titleWhen trying to think of a name for our look at Asus’s new Z87 mainstream motherboard options I went through countless bad jokes and Bond Goldmember comments. I came to the conclusion that much like Asus I would let the boards speak for themselves. Today we are going to take a look at the Asus Z87 Pro and Z87 Plus, both what they call Channel boards. In other words this is Asus’s standard lineup. In the past I have been extremely impressed with what Asus had to offer in their standard lineup; hopefully they can keep that up. Let’s see what they have to offer.

Product Names: Asus Z87 Pro and Asus Z87 Plus

Review Sample Provided by: Asus

Written By: Wes

Pictures by: Wes

 

Specifications

Model

Z87-PRO

Z87-PLUS

CPU Socket

LGA1150 socket for 4th Gen. Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3, Pentium®/Celeron® Processors

LGA1150 socket for 4th Gen. Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3, Pentium®/Celeron® Processors

Chipset

Intel® Z87 Express Chipset

Intel® Z87 Express Chipset

Memory

Up to DDR3 2933 (OC)

Up to DDR3 2933 (OC)

VGA Output

DP, HDMI, DVI, RGB

mDP, HDMI, DVI, RGB

DIP version

Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization

Dual Intelligent Processors 4 with 4-Way Optimization

CPU Power

DIGI+ 12-phase

DIGI+ 8-phase

DRAM Power

DIGI+ 2-phase

DIGI+ 2-phase

PCIex16 Slots

3

3

PCIex1 Slots

4

2

Multi-GPU

CrossFireX / SLI

CrossFireX / SLI

Gbit LAN

1 (Intel)

1 (Intel)

Wireless Connection

Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
Dual-band 2.4/5GHz & BT v4.0

None

Audio

Realtek 1150 8-ch HD

(High quality 112dB SNR stereo playback output ), DTS

Realtek 892 8-ch HD, DTS

Storage

8*SATA 6Gb/s

8*SATA 6Gb/s

USB

8*USB 3.0 (6 ports at back panel, 2 ports at mid-board)
8*USB2.0

8*USB 3.0 (6 ports at back panel, 2 ports at mid-board)
8*USB2.0


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Packaging

Z87 Pro

As someone who has a long list of ASUS motherboards, when I took a look at the packaging for the Z87-PRO I didn’t think they had change anything at all. It wasn’t until I dug out photos from our coverage of the Z77 launch that I realized that Asus had actually changed everything. The styling is so Asus that I didn’t even notice. Around on the back there is a small overall photo of the board with a feature breakdown below it. Asus also went into even more detail on their Dual Intelligent Processors 4, Wi-Fi GO!, USB BIOS Flashback, and USB 3.0 Boost. This is actually really important because a lot of people have no idea about these features when they buy what they think is a fairly mainstream motherboard.  Inside the box the Z87-PRO came wrapped up in a static protective bag and held up over the accessories with a cardboard “bridge”.

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Asus included a user guide for the motherboard as well as a second user guide specific to some of the Z87 Series’ exclusive features. You of course get a driver disc as well as a small blue Asus case badge tucked in with the drive disc. You also get an SLI bridge, four right angle SATA cables, Q Connectors that help you plug in your front panel connections easier, the rear I/O panel, and the wireless antenna. The rear I/O panel is white in color and is color coded around most of the connections to help you hook up everything when you are back behind your PC. The included wireless antenna is designed to lay flat or fold up to sit up on top of your PC or on your desk.

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Z87-Plus

Packaging for the Z87-Plus is exactly the same on the front and back as the Z87-Pro other than the photo of the board on the back of the box. I won’t bore you by repeating all of the details again, but Asus does a good job of putting out the information that you need and educating a little.

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Most of the accessories that the Z87-Plus comes with are the same as with the Z87-Pro. You don’t get the wireless antenna and along with that you don’t get the second feature guide that covered the wireless features. You still get SATA cables but this time you get two right angle cables and one standard SATA cable. You also get Asus’s Q connectors, an SLI bridge, and the white rear I/O panel with color coding on key plugs.

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Z87 Pro Layout and Pictures

Now we can finally see why Asus was going with a gold theme on the packaging before. When Asus was previewing their new Z87 boards, they talked about the new golden standard in motherboards. They switched their blue theming on their mainstream boards to a gold color. I have a feeling that this is going to upset some people as it is a big change, but others are going to like it. The chipset cooler down in the bottom right next to the PCIe slots is the same flat design that was on the Plus and other than color it is the same as what we saw on a few of the Z77 boards as well. For power on the Z87-Pro we have 12 phase CPU and 2 phase DRAM Digi+ power control. To keep it all cool there are two fairly large heatsinks on the left side and top of the CPU socket.

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Just like with the components you can see, Asus also went with the best when selecting their voltage regulation components. For capacitors they went with 5K Caps that will provide a healthy power output. To give an example as to where these fall, The MSI GD-65's military class capacitors are rated for an output power of 330 watts while the Plus's 5K caps have an output power of 561 watts, that is a major difference if you ask me!

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Starting up in the top left corner we have our 8 pin CPU power connection. Unlike the Plus this one is up near the edge of the board due to the larger heatsink design. You can see what Asus is most proud of on the rear I/O here as well. The Wi-Fi GO! and Intel Ethernet are both labeled for you to be able to see them easily all of the time, even when installed in your PC (assuming you have a window or the side panel off). The Wifi go is interesting to see because they have built the entire dual band wifi module with Bluetooth 4.0 into the rear I/O rather than putting the wireless down in a PCI slot near the heat your GPU creates. 

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It’s hard to look in the top right corner and overlook the yellow DDR3 DIIMM slots. The Z87-Pro has four DIMM slots for your dual channel memory and each slot only needs the single clip on the top. With the Z87 boards Asus also introduced DRAM Overcurrent Protection, if you look very close you can actually see it just at the bottom of the DIMM slots, it is bright green. Think of this as a surge protector for your RAM to help protect it in case something goes wrong. Just above the ram are two four pin PWM fan headers specifically for the CPU fan and a second CPU fan, these also support 3 pin control of your fan via UEFI and AiSuite II if you don't have a PWM device to use. In the top right corner we have the MemOK button, a button that helps you deal with memory incompatibility’s by adjusting the ram settings until they work. This also can double as a clear CMOS button in a way, when pressed it resets your frequency and voltages but not other settings like your fan speed and boot configuration.  There is also the DRAM LED, these LED’s are all over the motherboard and they light up as that part of the motherboard is initializing during boot. There are actually four total LEDs (CPU, DRAM, GRAPHICS, BOOT) this is important because if there is an issue during boot you can see the area that is causing your problem. Down lower we have a 24 pin power connection and then just below it an internal USB 3.0 header. There is another four pin PWM fan header just below the USB 3.0 header as well.

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Here are the SATA ports for the Z87-Pro, they are all SATA 3 but only the six yellow connections are run through the Z87 chipset. That means you won’t get the Intel specific features like Smart Response, Rapid Start, and Smart Connect Technology. The two black SATA 6 connections are run on the ASMedia 1061 chipset. 

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The bottom right corner has a long yellow header that covers all of our front panel connections. There are labels along the bottom to make hooking everything up easier. Next to the front panel header is another four pin PWM fan connection, this is number five and they seem to just keep coming as we go around the board. Next we have four USB 2.0 internal headers lined up next to each other. Just below the SATA ports are the TPU and EPU switches. The TPU will give both your CPU and GPU an auto overclock up to 4.25GHz, from past experience you will get a better overclock by using the AI Suite III software for the overclock, but you can’t get much easier than a switch to turn the overclock on and off if needed. Asus has even made it a two set switch to give you even more control. Setting one only adjust CPU ratio and setting two adjust ratio and core clock speeds. The EPU is similar in a way but actually will adjust the voltage used down to save energy whenever possible. Obviously you wouldn’t want to run the two at the same time. Next to the TPU switch is the clear CMOS jumper, the yellow jumper helps it stand out to make it easier to find.

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Down in the bottom left corner we can see part of the Realtek 1150 8-ch HD onboard audio. Just under it there is a plug for the TPM aka the Trusted Platform Module header. Next to it is the AAFP or audio front panel connection as well as a SPDIF output header. The next header is the thunderbolt header, this is in case you need a Thunderbolt connection later on and you add something like the ThunderboltEX, not only does it plug into the PCIe slot but it also needs to plug into this plug to work properly. Next we have the backlit power button and diagnostic LED; I think both of those speak for themselves. The two small buttons next to the diagnostic LED are the DirectKey and BIOS flashback buttons. The DirectKey is a button that takes you directly into the UEFI when you boot, with boot times improving this is becoming more important, as long as I remember this button is here I’m sure I will be putting it to good use. You can also actually hook up your cases reset button directly to DirecktKey and have the ability to run it with your PC built, or you can also select the option in the UEFI. The BIOS Flash Back button is even more interesting, when combined with a USB drive with the proper bios on it plugged into the proper USB port you can press this button and update or flash back your bios. It’s especially interesting because not only does this not require any interaction from you after pressing the button, but it doesn’t even need a CPU in the motherboard.

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The Z87-Pro’s PCI slots consist of five PCI Express x1 slots and three PCI Express x16 slots. Like other Z87 boards there aren’t enough PCI lanes into the CPU to handle three x16 slots so the slots break down like this. When you are only using the top slot it runs at a full x16 speed, when you are using the top two, they both run at x8 each, and the last slot is always a x4 slot with a x16 form factor.  The PCIe x1 slots do a good job of creating space around the top PCIe x16 slot so you will be able to run up to a three slot wide video card if you would like without it overhanging the second PCIe x16 slot. Also in this photo is the final four pin PWM fan header making for a total of six from around the whole board.

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Around on the rear I/O panel we have a whole collection of connections. The first thing I noticed was that every single USB connection is USB 3.0, you have a total of six. On top of that you also have a legacy PS2 connection for mouse or keyboard use, a lot of keyboard enthusiasts will be happy to see this one. Next to the USB ports on the left side of the I/O panel the Z87 Pro has its two antenna connections. After that for on board video Asus has literally put one of everything, there is a VGA, DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI port. As with almost every other Asus motherboard made in the past few years the Z87 Pro has an Intel Gigabit NIC. Lastly there are all of the standard audio hookups.

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On the flip side you can get a better view of the all black PCB, even where there are traces near the surface you don’t see copper showing through that sometimes gives motherboards that off black coloring. Asus even went as far as to black out the bottom of the LGA1150 socket back plate to match everything in an area of the board that people will only see once or twice. There are also two back plates for the Z87 Pro’s heatsinks as well, just like the CPU socket backplate, they are also all black.

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We spoke before about the level of cooling the Z87 Pro has but when you put it up next to the Z87 Plus it is even more noticeable.

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Z87 Plus Layout and Pictures

It’s clear right out of the hole that the Z87 Plus is a slightly cheaper motherboard. Asus went noticeably smaller when it comes to the cooling around the LGA1150 socket. Considering the CPU does its own voltage regulation this amount of cooling should still be more than enough. It’s still weird seeing such small cooling; it reminds me of boards from back in the day. The Chipset cooler is exactly the same as on the Z87 Pro though and it is very similar to what Asus used on the Z77 boards as well so we know it will get the job done. For voltage regulation though, Asus did include 5K capacitors and fully molded alloy chokes as I mentioned on the Z87 Pro as well. This means that although the Plus may look a little lighter in features due to its smaller cooling, it does still have the goods under the cooling. In fact if you look into the 5K caps you will find that they are better than the military grade caps that are advertised by their competition. 

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Starting up in the top left corner of the board between the cooling and the rear I/O panel we have a single 8 pin CPU power connection. Because of the small heatsink size there is plenty of room to get at the connection to hook it up or unhook it. Here we can also see the LGA 1150 socket and CPU hold down. If you happen to have a heatsink or water cooling that fits your old LGA1155 or LGA1156 motherboard it will still work on this new LGA 1150 socket.

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In the top right corner near the top of the RAM slots we have two four pin PWM fan headers. One is black and the other is yellow, the color coding helps make it easy to see that the yellow header is your main CPU fan header and the black one is an optional CPU fan header. In the top right corner we have the MemOK button, a button that helps you deal with memory incompatibilities by adjusting the RAM settings until they work. There is also the DROM LED, these LED’s are all over the motherboard and they light up as that part of the motherboard is initializing during boot. This is important because if there is an issue during boot you can see the area that is causing your problem. There is a third four pin PWM fan header just under the MemOK button.

Next was the DirectKey, a feature we talked about on the Pro board as well. When you press this button it will let your motherboard know to boot directly into the UEFI the next time you reboot. This is great with today’s PCs that have quick boot times, no more bashing delete. Under the DirectKey is the 24 pin power connection. Then you have the BIOS flashback button. The BIOS Flash Back button is even more interesting, when combined with a USB drive with the proper bios on it plugged into the proper USB port you can press this button and update or flash back your bios. It’s especially interesting because not only does this not require any interaction from you after pressing the button, but it doesn’t even need a CPU in the motherboard.

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Just above the SATA ports and under the 24 pin power connection there is a single USB 3.0 internal header for USB 3.0 ports on the front of today’s cases.

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The Z87-Plus’s SATA ports have the same yellow/gold color for the Intel controlled ports, just like the Z87-Pro. The two black SATA 6 connections are run on the ASMedia 1061 chipset. They did arrange these a little different and it took me a minute to figure out why. This board is actually slightly skinnier than the Z87-Pro, by rearranging they don’t have to worry about clearance issues with long video cards.

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The bottom right corner has a long yellow header that covers all of our front panel connections. There are labels along the bottom to make hooking everything up easier. Next to the front panel header is another four pin PWM fan connection, this is number four so far that we have found. Next we have four USB 2.0 internal headers lined up next to each other. Just below the SATA ports are the TPU and EPU switches. The TPU will give both your CPU and GPU an auto overclock, from past experience you will get a better overclock by using the AI Suite III software for the overclock, but you can’t get much easier than a switch to turn the overclock on and off if needed. Asus has even made it a two set switch to give you even more control. The first setting only adjusts the CPU multiplier ratio while the second setting adjusts the ratio and core clock speed.

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In the bottom left corner we have the Realtek 892 8-ch audio card, this isn’t the same audio card that the Z87-Pro has and you can tell just buy seeing the differences between the boards. Under the audio card is the TB header for use with add in Thunderbolt cards. Next is the EPU, this is similar to the TPU on the other side of the board but it trims down your power usage. There is a backlit power button that is next to the front panel audio header and SPDIF out. Lastly the Z87-Plus has a TPM (trusted Platform Module) header, something that most enthusiasts won’t need but some businesses’ need.

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For PCI slots on the Z87-Plus you have three PCI Express x16 slots, two PCI Express x1 slots, and two legacy PCI slots. Asus has spaced out the x16 slots in a way that there will be good air flow even when running SLI or Crossfire. Like other Z87 boards there aren’t enough PCI lanes into the CPU to handle three x16 slots so the slots break down like this. When you are only using the top slot it runs at a full x16 speed, when you are using the top two, they both run at x8 each, and the last slot is always a x4 slot with a x16 form factor.  Also in this photo is the final two four pin PWM fan headers making for a total of six from around the board.

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The Z87 Plus’s rear I/O panel is very similar to the Z87 Pro but there are two important details though. You still have six USB 3.0 ports and the legacy LS2 port. Asus has still gone with the premium Intel NIC that we rarely see from other manufactures and we also have all of the same standard audio connections. Where things are a little different is in the onboard video connections. The plus has VGA, DVI, and HDMI where the Pro also had a full sized display port connection. We also don’t have the wireless NIC and Bluetooth that the Pro has. In its place though there is a Mini DisplayPort connection.  

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When you flip the Z87 Plus over you can see what I spoke about when talking about the Z87 Pro. This is a black PCB but the board isn’t completely black because the copper traces on the layers closest to the top/bottom bleed through slightly giving the board an interesting copper/black color.

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UEFI and Software

When I found out that along with the Z87 launch Asus was going to introduce a new version of their software I was very excited, I have been a very big fan of AISuite II for a long time and I was excited to see what they would change. Typically when we cover new software like Asus’s new AISuite III we would include a full video walk through so you can get a feel for it. Due to issues with fraps I was unable to get the video that wanted so I have resorted to a few photos, hopefully you don’t mind.

When you boot up AISuite III you first land on the 4-Way Optimization pay, here they have a few of the settings from each page showing but the main focus here is tuning your PC for high performance or power savings. This is where Asus does their auto overclocking, something I will cover a little more in our overclocking section. Along the bottom of this screen and most of the others we have a few small sections that show clock speed, voltage, temperature, and fan speeds. These help you keep an eye on what your PC is doing, even as you make adjustments in the software. In case you didn’t catch it, the 4-way optimization stands for DIGI+ Power, TPU, EPU, and Fan Xpert 2, the tools that Asus uses in order to be able to get the best possible overclock.

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Up top we can click on a few different “tabs”, the next one being TPU and along with that there are sometimes various tabs under the main tab. Here we have a page that allows up to adjust and change our BCLK and ratio’s on a individual core or group level. Along with that you have CPU Core and CPU Cache voltage adjustments available. Each has adaptive and manual options to help you depending on your level of knowledge. Interesting to note, you can now manually type in your voltages as well as using sliders. Along with that Asus now has a four color system that will better show safe and aggressive voltage levels to help keep you from burning something up. 

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The next tab is the EPU, if you remember from in our board breakdown I spoke about how the EPU switch can adjust your power usage down. Asus had gone above and beyond the single switch here. You can adjust the voltage settings, fan profiles, and even when your monitor turns off as well as your pc’s sleep mode all on this tab. There are a few sub tabs that let you adjust the settings depended on the setting that you can adjust on the “home” page of the software for high performance, max power, and away. I really like that they included the fan profiles on this, I know for me I might be interested in having a more aggressive fan profile on the max performance tab when I might be overclocking and or gaming but when I am away from the computer it would be nice if the fans quieted down.

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The next tab is the DIGI+ Power Control tab, where we have complete control over how all of the boards CPU and DRAM power. Asus has been improving their power control for a long time and even now with some of the power control moving on to the CPU they let us adjust that as needed. To help Asus has also included easy to read explanations with graphs that adjust to show you what is happening as you change your settings over on the right side. Along with that, even just on the CPU tab there are two pages of settings available meaning if you want you can fine tune your power settings to perfectly fit what you plan on using your pc for.

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The last tab is the Fan Expert 2 tab where we can adjust how our PC’s control all of the fans that you have hooked up to any of the PWM fan headers (both boards have every single fan connection as a four pin PWM fan header btw). The top section of this page lets us flip through all of the motherboard fan headers; you will notice that there is case with a question mark on most of mine. Once you select a fan you can actually tell it where the fan is in your case and rename it to make flipping through these easier. Below the fan selection we have silent, standard, turbo, and full speed options. These will automatically adjust your fans to keep them quiet, or to keep your temperatures down depending on the setting you select. (Asus also pointed out to us that you can actually control the fan speed on both PWM fans and 3 pin fans just the same using Fan Expert 2)

Back on the individual fan pages we can also go through and adjust the fan profile. This means you can tell it how fast the fan should be depending on the temperature on a sensor of your choice. You can design your fan profile to be quiet and slowly ramp up as temperatures warm up or to be more aggressive.

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Up in the top right corner is a menu of sorts, here you can get to a few of the other features that have always made Asus’s software great. For example here we can change our USB Charger settings for boosting USB charging of your mobile devices (iOS, Windows, Android, and eReaders). This is also where you will find USB 3.0 Boost, something I will talk a little about in the USB 3.0/SATA section of this review.

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Unlike the software I was able to get footage of the UEFI on both the Z87-Pro and the Z87-Plus so I will let the video do a little more of the talking. Both UEFI’s are basically the same give or take. When you boot into the UEFI you are taken to the EZ Mode page where you can slide hard drives around to adjust your boot order and you can adjust system performance via a three option menu. Here, unlike on past models, you can also set your DRAM to an XMP profile and also adjust fan profiles as well. I should point out that on both boards we did experience low CPU fan warnings with our Noctua cooler, we saw this back on the X79 platform as well and to fix this you can just turn off Qfan or adjust the warning down below the Noctua’s lowest speed.

When you go to the advanced settings menu you get a UEFI that is more like a traditional BIOS but Asus has tuned this a little from previous models to be more mouse friendly. I will let the videos speak for the options available but I do want to point out that on the right side of the page when you mouse over options Asus has tried to explain most of them to help people learn more about what they are changing. I found the whole experience overall to be very smooth when using the mouse, sometimes mouse use in a UEFI can feel weird  but both boards had a very fluid mouse motion and no issues at all.

 

Z87-Pro

 

Z87-Plus

 

Beyond the videos there were two things I wanted to point out about the UEFI on both boards though. First the EZ Flash 2 Utility was great to work with. All I had to do was put my bios file on a flash drive or on any hard drive on your pc and jump into this option in the UEFI. Downloading and updating your UEFI can’t get much easier really.

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Asus also implemented a change log for when you go to save and exit the UEFI. This is one of those options that once you see it you wonder why we haven’t seen this earlier. This is great to be able to look and double check to make sure you didn’t mistakenly adjust something you didn’t want to.

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Our Test Rig and Testing Procedures

 

Intel LGA1150 Test System

CPU

Intel i7-4770K CPU

Cooling

Noctua NH-U12S for cooling

Noctua NT-H1 Thermal Paste

Memory

Kingston DDR3 HyperX Genesis Blue 1600Mhz Ram

Storage

Kingston HyperX 120Gb SSD (OS)

Seagate 2TB Hard drive (Steam games)

Corsair Force GT 60Gb (USB 3.0 and SATA 3 testing)

Video Card

Nvidia GTX 580 Video Card

Power Supply

Cooler Master V1000 Power Supply

Case

Microcool Banchetto 101 Test bench

OS

Windows 7 Professional 64-Bit

Windows is kept up to date while only having the benchmark programs and games needed for our testing installed.

 

CPU Testing

Cinebench 

CINEBENCH is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer's performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON's award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The test procedure consists of two main components - the graphics card performance test and the CPU performance test. We only use the total CPU score for our motherboard testing.

Passmark Performance Test 8.0

We now just use the overall CPU mark score that takes into account all of the CPU oriented results

WorldBench

Designed by the guys behind PCWorld, Worldbench is a benchmark designed to use applications and utility’s that everyone uses day to day and benchmark their performance. This gives the most accurate REAL world results, something that no other benchmark does. Being fully automated, WorldBench 6's application tests are scripted to run consecutively, and those results are automatically combined and compared against a baseline system. We use their Photoshop and Office tests.

WPrime

Perfect for testing the multithreading of multiple core CPU’s. “wPrime uses a recursive call of Newton's method for estimating functions, with f(x)=x2-k, where k is the number we're sorting, until Sgn(f(x)/f'(x)) does not equal that of the previous iteration, starting with an estimation of k/2. It then uses an iterative calling of the estimation method a set amount of times to increase the accuracy of the results. It then confirms that n(k)2=k to ensure the calculation was correct. It repeats this for all numbers from 1 to the requested maximum.”

X264 HD

X264 HD is a CPU encoding benchmark. Using the x264 codec this test encodes a video file and times its performance.

Overall Synthetic Benchmarks

PCMark 7

We run the basic PCMark test suite and use the overall score to get a general idea of system performance.

3DMark

We run the 2013 Fire Strike test using both the normal setting and extreme settings to get an overall system performance number that takes into account gaming focused systems like bandwidth to our test bench’s video card.

In Game Tests

Bioshock Infinite

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Bioshock Infinite on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, FXAA turned on, Ultra Texture detail, 16x Aniso Texture Filtering, Ultra Dynamic Shadows, Normal Postprocessing, Light Shafts on, Ambient Occlusion set to ultra, and the Level of Detail set to Ultra as well.

Tomb Raider

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Tomb Raider on the “Xtreme” quality setting. This has a resolution of 1920x1080, Exclusive Fullscreen turned on, Anti-Aliasing set to 2xSSAA, Texture Quality set to Ultra, Texture Aniso set to 16x Aniso, Hair Quality set to TressFX, Shadow set to Normal, Shadow Resolution on High, Ultra SSAO, Ultra Depth of Field, High Reflection quality, Ultra LOD scale, Post Processing On, High Precision RT turned on, and Tessellation is also turned on. 

Hitman: Absolution

Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Hitman: Absolution on the “Xtreme” quality setting other than the MSAA setting is turned down from 8x to 2x. That setting puts the resolution at 1920x1080, MSAA is set to 2x, Texture Quality is set to High, Texture Aniso is set to 16x, Shadows are on Ultra, SSA is set to high, Global Illumination is turned on, Reflections are set to High, FXAA is on, Level of Detail is set to Ultra, Depth of Field is high, Tessellation is turned on, and Bloom is set to normal.

Sleeping Dogs

 Using the Adrenaline Action Benchmark Tool we run Sleeping Dogs on the “Xtreme” quality setting. That means our resolution is set to 1920x1080, Anti-Aliasing is set to Extreme, Texture Quality is set to High-Res, Shadow Quality is High, Shadow Filter is set to high, SSAO is set to High, Motion Blur Level is set to High, and World Density is set to Extreme.

Subsystem Testing

RightMark Audio Analyzer

We use this to test the on board audio on all motherboard that come in, this gives us an idea of their audio performance beyond subjective testing. When testing we always have our audio set to 24 bit.

Crystal Disk Mark

We use this benchmark for USB 3.0 and SATA speed tests. Testing is done with Crystal Disc Mark with a Corsair Force GT 60 Gb. USB 3.0 testing is hooked up through a Thermaltake BlackX with USB 3.0 support

 

 


Performance

As a whole we are changing the way we look at our motherboard testing slightly. The truth is a lot of the standard benchmarks you see in our reviews as well as others aren’t really needed. These tests actually test components like the CPU and video card more than anything else. Because of that we have trimmed down our testing slightly to make it easier for you to take in. We still do some testing though to make sure none of the boards that we test have any glaring issues but overall you should only see a slight variation in numbers. That variation isn’t a big deal; it is only the big variances that we are looking for. Having cleared that up, I would also like to point out that testing like our Audio and storage testing still are important as they are sub systems that the motherboard manufactures have control over, be sure to check out those sections as well.

PCMark 7

Overall Score

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

6107

Asus Z87 Pro

6287

Asus Z87 Plus

6332

3DMark

Fire Strike

Fire Strike Extreme

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

4340

1955

Asus Z87 Pro

4353

2086

Asus Z87 Plus

4346

2018

Worldbench (low score is better)

Photoshop

Office

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

222

302

Asus Z87 Pro

222

291

Asus Z87 Plus

210

290

wPrime (low score is better)

32M

1024M

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

10.658

325.787

Asus Z87 Pro

10.437

325.981

Asus Z87 Plus

10.584

328.48

Passmark

CPU Mark

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

10295

Asus Z87 Pro

10437

Asus Z87 Plus

10425

X264

Pass 1

Pass 2

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

166.9525

43.83

Asus Z87 Pro

168.2825

45.9675

Asus Z87 Plus

171.8175

45.8775

Cinebench

CPU Score

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

7.73

Asus Z87 Pro

8.02

Asus Z87 Plus

7.94

Unreal Heaven Benchmark 4.0

Average FPS

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

35.5

Asus Z87 Pro

34.7

Asus Z87 Plus

34.7

Bioshock Infinite

Average FPS

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

50.08

Asus Z87 Pro

48.76

Asus Z87 Plus

48.76

Tomb Raider

Average FPS

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

30.7

Asus Z87 Pro

30.6

Asus Z87 Plus

30.6

Hitman Absolution

Average FPS

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

29.4

Asus Z87 Pro

30

Asus Z87 Plus

30

Sleeping Dogs

Average FPS

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

31.8

Asus Z87 Pro

31.5

Asus Z87 Plus

31.2

It’s really interesting to see the variances in our results. There are only slightly different but when you see the results like in Bioshock, Tomb Raider, and Hitman where the two Asus boards are spot on with the same results. It does make sense though; they are fundamentally very similar boards. Both of the boards perform close to each other as well as the MSI board. There isn’t anything that is standing out here that we should be looking into in more detail. Both the Z87 Pro and Z87 Plus will perform well in any situation assuming you pair it up with a CPU and GPU that fit your needs.

 


USB 3.0 and SATA 3

When it comes to USB 3.0 performance Asus has always really impressed me. Standard performance of their USB 3.0 is more than capable but when you dig into their AISuite III when you have a USB 3.0 device hooked up you just might have the option to turn on USB 3.0 boost.  As you can see below, I ran our test both with and without the boost to see the difference that it makes. We went from 280MB/s to 430MB/s by switching to the boost on, it kind of feels like I found free money when I use the USB 3.0 boost. Even without USB 3.0 Boost both Asus boards pulled ahead of the MSI Z87-G45 but with boost the difference is night and day.

SATA3

Read Speed

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

473.4

Asus Z87 Pro

471.2

Asus Z87 Plus

467.1

USB 3

Read Speed

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

278.2

Asus Z87 Pro

429.8

Asus Z87 Plus

431.1

 

Asus USB Boost

Standard USB 3.0 Speeds

280.3

USB 3.0 Speeds with Turbo setting turned on

430.1



Audio

While both Asus Z87 boards have what I would consider fairly basic onboard audio solutions, the Z87-Pro did have a slightly better audio card with its Realtek 1150 on-board. You can see a slight difference between the two when you look at the Intermodulation distortion + noise results but beyond that they test very close together. My subjective testing resulted in similar results, I couldn’t tell at the time the difference between ether audio card. The MSI board that is also listed here also had a mediocre audio card but they did slip in a headphone amp as well, nether of the Asus boards have anything like this. Being mainstream boards, the onboard audio wasn’t the top priority.

 

Frequency Response

 

Noise Level

Dynamic range

Total harmonic distortion

Intermodulation distortion

Stereo crosstalk

Intermodulation distortion + noise

Frequency Response

 

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

0.11

-.1

-83.1

83.1

0.13

0.258

-82.8

0.324

0.1

-0.1

Asus Z87 Pro

0.2

-.06

-88.3

88.5

0.132

0.067

-80.1

0.052

0.1

0

Asus Z87 Plus

0.17

-.21

-90.2

90.2

0.253

0.21

-85

0.149

0.1

-0.2



Overclock

Because the CPU plays an important role in total overclocking, we take a difference approach and put our motherboards built in automatic overclock to the test. In the case of both the Asus Z87-Pro and the Z87-Plus I used Asus AISuite III, the 4 way optimization tab will automatically overclock your CPU. This is the best software option I have seen because the software slowly bumps up the multiplier until the board crashes. After it reboots it starts back up again and takes the multiplier back down to the last known good setting and then it starts to increase the base clock up, testing after each change. Just like with the multiplier, it will turn the clock down slightly once it reaches its breaking point.

overclock 1

On both Asus boards we reached the same result, a result that was much higher than the MSI board tested. I feel this is because the software tests and re-overclocks over and over while the MSI board didn’t seem to go through as much trouble.

Motherboard

Highest Auto Overclock

MSI Z87-G45 Gaming

4.0Ghz

Asus Z87 Pro

4.5Ghz

Asus Z87 Plus

4.5Ghz



Overall and Final Verdict

z87pro 6

t trOnce again after taking a good look at what Asus has to offer I am lefying to figure out if it is the software or the hardware that makes what Asus puts out the top in their class? After much thought it is actually both and nether at the same time.. Let me explain. What actually makes Asus boards so great is their unwillingness to compromise on quality or features they feel are important. But because of that, both the software and the hardware is top notch.

Asus made changes to both their UEFI and to their AiSuite but I found all of the changes to be improvements overall. They continue to allow enthusiasts the ability to tweak and tune, even on mainstream boards like these, while making it easier and easier for “normal” people to get the most out of their PC. They do this with things like the EPU and TPU switches as well as easy to select options in the UEFI and AiSuite III for over and underclocking.

As far as the hardware goes, Asus managed to make it hard for me to decide what board I would go with if I were buying one right now. On one hand, the enthusiast in me would jump all over the Z87-Pro simply because of its more robust cooling. But frankly the Z87-Plus does almost everything the Pro does short of having wireless. Because of that it is also a great pick. Lucky for me all I have to do is tell you guys about the boards, it is you who will have to decide what model to pick up. I do know that whatever you end up going with you will be happy with it, assuming you like the gold coloring that is. ;)

fv3protophonorseditorschoice

fv3plustophonors

 

Author Bio
garfi3ld
Author: garfi3ldWebsite: https://lanoc.org
Editor-in-chief
You might call him obsessed or just a hardcore geek. Wes's obsession with gaming hardware and gadgets isn't anything new, he could be found taking things apart even as a child. When not poking around in PC's he can be found playing League of Legends, Awesomenauts, or Civilization 5 or watching a wide variety of TV shows and Movies. A car guy at heart, the same things that draw him into tweaking cars apply when building good looking fast computers. If you are interested in writing for Wes here at LanOC you can reach out to him directly using our contact form.

Log in to comment

garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #31257 02 Jun 2013 23:15
A look at two of Asus's mainstream Z87 motherboards
Deb0's Avatar
Deb0 replied the topic: #31258 02 Jun 2013 23:23
The color scheme hurts my eyes. Would never want to put a window on that board. =/
Leonresevil2's Avatar
Leonresevil2 replied the topic: #31269 04 Jun 2013 00:44
I actually like how it looks.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #31270 04 Jun 2013 01:05
I would be really interested in hearing from more people on what they think of the new color. Post up people!!
Satansoul's Avatar
Satansoul replied the topic: #31271 04 Jun 2013 01:46
I seen another set of motherboards with the gold color just can't remember the name. Though I do love red and black more.
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #31272 04 Jun 2013 02:02
ECS also does gold

Asus will still be doing Red and Black as well as their TUF series also. This replaces the blue mainstream motherboards.

lanoc.org/review/motherboards/5807-asus-z77-roundup?start=2
Lersar's Avatar
Lersar replied the topic: #31273 04 Jun 2013 02:15
I like it, definitely more than the blue theme.
Satansoul's Avatar
Satansoul replied the topic: #31275 04 Jun 2013 02:21
Thanks! I knew there was one. The one color I have yet to see is a white pcb with black accents.
kzinti1's Avatar
kzinti1 replied the topic: #31348 07 Jun 2013 01:57
You people do realize that you're supposed to be looking at your monitor, to see what this motherboard actually does, don't you?
If all you want is a play pretty then go and buy yourselves some cat toys at your local PetsMart.
Did the reviewer actually try and overclock these motherboards or just leave them at a very common, and slow, 4.5GHz.?
Did the heatsinks actually work or were the chips running too hot and needed some liquid cooling?
Same with the cpu's. Is liquid cooling demanded or can the users just stick with cooling on air or some everyday closed liquid cooler instead of a complete custom loop?
Did you actually push these motherboards to their limits or stick with stock settings?
Will you ever do a proper review or just leave it as almost a word for word description by ASUS?
Finally, ASUS, since people here seem to only judge a computer motherboard by color (of all things!), then why not make them all a basic and totally black color scheme?
Since most people are too stupid to understand a common "beep code", then why not make a breakout LED panel that can be mounted in an external 5.25" bay and then these users can start using a solid door, instead of one that has a window, and then they can just ignore your color schema and get back to operating a computer. Instead of just sitting there and staring at their motherboards like a bunch of slack-jawed idiots?
garfi3ld's Avatar
garfi3ld replied the topic: #31349 07 Jun 2013 02:54
I'm happy to answer any questions you have, and you are welcome to hate on my review all you would like. But we do ask that in the future you treat both our contributors and community members with the same respect that we will give you.

kzinti1 wrote: Did the reviewer actually try and overclock these motherboards or just leave them at a very common, and slow, 4.5GHz.?


As the review pointed out, being a motherboard review not a CPU review we wanted to focus on things that are motherboard dependent, not CPU dependent. Haswell has its CPU voltage regulation on the CPU itself. This means that you are going to see similar overclock results from board to board. Not only that but the results from our engineering sample most likely won't be the same as what you see with a retail CPU. So we focused on overclocking results that would vary from board to board, the auto overclocking results.

kzinti1 wrote: Did the heatsinks actually work or were the chips running too hot and needed some liquid cooling?

Liquid cooling is never really needed on a motherboard but with Haswell voltage regulation being on the CPU the cooling on the Pro board is a lot more than is actually needed. I pointed this out IN the review.

kzinti1 wrote: Did you actually push these motherboards to their limits or stick with stock settings?

This goes back to what was mentioned before

kzinti1 wrote: Same with the cpu's. Is liquid cooling demanded or can the users just stick with cooling on air or some everyday closed liquid cooler instead of a complete custom loop?

This is a motherboard review, not a CPU review. But to answer your question, all of our testing was done with air cooling (as you would see if you read the review). Water cooling isn't needed and the difference in performance between air cooling and closed loop water cooling is minimal in most cases.

kzinti1 wrote: Finally, ASUS, since people here seem to only judge a computer motherboard by color (of all things!), then why not make them all a basic and totally black color scheme?
Since most people are too stupid to understand a common "beep code", then why not make a breakout LED panel that can be mounted in an external 5.25" bay and then these users can start using a solid door, instead of one that has a window, and then they can just ignore your color schema and get back to operating a computer. Instead of just sitting there and staring at their motherboards like a bunch of slack-jawed idiots?

Some people want a window in their case. If you think the only reason they put windows in cases is to see the diagnostic LED you are sorely mistaken. The same goes for the color scheme, some people pick their motherboards to match a look that they are going for in their case along with its features.
Arxon's Avatar
Arxon replied the topic: #31351 07 Jun 2013 06:31

kzinti1 wrote: You people do realize that you're supposed to be looking at your monitor, to see what this motherboard actually does, don't you?
If all you want is a play pretty then go and buy yourselves some cat toys at your local PetsMart.


I guess you don't know what case mods are. Let me inform you.

Case modification (commonly referred to as case modding where an individual project is referred to as a case mod) is the modification of a computer chassis (often just referred to as the case), or a video game console chassis. Modifying a computer case in any non-standard way is considered a case mod. Modding is done, particularly by hardware enthusiasts, to show off a computer's apparent power by showing off the internal hardware, and also to make it look aesthetically pleasing to the owner.
Dreyvas's Avatar
Dreyvas replied the topic: #31352 07 Jun 2013 08:25

kzinti1 wrote: You people do realize that you're supposed to be looking at your monitor, to see what this motherboard actually does, don't you?
If all you want is a play pretty then go and buy yourselves some cat toys at your local PetsMart.
Did the reviewer actually try and overclock these motherboards or just leave them at a very common, and slow, 4.5GHz.?
Did the heatsinks actually work or were the chips running too hot and needed some liquid cooling?
Same with the cpu's. Is liquid cooling demanded or can the users just stick with cooling on air or some everyday closed liquid cooler instead of a complete custom loop?
Did you actually push these motherboards to their limits or stick with stock settings?
Will you ever do a proper review or just leave it as almost a word for word description by ASUS?
Finally, ASUS, since people here seem to only judge a computer motherboard by color (of all things!), then why not make them all a basic and totally black color scheme?
Since most people are too stupid to understand a common "beep code", then why not make a breakout LED panel that can be mounted in an external 5.25" bay and then these users can start using a solid door, instead of one that has a window, and then they can just ignore your color schema and get back to operating a computer. Instead of just sitting there and staring at their motherboards like a bunch of slack-jawed idiots?



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