ASUS P8Z77-M Pro Micro-ATX Motherboard Review

Hardcore enthusiasts often need more PCB real estate for their massive graphics cards arrays, fancy network controllers, sound cards, etc. Not all enthusiasts are alike. Some prefer a smaller simplified approach to computing. While light in features, this solid mATX board may suit the needs of those not looking to build a hulking tower.

Introduction

ASUS rarely needs an introduction for most people. ASUS is one of the largest motherboard manufacturers on the planet with a wide ranging portfolio of products. They have everything from monitors and graphics cards to motherboards and even wireless access points and accessories. However, it is motherboards that they are best known for.

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While a lot of enthusiast’s dream of hulking towers filled with graphics cards that make the mightiest power supplies beg for mercy, some go the opposite direction insisting on a minimalist approach in which the size of the machine is determined by their needs at the time of construction without lofty goals of expansion down the line. While I admit that I don’t fully understand that way of thinking, I do sometimes see the appeal as I’ve fought with the configurations of more complex builds over the years. In any case, if gargantuan machines of steel and or aluminum don’t blow your skirt up, the ASUS P8Z77-M Pro just might be up your alley.

While it may not be bristling with SATA ports, PCIe expansion slots, network controllers or other things, the P8Z77-Pro still has a fairly solid feature set. SATA II 3Gb/s, SATA III 6Gb/s, eSATA III 6GB/s, USB 3.0, 8-channel audio, gigabit Ethernet, and multiGPU technologies such as NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology, AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology, and LucidLogix® Virtu™ MVP Technology. The P8Z77-M Pro features a 6+2 phase power design which is light compared to that of other boards found in the series. Though it isn’t a matter of quantity, as much as quality. The P8Z77-I Deluxe actually proved this point by being one of the best overclockers in the series, but oddly still had more power phases than the P8Z77-M Pro does.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The board ships in a smaller version of the same basic packaging that ASUS has used for most of their boards since the P67 days. There isn’t much in the box beyond the board itself. Included are the following accessories: User manual, driver disc, 2x SATA 3Gb/s cables, 2 SATA 6Gb/s cables, SLI bridge, a pack of Q-Connectors and an I/O shield.

Board Layout

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The P8Z77-M Pro doesn’t have a ton of real estate to work with. That being said the layout is actually pretty good. I’m not fond of the USB 3.0 front panel connector as I would prefer it be further away from the 24-pin ATX connector. Other than that I don’t have a whole lot to complain about. ASUS makes good use of the limited space.

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There is the usual problem with the CPU socket area being close to the DIMM slots, and as I’ve said I can’t blame ASUS for this when it is a limitation of the technology and more Intel’s fault than anyone’s. Larger air coolers could be problematic for the P8Z77-M Pro, but I don’t see huge push-pull tower setups being used in most systems built around boards like this.

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There are four DIMM slots for a maximum supported memory configuration of 32GB. ASUS has once again used their single sided locking tab setup for DIMM module retention. They use it on boards which don’t need them, but the P8Z77-M Pro’s small stature makes their use almost mandatory.

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The Z77 Express chipset is located directly in front of the PCIe expansion slot area. It is cooled with a flat, passive heat sink. The chipset really doesn’t generate a lot of heat so this is fine.

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The expansion slot area works fairly well given the size constraints. One thing that puzzles me is the specifications which state support for: "AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology." This is quite separate from CrossfireX using two cards, each with dual GPUs onboard. While technically possible I think ASUS is reaching here as many of the cards you’d use for that have cooling solutions that take up two or more expansion slots. Two card CrossfireX or SLI shouldn’t be a problem. Adding a third would require a single slot card be located in the white expansion slot and probably the third. Few mATX cases will let a dual slot card hang off the edge of the board.

So yeah, it’s technically true but not feasible for most. I doubt many people who want three Radeon HD 7970’s are going to look at the P8Z77-M Pro for their needs. I’d certainly steer anyone clear of it that had such a need in mind. ASUS has plenty of offerings which are better suited to the task.

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The I/O panel is is pretty full. I’m not sure why a standard VGA connector is included, but there is one above the legacy DVI connector. Interestingly, this is a DVI-D port, not a DVI-I port. That is a design decision I can’t understand given that it creates cable compatibility problems. Even if the board doesn’t really work with DVI-A signals, the DVI-I port just makes the most sense as it’s compatible with all DVI cable types. We also have our legacy PS/2 keyboard-mouse combination port, USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports, 1 RJ-45 port, 1 optical port and six-mini stereo jacks.