Review: ASUS Z87-Plus

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The Z87-Plus occupies a higher tier in ASUS’ mainstream Z87 lineup, offering a lot more expansion and tweaking opportunities for the budding enthusiast. The board boasts a new “4-Way Optimization” feature not found in their lower-tier boards, which is essentially a more comprehensive variant of their AI Suite Auto-Tweaking. Other than that, the board packs quite a few goodies for those looking to build a powerful rig.

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The Z87-Plus comes in a black-gold paintjob, following the colour scheme of the Z87 mainstream board lineup. The board is compatible with Haswell processors (LGA1150), and the four DDR3 DIMMs can support a maximum speed of 3000MHz, and yes, the board supports Intel XMP (Extreme Memory Profile) for easy memory tweaking. You can put up to a total of 32GB of RAM on the board, which is easily doable – just purchase four 8GB sticks and pop them in.

On the board itself, you will find three PCIe x16 slots, two of which are PCIe 3.0. You will also find a pair of PCIe x1 slots and a vanilla PCI slot. The Z87-Plus plays nice with both AMD and NVIDIA fans, supporting Quad-SLI (a pair of GTX690s, anyone?) and Quad-CrossFireX. The last PCIe x16 slot if really close to the USB headers however, and I doubt you will be able to use those headers if you’re installing a dual-slot graphics card on that last slot.

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For your storage needs, the ASUS board rocks a total of eight SATA 6Gbps ports (six provided by the Z87 chipset, two by ASMedia). The six Intel SATA ports support RAID 0,1,5 and 10, a well as other Intel features like Smart Connect and Rapid Start. The first four SATA ports are lined up individually, which I personally like, since this makes it easier to plug and unplug cables without having to worry about unplugging two cables at once.

Looking at the I/O bracket, you will find no USB 2.0 ports. Yep, ASUS seem to have done away with USB 2.0 on the back, instead relegating them to dwell on the board as headers (four headers, which will provide with you with eight ports). Instead, you will find six USB 3.0 ports (four from the native chipset, and two by ASMedia). It does seem a bit wasteful when you consider that will need at least one of those ports for your keyboard and mouse, but it’s great to see more USB 3.0 ports on motherboards now. You will find a USB 3.0 header on the board as well, giving you an additional pair of ports to work with. I still think that motherboards should come with more USB 3.0 headers to support card readers and the like, but that’s just me.

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Continuing our journey, you will find 7.1 channel audio and SPDIF compatibility on the board, which covers the audio output. For displays, the Z87-Plus supports all the major connectors, with HDMI, DVI, VGA and miniDisplayPort connectors placed neatly next to each other.

Now that the introduction is done, head on to the next page to see how it performs!

[[Benchmarks and Conclusion]]

For the benchmarks, the following setup was used:

  • Intel Core i7-4770K
  • 2 x 8GB Kingston HyperX Beast 2400MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 128GB SSD
  • No graphics card

By default, the ASUS board will come with “MultiCore Enhancement” enabled, which gives the processor a minor speed boost. Tests were done twice – once without (3.9GHz), and once with it enabled (4.3GHz). Accessing it will require a quick stop at the board’s UEFI.

Another method of tweaking the setup is through AI Suite 3 and the 4-Way Optimization feature. The tweaking takes your fans into account by checking their speeds, resulting in theoretically better performance. If you prefer a more hand-off approach, then AI Suite 3 is the way to go. If you want to tinker, then head to the UEFI for a finer degree of control.

The Z87-Plus certainly started well, putting itself in equal footing against the Maximus V Extreme, a Z77 ROG board by ASUS. In fact, the Z87-Plus overtakes the previous-generation Maximus by a small margin.

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In PCMark 8, the Z87-Plus took a small (some would say negligible) lead over its compatriot, the Z87-C in the software’s “Home” scenario.

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The tables were turned, with the pricier board losing out to the Z87-C in the “Creative” scenario…

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…which again reversed itself with a small lead in the “Work” scenario.

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Unfortunately, the Z87-Plus was lagging in SiSoft Sandra’s Arithmetic benchmark, losing out to even the Z77 motherboards.

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However, it regained its mojo in the Multimedia benchmark, putting itself ahead of the competition. The clock speed boost to 4.3GHz solidified that lead.

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In the Cryptography benchmark, the board didn’t do too bad, but didn’t do great either, losing out to the Z87-C.

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If you’re looking to build a powerful Z87 setup, the ASUS Z87-Plus has all the goodies that make a potentially awesome rig.