Intel DZ77GA-70K £178
4th May 2012 | 10:05
A definite improvement for Intel's mobo team, but still a little off the pace
Introduction and benchmarks
As part of the initial launch platform for Ivy Bridge we had high hopes for the Intel DZ77GA-70K motherboard, after all Intel's motherboard division has been really trying recently.
That said, you may not even know Intel has been creating and selling its own line of motherboards for ages.
You probably wont have seen many of them in the hallowed pages of TechRadar, and that's because generally they're a bit pup.
Accompanying every Intel CPU launch of the last few years has been another weak Intel motherboard limping along to the party hoping some of the CPU hero-dust will fall on it.
With the last release though things were different.
The LGA 2011-sporting Intel DX79SI motherboard was actually a rather more impressive beast. And we have been reliably informed by Intel that the DZ77GA-70K is another such improvement.
It's Intel's top chipset, so you'd think if anyone could do it justice then it should be the chip-manufacturers themselves. After all the Intel Core i7 3570K needs a good home, right?
And with the full complement of PCIe 3.0 support along with multi-GPU lovin' from both AMD and Nvidia, and Intel's own native SATA and USB 3.0 support too it's got a lot going for it.
Socket - Intel LGA 1155
Chipset - Intel Z77
Graphics support - 2x PCIe 3.0 x16, Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX
Memory - Dual-channel DDR3
High speed interfaces - 8x USB 3.0, 4x SATA 6Gbps
At stock speeds the Intel DZ77GA-70K is a decent board, keeping up with the likes of the ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional.
Sadly, it doesn't offer as solid performance when it comes to overclocking.
We had settings from Intel to hit 4.8GHz, but even with the Corsair H100 it wouldn't even boot. For an enthusiast board to offer such limited overclocking is unfortunate.
CPU rendering performance
Memory bandwidth performance
Things are not always what they seem and sadly Intel's take on what makes a good motherboard seems to differ from ours.
Still, things start off rather well for the Intel DZ77GA as the fully UEFI Intel Visual BIOS is quite a lovely little thing. It's very easy on the eye, being all techy black and blue, and presents all the necessary info in a simple way.
Scrolling through the basic interface you can see how things are stacked with your CPU, graphics and memory, and a handy visual picture shows exactly which drive is plugged into which SATA port.
You can also access overclocking settings from the basic interface too, and Intel claims it will take care of all the back room numbers if you just want to set the headline CPU or RAM speed numbers.
Yeah, the use of the 'Intel claims' phrase may lead one to assume all is not so easy, and you'd be right.
Despite knowing that the Intel Core i7 3770K will happily clock up to 4.8GHz on Asus' excellent Sabertooth Z77, we couldn't even get the Overclocking Assistant to stably push up to the 4.5GHz it was touting. 4.4Ghz was our highest solid overclock in the end.
At stock speeds it's not necessarily a slouch though, keeping up with the ASRock Fatal1ty Z77 Professional in both gaming and CPU tests.
It does drop fairly significantly behind that Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H board on the Cinebench score though, playing 7.55 versus 7.98. Though, like the Asus Sabertooth Z77 and Asus P8Z77-V Pro, it's Turbo is stuck at 3.9GHz across the board, seemingly by default.
You may think it a little unfair to pitch it up against boards so obviously designed as enthusiast-class mobos, after all the Sabertooth has that fancy-smancy plastic armour stuff.
That's serious, right?
Well, this Intel DZ77GA-70K board is being marketed as Extreme and that's matched by the rather enthusiastic price tag too. The £178/$255 costing actually makes it more expensive than any of the other boards we've tested, and its performance just doesn't live up to that top-billing.
On the enthusiast side then we still simply cannot look past the excellent Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H; whether it's a serious overclock or some excellent stock numbers you're looking at the Gigabtye board delivers the lot.
Back to the drawing board for Intel then, though the Visual BIOS at least shows it motherboard team is getting on track.
Ivy Bridge: What you need to know
Intel Core i7 3770K review
Intel Core i5 3570K review
That new Visual BIOS is excellent, and could take some of the fear about delving into the BIOS for beginners.
For advanced users though it's just as useful, especially showing you what drives are in which SATA ports. Invaluable when we've still got a mix of SATA 6Gbps and 3Gbps ports on the Intel side.
Sadly though the actual performance of the Intel DZ77GA-70K just doesn't match up to the visual splendour of the new BIOS.
For a board with Extreme aspirations the overclocking performance is rather weak. If the board was one of the cheapest rather than the most expensive we could forgive it.
As it is we can't.
Nowhere near as weak a board as we've seen from Intel launch boards in the past, but the Intel DZ77GA-70K really struggles to achieve its enthusiast credentials.