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ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe Mini-ITX Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Features, Layout, and Bundled Accessories

Features

Courtesy of ASUS

  • Windows 8 Exclusive Features
    • Fast Boot - Instant OS Login
    • ASUS Boot Setting - Multi-startup Options
  • CPU, Chipset and Graphics features
    • LGA1155 Intel® 3rd/2nd Generation Core™ i7/ Core™ i5/ Core™ i3/ Pentium® / Celeron® Processors Ready
    • PCIe 3.0 Ready
    • Intel® Z77 Express Chipset
  • Dual Intelligent Processors II
    • Dual Intelligent Processors 2 with DIGI+ VRM
    • DIGI+ VRM
    • TPU
    • EPU
  • ASUS Exclusive Features
    • Wi-Fi GO!
      • Wi-Fi hotspot setup for convenience
      • Turn smartphones and tablets into a remote control
        • Remote Desktop
        • Motion control your PC
        • Remote keyboard and mouse
      • DLNA streaming made easy
      • Easy file and screenshot transfers
    • USB 3.0 Boost - Faster USB 3.0 Transmission with UASP
    • USB BIOS Flashback
    • UEFI BIOS (EZ mode) - Supports Hard Drives over 2.2TB
    • AI Suite II
  • LucidLogix Virtu MVP - Up to 60% Hybrid Graphics Boost and 3X Faster Video Conversion
  • ASUS Crystal Sound
    • DTS Connect
    • DTS UltraPC II
  • RoHS - GreenASUS and ErP Ready

Motherboard Layout

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Upon initial inspection, there's no denying that the ASUS P8Z77-I Deluxe is a small board with a whole lot going on. ASUS packed every square inch of the board with integrated peripherals and ports, going so far as to relocate the CPU power circuitry to an upright daughter-board to free up more surface space for extra features. In addition to the 8+2 digital power phases designed into the board, ASUS includes a mini-PCIe 802.11n Wireless/Bluetooth card for added network flexibility and enough SATA, eSATA, and USB ports to keep anyone busy. Cooling the hot board components gets tricky with the upright daughter-board blocking side-wise airflow, but is easily solved with creative fan placement.

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While we didn't encounter any issues in testing with component placement, there are quite a few chips and power circuits located in close vicinity to the CPU socket. However, as long as you are careful with your CPU heatsink's backplate and have some type of non-conductive material between it and the board, you should be fine.

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The P8Z77-I Deluxe comes standard with the following ports integrated into its rear panel assembly: 4 USB 2.0 ports controlled by the Z77 chipset, 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia chipset (below the GigE NIC port), 2 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset (above the eSATA ports), 2 eSATA ports controlled by the Intel Z77 Chipset, an Intel GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a DisplayPort video port, a DVI-D video port, 2 wireless antennae ports, USB BIOS Flashback button (top button), CMOS reset button (bottom button), an optical digital audio output port, and 3 analog audio ports.

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. Start by plugging  in a USB drive containing the proper BIOS file into the lower USB 3.0 port to the left of the button.  Then 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 to ensure that the BIOS file is located the root of the drive 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 several web-based sources, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named P8Z77ID.CAP for the BIOS Flashback app to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.  The USB BIOS Flashback Wizard, accessed via the Ai SUITE II software, can be used to generate a BIOS flashback compatible file as well.

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ASUS included a single PCI-Express 3.0 x16 slot on the P8Z77-I Deluxe. The slot delivers the full x16 bandwidth with a card seated. At the very bottom of the PCI-Express x16 slot are the chassis intrusion header and the standby power LED. The LED illuminates with an active power source connected to the board.

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In the upper left corner of the board (above and to the upper right of the PCI-Express x16 slot) are the front panel audio header, the Intel Z77-controlled USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 headers, the S/PDIF output header, the CMOS reset jumper, the MemOK! button, the DRAM LED, and the mini-PCIe port. The mini-PCIe port comes standard with a Broadcom 802.11n Wi-Fi/Bluetooth combo card with pre-wired connections to the antennae ports integrated into the rear panel. The MemOK! button can be used to reset the board memory settings to a known-good state based on internal BIOS presets and default XMP settings from the memory modules. Note that there is a memory problem detected with the board if the DRAM LED remains illuminated after system initialization.

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The Intel Z77 Southbridge chipset is located just under the mini-PCIe port, covered by a low-profile aluminum cooler. The onboard SATA ports are immediately below the chipset. The blue colored ports are SATA 2 3Gb/s ports, while the white colored ports are SATA 3 6Gb/s ports.

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The 2 onboard DDR3 memory slots are located along the bottom edge of the board with Dual Channel memory mode enabled when both slots are populated. Underneath the DIMM slots are the front panel and speaker headers, the 24-pin ATX power connector, the 8-pin ATX12V power connector, and the TPU switch. The TPU switch activates the automated overclocking BIOS on next system boot. The TPU LED remains illuminated with the TPU switch enabled.

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Even though the LGA1155 socket looks to be a bit crowded, there is actually plenty of space around the socket for using even many of the larger coolers thanks the the use of the upright daughter card. By moving the CPU power circuitry to the daughter card, ASUS freed up a lot of space around the socket. Further, the chipset heat sink and mPCIe slot do not inhibit placement because of their low profile nature.

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Just above the CPU socket are the CMOS battery, the MemOK! button and DRAM status LED, and two 4-pin fan headers. Notice how the CMOS battery is mounted vertically to conserve on space.

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The daughter card to the right of the CPU socket houses the 10 phase digital power circuitry, 8 phases for the CPU and 2 phases for the integrated graphics. ASUS integrated a small form factor heat sink for cooling the power circuits, but without some type of active airflow, the daughter card gets hot. We found that a fan was needed while overclocking and using a water block for CPU cooling in order to stabilize the board.

Included Accessories

ASUS kept the included accessories to a minimum, including what was needed for using the board.

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The bundled user manual and installation DVD provides more than enough information to get the board up and running with the manual of the excellent quality we've come to expect from ASUS.

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The rear panel shield is a base black color with all device ports color-coded and marked for easy identification.

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ASUS chose to include a total of four SATA cables with the black cables rated for up to 6Gb/s operation and the red cables rated for 3Gb/s operation. The included cables are locking cables with a mix of straight and 90 degree connectors included.

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Their are a total of two Wi-Fi antennas included that can be plugged into the ports on the rear panel to get better reception to your Wi-Fi router. The antennae upright can be swiveled almost 180 degrees for better directional reception. Additionally, the antennae base has embedded magnets so the base can be affixed to a vertical surface if desired.

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ASUS includes a header extender for the front panel header connection on the motherboard for easier plugging in of your case HDD LED, Power LED, power switch, and reset switch cables. Unfortunately, they did not integrate a speaker plug into the extender.

April 5, 2013 | 11:17 AM - Posted by pdjblum

Well done. It is so rare that a reviewer actually lists all the bios settings used to attain a stable overclock. Thanks so much for that.

April 7, 2013 | 03:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

More Sata ports and I would have been sold!

April 7, 2013 | 06:02 PM - Posted by onehourleft (not verified)

Good work Morry! I have this motherboard and I have to agree with your assessment. I'll be water cooling it this summer including the VRM daughter board. I'm excited to see what the overclock will be and I think your review will be helpful.

April 8, 2013 | 09:50 PM - Posted by hoxlund

Love the review. Solid performer. What I think is the most feature packed mini-itx mobo. Looking to throw together this motherboard inside a prodigy case.

April 9, 2013 | 10:15 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does this have clearance for a Noctua DH14 heatsink? It's the big air cooler.

I'm considering a mini-itx gaming build and would love to stick with this cooler :).

April 9, 2013 | 12:12 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

You should not have a problem with the Noctua coolers and that board - the socket has a massive amount of space around it (the pictures don't do that justice unfortunately).

Also, more information about the fit of the Noctua cooler in this thread:

http://www.overclock.net/t/1281628/plan-on-new-rig

April 9, 2013 | 05:12 PM - Posted by icebug

Nice review, I am planning on getting this to use with my NCASE M1 case when it launches this summer!

May 1, 2013 | 09:36 AM - Posted by AbSoluTc (not verified)

Lol. I ran across this review while searching for mATX reviews. This seems to be the best MOBO in the class. I too am watching the NCASE M1 develop and will be buying it when it releases. Such a sleek case. Really can't wait to get my hands on it.

June 22, 2013 | 11:14 PM - Posted by castl3bravo (not verified)

The ASUS BIOS process, from my experience, isn't rock solid. It has a tendancy to get corrupted which, in my case, caused the on board Intel GPU to disappear and the CPU ratio to get stuck at 42.

Here is some of the drama people are going through.

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2314371&page=1

If your ASUS BIOS starts going sideways you'll want to start google someone named Coderush.

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