ASUS P8Z77-V Premium Motherboard Review

It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the "Premium" moniker on any ASUS boards. ASUS reserves this for boards with truly premium features that set these apart from the rest of the product line. The end result is usually a complex product with more features than most people will ever need. Let's find out just how premium the P8Z77-V Premium truly is.

Introduction

ASUS is one of the largest and most well known motherboard manufacturers on the planet. ASUS has boards at virtually every price point, for every niche, need, market, and configuration we can think of. ASUS puts out a ton of boards and as a result we see a lot of these. But rarely do we see boards that are both this feature rich, and this expensive. Besides premium features it also has a premium price. Get ready because this one comes in at a whopping $449.99! Essentially the P8Z77-V Premium isn’t for the frugal minded. Value is subjective and I’ll talk about that in the conclusion but there are some additional considerations which I think do justify the cost of this thing to a large degree.

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It has been a long time since we’ve seen a board with the "Premium" moniker attached to it. The ASUS P8Z77-V Premium breaks that streak and introduces a lot of premium features into the P8Z77-V line. Like the rest of the P8Z77 line, the P8Z77-V Premium is based on Intel’s Z77 Express chipset and supports both Sandy and Ivy Bridge CPUs designed to fit the LGA1155 socket. It has all the features provided by the chipset and more. In many ways it reminds me of the P8Z77-WS workstation board we looked at a while back. The P8Z77-V Premium uses a PLX chip to provide the necessary PCIe connectivity to handle 4-Way SLI and CrossFireX. What really makes this board "Premium" is the laundry list of features not found on most other boards. It is one of two ASUS motherboards I know of which has an onboard Thunderbolt connector.

Also on the feature list is ASUS’ SSD Caching II feature. We saw that on the P8Z77-WS, but it only had two ports. This board has four ports which support the feature.

Like a few other ASUS boards this one has an mSATA slot onboard but what makes this one Premium is the fact that this one ships with an actual 32GB mSATA SSD. So right out of the box you’ve got virtually everything you need to take advantage of SSD caching. All you need is a mechanical disk drive and you are ready to go. It supports 3-Way native digital display outputs. ASUS claims this is the only Z77 motherboard to do so, at least for now. Also found on the P8Z77-V Premium are dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual-band WiFi + Bluetooth 4.0 onboard. USB 3 Boost is also supported along with the ASUS BIOS Flashback feature.

In essence it has every feature found on every other board in the P8Z77 line, including most of what the P8Z77-WS had. The WS has some firmware QVL for workstation specific hardware that this board lacks and the P8Z77-WS also had V series Intel NICs and not the L series. The V series is server grade and the L series is consumer level. But for the most part, overall the P8Z77-V Premium is the most feature rich board ASUS has to offer. If you want I/O connectivity options I’ve not seen anything on the same level of the P8Z77-V Premium. That’s not to say that this board is for everyone, certainly not. But the feature set does set it apart from the rest.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The board ships in a box that looks like any other in the P8xxx line at first glance. It is a thicker box and has a flap which has information on the board as well as a window in the box showcasing the board itself. In the box you’ll find the following items: P8Z77-V Premium, user’s guide, Wi-Fi GO! Card user guide, exclusive features user guide, driver disc, 3-Way and 4-Way SLI bridges, Wi-Fi GO! Card, I/O shield, dual Wi-Fi antennae, Q-connectors, screws, CrossFireX bridge, SATA cables, and a USB 3.0 front panel bay box.

Board Layout

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The P8Z77-V Premium is one of the most feature rich boards I’ve ever seen. As a result there is a lot packed onto the PCB. Despite this the layout remains solid. I’m not thrilled about the CMOS battery location and I can’t stand the location of the straight SATA port and USB 3.0 front panel header. The reason I say that is the last two items create interference with one another making the usage after the system is built difficult. Everything else is well thought out and given the board’s complexity; some concessions with regard to the layout are understandable.

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There is the usual problem with the CPU socket area being close to the DIMM slots, but I can’t fault ASUS for this. It is a common problem endemic to the design of boards which support CPU’s with integrated memory controllers.

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The DIMM slots are color coded to ensure one can figure out how to install memory for proper dual-channel memory mode operation. ASUS use the single sided locking tab retention mechanism common to all ASUS boards these days. Given the location of the DIMM slots it is by necessity in the case of the P8Z77-V Premium.

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The Z77 Express chipset is located directly in front of the expansion slot area and is cooled by a heat sink which has a backlit ASUS logo. I’ve seen a few boards with cooler lighting, but not many. Mostly it is ROG boards that come to mind. In front of the chipset are 8 SATA ports. The two marked "ASUS SSD Caching II" are attached to the Marvell controller and the others are on the Intel controller. The white ports are SATA 6Gb/s ports and the light blue ones are 3Gb/s ports. You’ll notice there are only 2 3Gb/s ports. There is a straight top down port near the ATX 24-pin connector. This is a 3Gb/s port as well. The other 3Gb/s port supported by the chipset has been diverted to the board’s mSATA slot per Intel specification.

You can also see the board’s mSATA SSD slot and drive next to the chipset cooler. I’m not thrilled about how this slot works as it requires the screw to hold the disc in place making removal of the SSD a pain, but this should not be much of an issue as we don’t see many users removing this.

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The expansion slot area is legacy free and is well implemented given the size of the board. It isn’t XL-ATX or anything so supporting 4-Way SLI gets tricky. Your case will need to support the video card overhanging the board and the last slot. Other than that it’s a pretty easy fit. You will sacrifice your EPU / TPU, power and reset switches when using 4-Way SLI. Again this is the type of concession that has to be made when you cram this many features into such a small foot print. CrossFireX and 4-Way SLI are supported in a 16x16 or 8x8x8x8 configuration. Blue slots operate at x16 speeds and the white ones in x8 lane configurations. This is achieved by the use of a PLX chip which provides more PCI-Express lanes.

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The I/O panel is a bit crowded as you can see. Even without the Wi-Fi GO! adapter installed the area is pretty well packed. You’ve got 4 USB 3.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 optical out, 6 mini-stereo jacks, BIOS flashback button, 2 eSATA 6Gb/s ports, 2 RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet ports, 1 HDMI output, 1 DisplayPort and finally the Thunderbolt port which also passes video from the iGPU and also functions as a mini-DP port per Thunderbolt specifications.