10 USB ports on the rear I/O Panel is overkill, but having 2 RJ45 LAN connectors and the WIFI/Bluetooth combination is just downright showing off. The BIOS flash button is a great addition and 2 e-SATA ports in addition to the standard audio offerings is as expected. This is what can happen if you don’t need to find space for Firewire, DVI and VGA connection.
As per the specifications:
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
2 x eSATA 6Gb/s
2 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
6 x USB 3.0
4 x USB 2.0
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
6 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Bluetooth V4.0 connector(s) for ASUS Wi-Fi GO! card
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
Having ‘bricked’ a motherboard in the past with a dodgy BIOS flash, the USB BIOS Flashback is a welcome sight. The fact that you just plug a USB stick in the port with the green outline and press the BIOS button without even booting the PC makes it seem too good to be true. Looking at the download section of the ASUS website, BIOS updates are released every month or so with stability and compatibility improvements. We should note that we didn’t have any issues with the 0906 version released 30/3/2012.
Disclaimer: I am not an audiophile.
The ALC898 is a at the higher end of onboard sound offerings these days and it’s not a bad sound solution by any means – unless you are an audiophile. For the purposes of gaming, general music and movies, it’s generally pretty good. The onboard sound offering has jack sensing technology and can automatically mute your speakers when you plug headphones into the front panel jack. The audio software is pretty intuitive, reliable and bug free in our experience.
Although the average user would probably be happy with the ALC898 analogue output – we are not all average users… enthusiasts are a different beast altogether. Despite having a respectable Signal to Noise Ratio of 110dB (playback) and 104dB (recording), the analogue output via the Realtek® ALC898 is not the same as a decent discrete sound card. Having used an ASUS Xonar DX previously, I can notice the difference when gaming, especially in Battlefield 3 and Skyrim. The discrete sound card can sound slightly clearer where the onboard analog output can occasionally sound more ‘mashed’ together when there are a lot of different sounds coming through.
Digital audio (optical) via my errrm… “re-purposed” 5.1 channel home theatre system is another story. As far as my ears could tell, the ALC898 digital output is the same when compared to my discrete Xonar.
As with all audio, there are many variables like speakers, the source of the audio, the room you are listening in and of course a person’s ears. If you have a PCIE sound card already and are considering upgrading your motherboard just re-use it. On the other hand, if you don’t have a discrete soundcard now and you are looking to upgrade, this onboard solution is probably better than what you have at the moment if not equal.
Wireless and Bluetooth
General WiFi worked really well and the only time connectivity felt sluggish was when doing file transfers which is normal for wireless LAN. Media Streaming was perfectly fine and we couldn’t tell the difference when gaming online. We were genuinely surprised in our Battlefield 3 testing. We played Battlefield 3 over a week using only the WiFi connectivity with the wireless router in the same room, then in the next room separated by a plaster stud wall and our latency was in line with a wired connection. My score/KDR was consistent when using either wireless or wired connectivity – to be sure, we repeated the tests over a month and the only time we really noticed the wireless connection was when backing up to our home server.
The designers have implemented wireless connectivity flawlessly on the P8Z77-V deluxe – although it would have been nice to see the Wi-Fi Go! card attached by default. It took about 3 minutes to fit the WiFi Go! module to the motherboard, it actually took longer to attach the antennas than it did to install the module.
While we’re talking antennas, there are 2 of them and they have magnets in the base of the rings. The magnetic base is great for attaching to the exterior of a PC case or a filing cabinet or whatever – so long as it’s metal. As far as we could tell, they are very effective in terms of reception.
The Wi-Fi Go! software bundle alows you to share media via DLNA and has other cool features like Android and iOS smart phone apps for file transfer, remote keyboard and mouse as well as remote desktop. The Wireless adapter can also function as an access point. As handy as Access Point mode is, we do have to question how often this would be used.
Network iControl allows you to setup prioritisation for your bandwidth which is also a good feature to have but in my own personal experience, of limited value due to my software configuration. That said it’s available if you want it and kudos to ASUS.
The dual LAN ports is another added bonus but we doubt most people will maximise their inclusion. It’s handy for LAN parties when you can manually configure one port for LANs and leave the other for home use.