lots of ASUS features: "USB BIOS Flashback", "Remote GO!", "USB 3.0 BOOST", and so forth; so in case you forgot you have a feature, you can be reminded. Looking a little closer to the edge of the board beneath the PCIe slots are your friends the I/O panel headers, USB headers, etc. You know the main ones for hooking up your case buttons and fan headers - but you can check out the specs/features page to find the full list (no need for me to read you a data sheet). To the left are some more of your headers, the EPU switch, and some capacitors near by. A lovely power icon button to boot the board without using a typical jump of the pins - not useful to me, perhaps I'm just too hardcore for this board?
Moving towards the general favorite part of the board we near the LGA 1150 socket. With 1150 little pins the Z87-Plus, it of course ships with a socket pin protector to avoid any damage in shipment. The surrounding socket area is fairly clean with the exception of a few capacitors and chokes to help filter the power heading to the onboard VRMs of your Haswell CPU of choice. The two banks of onboard VRMs are covered in very gold heat sinks that thankfully stay relatively flush to the board. Unles you have a monster heatsink and tall memory DIMMs, I doubt you'll run into many problems getting your system up and running on this gold and black chunk 'o tech.
A nice shot of the 8-pin power connector rounds up the area well. It's neatly placed - just don't forget to route this little cable; somehow it's always the one (if I forget one) to forget.
Now to the DIMM slots for all your sticks of RAM. You've got four slots you can fill up to 32GB of DDR3 with. Be sure to check the specs page to ensure your RAM is supported (some people still miss this step in a new build). The slots support the standard dual channel architecture and of course your best friend in the BIOS, Intel XMP profiles, are supported although not loaded by default on boot. As seen in prior Z87-based motherboards Haswell CPUs tend to have a lot of headroom for memory overclocking and ASUS has certainly accounted for that with the design on this board as well.
Finishing up the rounds of the board may be last but definitely not least - the SATA ports. The yellow ones are all 6GB/s ports off the Intel Z87 chipset. The remaining two brown/black ports are your 6GB/s ports controlled by the ASM1061 controller - which does not support Intel Smart Response, Intel Raid technologies, or Dynamic Storage Accelerator; but are nonetheless two extra ports. The yellow ports support all of the above giving you quite the freedom with RAID and system acceleration options.