We return today with our Motherboard Memory Lane series here on HWBOT, this time with our sights clearly set on the Intel Z77 platform and the launch of the Intel Ivy Bridge series processor lineup. Let’s take a look at the new technologies that the platform brought to the world, the motherboards and CPUs that were most popular with overclockers at that time and the records that were broken in this particular era.
Intel Z77: Overview
The Intel 7-series platform was launched in April of 2012, replacing the 6-series family of chipsets that had arrived almost a year earlier. In terms of platform codenames, Panther Point replaced Cougar Point. In reality however from the perspective of the two PCH chips they were actually pretty similar. Although Panther Point arrived with a new 2nd generation Ivy Bridge Core architecture processor line up, all 7-series boards used the same LGA 1155 socket and supported previous generation Sandy Bridge processors. Likewise, customers looking to try the Ivy Bridge silicon could stick with their old Z68 or even P67 board with just a simple BIOS update.
So what was Intel offering with the new platform? Looking at the 7-series as a whole, the Z77 PCH was joined not only by the usual mid-range and vertical market options which included B75, Q75, Q77 and H77, but also a Z75 offering that arrived with somewhat less obvious positioning.
The Z77 PCH was marketed as the enthusiast chipset of choice; full CPU, GPU and memory overclocking support was joined by the option to divide the available 16 PCIe lanes in more ways than previously possible. Configurations now included 1x 16, 2x 8 or 1x 8 plus 2x 4 for three way graphics configurations. A 1x 8 plus 2x 4 configuration becomes more attractive when you consider that the 7-series platform supported PCIe Gen 3.0 which promised bandwidth of up to 16 GiB/s, twice that of the previous generation. The PCH itself offered the same 8x 1 PCIe 2.0 connectivity that we saw on Cougar Point, largely dedicated to I/O tasks. The 7-series chipsets used the same DMI 2.0 to connect with the CPU, packing 20 Gbit/s bandwidth. In terms of memory support, when using the new Ivy Bridge processors, official support increase to speeds of DDR3-1600, up from DDR3-1333 when using Sandy Bridge chips. In reality many DDR3 kits were capable of DDR3-2500 and beyond.
In terms of SATA support, the Z77 offered the same six 6Gb/s ports, but in terms of USB, adopters of the new platform could now enjoy four native USB 3.0 ports plus 10x USB 2.0 ports. It’s also relevant to note that the 7-series platform was the first to abandon native support for the aging PCI bus. In terms of accessing the integrated GPU of Ivy Bridge, it was now possible to power up to three digital displays from the CPU (options again included HDMI, DisplayPort, VGA and DVI).
Smart Response Technology was again a high-level marketing feature – basically SSD disk caching that used lower capacity SSDs to offer SSD-like responsiveness. The feature was not available on the Z75 however, a cheaper alternative to the Z77 that never really gained too much traction with motherboard vendors. The Z77 PCH and its 7-series brethren were manufactured using the 65nm process and had a TDP of 6.7 watts, 0.5 watts more than its predecessor.
Most Popular Intel Z77 Motherboards
Recent history has shown that ASUS has a track record of being the industry leader when it comes to high-end, high-performance motherboard design and marketing. In the Z77 era we find that ASUS again dominates the top end of the table:
- -ASUS Maximus V Gene – 13.41%
- -ASUS Maximus V Extreme – 6.76%
- -ASUS Maximus V Formula – 6.14%
- -MSI Z77 MPower – 6.10%
- -ASRock Z77 Extreme4 – 5.91%
- -GIGABYTE Z77X-UD3H – 5.06%
- -ASRock Z77 OC Formula – 5.43%
- -GIGABYTE Z77X-UD5H – 4.52%
- -ASUS Sabertooth – 3.40%
- -MSI Z77-GD65 – 2.75%
The ASUS ROG line at this stage in history has grown to include several options that include Maximus V Extreme and Formula E-ATX form factor boards, plus the Maximus V Gene – a Micro-ATX board that proved to be a big hit with enthusiasts on HWBOT. The top ten features four ASUS boards which in total, represent 29% of all Z77 submissions on HWBOT.
It’s interesting to see MSI appear in the top ten with two boards and 8.85% of all Z77 submissions. ASRock managed to build on the success enjoyed with the Z68 platform, having two boards in the top ten and a share of 11.34%. The ASRock Z77 OC Formula was a notably popular board that was marketed to Overclockers and offered fantastic memory overclocking. GIGABYTE meanwhile, seemed to be floundering somewhat with only two boards and 10.12% of the top ten.
The ASUS Maximus V Gene clearly hit a sweet spot as far as overclocking was concerned. It was more affordable than E-ATX ROG alternatives that commanded higher prices due to the large accessory bundles they packed, plus the additional 3rd party controllers that added extra SATA and USB ports – all unnecessary for most overclockers.
This is what ccokeman had to say, writing for the OverclockersClub back in June 28, 2012:
“Some of the boards I have tested have not allowed the bclock to be tweaked very high, but the ROG Maximus V Gene was able to go to 104+MHz at the speed limit for my 3770K. It did this with a slightly lower vcore of 1.30 versus the 1.325v to 1.350v I have used on other boards, showing how efficient and accurate the DIGI+ II voltage regulation is.”
“I found that the Maximus V Gene was able to deliver memory speeds in excess of 2500MHz with the modules I have available. By using one of the 13 preset profiles, you can get a good feel for what your modules are capable of and then tweak a little further for better efficiency. Several boards I have tested have not been as flexible, with speeds up to even 2133MHz being unattainable, so the Maximus V Gene has some serious memory overclocking chops, reminiscent of its Extreme level brother, the X79 Rampage IV Extreme.”
OverclockersClub ASUS Maximus V Gene Review.
Most Popular Intel Z77 Compatible Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K
As with most recent Intel CPU launches, the Core i7 series arrived first, landing in April 2012. It featured unlocked models that allowed for a full overclocking experience; the Core i7 3770K and the Core i5 3570K. It is with little surprise that we find these two Ivy Bridge models to the most popular choice for Z77 platform overclocking on HWBOT:
The Core i7 3770K was, and still is the most popular processor in Z77 platform overclocking in terms of submissions, garnering 52.11% of the action. The Core i5 3570K, as a cheaper alternative does well to take 23.36% of the pie, while the Sandy Bridge Core i7 2600K remained part of the picture with 4.97% of all submissions.
Ivy Bridge processors used essentially the same architecture as the previous Sandy Bridge generation, representing a ‘tick’,in Intel’s manufacturing cadence, they were produced using a newer 22nm process. Overclocking Ivy Bridge CPUs differed however from Sandy Bridge, mostly due to how the new CPUs react to adding voltage, with temperature increases happening much more aggressively. Ivy Bridge processors did however offer scope to reach higher clocks overall with 7GHz within the reach of most extreme overclockers compared to the 6GHz limitations of most Sandy Bridge chips.
ASUS ROG Maximus V Gene: Record Scores
We now take a look at the highest scores posted using the most popular Z77 platform motherboard, the ASUS ROG Maximus V Gene.
Reference clock overclocking was not the most significant benchmark in the Z77 era, but it remained a way to determine a motherboard’s ability to clock highly. Let’s look at the highest reference clock made with the ASUS Maximus V Gene. The highest reference clock submitted on HWBOT came from Iran’s Behzad Tak. He managed a reference clock of 114.88 MHz, using an Intel Core i5 3570K processor.
You can find the submission from Behzad Tak here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2309819_behzad_reference_frequency_maximus_v_gene_114.88_mhz
Even though raw CPU frequencies are not really treated as true benchmarks, they remain an important performance metric for most overclockers.The highest CPU frequency ever submitted to HWBOT using the Maximus V Gene motherboard came from Taiwanese legend Andre Yang who managed to push a Core i7 3770K to a massive 7,074MHz, an impressive +102.11% beyond stock settings.
You can find the submission from AndreYang here on HWBOT: http://hwbot.org/submission/2287994_andreyang_cpu_frequency_core_i7_3770k_7074_mhz
Finally we come to the classic SuperPi 32M benchmark, an important benchmark in terms of historical relevance. The fastest SuperPi 32M run submitted on HWBOT using an ASUS Maximus V Gene motherboard was submitted by ryba AICooling from Poland who completed a run in just 4min 46sec 0ms using a Core i7 3770K ramped up to 6,841MHz (+95.46%)
Check out the submission from ryba AICooling here: http://hwbot.org/submission/2380596_ryba_purepc.pl_superpi___32m_core_i7_3770k_4min_46sec_0ms
Thanks for joining us for today’s trip down Motherboard Memory Lane. Come back next week when we take a look at the Intel Z87 platform.