Asus shows off Z87-based Haswell motherboards

A few weeks ago, I traveled to Fremont, California to preview Asus’ Haswell motherboards. My lips were supposed to be sealed until Haswell’s official launch in early June. However, other motherboard makers have been dropping details about their 8-series lineups, and Asus has decided to join them. We can now give you an early look at the company’s Z87 boards.

While any discussion of Haswell and its accompanying platform are off the table, there is plenty to discuss about the motherboards alone. Let’s start with the new color scheme, which is apparently important enough to deserve its own press release.

The color combo is a reference to Asus’ “gold standard in quality,” but it reminds me of the 1978 Firebird Trans Am. Maybe that’s not an entirely bad thing. The gold-anodized heatsinks look quite nice in person; they’re just the right tone and not too shiny. As the picture illustrates, though, the plastic ports are a tad beige and don’t really match. These boards are more attractive when obscured by the dark shadows of a fully loaded enclosure than naked and out in the openβ€”like most people, I suppose.

As one might expect, Asus will roll out a full range of boards spanning Mini-ITX, microATX, and ATX form factors. The Deluxe pictured above is the top ATX model that doesn’t belong to Asus’ separate TUF or ROG product families. It boasts plenty of toys, including wicked-fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi and more 6Gbps SATA and USB 3.0 ports than any sane person should need.

Asus hasn’t made dramatic changes to the firmware found on the Deluxe and its other Z87 boards, but there are a few enhancements worth noting. The UEFI now summarizes any changes that have been made before you exit. There’s also a favorites tab that can be populated with frequently used functions. Users can save text notes within the firmware, too, and the interface looks a little bit sharper thanks to scaling and font changes.

In addition to tweaking the firmware, Asus has reworked its AI Suite software. There’s a new interface that consolidates overclocking, power management, and fan controls in a single window. The built-in system tuner is capable of making optimizations in all those areas automatically, which should help newbies settle on a well-rounded config.

Haswell is getting plenty of love from ROG boards, including the more affordable Maximus VI Hero pictured above. While it’s not as exotic as higher-end ROG models like the Extreme, the Hero nonetheless features SupremeFX integrated audio. This onboard implementation sports fancy capacitors, isolated motherboard traces, and a new Realtek codec. It also comes with Sonic Radar software, which uses an on-screen overlay to map game audio in two dimensions. The software can be tuned to track different sounds, such as footsteps, gunfire, and the beeping of a Counter-Strike detonator. Sounds show up on the overlaid radar, giving multiplayer gamers an edge.

I only tried Sonic Radar briefly, but it appears to work as advertised. Something tells me it’s going to cause a stir in competitive gaming circles. Asus says the software could move to its ROG sound cards, as well.

The Hero will sell for around $200, which is a lot less than the price tag attached to the Maximus VI Extreme. Instead of SupremeFX audio, the Extreme offers gobs of PCIe connectivity via PLX bridge silicon, an onboard mini combo slot compatible with NGFF M.2 SSDs, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This board also comes with Asus’ OC Panel, an external overclocking and monitoring device designed for hardcore tweakers. The OC Panel can stand on its own or slide into a 5.25″ bay, and it’s compatible with all the ROG boards. Only the Extreme will ship with it in the box, though.

There are two TUF boards in Asus’ Haswell lineup. The first is the Sabertooth Z87, an ATX model peppered with premium electrical components, thermal armor, auxiliary temperature probes, and dust covers for all the slots. Asus has also filled the ports with dust plugs, tweaked the position of the circuit board’s ventilation holes, and added adjustable ducting around the CPU socket.

In a nod to those with heavy CPU coolers, Asus has reinforced the Sabertooth with a Fortifier back plate that covers almost the full extent of the board. This plate is designed to combat warping, and it purportedly decreases CPU temperatures by a couple of degrees. It also protects your fingers from the exposed solder tips that line the back of the mobo.

If some of those accessories seem a bit excessive, you might be interested in the new TUF Gryphon. This microATX mobo has the same board-level components and features as the full-sized Sabertooth, but without extras like thermal armor, the metal back plate, all those dust covers, and so on. The full suite of accessories can be purchased as a separate kit, allowing the Gryphon board to hit a lower price point.

The Gryphon harkens back to simpler TUF boards like the original Sabertooth X58, and it’s already on my shortlist of potential review candidates. So are a couple of other models, including a top-secret design that’s still hush-hush. I could tell you, but I’d have to kill you.

There is more I’m allowed to say about Asus’ Haswell boards, but my time is limited. Asus’ decision to lift the lid on its Z87 offerings came at the last minute, and I still have to pack for an early morning flight to another motherboard preview event. Eagle-eyed readers should be able to spot more details by flipping through the board shots in the gallery below.

Comments closed
    • DeadOfKnight
    • 6 years ago

    Is it just me or does that Hero just look bare, like there’s hardly any semiconductors on it?

    • d0g_p00p
    • 6 years ago

    I’m interested in the Sonic Radar software. Geoff is there any chance you might do a review of this audio feature?

    • bitcat70
    • 6 years ago

    Where’s the picture of the Fortifier?

    • ronch
    • 6 years ago

    That Z87 Deluxe looks very pretty. Somehow, gold looks really nice on motherboards. But if I were out for a Haswell board I’d probably end up with the Gryphon since I’d rather go mini-ATX than full size. DOn’t really need all the slots.

    • egon
    • 6 years ago

    Feel the need to pay homage to the granddaddy of snazzy-looking motherboards – the AOpen AX6BC Pro II Millennium Edition:

    [url<]http://ebiz.aopen.com/AOEB-GPS/PIC/Products/images/MB/products/ax6bcp2m.jpg[/url<] Rather plain-looking by today's standards, but the platinum-plated northbridge heatsink, badge and inscription were a whole new level of bling for 1999. The black PCB really stood out too - back then, everything else was green or brown.

      • slowriot
      • 6 years ago

      The floppy connector looks like it’s in a very inconvenient location.

      • ronch
      • 6 years ago

      Given this, one has to wonder how motherboards will look like in 2027.

      And yes, I would much rather prefer a simple design such as this Aopen instead of some of today’s downright ridiculous designs, crazy heatsinks and all.

    • pedro
    • 6 years ago

    No D-Sub, count me out folks.

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      Yeah, and where is the parallel port! Not much good without a parallel port!

      • cynan
      • 6 years ago

      … And where the heck do I plug my trusty Microsoft [url=http://www.telecommander.com/pics/links/mice/Microsoft_Mouse_V_%202_’J’/Microsoft_Mouse_V_%202_’J’.htm<]"J" mouse[/url<] into one of these new-fangled do-hickies?

    • LoneWolf15
    • 6 years ago

    All the Z87 needs now is a pinky ring, a missing tooth, and a big gold chain.

      • BIF
      • 6 years ago

      The pinky ring can have no fewer than 16 diamonds.

    • UberGerbil
    • 6 years ago

    I get the 1979 Firebird reference, but really any discussion of this color scheme begins and ends with the “Tenth Anniversary” [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kWF-hH1nloo<]1980 Datsun 280ZX[/url<]. Whenever I see these motherboards I'm going to be checking on my Selleck-stache while crooning "Black Gold!"

      • Visigoth
      • 6 years ago

      Oh man! I literally rolled on the ground while laughing my ass off at that commercial and those comments…simply priceless! πŸ˜€

    • Dr_b_
    • 6 years ago

    Need more PCI-E lanes already. and i hope that brown/gold color scheme really does look better IRL because from the pictures its not flattering, looks more like dried excrement. The Hero looks good, like the way they spaced the x16 slot a bit away from socket and ram slots to give space for heatsink and graphics card.

    • SnowboardingTobi
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]...isolated motherboard traces...[/quote<] isolated traces from each other? I would hope so. Just sayin'

      • Visigoth
      • 6 years ago

      I believe they mean isolated traces from the main motherboard itself, think daughterboard-type setups and such (IINM). :-/

    • brute
    • 6 years ago

    look at that bling~

    iwill buy that and put it on my car. so much ladies!

      • LoneWolf15
      • 6 years ago

      I don’t think iWill maikes mainboards anymore.

    • Chrispy_
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]Sabertooth Z87[/quote<] 1998 called; They would like their motherboard fans back.

    • Farting Bob
    • 6 years ago

    I think i can hear that tiny fan with it’s high pitch whir just from viewing the image. such small fans are never a good thing. It’ll have to spin at probably 5000rpm just to move enough air to notice any difference.

      • Waco
      • 6 years ago

      My last ASRock board had a fan on it (890FX Deluxe 5) and you couldn’t hear it spin up at all…even with 400+ watt VRM load.

      It was “optional” though, you had to install it yourself.

      That said…I’d probably never buy a board with an onboard fan ever again. πŸ™‚

    • clone
    • 6 years ago

    the TUF backplate reduces cpu temps and prevents warping…… if anything else should be standard on every motherboard Asus sells I can’t think of it but instead Asus wants that option limited to certain boards

    personally I’d go with the board that doesn’t use the “thermal armor”….. cases are big and an open area is better than shrouding just to keep dust off it.

    the deluxe board looks decent as well.

      • RdVi
      • 6 years ago

      That’s the thing, if the back plate works like advertised, why don’t they include it on their highest end ROG Maximus Formula models? You would think people would mount heavy heatsinks to those sometimes, also. I find the claims a little dubious, although they probably have some merit. Are they at least trying to sell the backplate as a separate purchase for the Maximus ROG series? If not, I’d have to say the Sabertooth series is just designed to cater to the gullible… not that many other models aren’t, but the ‘features’ they carry are all questionable.

    • hasseb64
    • 6 years ago

    Nowadays I always choose basic boards from ASUS, my experience after 15 years as a builder is that I never use the nice “extras”

    • deinabog
    • 6 years ago

    Sweet-looking boards! I especially like the Deluxe and Workstation models. It looks like the workstation board is equipped with a Thunderbolt port this time. If so that makes it even better.

    Asus has usually made some of the best motherboards out there and these boards look to continue that tradition. Since I rolled both my boxes into Z77 territory last year I’ll have to pass on this bunch. But for anyone who’s been waiting for Haswell-supporting motherboards will have some nice hardware to choose from.

    • chuckula
    • 6 years ago

    Maximus VI Hero looks like a winner for my purposes. I was interested in the armored one, but requiring an active spinning fan built in to the motherboard? No thanks.

    • colinstu12
    • 6 years ago

    Just noticed there are no PCI slots on any of these boards.

    Finally. πŸ™‚

      • bthylafh
      • 6 years ago

      The 8-series chipset doesn’t support PCI.

        • Kurotetsu
        • 6 years ago

        PCI support got removed with the P67/H67/H61/(the first gen LGA1155) chipsets. The only difference now is that fewer board makers are bothering to add it back in.

      • Wirko
      • 6 years ago

      Luckily (for us with PCI sound cards), there will still be some choice. Asus Z87-Plus has one PCI port and a couple of boards from GB and Asrock have one, too.

      • RdVi
      • 6 years ago

      PCI slots are there on the lower end boards, browse through the whole gallery.

      • ronch
      • 6 years ago

      My [url=http://www.msi.com/product/mb/990FXA-GD65.html<]MSI 990FXA-GD65[/url<] only has one PCI slot but all the other slots are PCIe, so it's not really a downer. Having just one PCI slot for the unlikely event that you'd need to plug in a PCI card doesn't hurt, right?

      • cynan
      • 6 years ago

      I don’t really get this attitude toward including PCI slots on motherboards. What sort of benefit does banishing all PCI slots get anyone? Wouldn’t this agenda be better served by chastising peripheral makers that still produce PCI products (if there even are any)?

      Sure, filling up a state of the art board with PCI slots is useless. But the strategic inclusion (ie, doesn’t get in the way of multi-GPU configs) of a single PCI slot so that users can enjoy all the benefits of the latest platform while still accommodating a favored sound card or legacy device can only be a good thing as all it does is increase flexibility.

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 6 years ago

      My 1 year old living room PC is built on a [url=http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8Z77M_PRO/<]P8Z77-M Pro[/url<]: 0 PCI slots My 2Β½ year old gaming PC is built on a [url=http://www.asus.com/Motherboards/P8P67M_PRO/<]P8P67-M Pro[/url<]: 0 PCI slots

        • Starfalcon
        • 6 years ago

        My current Gigabyte G1 sniper 3: 1 PCI slot, my old system Gigabyte X48-DQ6: 2 PCI slots, all my older systems, many PCI slots. I don’t see the hurry to get rid of all the older formats, plenty of useful things to still plug into them. Like when PCI express 1X slots were put on mobos to replace PCI slots and there weren’t even any cards you could plug into them. Only now is there a decent amount of cards you can plug in.

          • JustAnEngineer
          • 6 years ago

          You are a special case. Folks who don’t maintain a museum of old computers haven’t had any PCI cards in years.

          Sound cards, TV tuners, RAID controllers, etc. went to PCIe versions circa 2008.

          All that PCI slots do on a modern motherboard is take up space.

            • ronch
            • 6 years ago

            I had an old Sound Blaster Audigy Value lying around. One day one of our home computers with an Intel DH67BL board in it suddenly stopped all audio output from the integrated audio. Reformating didn’t help so we concluded that it was a hardware problem. The board had a PCI slot. Now if it didn’t I would’ve had to go out and get a PCIe sound card. So, PCI slots can still be useful.

            • BIF
            • 6 years ago

            I’ve been using USB and Firewire interfaces for years; probably won’t ever need a PCI card for anything ever again, not for sound or ports or anything.

      • delynie
      • 6 years ago

      There are still PCI Slots on the lower end models : A, C and Plus. Here is the [url=http://www.custompcguide.net/the-differences-between-all-mainstream-asus-z87-motherboards/<]comparison between all mainstream asus Z87[/url<] mobos.

    • drfish
    • 6 years ago

    [quote<]This plate is designed to [i<]provide[/i<] warping...[/quote<] Bonus!

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      Sweet! It’s about time motherboards came with FTL drives!

      • Wesker
      • 6 years ago

      Needs to be Warp 9 at least, or not interested! πŸ˜›

        • Sargent Duck
        • 6 years ago

        You think too small. Transwarp for the WIN!

    • Heighnub
    • 6 years ago

    overclock3d.net has video previews of four Gigabyte boards (including the G1 Sniper M5 mATX):

    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/user/TimeToLiveCustoms?feature=watch[/url<]

    • phez
    • 6 years ago

    No new Gene?

      • chuckula
      • 6 years ago

      There is although TR didn’t highlight it. There’s a picture in the gallery though.

    • Wesker
    • 6 years ago

    If the “purportedly” becomes a fact, I will be going Asus again with my new build πŸ™‚

    • RdVi
    • 6 years ago

    Is that a thunderbolt port? First pic in the gallery, top, underneath the USB ports. I’m not excited about thunderbolt or anything, I just cannot tell. It looks a little different…

      • Star Brood
      • 6 years ago

      It’s not Thunderbolt. It looks like some weird mix of USB, HDMI and eSATA.

        • RdVi
        • 6 years ago

        I thought maybe it was miniDisplayPort too, but that basically looks the same as Thunderbolt. This looks pretty different from anything else I’ve seen. Odd..

          • Star Brood
          • 6 years ago

          It’s probably the new Intel port some places have been rumoring about. That would explain why no one recognizes it. FFS, I really hope it’s not another port standard. Thunderbolt hasn’t even had a chance to get market share or low enough prices yet.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 6 years ago

      It is a Thunderbolt port, same shape as mini-DisplayPort.

      Several articles are out now saying that Asus’ Z87 motherboards will come with Thunderbolt.

    • Ardrid
    • 6 years ago

    Beautiful mobos. I’m eyeing either the Deluxe or the Sabertooth at this point. Would like to hold off on a new build until NVIDIA/AMD release their next gen products. Getting really difficult with the way all these games are starting to stress my Lynnfield + 6870 setup.

    • allreadydead
    • 6 years ago

    A good way to start the day πŸ™‚ Nothing beats the excitement of the new, innovative PC parts announcement… RIP Abit :\
    The things I liked,
    ac WiFi on Deluxe. Good ! Hope it has BT 4.0 too. And the BT is not “fixed” on the I/O panel.. The case stays out of the way for most users and damn wood furnitures are EXCELLENT BT signal absorbers. We should be able to relocate the transmitter to front USB port.
    $200 for a ROG mobo ? nice. That just means lower prices for “normal” mobos.
    Sonic Radar seems like cool idea. I hate onboard audio tho. Would be awesome if it works on my Xonar DSX..

    come on Intel, we need Haswell πŸ˜€

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