A Closer Look - P8Z77-V PRO
The electric blue livery in conjunction with a black PCB and irregularly shaped PCH and VRM heatsinks make the P8Z77-V PRO quite the looker. Feature labeling is scattered across the black PCB acompanied by helpful diagnostic LEDs for getting to the root of posting issues. The massive Z77 CPU slot is centrally located at the top half of the board flanked by rows of high-quality Japanese capacitors. The 4-pin fan headers are conveniently located, with two near the CPU socket to facilitate push-pull, one near the rear I/O, and two at the middle right of the board. Sometimes it's the little things, and ASUS has hit the nail on the head with the fan header placement, and is probably the most "usable" header layouts you can find. With most enthusiast-level cooling solutions having two fans, we are a bit baffled that we see motherboards only have one fan header near the CPU socket, ASUS doesn't make that mistake here. The four DIMM slots have been spaced far enought from the CPU socket to prevent interference with large air-based coolers. By contrast, the 8-pin power connector is quite close to the CPU socket, resulting in more efficient power transmission.
Right-angle SATA ports accomodate a cleaner cabling job and are conveniently located on the lower half of the board. In total there are four SATA III ports and two SATA II prots. Just below the SATA ports we find the EPU and TPU switches for no hassle power-saving and overclocking respectively. The bottom of the board sports four USB 2.0 headers, a single USB 3.0 header, an SPDIF_O port, TPM, AAFP, TB_header, and an assortment of LED and fan power pins. The PCI express slot count is three full-sized x16 slots and two small x1 slots. No PCI express x4 slots are present, however x4 devices are compatible with the x16 slots. Four USB 2.0 headers and three USB 3.0 headers allow for plenty of expandability for the back I/O. The integrated graphics of the motherboard can drive up to two monitors of 2560 x 1600 resolution @ 60Hz via DisplayPort. Other display connectivity options include HDMI, VGA, and DVI-D. As on previous ASUS boards, the BIOS chip is removable, allowing for a faster turnaround time should the BIOS become irrecoverable at the cost of a slight increase in MSRP, a feature that pure enthusiasts will appreciate.
The SLI slots are spaced to allow for adequate airflow for most SLI and Crossfire configurations, assuiming you don't have a cooler much thicker than two slots.
Moving to the rear I/O, we find four USB 3.0 ports (2-Intel and 2-ASMedia controller) and two USB 2.0 ports, along with an assortment of display output options including DVI-D, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort. ASUS' USB designs communicate directly with the PCH, as opposed to seeing "daisy-chained" USB controllers on most other boards. Six 3.5mm audio outputs, Optical S/PDIF, LAN, and PS2 round out the package. Unlike ASUS' previous implementation of BIOS recovery, which utilized a dedicated USB port, one can now choose from any of the available ports to perform a recorvery using a thumb drive and the recovery button is relocated onto the PCB itself. The P8Z77-V PRO's supermodel looks continue on its backside. Closer inspection reveals the T-Topology trace layout that caught the eye of Intel's engineers. It looks nice on the board and on paper, offering a 15% boost in performance when all four DIMM slots are populated.
We've already had a preview of the ASUS Wi-Fi GO! network adapter in our review of the ASUS P9X79 Deluxe, but it's a convenience feature worth revisiting. The Wi-Fi GO! module is located conveniently near the ethernet port on the rear I/O and comes paired with a stylish plastic antenna. The antenna has a magnetic base, so one has the choice of either attaching it to their case in a discreet location or displaying it on another surface. There is of course no need to leave an ethernet cable plugged in should the Wi-Fi GO! module be active if you're not gaming, however one can opt to turn their workstation into a hotspot for other devices. And while dedicated HTPCs have become quite common in recent years, there really is no need to build and setup a different machine when you have a motherboard that is DLNA capable. Just open the included DLNA Media Hub software, find a DLNA certified TV or stereo, and it's off to the races. ASUS also provides a remote desktop solution, similar to a service like Splashtop or LogMeIn. This allows the user to access files kept on their workstation from a mobile device on the same network. Just another example of the huge consolidation of services that ASUS has accomplished with this series of motherboards.