ASUS Gryphon Z87 TUF Micro-ATX Motherboard Review
The Gryphon Z87 board features the desert camouflage color scheme common to the TUF board line, namely black, tan, and brown coloration. ASUS kept the board's layout clean and neat, with more than enough room around all components. One difference you will notice right off is the lack of the Thermal Armor overlay on the board. It is available as an add-on to the board, which we will show you later in the review.
ASUS was able to keep the back of the board mostly component free with no power components at all close to the CPU socket area.
The Gryphon Z87's rear panel includes the following ports: 4 USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset, an Intel GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a DVI video port, an optical audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports.
ASUS designed the Gryphon Z87 to house a total of three PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slots and one PCI-Express x1 slot. The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single and x8 / x8 bandwidth in a two card configuration when using the tan or brown colored slots. The black colored PCI-Express x16 slot supports a maximum bandwidth of x4 and is meant for use with add-on cards only.
The CMOS battery is located to the right of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot. Its location in no way impedes video card nor CPU cooler seating and makes for easy access should you need to pull the battery.
In the upper left quadrant of the board are the front panel audio header, S/PDIF output header, Thunderbolt device header, CHA_FAN4 header, clear CMOS jumper, and Trusted Platform Module (TPM) header.
To the lower left of PCI-Express x16 slot 3 are the an ASUS debug header, two onboard USB 2.0 headers, three onboard temperature sensor headers, the system power LED, and the BIOS Flashback button. The ASUS debug header to the left of the USB headers is used for internal board testing by ASUS. The system power LED illuminates when the board is powered and running.
The USB BIOS Flashback button can be used to re-flash the BIOS without having to boot the system into the UEFI BIOS interface or DOS. Simply plug in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file in the root of the drive into the lower USB 3.0 port underneath the LAN port, press the button for 3 seconds until the integrated LED begins to flash. As the BIOS is updated, the LED flashing frequency increases. Once the LED goes out, the flash operation is completed and the board can be booted. Note that if the BIOS Flashback LED flashes for 5 seconds and then glows solid, it means that something went wrong with the flashback operation. Check the USB drive for the the BIOS file in the root and make sure that the BIOS file is named correctly. BIOS Flashback looks for a specific filename and file format when attempting to replace the onboard BIOS. According to the user manual, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named ME6.CAP for the BIOS Flashback app to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.
The CHA_FAN1 header, DirectKey button, DirectKey header, and front panel header are located in the lower left corner of the board. The DirectKey button forces system shutdown or power on when pressed. With the DirectKey Enable setting enabled (located on the BIOS Boot page), the system goes directly into the BIOS after the DirectKey button is pressed with the system powered off. The DirectKey header can be used to connect to a case button to operate the DirectKey functionality from outside the case. The BIOS Switch button allows for user switching between the primary and secondary BIOS chips, useful for system recovery.
The Intel Z87 Express chipset is covered by a large aluminum, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is black and tan in color with an ASUS logo prominently displayed.
ASUS includes a total of six on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports located just under the chipset cooler. All six SATA ports are controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset controller.
The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the board's lower right quadrant. The primary memory slots are the tan colored slots with dual channel memory mode enabled when modules are seated both slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at up to 2800MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. The 24-pin ATX power connector, USB 3.0 header, a system fan header, and MemOK! button are located to the lower left the memory slots. The MemOK! button can be used to reset memory-related BIOS settings to defaults, useful when the system doesn't boot because of memory options set over-aggressively.
The CPU socket area has plenty of room for even larger coolers, even with large aluminum coolers for the VRMs along the top and right sides of the socket. ASUS designed in a total of 8 power phases to ensure the best CPU stability no matter how hard you drive the CPU.
Along the outside edge of the VRM cooler to the right of the CPU are a total of four fan headers and a debug header. The debug header is used by ASUS for internal board testing and verification.
For the power needs of the CPU, ASUS included a single ATX12V 8-pin power connector in the upper left corner of the board. The connector itself is tan colored in keeping with the TUF series color scheme.