With initial releases of a big platform, there are caveats a reviewer must avoid or issues that require attention.  With Ivy Bridge and Z77, the immediate comparison comes against Z68 and Sandy Bridge.  However, it would be foolish to assume that the testing methodology is the same - with a jump in processor performance (and overclocked results), a reviewer has to attempt to learn the chipset from the ground up in order to provide a valid comparison.

Given that the Z77 and Z68 chipsets have the same die size package, it could be conjectured that they are the same silicon, just that USB 3.0 was not finished in time for Z68, along with various Z77 tweaks.  We still have for the most part the same set of options as Z68, so this is entirely plausible.

When it comes to products, P67 and Z68 produced a wide range of prices and levels for the user to look at.  Observing release prices for the new chipset, this is also true of Z77 - a user could either pick up a board for just under $100, or go the whole way and spend north of $300.  The trade off, as it was with Sandy Bridge, comes in the feature set, support, and the allegiance of the user purchasing the product.

Today we have looked at four boards ranging in price from $135 to $225, which should be a price range that encapsulates a large proportion of Z77 sales over the next 12 months ($190 was the initial sweet spot for P67 launch if you remember).  Features such as mSATA (Gigabyte), included WiFi (ASUS), Intel NIC (ASUS, MSI), price ($135, ASRock), auto-overclocking (ASUS, Gigabyte), and performance are all up for grabs.  None of the boards today stands out as the ultimate choice for everyone - if you want control, go for ASUS; if you want mSATA, go for Gigabyte; if you want a full Z77 on a budget, go for ASRock; and if you want a very easy to use board, go with MSI.  It all seems to be a price/feature set battle that a system builder will have to consider.

Over the next few months we should be looking at a series of more expensive boards with esoteric features (ECS Z77H2-AX with 32 PCIe 3.0 lanes) along with some of the mini-ITX boards (ASRock, Zotac, ASUS) and gaming oriented products.  The battlefield for motherboards is huge - will one develop a killer feature, or undercut the competition?  It is going to be an interesting time if you are planning an Ivy Bridge build.

 

Conclusion – Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UD3H, MSI Z77A-GD65
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  • faizoff - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Are Q connectors proprietary of ASUS? I seem to find those only their motherboards. Love them to death.

    Great review. I enjoy these tremendously. Almost makes me go out and upgrade my i5 2500k.
    Reply
  • Impulses - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    My MSI P67A-GD55 has the same thing, unfortunately the connector block is too tall and bumps into my second 6950 so I couldn't use it. Reply
  • eBob - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    I, too, am a fan of the Q Connector mostly for the front panel connections (power, reset, HDD light). The USB and audio connectors seem to be pretty well standardized at this point, rendering those Q Connectors redundant IMO. This would seem to be a very simple and inexpensive feature for a mobo manufacturer to have (at least for the front panel connector). Reply
  • bji - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Thank you for including this important benchmark. I hope that every motherboard review going forward will include this.

    The ASRock has the best time but 8 seconds is still too long. I wonder why BIOS developers can't get their act together and initialize hardware in parallel. That would surely speed POST times up tremendously.
    Reply
  • adrianlegg - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    I've been struggling about that issue myself. I mean - it probably was in times of BIOS, but now, with all fancy UEFI is it really that hard? (considering more resources spent on bios/uefi in mobo)

    Altough I'm not big fan of 200$+ motherboards, I would seriously consider buying one if it POST in 2s.
    Even though there are probably POST requirements such as cpu cant be tested before ram or opposite it would be awesome to have really low boot times.
    Sad when even having SSD cant give You instant full boot (not hibernations/sleeps).

    It's one of those small features that are soo awesome (like reset/power buttons, and perhaps, in future : complete per component (ram/disk/SB/NB/coolers) power usage).

    Nevertheless 8seconds is damn nice.
    Reply
  • EnzoFX - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    Does anyone know how enabling AHCI in the UEFI affect post time these days? I'd like to remove the other 7-10 seconds this adds to it. Reply
  • pixelstuff - Monday, May 7, 2012 - link

    How do those Chromebooks shave time off of the POST? Seems like similar techniques could be implemented unless there is a good reason not to. Reply
  • rahvin - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    Chromebooks use OpenBIOS IIRC. OpenBIOS is Linux Kernel based and boots very fast because it initializes things quicker and it's custom built to the hardware on the board. Personally I wish all the Boards would start using it and toss these BIOS down the hole of history. Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - link

    They've got a very stripped down set of hardware to initialize. The more stuff you have on board, the longer it takes. EFI was supposed to fix this by allowing multi-threaded boot (BIOS was strictly a single threaded design); but either firmware makers aren't generally taking advantage of it yet, or dependencies in the startup process are limiting the gains. Reply
  • Jase89 - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    Don't forget the graphics card (if using discrete) will need to support UEFI (GOP) Booting too! Reply

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