After having tested the Ivy Bridge platform, the Biostar TZ77XE 4 is the first motherboard that we got our hands on. Biostar is a reputed brand for motherboards, especially for entry-level and mid-range models that offer a good bang for your buck.
Going by the looks, the Biostar TZ77XE4 doesn’t come across as a high-end motherboard. It’s clearly a mid-range board and it offers a decent feature set, which both regular users and gamers will appreciate.
The Intel Z77 chipset features LGA 1155 CPU socket design and it’s backwards compatible with the previous generation Sandy Bridge processors. One of the key features of the chipset is the native support for USB 3.0. A maximum of four ports are supported but this may differ depending on what the manufacturer chooses to offer. The TZ77XE4 has a pair of USB 3.0 ports on the rear panel and two more are available via an on-board header. This can be used for front USB 3.0 ports (depending on your PC case) or additional ports on the rear of the case using a bracket which has to be purchased separately. The other components on the rear panel are four USB 2.0 ports, jacks for 7.1-channel audio, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an eSATA port, a PS/2 port and four types of video outputs to harness the power of the processor’s on-die graphics (VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort).
Side-oriented SATA ports and debugger
The expansion slots include a pair of PCIE x16 slots, a PCIE x1 slot, two PCI slots and a third PCIE x16 slot that runs at 4x speed. With two graphic cards setup in SLI or CrossFire the first two PCIE x16 slots run at x8 speed each. The motherboard also supports Lucidlogix Virtu with which you can enable or disable discrete graphics. This is a great power-saving feature when you’re not using gaming or graphics intensive applications. To use Virtu, you first have to set the primary video output as integrated graphics and then install the Virtu driver. You then get a control panel that sits in the system tray which allows you to enable or disable discrete graphics on-the-fly. When enabled in HyperFormance mode, the frame rate is boosted as a result of frame buffer optimization and elimination of redundant frames.
At the bottom of the motherboard lie the front panel header, two USB 2.0 headers supporting two ports each and buttons for clear CMOS, Power and Reset. Moving up, there’s a debugger to interpret problems during bootup, and eight SATA ports arranged as four stacks. These ports are oriented sideways for easy routing of cables. You have to be careful while connecting hard drives to the SATA ports because all of them are black and you won’t know which of them are SATA 6 Gb/s unless you see the tiny table just above the debugger or refer to the user manual – the first and fourth stacks are SATA 6 Gb/s and the two stacks in between are SATA 3 Gb/s. Similar is the case with the RAM slots. You have to refer to the tiny labels to make sure you install RAM modules in dual-channel mode because all the four slots are black.
Four types of video outputs on the rear panel
The Biostar TZ77XE4 features a graphical UEFI BIOS with mouse support which makes page navigation convenient. There’s a separate section called O.N.E. (Overclock Navigator Engine) where you can tinker with multipliers, frequencies and voltages to overclock.
We liked the overall layout of the motherboard. The CPU socket has ample amount of clearance around it and installing large coolers shouldn’t be a problem. The power phases are cooled by heatsinks connected by a heat pipe for effective dissipation of heat. The expansions slots are placed such that there won’t be a clutter when you install multiple cards.
A good choice of expansion slots
There’s ample space between the first and second PCIE x16 slots so that the tiny PCIE x1 slot is usable despite two dual-slot graphics cards installed. Also there’s no question of lengthy graphics cards making SATA ports unusable due to overlapping.
Test rig configuration
Processor: Intel Core i7-3770k
Memory: 2 x 4 GB G.Skill Ripjaws 2, DDR3-2133
Graphic card: AMD Radeon HD 6870
SSD: Plextor PX-256M2S
Power supply: Cooler Master Silent Pro, 800w
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate, 64-bit
Before running the benchmarks we set the BIOS values to default and used the memory’s XMP profile to make sure it was running at full speed. Core i7-3770K performs marginally better than Core i7-2600K. The setup logged an overall PCMark 7 score of 5313 and 3DMark 11 score of 4419. At 1920×1080 with very high settings and AA enabled, Crysis Warhead and Mafia II logged 36 fps and 51 fps respectively. These scores were slightly lower than what the Intel DZ77GA motherboard reported using the same hardware. Next, we switched to the CPU graphics and used the Radeon HD 6870 in Virtu’s HyperFormance mode. The 3DMark 11 score went up by 1770 points but surprisingly, the frame rates in Crysis Warhead and Mafia II dropped by 3 fps and 10 fps respectively. However, taking all scores into consideration, the overall performance is very good.
Supports both Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors
For Rs 13,390, the Biostar TZ77XE is good value for money. If you have the budget to upgrade your existing motherboard or buy a motherboard to build a new PC, we suggest you consider this board instead of going in for an older generation Z68 chipset based model. Also, note that this is not a high-end motherboard, but it’s great for building a mid-range gaming PC. If you want to build a high-performance PC with enthusiast-class components, then we recommend you consider high-end models offered by Asus and Gigabyte.
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Oct 27, 2016