Introduction – ASUS Z87-PRO
ASUS along with its ROG boards also released the more mainstream channel series of boards one of which we actually looked at already in the Z87-A. The color seems to be the big topic in the community and for good reason since ECS did a similar gold coloring on the heatsinks and components for Z77 and it did not go over well but ASUS decided to throw their hat into the ring with the god coloring in an apparent effort to symbolize the “Gold Standard” and while I’ve never been a big fan of gold I do think in the right system it could look nice or in a build where a window and appearance are not as important as the function. For me its all about performance but I think that also has to do with my inherent inability to make a pretty system so I just dont care. With that said we are looking at the Z87-Pro today which is the higher featured big brother to the Z87-A I had looked at before. With that lets take a look at what the PRo has to offer
The Z87-Pro comes to market with a street price of $209.99 directly from Newegg at the time of writing. This places it in the higher end of the mainstream market and directly in line with some of the higher end boards from competing manufacturers, with that lets take a look at what it has to offer.
Here you can see a quick overlook of many of the boards main features. This shows everything this board has to offer and also shows many of the supported items as well. especially things such as the WiFi inclusion which is a huge plus in the modern wireless culture.
4 Way Optimization
ASUS has implemented a new “4 Way Optimization” feature in many of the new 8 series boards.
The 4 way optimization refers to the complete support structure within the board in relation to all around tuning, not just performance or power savings but now a complete package.
With a single click the 4 way optimization will kick in and optimize the entire cooling/power/overclock and VRM tuning for the ultimate solution without alot of overclocking or tuning knowledge. This is a plus for most users as I myself can tune a system very well but many users simply want a solution they can plug in and game or do whatever they may do from surfing YouTube to Facebook and candy crush. But if your getting a board why would you not tune it up to be the best it can be including optimizations to power savings since thats free money saving from your electric bill monthly which in this tight economy I cannot see as being a bad feature.
Also improvement to the TPU unit with a two step switch now in place to allow standard mode, then step one is a ratio boost and step two would be a BCLK plus ratio boost for even better OC improvement up to 4.25+GHz
Power savings come by way of power optimizations but also cutting power to unused ports to allow even more power savings.
ASUS 5X Protection
ASUS always adds new and interesting features with each new board/chipset launch. The Z87 is no different and with the Z87 mainstream lineup they include what is referred to as 5x protection.
On the above you can see some of the key features of the 5X protection features.
- Dram Overcurrent Protection – This is an inclusion of a fuse inline for the DRAM to allow overcurrent spikes to not reach the DIMMS and cause costly system damage which could otherwise take your system down for an extended time and even have costly replacement results.
- ASUS Digital Power Design – This includes the ASUS DIGI+ design which as we have seen before is a very stable and efficint power solution as you will notice it has not changed a whole lot over many generations now except the necessary changes to be better compatible or perform better with specific platform architecture changes.
- ASUS ESD Guards – ASUS has included special ESD circuits in the ASUS boards which help ensure that when stray static shocks reach the board they can be absorbed with a lesser chance of damaging critical components.
- Stainless Steel Back I/O – The stainless steel back IO is the boxes which hold the rear I/O component ports and employing a corrosion free stainless steel material means that the IO portion will stay corrosion free and in much better working condition for much longer than a standard steel components which when in the harsher climates can definitely be having a bad day very quickly and when rusted or corroded can cause failures of the ports or components.
- ASUS 5K Hour Caps – This stands for the uptime you can expect from these specially made caps at 105C, and we all know that your PC will not see 105C very often or ever so with a more realistic but still very extreme temp figure the rating will jump up to an expected 50,000 hours and since most chassis temps see around 30-35C figure that time will even be longer. And that means you can expect the components and board life to be very long, probably longer than you would ever use it.
Here you can see the Network iControl software which is part of the ASUS Suite which allows you to monitor and even allocate bandwidth or even automatically allocate bandwidth with an automatic algorithm designed to give priority to key applications and tasks to ensure your downloads and other tasks are not slowed down by other non essential network traffic.
WiFi GO! has been something that ASUS has had for some time and has refined it as time has gone on from just DLNA media streaming among other features to now being a very extensive and capable suite allowing better utilization of your digital home experience. Now with WiFi GO! you can see remote file transfers within your WiFi network, DLNA media hub functionality, cloud based application and data along with Remote desktop control with KB/Mouse controls directly from even smartphone or tablet devices. the cloud storage ability to sync directly with cloud based services such as Google Drive/Docs, Dropbox and even ASUS Webstorage means that integration of your network into the could has never been easier. Even the ability to use the gyro sensor with your phone or tablet as intuitive controls in some gaming environments via the remote desktop control function adds yet another layer to the capability of the WiFi GO! functionality.
ASUS Fan Xpert 2
As you can see the Fan Xpert 2 utility is back and it is still an amazing application with now even a better cleaner interface within the AISuite Utilities. The ability to auto tune (No not like T-Pain) the fans by running through a test ramping each fan to its maximum to find where each fan can go and then it automatically profiles each fan to allow for optimized noise/airflow conditions based on thermals within the case.
USB BIOS Flashback
ASUS offers the BIOS Flashback utility which is actually a multi-facet tool and has many capabilities which some may not be aware of. we have had many times where a motherboard did not support a CPU and a frantic search for a supported CPU just to flash the BIOS (ex. Gulftown CPU support on X58). ASUS has eliminated the worry of these kinds of issues by allowing the BIOS flashback procedure which does not require a CPU or memory or GPU to flash the BIOS. All that is needed in order to flash the BIOS is to have the desired firmware ROM file on a USB thumb drive and insert that into the BIOS Flashback USB port.
then depressing the BIOS Flashback button (At the bottom of the boards edge) for 5 seconds will start a flashing LED which indicates the firmware is being updated and once the update is complete the flashing will stop. It really is that easy and ensures no matter the condition the firmware can be flashed even if the newest CPU is not supported without the previously mentioned hunt for a compatible CPU.
This may seem like an odd feature but many may buy the newest and greatest CPU on the market while the board could have been shipped with the older firmware which in most cases would leave the user stuck without an option. As for our usage we have found this useful in quite a few experiences where running a LN2 cooled system not necessarily in the most stable conditions and a BIOS had gotten corrupt, but with the BIOS flashback it was remedied as quickly as we could copy the Rom file from our laptop to the flash drive and get it flashing.
New UEFI BIOS
The Z87 boards also ushered in some new tweaks to the UEFI which definitely can be seen as a good move with some very neat small improvements in the features front but also some great performance tweaks as well.
- Quicknote – Quicknote is used to allow notations within the BIOS that will be saved so that if you had something you were working on while tweaking you can always go back to these digital notes as a reference point.
- Last Modified – This is a button you can click on which brings up a box showing all setting changes within the UEFI so that you can retrace steps back to change something should the overclock or performance go awry.
- UEFI Shortcuts & My Favorites – This allows you to choose specific settings as shortcuts or favorites and at that point you will have a main screen with just the shortcuts you selected so that you dont have to dig through all of the menus to get to all of the various settings you may use most prominently.
- EZ Mode – This is the simple graphical interface which is super easy to navigate yet offers most of the basic tuning and functionality of the main BIOS without all of the separate tabs in the Advanced section.
- SATA Port Renaming – This is a pretty neat feature as you can rename SATA ports to whatever you need them to be to make them easier to identify with a quick glance.
The new NFC protocol definitely has been getting some attention as of late due to the easy touchless syncing mainly among audio devices and the sort with mobile phones.
Well ASUS saw some potential in NFC and they made a NFC pod usable to allow easy PC login, file transfer or even RDC with a mobile device by simply tapping a NFC enabled device to the NFC pod which will be connected to the ASUS Motherboard.
The NFC Express accessory pod can be purchased separately to use with any 8 series board but if you happen to pick up the Z87 Deluxe Dual board it will come pre bundled with it.