Six Sub-£160 Z77 Motherboards, Benchmarked And Reviewed

Which Mid-Range Z77 Board Should You Buy?

We normally begin our final thoughts with remarks on value, but a more newsworthy development occurred that caught our attention: ECS can finally overclock! While the Z77H2-A2X didn’t attain the highest CPU frequency, even adequacy in that department is a huge step forward for a company that spent years trying to get more competitive in the enthusiast space.

And then there’s the so-called value chart that, by excluding the real value of on-board features, makes low-cost products appear to be top contenders. Biostar probably would have landed at the top if we had used its actual Web price. However, the firm was adamant about competing in our this round-up, so we're sticking to the higher price, which can also be found online.

More important than hitting the lowest possible price is offering the best feature set for an enthusiast's dollar. Asus’ P8Z77-V Pro should have the best feature set, but its Wi-Fi card and four added USB 3.0 ports are approximately matched by the two added USB 3.0 ports, USB-based Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth of ECS’ Z77H2-A2X.

Biostar’s low-cost overclocker might have won the title in a round-up of less-expensive products, but it simply couldn't beat Gigabyte's £155 Z77X-UD3H in any particular discipline.

The tightest overall competition pits ASRock against ECS and MSI. MSI wins overall CPU overclocking, ASRock has the highest CPU base clock, and ECS has the highest dual-DIMM memory data rate. MSI’s PCIe 3.0 x4 slot beats ASRocks PCIe 2.0 x4 slot for bandwidth, while ASRock’s x4 slot has the advantage of not stealing lanes away from the two primary graphics slots.

ECS circumvents the slot debate altogether and instead takes the lead in integrated features, though those extra features incur a fairly significant penalty in terms of full-load power consumption. If not for that noticeable flaw, the X77H2-A2X may have taken an overall lead in value.

While we’re sure any of today's competitors would have liked to see an award, we think half of today's field deserves praise. A three-way value tie between the Z77 Extreme6, Z77A-GD65, and Z77H2-A2X is difficult to settle. That forces us to a single conclusion: buyers should carefully consider the overall feature set of these three contenders before picking the one that best suits their individual needs.