ASUS Z87-PRO Motherboard Review

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When it comes to summer blockbusters, Will Smith's batting average is in the .350s. However, his most recent vehicle "After Earth" has been described as an underwhelming, over budget mess. Many movie critics were quick to put the blame on his son Jaden who steps into the lead role but fails to carry the movie on his shoulders. This hardly sounds fair, considering he is only an actor and the actual, more familiar and likely culprit is getting out unscathed. Although none of the promotional materials explicitly state it, this movie is directed by M. Night Shyamalan who had a once promising career with his first few movies receiving critical praise and box-office success but quickly crashed and burned with his subsequent creative efforts. Movies bearing the "From the mind of M. Night Shyamalan" promotional tag started out as a proud and boastful declaration, signifying confidence in a guaranteed unique and quality product but it eventually became a joke and viewers took it as a warning instead of a recommendation.

ASUS Z87-PRO

 

M. Night Shyamalan was the one in control, the man in the cockpit and the hitter at the plate. This is the same with any project big or small. One component failure might cause problems for the entire unit but that could also occur at random. Failure at the design and execution level is more egregious and should be identified. If "After Earth" is a motherboard, it would be one made of high-quality components but designed and crafted as if the maker didn't care and was going to jump off the roof by lunch break, hoping there aren't any nets installed to prevent his demise. What you need is a combination of high-quality components made by a motherboard maker with a high batting average. With the recent release of Intel's new Z87 platform, many enthusiasts will be looking at over three dozen different motherboard offerings but the most promising ones, on paper at least, will be those that come from a familiar and award winning line such as ASUS' Pro motherboard.

ASUS Z87-PRO

 

The ASUS Z87-Pro supports all the latest generation 22nm Haswell Intel LGA1150 Core processors. The Z87-Pro offers 12-phase DIGI+ power, ESD guards for the USB, LAN and video ports as well as fuse ICs for the DRAM, solid capacitors rated for 5,000 hours at 105C, and a stainless steel back I/O for an all-around protection and extended motherboard lifespan. In terms of connectivity, the Z87 Pro has the standard six SATA 6G ports from the Z87 chipset but also adds two more via an ASMedia 1061 controller, four USB 3.0 ports via the Intel Z87 chipset as well as four more USB 3.0 ports via an ASMedia 1042 in the top back I/O.  Wirelessly, the ASUS Z87 Pro uses a dual-band Qualcomm Atheros Wireless-N module with Bluetooth 4.0 and comes with a 2TR2 antenna that uses gold-plated SMA connectors. For display output, the ASUS Z87 Pro supports up to 4096 x 2160 @ 24Hz via the HDMI, as well as the DisplayPort, and is also able to handle displays up to 1920x1200 @ 60Hz via the DVI-D or the VGA output ports.

 

 


Unboxing and Product Overview:

 

UEFI Overview:

Z87 PRO Feature Overview:

Z87 Pro Overview

 

4 Way Optimization with DIP 4 ( TPU and EPU )

The Digital revolution continues in the Z87 platform with the expansion of the DIGI+ Power Control beyond the CPU VCore. In the latest ASUS Z87 PRO motherboards, the DRAM Voltage get precise power control as well through a new inclusive Digital Power Design. With DIGI+ Power control over the DRAM, the overclocking adjustment possibilities increase exponentially and configurations that were once impossible are now achievable. All of these are adjustable through the UEFI BIOS or through the AI Suite.

  • EPU - ASUS Z87 motherboards have an embedded energy-optimization microprocessor that works in conjunction with the DIGI+ VRM to achieve high energy efficiency. The EPU can be enabled or disabled via an onboard switch or through software, giving the user flexible options for adjusting the power saving features when necessary. With the capability to detect the accurate CPU load in real time, by interpreting the current consumption of the CPU, EPU intelligently manages the balance between performance and power consumption, delivering an unbeatable performance per watt ratio, as compared to competing solutions. The EPU is connected directly to the CPU to detect the exact CPU loading, and control active power phase, voltage and multiplier in real time.
  • TPU - A second microprocessor, dedicated for automatic system tuning, is embedded in the ASUS Z87 PRO called TPU. The system automatically adjusts settings to an overclocked and stable state. This feature is also accessible in software mode through ASUS TurboV Core easy overclocking tool for a single-click auto-system level up. The TPU not only allows a finer configuration of voltage control beyond the ability of any existing controllers, the real-time detection of the exact voltage reading are also made available through it. This is especially essential for overclocking purposes, ensuring the added on voltage can be minimized, whether it is for manual or automatic overclocking purposes. The TPU is connected to both the SMBUS and the CPU directly, to control the behavior of the rest of the system.

 

USB 3.0 Boost:

With the introduction of providing both the front and rear USB 3.0 ports, users can enjoy ultra-fast external storage experience. ASUS Z87 PRO motherboards also feature an onboard UASP USB3 controller to boost performance further when a UASP device is plugged in. The driver automatically boosts the performance of any device plugged in whether it detects a UASP compatible device or even any regular USB 3.0 or USB 2.0 device. USB devices plugged into ASUS motherboards also can be charged 3X faster than in other mainboards, saving users hours of wait time, and provides fast charging solution to a wide range of products that is not only limited to Apple iProducts but other smartphones and portable devices, as well.

 

AI Suite III:

ASUS AI Suite III is a one-stop access software for managing an ASUS motherboard’s features. It includes the TurboV overclocking tool, DIGI+ VRM controls, EPU controls, Fan Xpert, Sensor Report, System Information and Probe II system monitoring software. The video below demonstrates the AI Suite III software inside a Microsoft Windows 8 Pro OS environment:

 

TurboV Core:

Overclocking from the desktop has never been this easy. Tweak not just basic unlocked multiplier settings but access advanced overclocking options as well for accurate and stable benchmark results with the Turbo V utility.

 

Fan Xpert II:

Be an immediate cooling expert in a few easy steps. Measure, calibrate and test your fans and optimize fan speeds for your needs. Save presets for immediate noise and cooling profile switching whenever needed, all inside AI Suite III.

 

WiFI GO! and Remote GO!

It is one thing to have a wireless connection but it is another to have a wireless network that interacts with each other. That sci-fi reality is one step closer with ASUS WiFI GO! and Remote GO! Access your desktop remotely, send and share files, stream DLNA content and upload shared content to the ASUS Cloud.

 

 


Specifications:

CPU Intel® Socket 1150 for 4th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 22 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
Chipset Intel® Z87 Chipset
Memory 4 x DIMM, Max. 32GB, DDR3- 3000(O.C.)/2933(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2600(O.C.)/2500(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2200(O.C.)/2133(O.C.)/2000(O.C.)/1866(O.C.)/1800(O.C.)/1600/1333 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
Onboard Graphics
Integrated Graphics Processor
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI-D/RGB/DisplayPort 1.2 ports *1
 - Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 2560 x 1600 @ 60 Hz
 - Supports DVI-D with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
 - Supports RGB with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
 - Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz / 3840 x 2160 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1024 MB
Supports Intel® HD Graphics, InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Supports up to 3 displays simultaneously
Multi-GPU Support
Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology *2
Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
   
Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4 mode) *3
4 x PCIe 2.0 x1 *4
   
Storage Interface
Intel® Z87 chipset :
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), yellow
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Dynamic Storage Accelerator, Intel® Smart Response Technology, Intel® Rapid Start Technology, Intel® Smart Connect Technology*5
ASMedia® ASM1061 controller : *6
2 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), dark brown
Ethernet Intel® I217V, 1000BASE-T/100BASE-TX/10BASE-T×1
Intel® LAN- Dual interconnect between the Integrated LAN controller and Physical Layer (PHY)
Wireless

Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz

Bluetooth V4.0
Bluetooth V3.0+HS

Audio
Realtek® ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
- Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
- High quality 112 dB SNR stereo playback output (Line-out at rear) and 104 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
Audio Feature :
- Absolute Pitch 192kHz/ 24-bit True BD Lossless Sound
- DTS Ultra PC II
- DTS Connect
- Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
- BD Audio Layer Content Protection
USB Intel® Z87 chipset :
4 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (2 at back panel, blue, 2 at mid-board)
Intel® Z87 chipset :
8 x USB 2.0/1.1 port(s) (8 at mid-board)
ASMedia® USB 3.0 controller :
4 x USB 3.0/2.0 port(s) (4 at back panel, blue)
Special Features
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization :
- The tuning key perfectly consolidates ASUS-exclusive DIGI+ Power Control, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2 optimize the digital power setting, system performance, power saving and whole system cooling configuration
ASUS 5X PROTECTION :
- ASUS DIGI+ VRM - 12 Phase digital power design
- ASUS Enhanced DRAM Overcurrent Protection - Short circuit damage prevention
- ASUS ESD Guards - Enhanced ESD protection
- ASUS All 5K-Hour Solid Capacitors - 2.5x long lifespan with excellent durability
- ASUS Stainless Steel Back I/O - 3x more durable corrosion-resistant coating
ASUS EPU :
- EPU
- EPU switch
ASUS Digital Power Design :
- Industry leading Digital 12 Phase Power Design
- Industry leading Digital 2 Phase DRAM Power Design
- ASUS DIGI+ VRM Utility
- CPU Power Utility
- DRAM Power Utility
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
- Wi-Fi GO! Function: Cloud GO!, DLNA Media Hub, Smart Sensor Control, Remote Desktop, Remote Keyboard & Mouse, File Transfer, Capture & Send
- Wi-Fi Engine for network sharing and connection: Client Mode, AP Mode
- Wi-Fi GO! & NFC Remote for portable Smartphone/Tablet, supporting iOS & Android systems
ASUS Exclusive Features :
- USB BIOS Flashback
- MemOK!
- AI Suite 3
- Ai Charger+
- USB Charger+
- Anti-Surge
- Onboard Button : Power
- Front Panel USB 3.0 Support
- ASUS UEFI BIOS EZ Mode featuring friendly graphics user interface
- Network iControl
- USB 3.0 Boost
- Disk Unlocker
ASUS Quiet Thermal Solution :
- Stylish Fanless Design Heat-sink solution
- ASUS Fan Xpert 2
ASUS EZ DIY :
- DirectKey
- Precision Tweaker 2
- ASUS O.C. Profile
- ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3
- ASUS EZ Flash 2
- Multi-language BIOS
ASUS Q-Design :
- ASUS Q-Code
- ASUS Q-LED (CPU, DRAM, VGA, Boot Device LED)
- ASUS Q-Slot
- ASUS Q-DIMM
- ASUS Q-Connector
100% All High-quality Conductive Polymer Capacitors
Overclocking Protection :
- ASUS C.P.R.(CPU Parameter Recall)
Rear I/O Features
1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DVI-D
1 x D-Sub
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module (Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0/3.0+HS)
Onboard Features
1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
4 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 8 USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x TPM header
8 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
4 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (4 x 4 -pin)
1 x S/PDIF out header(s)
1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
1 x System panel(s) (Q-Connector)
1 x DirectKey Button(s)
1 x DRCT header(s)
1 x MemOK! button(s)
1 x TPU switch(es)
1 x EPU switch(es)
1 x Power-on button(s)
1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback button(s)
Accessories
User's manual
I/O Shield
4 x SATA 6Gb/s cable(s)
1 x ASUS 2T2R dual band Wi-Fi moving antennas (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n compliant)
1 x SLI bridge(s)
1 x Q-connector(s) (2 in 1)
BIOS
64 Mb Flash ROM, UEFI AMI BIOS, PnP, DMI2.7, WfM2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0, Multi-language BIOS,
ASUS EZ Flash 2, ASUS CrashFree BIOS 3, My Favorites, Quick Note, Last Modified log, F12 PrintScreen, F3 Shortcut functions, and ASUS DRAM SPD (Serial Presence Detect) memory information
Manageability
WfM 2.0, DMI 2.7, WOL by PME, PXE
Software
Drivers
ASUS Utilities
EZ Update
Anti-virus software (OEM version)
Form Factor
ATX Form Factor
12 inch x 9.6 inch ( 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm )

 

*1: DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport compliant, supports DP 1.2 monitor daisy chain up to 3 displays
*2: With 2 PCIex16 graphics card.
*3: The PCIe x16_3 slot shares bandwidth with PCIe x1_2/3/4 slots. The PCIe x16_3 slot is set to x1 mode by default.
*4: The PCIe x1_2 shares bandwidth with SATA6G_E12. The SATA6G_E12 is enabled by default for system resource optimization.
*5: Supports on Intel® Core™ processor family
*6: These SATA ports are for data hard drivers only. ATAPI devices are not supported.

 


Benchmarking

To test all systems, processors, and motherboards, Hi Tech Legion has compiled a list of popular programs to test performance; these benchmarks are taken from programs that are available to the public. We have compiled these to create the Hi Tech Legion Benchmark Suite, which includes system, graphics, processor, rendering, compression, and word processing. All scores will be graphed for each specific test under its category: video benchmarks (gaming will be rated in FPS: Frames per second), system scores will be graded by numbers which are given as results by their respective programs, higher will be better unless otherwise specified. If file compression is chosen, then all times will be in seconds. All temperatures will be measured in Celsius. LAN Speed test v3 will be conducted with another Gigabit ethernet (Intel 82579V) capable system running the LAN Speed Test server plugged in to the Gigabit router with 6ft. long Cat5e cables.

Systems

Test System

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770K
  • Motherboard: ASUS Z87-PRO (1007 BIOS)
  • CPU Heatsink: Corsair H110
  • Heatsink Paste: Noctua NT-H1
  • Memory: 2x8GB Corsair Vengeance Pro 1866MHz
  • GPU: EVGA GeForce GTX 770 SC (320.18), Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • Storage: OCZ Agility 4 256 GB(OS), OCZ Vertex 3.20 240GB (Test Drive), Vantec NexStar (USB 3.0 Enclosure), Patriot Xporter XT Boost USB 3.0 (USB 3.0 Flash Drive)
  • Power Supply: Corsair HX850W
  • Router: Cisco E3200 Gigabit Ethernet/Dual-band Wireless N router
  • Operating System: Windows 8 Pro 64-bit

 

 

Benchmarks

System Benchmarks

  • PCMark 7
  • Cinebench (R11.5)
  • AIDA 64 (Cache and Memory)
  • WinRAR

Connectivity Benchmarks

  • LAN SpeedTest v3
  • JPerf 2.0.2
  • USB 3.0
  • SATA III 6.0 GB/s

Multimedia Benchmarks

  • X264 5.0.1
  • Cyberlink Media Espresso
  • Handbrake

Gaming

  • 3DMark
  • Unigine
  • Borderlands 2 (Intel HD4600 only)
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Intel HD4600 only)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Intel HD4600 only)
  • Metro Last Light (Discrete GPU only)
  • Crysis 3 (Discrete GPU only)

 

Performance Tuning:

Performance Tuning was done through the UEFI with the following settings:

Z87-Pro Overclocked Screenshot

    • CPU Clock Ratio: 45
    • Load Line Calibration: Level 8
    • Power Phase: Extreme
    • Power Duty Control: T.Probe
    • CPU Current Capacity: 120%
    • Vcore mode: Manual Override
    • Vcore Voltage: 1.265V
    • All other settings: Default/Auto

Memory Performance Enhance:

  • XMP Profile: Profile 1 (1866MHz 9-10-9-27)
  • Hyper-Threading and Turbo: Enabled
  • EIST, C1E, C3, C6 and C7: Disabled
  • All other settings: AUTO

 

 


PCMark 7

Designed for Windows 7, PCMark 7 benchmarks your system with a variety of tests including video, photo editing, gaming, and communications. For results, a total PCMark score will be given (default setting) and individual scores for the tasks that are tested. To learn more about PCMark 7 visit Futuremark's website.

PCMark 7 Benchmark Score 

 

AIDA64

AIDA 64 is a diagnostic and benchmarking tool. AIDA 64 will be used for its Cache and Memory benchmark. System memory, L1 cache, L2 cache, and L3 cache will be benchmarked for latency, read, write, and copy. Final Wire is the producer of this software.

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

AIDA64 Benchmark Windows 8 

Cinebench R11.5

Created by Maxon, Cinebench R11.5 tests rendering of your CPU and GPU and scores their performance individually. We will be using the CPU rendering portion of the program and benchmark single CPU and multiple CPU performance.

Cinebench R11.5 Benchmark

 

WinRAR

WinRAR is a popular file compression and decompression tool it is a multi-threaded application that reads most compressed file formats. HiTech Legion uses WinRAR to measure Speed (MB/s) using the WinRAR benchmark and hardware test found in its Tools section. We also use our own 5GB uncompressed file folder and compress it to a RAR file (normal setting) measuring the amount of time required to compress the file.

 WinRAR Benchmark Windows 8

 

 


LAN Speed Test 3.0

LAN Speed Test is designed to be a rock solid tool to measure your file transfer and network speeds (wired & wireless) easily and accurately.  It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you.  Simple concept and easy to use. Both the LAN Speed Test v2 and LAN Speed Server software used in this review are the full retail versions. This software was developed by Totusoft and a free version is also available for download.

Lan Speed Test Benchmark

 

JPerf 2.0.2

JPerf 2.0.2 is a simple JAVA based tool that is designed to test the network bandwidth of a system. It does this using client/server setup and by transmitting packets over 100 second period between the systems. JPerf then automatically measures the bandwidth based on how much data can be transferred within the 100 seconds. HiTech Legion uses JPerf for two reasons, to measure bandwidth and to see bandwidth jitter. When measuring bandwidth a sustained transfer rate is more important than the final result. JPerf also graphs bandwidth jitter, what we are looking for is a smooth straight line which will denote sustained transfer rates.

JPerf Benchmark

 

Crystal DiskMark 3.0 x64

Crystal Mark is a disk benchmark software that features:

  • Sequential reads/writes
  • Random 4KB/512KB reads/writes
  • Text copy
  • Change dialog design
  • internationalization (i18n)
  • Download Crystal Mark

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

Crystal Disk Mark 3.0 x64

File Transfer Tests

The 1 and 5 GB files are placed on the desktop then sent to the SSD. This allows the SSD to both read the file before transfer then write it to the SSD. Times are calculated in Seconds for the 1 GB file and Minutes and Seconds for the 5 GB file. The USB 3.0 port and SATA 6G port used are the native Intel Z87 controlled ports.

File Transfer Test Timed Transfer Benchmarks

ft2

 

 

 


Prior to the first actual on-die GPU, integrated graphics was delegated a position of a system's motherboard. Being placed on the motherboard doomed any type of gaming performance, due to bottlenecks caused by onboard controllers, the motherboards architecture or the lack of bandwidth produced. Intel's first CPU with on-die graphics was codenamed "Clarkdale" and was launched in March of 2010 (Core i5 661). Although many of the bottlenecks were bypassed, performance was still nowhere near the caliber of a budget discrete video card. A year later, Intel launched their second generation of CPU with on-die graphics, which was codenamed "Sandy Bridge". We saw many advances and were even introduced to a technology called Quick Sync, which uses the power of the CPU and GPU combined to accelerate video transcoding (encode and decode). Unfortunately, it still lacked a few qualities a discrete video card had to offer and one of those was DirectX 11. With the launch of "Haswell", Intel has overcome many obstacles and those who seek the performance of a budget level discrete video card will no longer have to spend the extra money. They can now purchase the entire package in the form of a 22nm processor and game at 1080p (Low Settings).

 

Intel HD Gaming Intel Core i7 4770K

 

Settings:

  • 3DMark: Extreme Preset (1920 x 1080)
  • Unigine 4.0: Highest/4x AA
  • Metro Last Light: Ultra Preset, Tessellation
  • Crysis 3: Very High

 

3DMark Benchmark Intel Core i7 4770K

 

HD Gaming Benchmarks Intel Core i7 4770K

 

 


X.264 HD Benchmark

X264 by VideoLAN is a free application which contains a software library for encoding video streams into the H.264 and MPEG-4 AVC formats. HiTech Legion uses X264 to measure conversion times of predetermined files. X264 is also a multi-threaded application. AMD has also been working closely to develop an OpenCL accelerated x264 application that provides even better performance. X.264 is measured in Frames Per Second.

 

X264 Benchmark Intel Core i7 4770K

 

 

Cyberlink Media Espresso

"Express video conversion software MediaEspresso is the hassle-free solution for converting all your favorite videos for playback on iPhone, PSP, Xbox, YouTube and more. Simply choose the preferred media player or medium, and let MediaShow Espresso do the rest."

 espresso

  • Settings:
  • Input File: MPG, 1080p, 11:57
  • Output File: Apple Generic, Smart Fit, TrueTheater Enhancements Off

 

Cyberlink Media Espresso using Intel Quick Sync Intel 4770K

 

 


Provided by: ASUS
No compensation was received for review of this product.

Price Point

Price: $209.99

Class: Mainstream

At a price point of $209.99, the ASUS Z87-PRO is in the mainstream category of Intel Z87 motherboard systems.

Performance

Benchmarks – Performance was on par with what is expected from a high-end mainboard except at the price of a mainstream board. Most notable are the impressive showing in both the wired and wireless tests.

Board Layout - Similar to Ivy Bridge, the 4th generation Intel Core processors provide 16 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 which can also be arranged in 8x/8x mode with dual SLI or CrossFireX. ASUS placed two PCI-E x1 slots in between the topmost PCI-E x16 lane and the 2nd PCI-E x16 lane to accommodate triple-slot video cards such as their high-end video cards with DirectCUII coolers.  It also provides extra space for those running dual slot video cards so the top card gets enough airflow.  It might look like the channel 4 fan header will get obscured by a video card but there is actually 3mm of clearance between the two and installation will not be an issue.  If running dual-SLI or CrossFireX video cards, the EPU switch, TPU switch, clear CMOS jumper as well as removable BIOS are obscured.  The ASMedia USB 3.0 ports are positioned at the very top instead of the Intel port which could be confusing for most people as it will not detect keyboard/mouse until it is in Windows. The Intel USB 3.0 port is the one located underneath the Intel LAN and it is where the USB keyboard, mouse or other USB device needed at POST should be plugged-in.  The connectors at the very bottom edge will get obscured when a dual slot card is installed in the 3rd PCI-E x16 slot but extremely few people will actually want to run a dual-slot card on that position anyway.

Pre-bundled Accessories – The accessories included are standard with the manuals, SATA cables, Q-connectors, and documentation with the addition of a 2TR2 antenna for the embedded dual-band Wireless unit in the rear I/O. 

Wireless – Another impressive performance here by the dual-band module with the 2TR2 antenna, exceeding the performance of pretty much any Wireless Adapter I’ve tested before, let alone one that is bundled with a mainboard. It also produced very stable levels in JPerf tests where other wireless adapters would often have several drops in our 100 second packet test.

LAN – ASUS uses the Intel I217-V Gigabit LAN Ethernet controller and as the benchmark shows, it is outstandingly fast hitting 900+ read speeds on our LST and JPerf tests.

USB 3.0 – The Z87 Pro actually utilizes only four out of a possible six USB 3.0 ports from the Intel Z87 chipset and uses an ASMedia controller for the top four USB 3.0 ports at the top rear I/O.  I used older generation USB 3.0 enclosures and thumb drive, which is what most people use to test out USB 3.0 performance.  The older generation UBS 3.0 flash drive performed the same on the Intel USB 3.0 port as well as the ASMedia USB 3.0 port, while our Vertex 3.20 inside a Vantec NexStar USB 3.0 enclosure showed a stark difference in performance.  The controller inside the Vantec NexStar enclosure is made by ASMedia as well so it is no surprise that is through the roof, almost twice as much as the performance on an Intel USB 3.0 port. It is worth mentioning however that newer enclosures and Flash drives which support UASP (also supported by ASUS Z77 mainboards) will undoubtedly perform faster, especially in Windows 8 as demonstrated in my Patriot Magnum review and part of Paul’s USB 3.0 Z87 benchmarks used the same Magnum Thumb drive.  ASUS also includes Turbo Mode which increased the sequential read and write by a few megabytes more as demonstrated in the Crystal Disk benchmarks, although it has to be installed via AI Suite III.

SATA 6G – Aside from the standard six SATA6G ports mid-board, two additional SATA6G ports from an ASMedia 1061 controller provide plenty of storage space for SSDs or HDDs.  Intel’s Z87 SATA 6G ports performed the best while the ASMedia SATA 6G performance was noticeably much slower with my SandForce Vertex 3.20 SSD, a limitation with this particular SATA controller which otherwise performs very well with other SSD controllers.   

Peripherals – One thing I forgot to mention in the overview just from the overwhelming amount of features I need to cover was the fact that the Z87 Pro actually has DTS support. Surprisingly, it is only the entry level Z87-C in ASUS’ segment line that does not support this feature.  The Z87 PRO also sports a Realtek ALC1150 codec which has high-quality 115dB SNR, a worthy upgrade from my P9X79 WS’s ALC889 (only the WS-E version had ALC1150 originally). It is also nice to see a legacy PS/2 port for those like me who still use an IBM Model M.  I have a decent active PS/2 to USB converter but it does produce errors every several thousand inputs or so, which does not sound too bad unless you type as much as I do. Being able to use my old keyboard directly on a new system is extremely convenient.  Plus, it is not like it takes away from the board as the Nuvoton Super IO also does hardware monitoring functions on the Z87 PRO anyway.

Performance Tuning – It is unbelievable how stable this board is, especially after adjusting power phase and LLC. Unfortunately, Haswell processors are not the same as Sandy Bridge or Ivy Bridge with a lot of the retail processors (such as the one I used) only reaching 4.4GHz/4.5GHz.  The goal is then to find manageable voltage as once it goes to 1.275V or 1.3V; even high-end air-coolers will have trouble managing the temperature under stability load tests. Also, some overclocks will have problems reaching 4.5GHz or greater if the memory is 1866MHz or higher so it is recommended to lower the speeds to the JEDEC baseline, unless of course you have either a golden chip or an impressively stable motherboard such as the Z87 PRO which can compensate for the processor’s short comings.

 

Reviewer's Opinion

Many have criticized and joked at ASUS’ expense for their move to using a golden color scheme but frankly, if that is the only criticism leveled at them, then they are in perfectly good shape.  That is akin to the first world occupying their time talking about worthless slags like Kim Kardashian because problems like dengue, polio, malaria and brain eating parasites have been wiped out in United States and Canada (unless maybe in some parts of Memphis and Detroit).  The truth is, there is barely any criticism to level at ASUS’ manufacturing since they are clearly far and ahead at the top of the game. Not just the motherboard game either, as they have been aggressively expanding rapidly as we saw in CES and their other products, especially their networking products are setting trends and introducing new ideas and designs as well. The way I see it, ASUS may be tired of all the copying other mainboard manufacturers are doing and I don’t blame them.  Imagine spending money and time on research and development, trying to find out what works best only to find that innovation ignored by the public and the idea copied by the competitor. The move to a distinctly gold scheme on ALL their segment boards feels like a move to mock their copycats af if to say "I bet you'd copy this too".

ASUS has been at this for a long time and they have a proven track record.  They are not M. Night Shyamalan clinging to a once glorious potential just trying to skate by with whatever remains of the brand familiarity. ASUS continues to innovate, keep features that work and discards those that don’t.  It sounds so simple yet it is remarkable that many manufacturers and people do not see why that is the way it should be done. It was actually quite funny seeing some manufacturers once try to copy even ASUS’ Republic of Gamers heatsink design as if that was the reason those boards were popular.  That is like looking at a moving car and deciding the wheels are the sole reason moves, not knowing that underneath the hood is complex machinery that does 95% of the work (I’ll give 4% to the driver). 

When you already have a solid foundation to build on, it becomes easier to innovate. The foundation laid out by previous ASUS segment boards still hold true and the changes they have made for the latest Z87 PRO mainboard are not only necessary, they are also ahead of the curve. They already had the best UEFI among motherboard manufacturers but it has been improved further with improved speed, compatibility and the extremely useful fact that it lists the items you changed before you save so that user error is minimized.  Their bundled Wireless adapter is incredibly capable and a far cry from the bundled Wireless adapter I had during the socket 775 days (P5K-WIFI-AP mainboard) which not only performed horribly, but also had a dumb software interface.  With the Z87 PRO, not only have they dialed the hardware perfectly for modern mainstream needs, the software connectivity bundle that is included is extremely easy to use and useful.  The Remote Go! Feature for example is basically sci-fi come to life.  I have always wanted to do that thing that Tony Stark did in Iron Man 2 where he threw the data from his Smart phone to the big screen with a quick hand gesture and that is essentially made possible with the combination of a free ASUS App available for iOS or Android devices and an ASUS mainboard attached to a network.  There are some bugs encountered of course since that seems to be my lot in life, but for the most part it functioned perfectly well when I tried it on my Android tablet.  I got trapped with the keyboard pulled out on the iOS version of the app though (as demonstrated in my Remote Go! Demo YouTube Video) so hopefully ASUS’ sorts out an update that will fix that.  I suggest that ASUS should take a closer look at their software as AI Suite III has been improved significantly, it is lighter and a lot more functional but it has some bugs that otherwise spoil the experience.  Other than the Remote Go! App bug, the Fan Xpert II annoyingly won’t stop trying to run the fan test and will keep asking you after every run (you only need to run it once and all the fans connected would have been measured by the program already).  There are also several typos in the program which is unbecoming for a software suite as wonderful as AI Suite III. Installing any AI Suite III feature, no matter how small (even if it is just the USB 3.0 boost) also delays the boot up time significantly. I really would like to keep the software running on my system but if it contributes to a long boot up time then I can live without it.

Hardware wise, my only other complaint would be the ASMedia USB 3.0 ports located at the top most rear I/O.  The Intel USB 3.0 port is the one located underneath the Ethernet port and this is where users should plug in their USB mouse or keyboard if they want to use it in POST.  Most people will instinctively plug it in the ports below the PS/2 connector and will think that their mouse or keyboard isn’t working until they reach Windows. Knowing ASUS, they probably designed it that way to get the maximum optimal USB 3.0 speeds for those ports but a clear label would have sufficed.  I know they did this with one of their FM1 motherboards and that one had a sticker indicating where the USB keyboard/mouse should be plugged in so I have no idea why that information isn’t immediately available on the board. I have plenty more to say but this is already too damn long so I'll put it in the next ASUS motherboard review I write since it will also relate to that motherboard anyway.

If you are a stickler about color coordinating, EVGA’s ACX coolers have a black and gold theme that goes well with ASUS segment boards, that is in fact what I used in the gaming benchmarks but then again we haven’t seen ASUS’ next generation DirectCU coolers yet so they might have matching gold and black products in the works. The Z87 Pro is not ASUS’ top of the line board but definitely feels like one, the price is also surprisingly mainstream at $209.99. The ASUS Z87 PRO mainboard goes for the gold but gets something more, a HiTechLegion Editor’s Choice Award.

 

Likes:

  • Excellent Gigabit Ethernet LAN speeds
  • Excellent dual-band Wireless LAN and 2TR2 antenna
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • AI Suite III improvements
  • Debug LED and Onboard power button
  • Realtek ALC1150 with DTS
  • Extra ASMedia SATA and USB ports
  • DIGI+ 12-phase
  • DisplayPort and HDMI
  • PolySwitch resettable fuse and ESD protection ICs
  • Solid 5K capacitors
  • Stainless Steel Back I/O

 

Dislikes:

  • Bugs (and a few typos) on an otherwise excellent AI Suite III Software, and also it extends boot time by a lot when installed .

 

HiTech Legion Editor's Choice Award

 

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