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Asus P8Z77-V Premium review

Chris Finnamore
11 Sep 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
250
inc VAT

This Ivy Bridge motherboard has everything you’ll ever need, but it’s overkill unless you need Thunderbolt

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Specifications

LGA1155, ATX, Intel Z77 Express chipset, supports: 2nd/3rd Generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7

The P8Z77-V Premium is a hugely expensive motherboard for Intel Ivy Bridge processors, but it has a couple of tricks up its sleeve which help to justify the expense. There's a 32GB mSATA SSD plugged into the motherboard that operates as a cache, and this is the first motherboard we've seen with a Thunderbolt port for super-fast file transfers to external devices.

Asus P8Z77-V Premium

There's the port that all the fuss is about

Thunderbolt was previously only available on Apple products, so we were interested to see how well the new interface would work on a PC. We tested it using an Elgato Thunderbolt external drive, which contains a Sandisk SSD. The Thunderbolt interface is definitely quick; 184MB/s when writing large files is what we expect to see from internally mounted SSDs, and large-file read speeds and small-file read and write speeds are also very quick indeed. Thunderbolt isn’t hugely faster than USB3 in everyday use, though, and Thunderbolt devices are very expensive.

Asus P8Z77-V Premium

There's plenty else beside it, though

The board also comes with a USB 3.0 Boost application, which promises to speed up USB3 transfers by up to 170%. Sadly, USB 3.0 Boost didn’t make any difference in our benchmarks when testing with a Buffalo Extreme USB3 external hard disk.

We found the onboard SSD cache more useful. Using an SSD as a cache for a mechanical disk means you can have an SSD speed boost and still have a large and inexpensive system disk. With modern games such as Mass Effect 3 taking up 15GB of disk space, you’ll quickly run out of room on a 120GB SSD, so the benefit of caching is obvious.

Asus P8Z77-V Premium

The board comes with Asus’s own SSD caching utility, which promises to make setup particularly easy. However, this only works with SSDs plugged into the Marvell controller’s SATA3 ports, and it doesn’t recognise the onboard SSD. To use the onboard drive, we had to plug our mechanical hard disk into one of the Intel SATA ports and then set the SATA ports to RAID mode in the board’s graphical EFI BIOS. Once we’d booted back into Windows and run the Intel Rapid Storage utility, we could set up caching with the onboard SSD without a problem.

This made a significant difference to performance. As measured with the free Bootracer utility, booting into Windows 7 took 49s with a normal hard disk, while the cache took us to the desktop within a very swift 18s. The cache didn’t make any difference to write speeds in our benchmark tests, but it improved large-file read speeds from 52MB/s to 192MB/s, and small file read speeds from 28MB/s to 76MB/s. It definitely makes programs load faster and Windows feel snappier.

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