A step up from
the P8Z77-V LK Bob, Asus' P8Z77-V Pro, at first glance, looks like it will appeal to most people, and is a reasonably attractive board at that. In our minds, that makes it a Steve.
Steve's got usual trappings that Bob and
Gigabyte's Z77X-UD3H Sergio also have, given he's a Z77 fellow. A pair of 6Gbps SATA ports and four 3Gbps SATA ports that are Intel powered, for starters. You won't be surprised to find a PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot here, nor the four DIMM slots, although slightly different is that only one side of the RAM slots has a retention clip. The other has a tab of metal inside that simply clicks into place to hold the RAM solidly when you push down. To release, you'll need to pull up from the retention clip side, instead of evenly.
The other slots are exactly the same as the P8Z77-V LK — two other physical x16 slots (although they're rated at PCI-E 3.0 x8 and PCI-E 2.0 x4 electrically), a pair of PCI slots and two PCI-E 2.0 1x slots.
So let's see what makes Steve unique. An additional pair of 6Gbps SATA ports, powered by the ASMedia 1061 controller, for a start. A pair of ASMedia 1042 chips power the four USB 3.0 ports at the back, leaving Intel to power the two internal headers — this is frustrating when it comes to Windows installation, as none of the USB 3.0 ports will work until after driver installation — you'll have to use the two USB 2.0 ports instead. Which is fine, unless your keyboard and mouse combo takes up three USB ports, as ours does.
Those two USB 2.0 ports at the rear are complemented with another eight supplied by header, although Asus only includes a single bracket with two USB 2.0 ports (and an eSATA port). Still, it's a single bracket more than some. There's also a single riser module for a USB 2.0 header (for quite old cases that don't use the standard plug) and your front panel wiring, which is a godsend for wiring up your case power/reset button, hard drive light and otherwise.
There's also a Thunderbolt header, although Asus doesn't include anything that resembles a port. To enable it, you'll need to purchase the after-market Thunderbolt EX adapter. It's not pretty and requires more cables than you'd think would be strictly necessary, but if you want it, the upgrade option is there. If you want Thunderbolt built in, you'll have to opt for the Premium or Pro/Thunderbolt versions of the board.
A split PS/2 port, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, VGA, Intel gigabit Ethernet and Realtek's ALC892 5.1 audio, in both 3.5mm and TOSLink forms, complete the ports at the back. Asus provides its own driver for this, which has some nice touches, like auto-muting the rear audio outputs when the front panel headphone jack is plugged in.
There's also space for an Atheros AR9485 2.4GHz wireless card, which Asus supplies with an odd looking white antenna that has a circular base and stick up bit.
You need to remove the screw at the bottom, slot it into the motherboard, then re-screw to install the wireless.
(Credit: Craig Simms/CNET)
Steve's physical switches don't include a power or reset button: that's all done by the front panel header. Instead, you get dipswitches by the name of EPU and TPU, and pushbuttons for MemOK! and BIOS_FBLK. EPU attempts to minimise power draw on certain components and save money/energy, while TPU tries to overclock your CPU safely (both can also be switched through software). MemOK! tries to auto-configure the motherboard for your memory, and BIOS_FBLK is BIOS Flashback, allowing you to rewrite your BIOS with just a USB key, power supply and the motherboard. No CPU or RAM is required.
If you want to clear the CMOS, you'll have to go hunting for the only jumper on the board (hint: it's next to front panel case pins).
We initially had some stability and blue screen issues with our set-up, which were thankfully resolved by applying the 1206 BIOS update.
For the most part, the software's identical to Bob, and well presented. Here's what we previously said about the software package:
Worthy of a mention is Asus' software. Rather than bundle a series of disparate utilities, the company has managed to bundle them all together into something called AI Suite II, which works rather well.
Asus' software bundle is quite well designed.
(Screenshot by Craig Simms)
Among other things, firmware updating is built in here. Maybe it's our region of the world, but we can't ever remember Asus' firmware updater successfully downloading new firmware to install — we've always had to download it through the website first, then flash locally. Nothing has changed on that front here.
There's also overclocking and monitoring options here, should you choose to play with overclocking. If you don't want to tweak manually, there's also a big fat button on it that says "Auto Tuning", which makes the acoustic profile of Bob's fans sound like T-Pain.
We kid, although that would be amusing for all of two seconds. Instead, it gives you access to "Fast" and "Extreme" auto overclocking profiles for your CPU, integrated GPU and RAM. Restarting the machine as many times as is necessary to score the best overclock it can.
There is a new tool in Wi-Fi Go — there's nothing groundbreaking here, but some may find the features useful.
The most interesting work with your mobile phone or tablet, allowing either remote desktop, remote mouse/keyboard control or motion control from the device in question.
Motherboard pricing is quite tight — Gigabyte here is quite competitive with its UD3H, and you can even get a wireless version of the board for less than Asus' board. The P8Z77-V Pro is more kitted out though, with an extra USB 2.0 header, another pair of 6Gbps SATA ports and an Intel-powered gigabit port that might be enough to tempt people away. If you need a little more than the average punter, put this board on your watch list.