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Digging into the details
Congratulations for making it this far already. As a reward for not skipping ahead to the conclusion after the first page, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: this page isn't all that interesting. Unless you like seeing firmware options, board specifications, and system configurations laid out in painstaking detail, you might want to skip ahead to the beginning of our performance results.

Curious how the three boards stack up in the most important firmware categories? Here's a quick rundown of the key overclocking and fan control settings:

Asus P8Z77-V Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H MSI Z77A-GD65
Clock speeds Base: 80-300MHz
DRAM: 800-2400MHz
IGP: 1350-3000MHz
Base: 80-133.33MHz
DRAM: 800-2133MHz
IGP: 400-3200MHz
Base: 0-655.35MHz
DRAM: 800-2133MHz
IGP: 1350-3000MHz
Multipliers CPU: 35-63X CPU: 16-59X CPU: 16-63X
Voltages CPU: 0.8-1.92V
IGP: 0.8-1.92V
DRAM: 1.2-1.92
VCCSA: 0.8-1.7V
CPU PLL: 1.2-2.2V
PCH: 0.8-1.7V
CTRL ref A/B: 0.395-0.63X
CPU: 0.8-1.9V
CPU VTT: 0.8-1.7V
CPU PLL: 1.2-2.2V
IMC: 0.715-1.4V
IGP: + 0-0.35V
DRAM: 1.1-2.1V
Data TX: 0.695-0.81V
Data term.: 0.595-1.939V
Data A/B ref: 0.595-1.939V
Address A/B: 0.595-1.939V
CPU: 0.8-2.155V
CPU I/O: 0.95-1.55V
DRAM: 1.08-2.464V
IGP: 1-1.52V
System Agent: 0.925-1.585V
CPU PLL: 1.4-2.53V
PCH: 0.775-1.724V
VREF CA A/B: 0.435-1.125V
VREF DA A/B: 0.435-1.125V
Fan control CPU: Min, max temp
Min, max duty cycle
System 1,2,3: Min, max temp
Min, max duty cycle
CPU: slope
System 1-3: slope
CPU: Target temp
System 1,2: Manual speed

There's more difference in the fan controls than anywhere else. For most folks, all the boards have sufficient clock, multiplier, and voltage headroom for overclocking.

Next, we'll take a quick tally of expansion slots and ports.

Asus P8Z77-V Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H MSI Z77A-GD65
DIMM slots 4 DDR3 4 DDR3 4 DDR3
Expansion slots 2 PCIe 3.0 x16
1 PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4)
2 PCIe 2.0 x1
2 PCI
2 PCIe 3.0 x16
1 PCIe 2.0 x16 (x4)
3 PCIe 2.0 x1
1 PCI
2 PCIe 3.0 x16
1 PCIe 3.0 x16 (x4)
4 PCIe 2.0 x1
Storage I/O 2 SATA RAID 6Gbps
4 SATA RAID 3Gbps
2 SATA 6Gbps
2 SATA RAID 6Gbps
4 SATA RAID 3Gbps
1 mSATA RAID 3Gbps
2 SATA RAID 6Gbps
4 SATA RAID 3Gbps
2 SATA 6Gbps
Audio 8-channel HD 8-channel HD 8-channel HD
Wireless 802.11n Wi-Fi NA NA
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse
1 DisplayPort
1 HDMI
1 DVI-D
1 VGA
4 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers
2 USB 2.0 w/ 8 headers
1 Gigabit Ethernet

1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 optical S/PDIF out
1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse
1 DisplayPort
1 HDMI
1 DVI-D
1 VGA
6 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers
6 USB 2.0 headers
2 eSATA 6Gbps
1 Gigabit Ethernet


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 optical S/PDIF out
1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse
1 HDMI
1 DVI-D
1 VGA
2 USB 3.0 w/ 2 headers
4 USB 2.0 w/ 6 headers
1 FireWire header
1 Gigabit Ethernet


1 analog front out
1 analog bass/center out
1 analog rear out
1 analog surround out
1 analog line in
1 analog mic in
1 optical S/PDIF out
1 coaxial S/PDIF out

If you've been paying careful attention over the preceding pages, you've already picked up all the details in the table above.

Our testing methods
Since we can't test with her little sister just yet, we've run all the boards through the gauntlet with a Sandy Bridge CPU. A Z68 motherboard has been included for comparison, but time constraints prevented us from testing additional platforms.

We used the following system setups for testing. With few exceptions, all tests were run at least three times, and we reported the median of the scores produced.

Processor Intel Core i7 2600K 3.4GHz
Motherboard Asus P8Z77-V Gigabyte Z77X-UD3H MSI Z77A-GD65 MSI Z68A-GD80
Bios revision 0906 F7 V10.3B6 V17.5
Platform hub Intel Z77 Express Intel Z77 Express Intel Z77 Express Intel Z68 Express
Chipset drivers Chipset: 9.3.0.1020
RST: 11.1.0.1006
Chipset: 9.3.0.1020
RST: 11.1.0.1006
Chipset: 9.3.0.1020
RST: 11.1.0.1006
Chipset: 9.3.0.1019
RST: 10.8.0.1003
Memory size 8GB (2 DIMMs) 8GB (2 DIMMs) 8GB (2 DIMMs) 8GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz Corsair Vengeance DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T 9-9-9-24-1T
Audio Realtek ALC892 VIA VT2021 Realtek ALC898 Realtek ALC892
Graphics Asus EAH5870 1GB with Catalyst 12.2 drivers
Hard drive Western Digital Caviar Black 1TB
Samsung 830 Series 256GB
OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 240GB
Power Supply Corsair AX850 850W
OS Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate x64

We'd like to thank Asus, Corsair, PC Power & Cooling, and Western Digital for helping to outfit our test rigs with some of the finest hardware available. Thanks to each of the motherboard makers for supplying their boards, too, and to Intel for providing the CPUs.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

The test systems' Windows desktop was set at 1920x1200 in 32-bit color at a 60Hz screen refresh rate. Vertical refresh sync (vsync) was disabled for all tests.

All the tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.