Regardless of what one’s budget might be for a Z77 platform system build, ASUS surely has an offering that will fit. At last count, there are no less than 20 choices to be had within the ASUS Z77 lineup. Within the Z77 platform, ASUS has done a great job of mixing up features to offer a solution that fits almost any consumer’s desire. In fact, you can find many offerings in the same price range that differ only by the features included on them. Today, we’ll be looking at one such mid-level offering, the P8Z77-V LE PLUS. So, let’s have a look at what ASUS has packed into this Z77 offering!
Specifications And Features
As is common place with ASUS motherboards, the list of specifications is a long one. The list below is courtesy of ASUS.
ASUS P8Z77-V LE PLUS Specifications CPU Intel® Socket 1155 for 3rd/2nd Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® 32 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* 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 2400(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered 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
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI/RGB/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
– Supports DVI with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
– Supports RGB with max. resolution 2048 x 1536 @ 75 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1696 MB
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Multi-GPU Support Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology *1
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology *2
Expansion SLots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8, blue) *3
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode, black) *4
2 x PCIe 2.0 x1
2 x PCI
Storage Intel® Z77 chipset :
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
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 *5
Marvell® PCIe SATA 6Gb/s controller : *6
1 x eSATA 6Gb/s port(s), red
1 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), navy blue
LAN Realtek® 8111F, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s) Audio Realtek® ALC889 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
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
USB Ports Intel® Z77 chipset : *7
4 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z77 chipset :
10 x USB 2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, black, 8 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller : *7
2 x USB 3.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue)
Overclocking Features Overclocking Protection :
– ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Special Features ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 3 with New 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
– GPU Boost
– TPU switch
ASUS EPU :
– EPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design :
– Industry leading Digital 8 Phase Power Design
(6 -phase for CPU, 2 -phase for iGPU)
– Industry leading Digital 2 Phase DRAM Power Design
– CPU Power Utility
– DRAM Power Utility
ASUS Exclusive Features :
– USB BIOS Flashback
– AI Suite II
– Ai Charger+
– USB Charger+
– Low EMI Solution
– ESD Guards
– ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
– Network iControl
– USB 3.0 Boost
– Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
– Stylish Fanless Design Heat-sink solution & MOS Heatsink
– ASUS Fan Xpert+
ASUS EZ DIY :
– ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
– ASUS EZ Flash 2
– ASUS MyLogo 2
ASUS Q-Design :
– ASUS Q-Slot
100% All High-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DVI
1 x D-Sub
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
4 x USB 3.0
2 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
Internal I/O Ports 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
4 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 8 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x COM port(s) connector(s)
3 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
4 x SATA 3Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (4 -pin)
3 x Chassis 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 Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button(s)
Accessories User’s manual
2 x SATA 3Gb/s cable(s)
2 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
BIOS 64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.0, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 2.0a, Multi-language BIOS, ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, F12 PrintScreen Function, F3 Shortcut Function and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information Manageability WfM 2.0, DMI 2.0, WOL by PME, WOR by PME, PXE Support Disc Drivers
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
*Notes *1: *Disable PCIe x1_1 and PCIe x1_2 slots and manual set the PCIe x16_3 to x4 mode in BIOS when configure CrossFireX™ with dual graphics cards.
*2: LucidLogix Virtu MVP supports Windows 7 operating systems.
*3: PCIe 3.0 speed is supported by Intel® 3rd generation Core™ processors.
*4: The PCIe x16_3 slot shares bandwidth with PCIe x1_1 slot, PCIe x1_2 slot. The default setting is x2 mode. Go to the BIOS setup to change the settings.
*5: Supports on Intel® Core™ processor family with Windows 7 operating systems.
*6: These SATA ports are for data hard drivers only. ATAPI devices are not supported.
*7-1: The USB 3.0 ports only support Windows® 7 or later versions.
*7-2: Supports ASUS USB 3.0 Boost UASP Mode.
*8: Due to Intel® chipset limitation, P8Z77, P8H77 and P8B75 series motherboards do not support Windows® Vista operating system.
The marketing folks at ASUS do a good job of letting potential buyers know what features they can look forward to when purchasing one of their products. In typical ASUS style, the feature list is more than plentiful. ASUS has implemented a couple of new hardware and software designs directly related to the Windows 8 experience. The Fast Boot feature is a combination of hardware and software designs that shorten boot times. The ASUS Boot Setting utility can be used to take advantage of these designs and allows for customizing what happens during the boot process. Whatever you choose to happen will remain active until such time as you change them. While these features are most commonly associated with Windows 8, earlier versions of Windows can benefit too.
All images are courtesy of ASUS – Click on any image for a larger view.
No Z77 platform motherboard would be complete without making sure everything the Z77 platform offers is present and accounted for. SSD Caching, PCIe 3.0 support, and native USB3.0 support are just some of what the Z77 Platform offers.
ASUS is very proud of their DIGI+ Power Control and Smart DIGI+, and with good reason. Either from within the UEFI BIOS or from the desktop, you have complete control of the power delivery. Whether you’re looking to push the system to the limit or obtain the maximum power efficiency possible, you have everything at your disposal to make it happen. The Dual Processors 3 feature is a hardware IC based design that incorporates the Energy Processing Unit (EPU) and the TurboV processing Unit (TPU). The EPU works in conjunction with the Digital PWM for regulating and managing voltages and other VRM response and loading aspects. The TPU provides extended and enhanced voltage control as well as hardware monitoring.
The items listed under ASUS Exclusive Features pertain mostly to software, which we’ll go over later in the review. They do make mention of the UEFI BIOS and a few of the more unique aspects it brings to the table. ASUS UEFI BIOS has adopted the .CAP container format for all current platforms, which will ensure seamless performance and functionality for Windows 8.
LucidLogix Virtu MVP is fully supported on the P8Z77-V LE PLUS. This can be used to combine the performance of a discrete graphics card with the fast computing capabilities of the iGPU built into a processor. Obviously, it’s much more detailed than that little snippet; so if you care to read about it in greater detail, follow this link.
Quality is of the utmost importance to ASUS, and they want you to know about some of the designs they implement that separate them from the competition. The below pictures represent just some of the things ASUS does to ensure durability and reliability.
Packaging And First Look
Taking a look at the packaging, we find the box front displays lots of ASUS branding and a host of icons describing many of the features. The back of the box goes into greater detail on the features and specifications, which is nice for potential buyers that can actually hold the box before purchasing. The box sides are all identical, other than one side having a brief multilingual feature list.
After opening the box, you’ll find the motherboard wrapped in an anti-static bag sitting at the very top. On the left side, the cardboard bed is folded to make a home for the SATA cables. Below the cardboard bed is where you’ll find the rest of the accessories. The accessory bundle may not be the most populated you’ve ever seen, but it’s plenty adequate.
- User Guide
- Case Badge
- Driver/Software DVD
- Flexible SLI Bridge
- I/O Shield
- 4 X 6 GB/s SATA Cables (90° at one end)
Below is a quick tour via pictures. A brown PCB with light blue, dark blue, black, silver and white accents. Interesting choice!
A Closer Look/Under The Hood
Let’s dive in and find out what makes this motherboard tick, shall we? Beginning at the bottom of the motherboard, we have the front panel audio connector with the digital audio connector (S/PDIF out) just above it. Moving to the right, we have the serial port, Thunderbolt header, and two of the four USB 2.0 headers. The Thunderbolt header will be used with the ThunderboltEX add on card, once it becomes available. Farther to the right are the other two USB 2.0 headers, the BIOS Flashback button, the front panel connectors, and the CLRTC jumper. The BIOS Flashback button allows you to recover a corrupt BIOS by flashing with only standby power present. You don’t even have to have any hardware installed to use the BIOS Flashback feature, except for the PSU.
Heading up the right side of the P8Z77-V LE PLUS, we first land at the SATA ports. There are seven SATA ports located in this area. The two gray ports are SATA 6 GB/s, and the four light blue are SATA 3 GB/s. All six ports in this group are native to the Z77 chipset. The dark blue SATA port is another SATA 6 GB/s port provided by a Marvell controller, which also handles the eSATA port at the back of the motherboard. Above the SATA port area is where the USB 3.0 header, 24-pin ATX power connector, and the MemOK! button are located. If you run into a memory compatibility issue keeping the system from properly booting, you can try using the MemOK! feature to automatically configure the memory to a bootable state. This can be especially helpful if you are trying to run mismatched modules or failing memory. The MemOK! button can also double as a “semi-clear CMOS” as well. The term “semi” is used because it will only clear items related to clock speeds and voltages. Also viewable here is the first of four fan headers (1X CPU and 3X System).
The top side of the board is home to two more fan headers, the TPU and EPU switches, and the 8-pin CPU AUX 12 V power connector. Enabling the TPU switch will execute a quick hardware based overclock. If you prefer to overclock manually, then leave the switch disabled. The EPU switch will execute a hardware based under-volt to the CPU. This will not affect performance and only impacts the voltage to the CPU. This is intended for those users who run their systems at stock speeds and are looking to improve thermal performance and power consumption. Further technical explanation of what TPU and EPU can do behind the scenes was provided by ASUS:
- TPU – Is a hardware IC implemented to provide extended and enhanced voltage control and hardware monitoring. In addition, it enables special command parameters that link into MemOK!
- EPU – Is a hardware IC implemented that works in conjunction with our Digital PWM for regulation and management of voltages and aspects of VRM response and loading.
At the left side of the motherboard, we have the well populated I/O area at the top and an open area that is home to many of the onboard integrated ICs. We’ll have a closer look at the ICs a bit later. For something a little different this time around, let the pictures do the explaining of the I/O area!
As we look at the PCIe/PCI slots, we find three PCIe x16, two PCIe x1, and two PCI slots. A single graphics card will run at x16 speed if installed in either of the top two PCIe slots. A video card installed in both of the top two PCIe slots will run at x8x8 speeds. The top two PCIe slots also support PCIe generations 3.0. The bottom most PCIe slot supports PCIe generation 2.0 and PCIe x1 and x4 speeds. Having two PCI slots in conjunction with the PS/2 port at the I/O area is ASUS’ way of trying to ease the migration cost from older systems. With these options made available, the user has the opportunity to bring older components to a new platform, thus holding down costs.
The four DDR3 DIMM slots support a total system capacity of 32 GB and speeds that range from 2400 MHz (OC) down to 1066 MHz.
The CPU socket area should impose no restrictions on your choice of cooling. There is plenty of unobstructed area for just about any air cooler I can think of. As always, keep memory height in mind if you choose a solution that overhangs the DIMM slot area. CPU water blocks of all kinds should work here as well.
ASMedia has been called on to provide several functions of the motherboard. For additional USB 3.0 connectivity at the back panel, the ASMedia ASM1042 IC is used. For the TMDS link function (think HDMI and DVI), the ASM1442 IC has been called to duty. For PCIe switching capabilities, there are four ASM1480 ICs to handle that function. Finally, the ASM 1083 IC is used to bridge legacy parallel bus devices to the more advanced PCI Express interface.
For LAN and audio capabilities, Realtek is the vendor of choice. The Gigabit LAN controller is the RTL8111F, and the 8-channel High Definition Audio CODEC is provided via ALC889 audio controller.
The Nuvoton NCT6779D is responsible for many of the Super I/O functions. The NCT6779D monitors several critical parameters in PC hardware, including power supply voltages, fan speeds, and temperatures. We’re used to seeing Winbond BIOS chips on most ASUS motherboards, but here we see the use of a cFeon EN25F64 chip.
Providing a dual digital VRM implementation for CPU and memory, we find two DIGI+ VRM controllers on the motherboard. When we get to the UEFI BIOS tour, you will see how these two controllers offer complete control over power delivery. The Dual Processors 3 feature is comprised of the EPU and TPU hardware based ICs.
There are two heatsinks on the P8Z77-V LE PLUS, one over the Z77 PCH and the other over the MOSFETS. The 8-phase digital power design breaks down to six phases for the CPU and two for the iGPU. Additionally, there are two more digital power phases dedicated to the memory. Once the heatsinks were removed, all the target points were found to have excellent contact with the TIM and heatsinks. You might also notice in the picture below, the 5K solid capacitors that are used throughout the motherboard. This is an improvement from the standard 2K capacitors found on many motherboards.
The UEFI BIOS
The first time you enter the UEFI BIOS, you will land on the EZ Mode main screen, which presents some monitoring information and a few system performance and boot priority controls. From here, you can press F3 to view the table of contents menu that will take you straight to the page you select. Alternatively, if you want to go to into the Advanced Mode, simply press the F7 key. There is a setting in BIOS you can change that will bypass EZ Mode altogether and take you straight to Advanced Mode when entering the UEFI BIOS.
Once inside the Advanced Mode, you will land at the Main tab. Here you get basic system information and the ability to set the date and time. The Security sub-menu has the options for setting BIOS level passwords.
The Ai Tweaker tab has all the overclocking, power controls, voltage options, and memory settings anyone could ever ask for. There are four sub-menus that can be used to set an automatic overclock, adjust a slew of memory timings, and configure the CPU management options. The DIGI+ Power Control sub-menu gives the user complete control of LLC, voltage frequencies, current capabilities, and the ability to control the power phases. If you are not an overclocker, you’ll find everything you need to fine tune the system for desired thermal performance and power efficiency. I took a boat load of screen shots, so you can see the options at your disposal within these four sub-menus. The first group of pictures below has a voltage availability table to show you the minimum and maximum voltages that can be manually set. The color heading corresponds with the level of risk associated with setting voltages to that level. As you peruse the images below, have a look at the far right column for a brief explanation from ASUS. If you have any other questions, please ask in the forums!
Ai Tweaker Main Page
OC Tuner Sub-menu
DRAM Timing Control
CPU Power Management
DIGI+ Power Control
The Advanced tab has eight sub-menus dealing mostly with system configuration options. Most of these items are pretty standard across most motherboard offerings out there. Here are screenshots of all the available options.
The Monitor tab is where you can have a quick look at temperatures, fan speeds, and voltages in real time. This is also where the Q-Fan controls are located, which allow for setting fan speeds for each of the onboard fan headers. There are three preset fan profiles you can use (standard, silent, and turbo), or you can choose the manual option. If you choose the manual option, you can control the fan duty cycles to correspond with customizable upper and lower temperature thresholds
The Boot tab is pretty common stuff found on most newer platform motherboards. If you want to bypass the EZ Mode screen when first entering BIOS, this is where you can do it.
The Tool tab contains three sub-menus that contain EZ Flash 2 Utility, O.C. Profile, and SPD Information. For updating the BIOS, EZ Flash 2 is an extremely easy way to do so. Just put the BIOS file on a USB stick, plug it in, and go. The O.C. Profile is where you can save up to eight profiles. You also have the ability to save profiles to a USB drive, which in reality means you can save as many profiles as you like. The SPD Information sub-menu gives you all the SPD/XMP profile information on the memory you have installed.
The Exit tab has an option to return to the EZ Mode interface or decide how you want to leave the UEFI BIOS. I wish ASUS would put “Save Changes & Reset” at the top of the exit list of options. This would accommodate us old school keyboard users that fly right through this area thinking they saved their settings, only to realize they actually loaded the optimized defaults.
AI Suite II is bundled with the P8Z77-V LE PLUS, and it’s packed with useful tools and utilities. Once installed, you will see an icon in the taskbar that can be used to launch the menu bar. Clicking the buttons on the menu bar gives you quick access to the different utilities.
The Auto Tuning button takes you directly to the TurboV EVO area where you can apply an automatic overclock, or click the Manual Mode tab to do it manually.
The DIGI+ Power Control Utility has the Smart DIGI+ feature allowing for optimized VRM frequencies, voltages, and current at the press of a button. From there, it will take you directly to Turbo V EVO where you can adjust ratios. If you prefer to set these values manually, then you can enter the CPU Power Control or DRAM Power Control areas where you’ll have control over these power options.
The EPU utility will satisfy the user looking for optimal energy efficiency. There is an Auto setting, High Performance setting, and Max. Power Saving setting that can all be customized to your liking.
FAN Xpert+ is used for controlling fan speed based upon temperatures and works with all the fan headers on the motherboard. There are four preloaded profiles, or you can create your own. You can also test any fan to find the RPM it will run at given the power percentage delivered to it.
Probe II is a complete monitoring utility that can also alert you of problems based on customizable thresholds.
Sensor recorder can be used to monitor real time voltage, temperatures, and fan speeds in a graph format over time. You also have the option to record and log a graph of any or all of these voltages, temperatures, and fan speeds.
Ai Charger+ is said to charge BC 1.1 compatible devices up to three times faster than standard USB charging. USB Charger+ is another device charging utility included in the AI Suite II software package. USB Charger+ has the ability to charge a device while the computer is in sleep mode, hibernation, or even turned off.
USB 3.0 Boost can speed up the transfer rate of an attached USB 3.0 device. If you have a USB 3.0 device that meets the UASP protocol, you should see some pretty nice performance gains.
Network iControl gives the user the ability to set bandwidth priority to any program that connects to the internet. In a single click, you can prioritize network traffic for the application you’re currently using or set up favorite profiles to run at specific times to maximize network bandwidth, all through the user interface.
USB BIOS Flashback has the ability to automatically check for BIOS updates on a schedule of your choosing and then save the file to a USB storage device. The USB device can then be used to flash the BIOS via the BIOS Flashback button on the motherboard.
MyLogo can create a custom boot logo from any image you like. The utility will automatically convert an image to the appropriate size/format and then program a bios file with the new image.
ASUS Update is a Windows-based BIOS flashing utility that can search and download from the internet the latest BIOS file. You can also use this utility to flash from an existing file already saved on your computer. With the other terrific options ASUS provides for BIOS flashing, this would be my last choice for performing the flashing procedure. Flashing from the Windows environment is inherently more risky than the other methods ASUS provides.
The System Information utility gives you quick access to motherboard, CPU, and the Memory SPD/XMP profile information.