Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard w/ Z77 chipset for 3rd-gen Core CPUs
This week, Intel just launched their new 7 Series line of motherboards and chipsets in preparation for the arrival of 3rd-generation Core processors later this month. These include first- and third-party offerings based on the H77 (mainstream), Z75 (performance), and Z77 (enthusiast) chipsets, made specifically to pair with the new Ivy Bridge CPUs with built-in graphics capabilities. Being that these motherboards are still based on the LGA 1155 socket, though, Sandy Bridge will work in them just fine. Of course, I have an Ivy Bridge chip sitting right here next to me, but I can’t tell you anything about that
yet, so an overview of this motherboard and its technologies will have to suffice for now.
It’s important to note that a 7 Series chipset/motherboard is NOT required for Ivy Bridge -- some 6 Series products (including those based on H61, H67, P67, and Z68 chipsets) that launched last year with Sandy Bridge will support the new CPUs once you’ve upgraded the firmware, BIOS, and graphics drivers where applicable. However, there are a few advantages to upgrading, such as support for USB 3.0, which I will get into later. The Z77 is the heart of the DZ77GA-70K Intel Desktop Extreme motherboard we’re looking at today. Here is a block diagram, for those of you that enjoy chipset porn:
Interestingly, the Z77 supports Intel’s Thunderbolt technology, a high-speed method of data transfer that has thus far only been implemented in Apple products. Though the cables are expensive (about $50 for a 6-footer), they provide bi-directional connectivity over a PCI-Express or DisplayPort bus of up to 10 Gb/s. It doesn’t appear to be utilized on the DZ77GA-70K or any other Ivy Bridge board that just launched, but perhaps the business-oriented models will take advantage of it when they arrive later this year.
As always, the theoretical capabilities of a chipset don’t necessarily directly translate into real-world features on the motherboard, whether due to space and cost limitations or the inclusion of supplemental chips. Here’s a run-down of what is actually present on the DZ77GA-70K:
- LGA1155 socket for Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge CPUs
- 4 DIMM slots for up to 32GB DDR3-1600 memory, overclocks up to DDR3-2400
- Dual PCI-e 3.0 x16 graphics slots, supporting NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFire
- Five PCI-e expansion slots (2 PCI-e x1, 1 PCI-e x4, 2 PCI)
- Nine SATA ports (4 3 Gb/s, 4 6 Gb/s, and 1 eSATA 6 Gb/s)
- Dual gigabit Ethernet connections via Intel Pro 10/100/1000
- Two IEEE 1394a firewire ports
- Ten USB 2.0 ports (4 external including 2 fast-charge, 6 internal headers)
- Eight USB 3.0 ports (4 external, 4 internal headers)
- Ten-channel (8+2) 7.1 Intel High Definition Audio
- Front panel microphone/headphone header
- Four on-board fan headers
- On-board LED Port 80 POST decoder display
- Diagnostic POST indicator LED lights
- Consumer infrared transmitter and receiver headers
- On-board power-on and reset buttons
- Back-to-BIOS boot-up toggle switch
- Bluetooth/WIFI and front panel USB 3.0 add-on modules
You might have noticed that the block diagram says there is support for up to three PCI Express 3.0 slots for graphics (one x16 and two x8), while the feature list mentions dual x16 slots. What they’ve done is combined the two x8 slots to effectively provide dual 16-lane connections for maximum graphics bandwidth in SLI or CrossFire configurations. On a larger motherboard, the same chipset could easily support three graphics cards using a x16/x8/x8 set-up.
The DZ77GA-70K is still based on the standard ATX form factor, but there’s a lot more breathing room for your components compared to something like the DX79SI used in our Sandy Bridge-E review. There are simply fewer and smaller components on this Ivy Bridge mobo: the LGA 1155 socket is almost half the size of LGA 2011, there are only 4 DIMM slots compared to 8, and the chipset doesn’t require as much cooling so that heatsink is smaller.
We’re dealing with the same number of expansion slots, but since only two graphics cards are supported instead of three, they were able to spread those PCI-E x16 slots out more, which should favorably affect GPU temperatures. Other than that, I find their fan header placement to be a little less than optimal (with two front case fans, one of them cannot reach), and I prefer not to have the front-panel audio connector in such a place that the cable has to lay between expansion slots.
Next up, we’ll delve into some of the major new technologies Intel has integrated into the 7 Series chipsets, including something the overclockers out there are sure to love!