ASUS, BIOSTAR, GIGABYTE, and MSI Intel Z77 Motherboard Round Up
The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 has a very eye catching retail packaging. It’s also a very busy box. There is a lot of information on the front cover. Ultimately it does the job for those who happen to be in a retail store like CompUSA to do their shopping. Some of the features displayed on the front include 100% solid capacitors, 13-phase power, HDMI 3D visual, AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI.
The back of the retail packaging gives us a little more information about the details mentioned on the front of the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 packaging.
Opening up the retail packaging we are first introduced to the bundle. The bundle for the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 includes the user guide, installation DVD, CrossFire bridge, NVIDIA SLI Bridge, I/O Shield, and a couple of SATA cables. It isn’t the most inclusive bundle out there, but this helps keep the price down on BIOSTAR products, which is a key goal for BIOSTAR.
Once we remove the tray that separates the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 from the bundle, we can catch our first glimpse of the motherboard. The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 is well packaged, and protected within an anti-static bag.
Once we remove the anti-static bag, we can get our first unencumbered look at the board. I’m not sure what it is about the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4, but I think it is my personal favorite Intel Z77 motherboard when it comes to the look of it. I typically don’t like orange on motherboards, but BIOSTAR has enough orange on the heatsinks to accent the PCB well, but not enough as to overpower the look of the board. Granted, much of the orange will be covered up with a dual slot graphics card, and more depending on your choice of CPU coolers.
The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 will support 32GB of memory running at 2600MHz! At the upper right corner of the DIMM slots we can find the CPU four pin fan header.
This is one area of the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 that I have a gripe with. The SATA ports aren’t very clearly marked. Between the LED display and the left end of the SATA ports there is a square with the labels, SATA1,4 6GB/s and SATA2,3 3GB/s. There is nothing to differentiate between the SATA III 6Gbps controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset and the SATA III 6gbps controlled by the ASMedia ASM1061. It is detailed in the user manual, for reference the SATA PM0 and PM1 are controlled via the ASM1061. Working our way up the edge of the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 we can see the front panel connectors, on board power, reset and clear CMOS, 3pin fan header, and a pair of internal USB 2.0 headers. To the right of the last PCIe x16 slot we can see the internal SuperSpeed USB 3.0 header. The location of the USB 3.0 header isn’t the greatest; if you happen to be running an expansion card in the last PCIe x16 slot it may be tricky to hide the USB 3.0 cable effectively.
Picking up where we left off above, we can see the header for the Serial port, CIR1 (Consumer Infrared), 3pin system fan header, and the SPDIF out. Swinging around the corner we can see the iTE IT8893E PCIe-PCI bridge, Realtek ALC898 8 channel audio covered with a BIOSTAR logo plate and LED, front panel audio header, and the Realtek RTL8111E Gigabit LAN controller. The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 has three PCIe x16 slots that are all capable of PCIe Gen 3 when paired with one of the new Intel ‘Ivy Bridge’ processors. The first two PCIe x16 slots will support AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI technologies, the third PCIe x16 slot is strictly for expansion cards.
The I/O panel on the BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 doesn’t have as many features as some of our other motherboards today. BIOSTAR keeps the cost of their products down by cutting out some of the extras like dual LAN that many people won’t use. They didn’t cut back on the useful features that are needed by many; there is a total of six USB ports. Two of the USB ports are SuperSpeed USB 3.0 controlled by the Intel Z77 chipset while the remaining four are USB 2.0. We also have a single PS/2 Keyboard port, a single Gigabit LAN controlled by a Realtek RTL8111E. The BIOSTAR TZ77XE4 has four different video out options, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA D-Sub, and DVI. Just above the USB 3.0 ports is a single eSATA port.