BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X High Definion Audio Motherboard
Recently BIOSTAR launched their Hi-Fi series of Intel motherboards. Currently it consists of two different models, the Hi-Fi H77S and the Hi-Fi Z77X. Today we have the later to look at. In case you hadn't guessed, the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X takes advantage of the Intel Z77 chipset from Intel which supports the latest Intel 'Ivy Bridge' processors and all of the goodies that come with it. When we first opened up the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X we noticed that it was remarkably similar to the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 that we looked at earlier this year. Even the price is comparable between the two boards. The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X can be found on Newegg for $149.99 +$7.56 shipping right now. That's not a bad price considering that you can drop that on a sound card alone, and here we are getting a motherboard and a Hi-Fi audio!
Upon a closer examination they two BIOSTAR Intel Z77 motherboards are nearly identical, at least when it comes to the PWM's and area around the Intel LGA1155 socket. Obviously there are a few minor differences, mostly having to do with the heatsink and silk screening on the PCB. All of the critical parts like the chokes and 100% Japanese solid capacitors match up. Both of these boards are using a 13 phase CPU power delivery method for the CPU. Moving around the Hi-Fi Z77X we notice a couple of other differences as well. The Hi-Fi Z77X only has six SATA ports (2 SATA III 6Gbps, 4 SATA II 3Gbps)
Looking at the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 and the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X, there certainly aren't a lot of differences. The first difference to jump out is the color and style of the heatsinks. The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X uses a touch of blue on the heatsinks that looks nice. The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 heatsinks take advantage of heatpipe technology to aid in the cooling while the Hi-Fi Z77X doesn't. Looking at the expansion slots of the two boards, the overall layout is a little bit nicer on the TZ77XE4 as it allows you to run multiple dual slot graphics cards while leaving a single slot between them. The Hi-Fi Z77X does allow for three dual slot graphics cards but there is no space between the second and third slot if dual-slot cards are used. Over 90% of gamers only use one graphics card, let alone three, so no big deal.
The most important feature between the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 and the new BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is the Hi-Fi audio components. BIOSTAR has dubbed this PURO Hi-Fi and has effectively segregated the audio components from the rest of the PCB. We can see the yellow line that separates the audio components from the rest of the motherboard above, this will help protect the audio signal from electrical interference.
The Hi-Fi series of motherboards from BIOSTAR use non-polarized electrolysis electrec audio capacitors for each audio channel circuit. These crucial components offer low noise, low distortion and wide bandwidth which will help us to hear high sound resolution and expansion.
Below the Puro Hi-Fi Stainless cover we can find the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec that is at the heart of the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X. We were more than a little surprised to find out that the Hi-Fi series of motherboards are still utilizing the same audio codec that many boards are using. The Realtek ALC898 is no slouch when it comes to audio. The ALC898 offers up ten CAC channels, this means that you can simultaneously playback audio streams in 7.1, as well as the 2 channels on the front panel. It will also us a sampling rate of 192KHz/24bit high quality audio.
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X Specifications:
|CPU SUPPORT|| Intel Core i7 LGA 1155 Processor
Intel Core i5 LGA 1155 Processor
Intel Core i3 LGA 1155 Processor
Intel Pentium LGA 1155 Processor
Intel Celeron LGA 1155 Processor
Maximum CPU TDP (Thermal Design Power) : 95Watt
|MEMORY|| Support Dual Channel DDR3 2600(OC)/2400(OC)/2200(OC)/2133(OC)/1866(OC)/1800(OC)/1600/1333/1066 MHz
4 x DDR3 DIMM Memory Slot
Max. Supports up to 32GB Memory
|EXPANSION SLOT|| 2 x PCI-E x16 3.0 Slot (SLi / CFX x8)
1 x PCI-E x16 2.0 Slot (x4)
3 x PCI-E x1 2.0 Slot
|STORAGE|| 2 x SATA3 Connector
4 x SATA2 Connector
Support SATA RAID: 0,1,5,10
Support Intel Smart Response Technology
|USB|| 2 x USB 3.0 Port
1 x USB 3.0 Header
4 x USB 2.0 Port
2 x USB 2.0 Header
Intel USB3.0 only support Win7 or later version
|GbE||Realtek RTL8111F - 10/100/1000 Controller|
|MULTI GRAPHICS|| AMD CrossFireX
|INTEGRATED VIDEO|| By CPU model
|CODEC||Realtek ALC898 8 Channel Blu-ray Audio|
|REAR I/O|| 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
2 x USB 3.0 Port
4 x USB 2.0 Port
1 x HDMI Connector
1 x DVI Connector
1 x VGA Port
1 x RJ-45 Port
6 x Audio Connector
|INTERNAL I/O|| 1 x USB 3.0 Header
2 x USB 2.0 Header
2 x SATA3 6Gb/s Connector
4 x SATA2 3Gb/s Connector
1 x Front Audio Header
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x S/PDIF-OUT Header
1 x CPU FAN Header
2 x System FAN Header
1 x Serial Header
1 x CIR Header
|DIMENSION||ATX Form Factor Dimension: 30.5 cm x 24.4 cm ( W x L )|
|ACCESSORIES|| 4 x SATA Cable
1 x SLI Connector
1 x CrossFire Connector
1 x I/O Shield
1 x DVD Driver
1 x User Manual
|FEATURES|| Windows 8 Compatible
Supports uEFI GUI Interface BIOS
Supports THX TruStudio Pro
Supports 100% Solid capacitor
Supports Rapid Switch2
Supports Rapid Debug3
Supports HDMI Audio Ready
Supports Toverclcoker OC software
Supports GPU (Green Power Utility)
Supports Charger Booster
Supports BIOS Online Update
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X Bundle and Motherboard Hi-Fi Audio Features
The BIOSTAR Puro Hi-Fi is the best audio solution available on BIOSTAR motherboards. Using a BIOSTAR Hi-Fi series motherboard like the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X we have today will allow you to experience virtual surround sound without the added cost of a dedicated sound card.
Above we can see the key components for the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi. The 'Yellow Line' that shields the audio components from the rest of the PCB, the Hi-Fi AMP, Hi-Fi Caps, Hi-Fi resistors, and the Stainless Shielding cover to protect the Realtek ALC898 high definition audio codec.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X uses a built in amplifier that can drive high-end headphones with over 100dB loads. It also offers a wide bandwidth, low noice, high slew rate and low distortion audio signal at your front audio ports.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi AMP allows us to experience better overall sound when using high end headsets.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Ground or the 'Yellow Line' helps protect the audio signal from any interference on the rest of the Hi-Fi Z77X motherboard.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X uses an individual 'Non-Polarized Electrolysis Electric audio capacitor' per audio circuit. Each of these capacitors are customized to deliver low noise, distortion, and wide bandwidth for the highest sound resolution and expansion.
The Hi-Fi Resistors that BIOSTAR uses on their Hi-Fi motherboars offer greater stability and reliability than regular metal film resistors.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is equipped with Hi-Fi Power, the Hi-Fi Power is an independent power supply for the audio circuitry. This allows for a significant reduction in electronic noise and better sound quality.
By utilizing the MCC (Multi Channel Calibration) and the included microphone, we can automatically configure the audio settings.
Above you can see the MCC GUI and a few of the different options like Mid-Night mode, volume for each channel, and the surround sound mode.
The Smart ear utility from BIOSTAR allows you to adjust the impedance settings, and customize it to the headphones that you use for the best listening experience.
The Smart Ear GIU lets us adjust the volume, impedance, as well as having a audio ESD (ElectroStatic Discharge) indicator.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi series of motherboards has built in protection of up to 15000 Volts of ESD.
The Legit Reviews Test System
Before we look at the numbers, here is a brief glance at the test systems that were used. All testing was done on a fresh install of Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit. All benchmarks were completed on the desktop with no other software programs running.
Intel Z77 System
- BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X - $149.99 +$7.56 shipping
Intel Test Rig
|Processor||Intel Core I7 3770K||Live Pricing|
|Motherboard|| See Above
|Memory||8gb Corsair Vengeance 1600MHz||Live Pricing|
|Hard Drive||Kingston SSDNow 96GB SSD||Live Pricing|
|Video Card||XFX Radeon HD 6950||Live Pricing|
|CPU cooler|| Corsair H100
|Chassis||None - Open Bench|
|Power Supply||Corsair TX750||Live Pricing|
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X Intel Z77 System Settings
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X High Definition Audio Performance
The RightMark Audio Analyzer suite is designed for testing quality of analog and digital paths of any audio devices, be it a sound card, an MP3 player, a consumer CD/DVD player or an acoustic set. The results are obtained by playing and recording test signals passed through the tested audio path by means of frequency analysis algorithms. The latest version of RightMark Audio Analyzer can be found here.
Rightmark Audio Analyzer Comparison Chart
- BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X - Realtek ALC898 W/ Hi-Fi Components
- BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 - Realtek ALC898
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X brought it's A-Game in our Rightmark Audio Analyzer testing today. The Hi-Fi Z77X was able to step up the overall performance to 'Very Good' compared to the TZ77XE4 overall performance of 'Good'. We are glad to see that there is a measurable difference between the two boards despite using the same Realtek ALC898 High Definition Audio Codec.
Futuremark 3DMark 11 DirectX 11 Gaming Benchmark
3DMark 11 is the latest version of the world’s most popular benchmark for measuring the 3D graphics performance of gaming PCs. 3DMark 11 uses a native DirectX 11 engine designed to make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11, including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
We ran 3DMark11 with both the performance and extreme presets to see how our hardware will run.
3DMark11 Performance Benchmark Results:
3DMark 11 shows that the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 and the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X are quite comparable in terms of the gaming performance. There is a grand total of 78 points or 1.5% separating the two boards, not really anything significant to worry about.
3DMark11 Extreme Benchmark Results:
Our two BIOSTAR boards were once again very similar with a very small margin of only .8% separating the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 and the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X motherboards. These boards are very similiar, so we won't do anymore testing as you can find all the Biostar TZ77XE4 benchmark results here.
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X Final Thoughts and Conclusion
The key feature of the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is clearly the Hi-Fi audio components. Since the remainder of the board is nearly identical to the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 we didn't focus on the overall system performance that we normally do as there is no significant difference. We did do some internal testing to verify this, but we wanted to maintain the focus of today on the audio performance. With that being said, the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is certainly a motherboard for designed for audiophiles. We like that BIOSTAR was able to isolate the audio chip from the rest of the board and use an EMI shield along with high-quality components to improve onboard sound. Audio testing is very tough and while we were able to see some differences in RightMark Audio Analyzer, it was tough to hear differences with our audio setup. That is one of the issues with reviewing audio features as it is subjective and is dependent on the speakers and environment that you are in. This boards audio solution supports 192kHz 24-bit sample playback, a 7.1-speaker setup and is THX certified. If you use your PC for a home theater system and/or an audiophile then the Hi-Fi Z777X should be on your short list of boards for that next system build.
While we wanted to keep the focus of today on the audio performance, we couldn't live with ourselves if we didn't include one of the staples of benchmarking. 3DMark 11 can be a very good indicator of the gaming aptitude of the overall system. The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X was able to bring home a score of P5210 (performance Preset) and X1635 (Extreme Preset). Both of these scores were just a fuzz behind the BIOSTAR flagship TZ77XE4 Intel Z77 motherboard but well within any margin of error. The performance preset was only 1.5% behind while the Extreme preset was even closer with only a .8% difference. Neither of the two score differences are enough to be concerned about though. Overall I would call the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X a very capable motherboard when it comes to gaming.
We were pleased to see that we were actually able to see a measurable performance difference between the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X and the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4. When we first started looking at the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X, we were nothing short of shocked when we realized that it was using the same audio codec that we saw on the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4. The differences lie in the sub components for the audio. We were happy to see that the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X lives up to it's 'Hi-Fi' monicker and was able to outperform the vanilla Realtek ALC898 High Definition Audio Codec onboard the TZ77XE4 in our audio testing.
Overall I have to admit that I am quite impressed with the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X, especially when you factor in the price! The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is currently available for only $149.99 +$7.56 shipping. As always, BIOSTAR has you covered if you should happen to have an issue with your board. The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is backed by a three year warranty and you can find the details here.
The BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X earns our innovation award for taking integrated motherboard audio to the next level! We also like that BIOSTAR plans on rolling out the Hi-Fi technology on both AMD and Intel boards for the foreseeable future. BIOSTAR has raised the bar in terms of what consumers can expect in terms of mainstream audio performance and quality and we like that! BIOSTAR might not have been the first to have a specialized board for audio, but they are the first to go this far and on numerous boards.
Legit Bottom Line: If you are looking for a better audio solution without breaking the bank, the BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Z77X is a great option for you.