Asus P8Z77-V Pro review
LGA1155, ATX, Intel Z77 Express chipset, supports: 2nd/3rd Generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7
Asus's P8Z77-V Pro is designed to work with Intel's new Ivy Bridge 3rd Generation Core processors. It has an Intel Z77 Express chipset, and is one of the more expensive Ivy Bridge motherboards available with the specification to match.
Asus has crammed a great deal onto the board's surface. You get three full-length PCI Express slots, all of which run at the full x16 speed. There are two PCI Express x1 slots, one of which will be blocked if you fit a dual-slot graphics card, and a PCI slot for older peripherals. There are no PCI Express x4 slots, but PCI Express x4 cards will work in the x16 slots.
You also get four SATAIII ports and four SATAII ports, and you can have a RAID array on up to four SATAII ports or two SATAIII ports. The rear panel has four USB3 and two USB2 ports. Normally this can cause a problem if you’re installing Windows from a flash drive, as Windows' installer doesn’t support USB3 and there aren't enough USB2 ports for the flash drive and a USB keyboard and mouse. This means you have to navigate the Windows install program with the keyboard alone, but if you use the USB2 backplate supplied with the motherboard you'll avoid the problem.
There are a further four USB2 and two USB3 headers on the motherboard, so you'll have plenty of ports if you buy enough backplates. There's the full set of video outputs on the rear of the motherboard; you get HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA and a digital-only DVI-D connector, and the motherboard supports up to two monitors from the processor's internal graphics chipset.
The motherboard showed impressive performance in our tests. When compared to the reference Intel motherboard we used to test our Core i7-3770K Ivy Bridge processor, the Asus board led to a score of 117 compared to 114 for the Intel board, helped by a score of 107 versus 100 in the video-encoding test. The UEFI BIOS gives you a comprehensive suite of overclocking options should you wish to push the processor to even greater heights.
Most people buying an expensive motherboard such as this would pair it with a dedicated graphics card, but doing this means you lose access to the processor's GPU-assisted functions. These can speed up applications such as Cyberlink's MediaEspresso video encoder. However, Asus provides the Lucid Logix Virtu software, which means you can use QuickSync with a dedicated AMD or Nvidia graphics card. To get it to work you first have to boot without your dedicated graphics card fitted and install the Intel HD Graphics 4000 graphics driver. You can then fit your graphics card again and install Virtu. Having QuickSync enabled cut 10 seconds off the time it took to encode a five-minute video to iPhone 4 format in MediaEspresso, which is the same speed increase as when we used AMD's video encoding acceleration in the same program, so it's probably not worth the hassle of installing Virtu.
The motherboard also supports Intel's Smart Response Technology, which can use a small SSD (up to 64GB) as a cache to improve system performance. Installing this was easier than on Gigabyte's Z77-D3H board; we just had to plug in the SSD (making sure it was to one of the grey Intel SATA ports, not those of the third-party ASMedia controller), set the SATA controller to RAID mode and turn on caching in Intel's Smart Response program - there was no need to reinstall Windows. Plugging in a 30GB SSD improved our boot times from 45s to 15s, and made the system feel snappier all round.