ASUS P8Z77 WS Review – Ivy Bridge Workstation Motherboard
With the launch of new Ivy Bridge CPUs, the ASUS P8Z77 WS motherboard is a new entry into ASUS’ workstation lineup, similar to the P8P67 WS Revolution motherboard released with Sandy Bridge. ASUS targets its WS line as one that combines the ability to overclock normally seen in its high-end mainstream or Republic of Gamers (ROG) boards, with the ability to run multiple GPUs and extra validation for things such as add-on cards. As an aside, I had the P8P67 WS Revolution under stress for months, and added many add-in cards to it as a mainstay P67 testbed and it performed well. Pieter previewed the P8Z77 WS recently and I echo many of his comments. Let’s take a look at what ASUS brings to the table with the P8Z77 WS.
The trend with Z68 and Z77 chipsets are that the integrated GPUs are more than adequate for basic 2D output. If you are looking for a workstation with a lot of CPU need but where 3D GPU performance was not needed, then Intel’s on-die graphics are going to be “good-enough” for many users one one can use the third-gen PCIe slots for more I/O performance. With that being said, most Z77 buyers will still use discrete GPUs.
- CPU(s): Intel Core i7-3770K and Intel Core i7-2600K
- Motherboard: ASUS P8Z77 WS
- Memory: 32GB (4x 8GB) G.Skill Ripjaws X DDR3 1600
- Drives: Corsair Force3 120GB, OCZ Vertex 3 120GB
- Chassis: Norco RPC-4220
- Power Supply: Corsair AX850 850w 80 Plus Gold
- Monitor system information from fan speeds, temperatures, voltages, clock speeds and etc. and set alerts. This is often an overlooked feature but ASUS puts a lot of functionality into their Probe tool.
- Automatically overclock the CPU if desired either manually or using a CPU auto tuning feature. The base clock can be increased too by a small amount as 100MHz to 103MHz base clocks are generally obtainable from a 100MHz base. One can also change the CPU multipliers.
- Set the EPU power saving profiles and features. The EPU is a feature of ASUS motherboards meant to intelligently reduce power consumption.
- Set and test fan speeds using Fan Xpert+. This can be useful if one wants to set thresholds and test them for quieter idle fan speeds ramping up as the workload increases.
- Use Network iControl to prioritize network traffic (great feature when multitasking.)
USB 3.0 and UASP
ASUS has been touting the benefits of an optimized USB interface called USB Attached SCSI Protocol or UASP for some time now and I think it is mature to the point that it is worth a serious look. I did a piece entitled USB 3.0 UASP Mode – Performance Benefit or Marketing Gimmick? recently and figured I would share the benchmark results there, as well as how one would turn the UASP mode on. Here is a quick example using AS SSD of the difference between standard USB 3.0 mode and UASP mode.
One can see that there is clearly a determinable difference in performance using UASP and I recommend it if one can purchase the necessary hardware for it.
Overall, I really like the ASUS P8Z77 WS as an overall evolution of the LGA 1155 workstation line. By adding the DVI-I out, ASUS does give the ability to utilize an extra monitor, but also makes diagnosis easier as well as provide the ability to use all PCIe slots for something other than graphics. Adding that feature really opens up the ability for the P8Z77 WS to be used as a server board after the board is no longer used in a workstation, especially with the dual Intel 82574L Gigabit NICs. I think the P8Z77 WS does fill a niche for users looking at fast CPUs and multiple add-in cards (including graphics.) ASUS does do extra validation on the WS boards and I have seen several instances where the WS boards take add in Infiniband cards, network adapters and SAS/ RAID controllers that desktop boards tend to have issues with. For those looking at a LGA 1155 workstation board, this may be an excellent choice.