by Rob Williams on August 30, 2013 in Motherboards
ASUS’ golden Z87 mainstream lineup suggests that the company means to set the standard for motherboards, and we aim to find out how close it gets to doing so with a look at its Z87-EXPERT. It features a robust configuration – even including Thunderbolt – and of course, has seen a number of EFI and AiSuite III enhancements.
ASUS is going for the gold with its mainstream Z87 lineup… quite literally. As we detailed prior to the official Z87 chipset launch, ASUS has retired its long-standing blue-ish color scheme for its mainstream line and is instead opting for a gold-colored one. The reason? Well, gold represents an ultra-high standard, one that ASUS believes it meets with this lineup.
As usual, ASUS’ collection of current-gen motherboards is a bit overwhelming, and I’m sure we’ll be taking a look at some of the non-mainstream models in the future. What do I mean by “mainstream”? That’s ASUS denotation to a lineup that caters to virtually everyone. This differs from its more targeted series, like Republic of Gamers, WS (workstation), or Sabertooth (stable, long-lasting). You can’t go wrong with a mainstream series board if you’re simply looking to build a Z87-based PC.
Among its Z87 mainstream lineup, the EXPERT board sits closer to the top than the bottom, offering a bevy of connectivity options, including Thunderbolt. As we’ll soon see, that addition adds a fair price premium to the board, so if you couldn’t care less about the connector, then the similarly-spec’d Z87-PRO is the next-best thing.
We’ll be taking a tour around the board shortly, but to gain a quicker understanding of what the Z87-EXPERT is all about, let’s take a look at its specs table:
| ||ASUS Z87-EXPERT|
|Architecture||Intel Z87 (LGA1150)|
|Form-Factor||ATX (12″ x 9.6″)|
|Memory||Up to 4x8GB DDR3-3000|
|Multi-GPU||3-way NVIDIA SLI|
3-way AMD CrossFireX
|Expansion||3x PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 or x8+x8 or x8+x4+x4)|
4x PCIe 3.0 x1
|Storage||6x SATA 6Gbps (Intel)|
2x SATA 6Gbps (ASMedia)
|Network||1x Intel I217V Gigabit|
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Audio||Realtek ALC1150 8-channel|
|USB / Thunderbolt||Back-panel: 2x USB 3.0 (Intel), 4x USB 3.0 (ASMedia), 1x Thunderbolt 10Gbps|
Internal: 8x USB 2.0 (Intel)
|Back I/O||1x 1Gbps LAN, 6x USB 3.0/2.0, 1x Optical S/PDIF, 5x Audio Jacks, VGA, DVI, HDMI, Thunderbolt, Wi-Fi, PS/2|
|Features||DIGI+ Power Control, EPU, Ai Suite III, USB 3.0 Boost, Q-Design, Wi-Fi GO!, EZ DIY, Ai Charger+, MemOK!, USB BIOS Flashback|
Given where we were with RAM speed just a couple of years ago, I have to say it’s rather impressive to see that this board supports running up to 32GB of memory at DDR3-3000 speeds – it’s almost mind-blowing. I’m still not quite over the fact that I’m running 32GB at DDR3-2133 in one of our other test machines!
A quick synopsis shows us that the Z87-EXPERT supports multi-GPU just fine, though it’s recommended to stick to 2 cards in total (even then, bandwidth will be degraded vs. an X79 platform). All internal SATA ports are spec’d at 6Gbps, and thanks to the new Z87 chipset, six out of the eight are driven by Intel. The board also includes a single Intel NIC, along with an n-based wireless solution for those who might want it, and also Bluetooth, something that has only recently become a little more common on the desktop side.
ASUS Z87 Mainstream Boards Comparison
One of the most challenging things consumers can encounter when choosing parts for a new build is deciding between one motherboard and another, even of the same brand. This isn’t helped when a vendor might sell 10+ boards from the same series. In ASUS’ Z87 mainstream line, there are 12 boards to choose from, and another 15 or so among its other series.
To help understand the differences between the mid-to-high tier options in ASUS’ Z87 mainstream line, I’ve compiled a table that takes a look at four boards in sequential order, ranging from $160 straight up to $290 (as of the time of writing).
Compared to the $200 Z87-PRO, the Z87-EXPERT offers a single added perk: support for Thunderbolt. The board also integrates a third 3.0 PCIe x16 slot, in lieu of the 2.0 one on the PRO board, but its uses are going to be limited, and exclusive to those wanting to configure a 3x GPU setup – and even then, that will result in a lane configuration of x8+x4+x4… that’s not too attractive.
So, if you don’t mind losing out on Thunderbolt, the Z87-PRO is the board to consider.
The Z87-DELUXE comes in for those who still don’t care about Thunderbolt, but might want even more connectivity options. Versrus the EXPERT, the DELUXE adds 4 more USB ports (2.0) at the back, a second NIC (Realtek), and a much more robust power configuration (16+2 phase). Not listed above but also worth consideration is the DELUXE/DUAL, which is for those who want the best of everything, including Thunderbolt (2 ports, no less). That board is currently priced at about $350.
Let’s get to that hardware tour, shall we?