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Establishing a Golden Standard? ASUS Z87-EXPERT Motherboard Review
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ASUS Z87-EXPERT with Wi-Fi
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by Rob Williams on August 30, 2013 in Intel 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.

Introduction, Specifications & Board Comparison

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.

ASUS Z87-EXPERT - Overview

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
Bluetooth 4.0
Bluetooth V3.0+HS
Audio Realtek ALC1150 8-channel
Output S/PDIF
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).

  Z87-DELUXE Z87-EXPERT Z87-PRO Z87-PLUS
Price ~$290 ~$240 ~$200 ~$160
Multi-GPU 3-way SLI
3-way CrossFire
3-way SLI
3-way CrossFire
3-way SLI
3-way CrossFire
3-way SLI
3-way CrossFire
Expansion 2x PCIe 3.0 x16
1x PCIe 2.0 x161
4x PCIe 2.0 x1
3x PCIe 3.0 x16
4x PCIe 2.0 x1
2x PCIe 3.0 x16
1x PCIe 2.0 x161
4x PCIe 2.0 x1
2x PCIe 3.0 x16
1x PCIe 2.0 x162
2x PCIe 2.0 x1
2x PCI
SATA 6x 6Gbps (Intel)
4x 6Gbps (ASMedia)
6x 6Gbps (Intel)
2x 6Gbps (ASMedia)
6x 6Gbps (Intel)
2x 6Gbps (ASMedia)
6x 6Gbps (Intel)
2x 6Gbps (ASMedia)
USB External:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
4x 3.0 (ASMedia)
4x 2.0 (Intel)
Internal:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
4x 2.0 (Intel)
External:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
4x 3.0 (ASMedia)
Internal:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
8x 2.0 (Intel)
External:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
4x 3.0 (ASMedia)
Internal:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
8x 2.0 (Intel)
External:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
4x 3.0 (ASMedia)
Internal:
2x 3.0 (Intel)
8x 2.0 (Intel)
Thunderbolt None 1x 10Gbps None None
Network 1x Intel (I217V)
1x Realtek (8111GR)
802.11ac Wireless
1x Intel (I217V)
802.11n Wireless
1x Intel (I217V)
802.11n Wireless
1x Intel (I217V)
Bluetooth 4.0, 3.0+HS 4.0, 3.0+HS 4.0, 3.0+HS None
Audio Realtek AC1150
112dBA Output
104dBA Input
192kHz/24-bit
DTS & Blu-ray Support
Realtek AC1150
112dBA Output
104dBA Input
192kHz/24-bit
DTS & Blu-ray Support
Realtek AC1150
112dBA Output
104dBA Input
192kHz/24-bit
DTS & Blu-ray Support
Realtek AC892
Power 16+2 Power Phase
Digital VRM
5K Solid Caps
8+2 Power Phase
Digital VRM
5K Solid Caps
12+2 Power Phase
Digital VRM
5K Solid Caps
8+2 Power Phase
Digital VRM
5K Solid Caps
Back Ports 6x USB 3.0
2x LAN
1x Bluetooth Transmittor
1x Optical S/PDIF
1x HDMI
1x DisplayPort
1x Mini DisplayPort
6x Audio Jacks
6x USB 3.0
1x LAN
1x Bluetooth Transmittor
1x Optical S/PDIF
1x HDMI
1x DVI-D
1x VGA
6x Audio Jacks
1x PS/2 KB+Mouse
6x USB 3.0
1x LAN
1x Bluetooth Transmittor
1x Optical S/PDIF
1x HDMI
1x DVI-D
1x VGA
1x DisplayPort
6x Audio Jacks
1x PS/2 KB+Mouse
6x USB 3.0
1x LAN
1x Optical S/PDIF
1x HDMI
1x DVI-D
1x VGA
1x Mini DisplayPort
6x Audio Jacks
1x PS/2 KB+Mouse
1 x4 Mode; 2 x2 Mode; All wired Ethernet is 1Gbps; All audio is 8-channel

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?


  • JD Kane

    If this motherboard had red accents with the gold, I’d be all over it. SF 49ers colors, yo!

  • Bilal Khan

    Sweet board, though I concur with JD Kane on the Red and Gold being a more awesome look!

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