Not all midrange motherboards are created the same. Sure, these Z77motherboards all have a black-and-blue color scheme, and they all carry similar street prices, but differences emerge when it comes to features, specs, and performance. Which one should you pair with your new 22nm Ivy Bridge CPU? Glad you asked.
ASRock, once a subsidiary of Asus and now owned by Pegatron (at least until when/if Asus buys the brand back), ended the work week by unveiling its Z77 Extreme6/TB4 motherboard with dual Thunderbolt ports. Using the Daisy Chain feature, the Z77 Extreme6/TB4 supports up to twelve Thunderbolt devices, six in each port, ASRock points out. Thunderbolt isn't the only thing the board has going for it.
Midrange boards typically have to sacrifice features to get under $200 and MSI’s Z77A-GD65 shows evidence of this philosophy. It’s the only board here without a discrete USB 3.0 controller, instead relying on the native Intel chipset for all USB 3.0. It’s also the only board without DisplayPort.
MSI shaved costs by jettisoning extra USB 3.0 ports on the Z77A-GD65.
Of all the boards here, we’re most intimately familiar with Gigabyte’s GA-Z77X-UD5H. It’s the board we used for the bulk of our Core i7-3770K testing, and one thing we can say, it’s stable. We’ve literally run more than 50 hours of benchmarks on this board without any issue.
We hit our highest auto-overclock with the Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD5H.
Whether you're a fan of the stealth design or not, you have to hand it to ECS for thinking outside the box on this one. The company posted on Facebook a picture of its X79R-AX Stealth, currently a concept motherboard unique in the fact that the majority of the printed circuit board (PCB) is hidden beneath a shroud that protects all the digital bits from damage, dust, and everything else.
Watch out, Atom CPUs and AMD APUs, there's a new contender vying for the attention of small box HTPC enthusiasts: Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 processor. Wait, what? Isn't that a mobile processor? Theoretically, but that hasn't stopped Kontron from creating the world's first mini-ITX Tegra 3 processor, complete with an itty bitty footprint and an equally itty bitty 7W power requirement.
Have you ever seen a peacock spread its feathers for all to see as it struts casually and confidently with its head held high? That's ASRock, the spunky company spun-off by Asus a decade ago and owned by Asus subsidiary Pegatron Corporation, which gleefully claims it's the first motherboard manufacturer in the world to pass Windows 8 hardware certification.
FINDING A GOOD motherboard is easy. Finding a good microATX motherboard, however, can be more of a chore. That’s because motherboard vendors have almost always associated microATX with budget needs. In addition to losing a couple of expansion slots and some PCB board space, you almost always lose features such as SLI, CrossFire, RAID , premium audio, and other add-ons to help push the price down.
That’s not the case with Asus’s new Rampage IV Gene. Made for premium LGA2011 chips, the Rampage IV Gene caters to builders who want performance but in a microATX form factor. As a Republic of Gamers board, it’s no surprise that the Rampage IV Gene emphasizes features and functionality. RoG boards are Asus’s cream of the crop.
That’s not to say the Rampage IV Gene has all the features of the company’s Rampage IV Extreme board. While the Extreme is truly tweaked for, well, extreme overclockers, the Rampage IV Gene seems better suited to building a compact gaming rig with the intent of normal overclocking, not setting records using liquid-helium.
If someone sent out invitations to Intel's Thunderbolt party, consider MSI as having received one, hence the release of the company's Z77A-GD80 mainboard that was first introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Built around Intel's Z77 chipset with support for 22nm (Ivy Bridge) processors, the Z77A-GD80 is one of a handful of Thunderbolt-equipped motherboards making their debut today.