In April we published a round-up of 20 motherboards with Z77 chipsets compatible with the new Intel Ivy Bridge processors. Those CPUs weren't available yet at the time so we had to do the tests with the previous generation Sandy Bridge processors. Almost three months have passed in the meantime, and we now have 32 Z77 motherboards in our test lab along with Ivy Bridge processors. We tested every motherboard all over again, with an up-to-date BIOS and with an Core i7 3770K Ivy Bridge processor. The testing procedure has also been fine-tuned which allows us to more accurately measure the energy consumption of motherboards.
The 32 tested motherboards all have the Intel Z77 chipset, which we'll analyse further on the next page. The Socket 1155 processor socket is compatible with both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors. The Z77 chipset is the most high-end chipset for Socket 1155 processors, so there are a number of very comprehensive and luxurious motherboards available based on that chipset. This round-up also has several more affordable and stripped down boards. And if you're planning to overclock your Ivy Bridge processor, then Z77 is the only good option.
The Z77 is the most high-end of the new generation Intel chipsets. The new chipset makes it possible to extensively overclock K-series processors, just like Z77's predecessors Z68 and P67. On the Socket 1155 platform the PCI-Express controller for the graphics cards is integrated into the processor, instead of the chipset. This remains the case with Ivy Bridge, although PCI-Express is upgraded from 2.0 to 3.0. Motherboards with the Z77 chipset have the same option as the Z68 chipset to divide the 16 PCI-Express lanes into 2 x 8 lanes, for SLI or Crossfire configurations. What's new is the possibility to split the lanes into 1 x 8 and 2 x 4 lanes. This option exists in order to use the Intel Thunderbolt controller on four PCI-Express 3.0 lanes on future Z77 motherboards. There are a number of examples of this in our round-up.
The 7 series is Intel's first chipset with an integrated USB 3.0 controller. The Z77 comes standard with four USB 3.0 and 10 USB 2.0 ports, which means that motherboard manufacturers no longer are forced to rely on third-party USB 3.0 controllers. In the SATA department nothing has changed compared to the previous generation, there are still only two SATA 600 ports and four SATA 300 ports. The Z77 chipset also has an extra PCI-Express 2.0 controller with eight lanes. You can read the rest of 32 Intel Z77 motherboards tested with Ivy Bridge processors on Hardware.info.