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ASUS Z87-Pro Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of ASUS

  • Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization
  • 4-Way Optimization - One Click and Done! Top-up Performance, Efficiency, Digital Power, and System Cooling
  • Wi-Fi GO! - Connect Your Life – The Perfect Fusion of Desktop, Smartphones and Pads
  • Fan Xpert 2 - The Most Customizable Fan Controls
  • USB 3.0 Boost (UASP Support)

Motherboard Layout

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For the Z87-Pro, ASUS used their gold and black color scheme which is common among their mianstream board lines. The board's layout is unsurprisingly clean with no real tight areas as we have come to expect from ASUS designs.

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The back of the board is almost completely free of power circuitry with a few small chips underneath the rear panel area. The VRM components have a dual purpose back plate underneath them, acting to protect any under board circuitry as well as aid in heat dispersal. The socket area is fully clear of any components, so no risk of damaging CPU-related components with your cooler back plate.

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ASUS integrated the following ports in to the Z87-Pro's rear panel: a dual purpose keyboard/mouse PS/2 port, USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset located just under the GigE NIC port, 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the ASMedia controller located close to the PS/2 port, an Intel GigE NIC port, an HDMI video port, a DVI video port, a dual port 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapter, an optical audio output port, and 6 analog audio ports. Note that the bottom Intel USB 3.0 port can be used in conjunction with the BIOS Flashback and USB Charger+ functionality.

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The Z87-Pro is designed with a total of seven PCI-Express ports - three x16 ports and four x1 ports.  The board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single, x8 / x8 bandwidth in a dual card, and x8 / x8 / x4 bandwidth in a tri-card configuration. PCI-Express x16 slot 3 supports a maximum bandwidth of x4 and is meant for use with add-on cards only. In a nice design move, ASUS placed PCI-Express x1 slot 1 to the right of the primary PCI-Express x16 slot, meaning that an x1 slot remains usable with any video card configuration used.

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in the board's upper left quadrant are the CMOS battery, the trusted port module header, the front panel audio and S/PDIF output headers, the Thunderbolt header, and the onboard power switch. The CMOS battery location is better than most, but will be inaccessible when using the board in a dual-card configuration.

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Along the lower left edge of the tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot are the an ASUS debug header, the onboard USB 2.0 headers, the BIOS Flashback button, and the DirectKey button. The ASUS debug header to the left of the USB headers is used for internal board testing by ASUS. 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 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 BIOS Flashback Wizard applet, the BIOS file in the root of the flash drive must be named Z87P.CAP for BIOS Flashback to successfully re-flash the board's BIOS.

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The USB 2.0 headers, CHA_FAN2 header, DirectKey header (DRCT), BIOS reset jumper, 3-way TPU switch, EPU switch, and front panel header are located in the lower left corner of the board. The TPU switch enables BIOS assisted overclocking with two modes available. In mode 1, only the CPU ratio is changed. In mode 2, both the CPU ratio and the base clock value are changed. The EPU switch enables BIOS controlled power consumption optimization.

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The Intel Z87 Express chipset is cooled by a large aluminum heat sink located just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is black and gold colored with an ASUS logo prominently displayed.

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ASUS includes a total of eight on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports located just under the chipset cooler. The six gold colored SATA ports are controlled by the Intel Z87 chipset controller. The two black colored SATA ports to the right of the port block are controlled by the ASMedia controller.

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The four on-board DDR3 memory slots are located in the Z87-Pro's lower right quadrant. The primary memory slots are the gold colored slots with dual channel memory mode enabled when modules are seated both slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at overclocked speeds 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, and the CHA_FAN3 and CHA_FAN4 headers.

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Along the right edge of the memory slots are the MemOK! button, the CPU fan header, and an auxiliary CPU fan header. 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.

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In spite of the aluminum capacitors and large VRM heat sinks surrounding the upper and right sides of the CPU socket, the LGA1150 socket has more than adequate room for use with larger coolers. For the CPU power needs, ASUS used a 12+2 digital power phase system to ensure optimal power delivery under the harshest conditions.

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To the upper right of the VRM heat sinks is the ATX12V 8-pin power connector.

June 27, 2013 | 06:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

no thunderbolt port!!!

May 31, 2014 | 07:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The next step-up from this board I believe is the z87-extreme is $50 more with thunderbolt but runs through more power phases. Excellent board I use it in my gaming system.

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