At almost the opposite end of the spectrum from the Asus Maximus V Gene (in terms of target market) we find the Asus P8Z77-M Pro motherboard. The P8Z77-M Pro is also a micro ATX board and despite being aimed at the lower end of the consumer market it shares some of the same features that the Gene has. You still get Asus’ Digi+ power controls and FanXpert+ along with Asus’ commitment to solid design and component selection. We have talked about most of these items in Part I of our review. Now we are going to focus on the performance you can expect when you pick up the P8Z77-M Pro along with Intel’s new Ivy Bridge CPU.
As we showed you recently we do not just have a single Z77 board from Asus in the lab, but a pretty good range of them. We have a lineup that covers the entry level, the mainstream and even the ROG line (although not the upper end there yet). We have already shown you what you can expect from the Micro ATX Maximus V Gene in terms of features and design so now we want to continue that thread and take a look at another Micro ATX board at the other end of the food chain; the Asus P8Z77-M Pro. So let’s take a few minutes to check out what Asus has in store for you here.
With every new product that hits the market there are going to be winners and losers. This is true from CPUs to GPU s and everything in between. There is one place where this is more true than any other segment of the market; this is the mobile market. Now the mobile market does not just mean phones (smart or dumb). This market includes everything from portable power sources to fully fledged desktop replacement notebooks. Currently the most competitive market is in the Tablet world. To most people Apple is king. They have the most successful tablet device out and are well into the second generation of the iPad. But first does not always mean best nor does popularity alone indicate complete success (although it certainly helps). Today we have the chance to take a look at one of the competitors to Apple. Not necessarily the iPad, although it will challenge that device in a major way, this is more of a direct threat to the Apple fan base and their tablet/ultra-portable devices. This is the EEE Slate EP121 (also called the EEE Pad) from Asus; a product launched at CES and one that packs quite a bit of hardware including an Intel Core i5 Dual Core CPU and up to 4GB of RAM. So sit back for a good read and decide for yourself if this one falls into the winner’s group or the losers.
Day one was a lot of prep work. The first thing I did was to download all of the drivers and utilities from Asus’ web site for my tablet. This was just in case I needed them to get everything working. Next was to back up my favorite tablet by using a system imaging software. I used the Acronis software that comes with the Kingston SSD Now kits. This worked great an in a little over an hour I had a full block level image of my old system.
Next step was the actual installation. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the touch screen worked even during beginning phases of the install. Under Windows 7 (when I ran a full installation) I did not get full touch screen access, I had to have a keyboard plugged into one of the USB ports. This small victory had me in good spirits as I watched the installer do its job. The actual install only took about 20 minutes and boot time was amazing right around 8 seconds from power on to login screen. This is to be expected with a Core i5 470UM, 4GB of RAM and an 80GB Intel SSB under the hood. Once the installation was done I started to load up drivers….
Here is where I ran into my first issue (and one that took almost 6 hours to get past). After installing the HotKey Service I would get an error at every boot. “Missing Asus ACPI Driver, Please install Asus ACPI Driver” The only option was OK, but you had to click it about 10 times before it would stop. I tried everything. I uninstalled the driver, reinstalled, ran compatibility mode, everything. In the end I had to disable automatic updates and set it to “download but let me chose when to install them”. Once that was done I had to install Microsoft Update (in place of Windows Update). Suddenly there was an update for the ACPI Utility Driver. I ran this update and the error went away.
Now, as this driver is needed for the hot keys on the device I figured we were all good to go. I was wrong. The button that brings up the on-screen keyboard does not work, The “home/application scroll” button only works like CTRL+ATL+DELETE and will not get you back to the start screen, and as a final item the volume buttons do not work. However, it is the keyboard and home button that is a deal breaker. This single item has stopped everything in its tracks. Without this functionality you get stuck in any of the Apps run on the Metro UI. If you open up the Weather App, there is no way to get back without the start button or a home button. I am hoping to get in touch with Asus and see if there is anything they can offer in the way of help, after all Microsoft is testing this so there has to be a way around it. For right now I cannot find it and cannot move forward much without this option.
So for now we are stuck with the following items working;
The basic tablet features (touch screen etc)
Full Video Support
Here is what is not working
Full Audio (no microphone or line out)
We will continue to plow on and work to get this operational before the time runs out on the developer preview. Check tomorrow night for our experiences with Day 2 – Installing productivity applications and hopefully a resolution to the hardware issues we are having.
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So now that we have covered all of the features and design choices for the P8Z77-V we are about to dive into the performance of this board. So far if what we have seen on paper adds up we should see some very good performance. After all Asus has been working on tuning their Z77 boards for a while and with the new trace layout we are seeing we might actually get to see some of that pop-up in every day performance. So without waiting too long let’s just get to it.
When you talk about gaming, overclocking and performance there are always a couple of names that pop up. One name that is sure to pop up in the conversation is the name of Asus. Asus has been making great products (along with the not so great) for many years. However, with the launch of Intel’s Nehalem and AMD’s Phenom II Asus has really took off. Their flagship Republic of Gamers (ROG) line has simply been stellar. It is one of these that we are taking a look at today. In the lab we have the Asus ROG Rampage III Extreme (RIIIE). This $380 board packs a ton of features and performance into an attractive red and black ATX package. Let’s see just what $380 gets you for performance.
The workstation server market is one that has been neglected in the mainstream technical media. Yes there are a few “upper-end” sites that cover the workstation arena but they tend be a little snobby at times and almost always talk over the heads of the average consumer. So we are going to try and bring some of that talk to you in plain English. To kick things off we have a very nice product. This is the first Dual socket 1366 motherboard in a standard ATX package. It has been brought to you by the Asus Work Station team. These guys are a very talented bunch and have made some workstation products that can even compete head to head with some of the Republic of Games boards that Asus has. So let’s introduce to you the Asus Z8NA-D6C.
After what seemed like a long time we are finally getting into the full performance section of our review. The Asus P8Z77-V Deluxe is a board that really has quite a bit going on which makes properly covering everything something of a chore. You can check out our design and feature coverage to see just how much there is packed into this board. Still we have tested out all of the pieces and parts and had the time to use the board in some of our testing with Ivy Bridge and the heat issues that have popped up. With that said let’s dive in right now and talk about the performance you can expect from Asus’ P8Z77-V Deluxe motherboard.
Home networking gear has been making some leaps in speed and sophistication since its introduction. These leaps have made wireless in the home more usable and configurable. Much of the work on this side of the product (making things easier to configure and use) has been behind the scenes, but this work has pushed wireless technology further into our homes. Now the big ticket item is the new 802.11ac wireless standard. However there is still a huge market for 802.11n wireless products with dual concurrent bands (2.4GHz and 5GHz). Right now these wireless products are what you are going to see in the market and what consumers are interested in simply because of their prevalence. So with that in mind we are taking about an 802.11n wireless router from Asus, the RT-N66U Dark Knight Wireless router.
In the PC world audio components are often overlooked. There are only so many items that your average consumer can keep track of. They know CPU, GPU Motherboard. Some will know about the power supply but really not much else. After all, Intel and others have been fighting to say the build in Audio CODEC on your average motherboard is as good as a discrete audio card so why should consumers think different? Well, if you think about it logically this does not make sense. After all, can you name one IGP (integrated graphics processor) that is as good as even a simple mid-range discrete GPU? I would not even say that the IGP on the i7 2600K is as good. So why would anyone think that an on-board audio CODEC would be better or even “just as good”? It is all marketing. We have tested multiple boards and also multiple add-in audio cards and can attest to this. Now I think I have found “the one”. The one audio card that finally brings the audiophile level expectation to the PC world. This is the Xonar Xense. It is Asus’ flagship audio card and one that has them partnered up with Sennheiser. The Xonar Xense comes complete with a pair of Sennheiser PC 350 Xense Edition headphones, a tuned audio card (complete with custom gain levels), and a head phone amplifier this is one serious piece of audio gear for your gaming or multi-media audio pleasure. So let’s put the PC 350 Xense headphones on, sit back and see what we can hear.