Our one complaint about Intel Z77 motherboards is that they have always been a bit on the expensive side. If you wanted to overclock your Intel CPU, there was no option but to spend at least 10K for this chipset. But what if you didn't want the extra frills of CrossFireX or switchable graphics (Virtu MVP) and simply wanted the Z77 chipset? Foxconn has just the solution with their Z77A-S, a stripped down Z77 board with the bare essentials for a very affordable price.
Design and Build
The Z77A-S is quite a striking board with bright orange and black tones for some of the expansion slots. It’s a full ATX motherboard with four RAM slots and, plenty of SATA connectors and a decent number of PCI slots. There isn’t much (none actually) cooling around the CPU area so it’s wide open for installing the largest of heatsinks or a water cooling kit. There’s also a good gap between the RAM slots and the graphics card so one can easily swap out the RAM when needed, without having to remove the graphics card.
Very good layout
The rear I/O ports include a PS2 keyboard port, four USB ports 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, VGA, DVI, HDMI, Gigabit LAN and a 7.1 channel audio port. There are a total of four SATA ports, two of which are SATA 6Gbps while the other four are SATA II. Although there are two PCIe x16 slots, only the first one runs in x16 mode and is PCIe 3.0 compliant. The other one runs at x4 speed and is PCIe 2.0. The other slots include two PCIe x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. Overall, the Foxconn Z77A-S is built well and the expansion slots and ports are laid out well so none of them interfere with each other.
For a budget Z77 board, Foxconn has provided some high-end features such as all solid state capacitors, debug LEDs and even physical power and reset switches on the board itself. The four memory slots support XMP profiles up to 2400MHz and you also have RAID 0,1,5 and 10. The BIOS is not of the UEFI variety and is very basic at best. You have options to tweak the CPU, memory frequencies and voltages but there’s nothing extra in terms of BIOS utilities like a BIOS flash tool. It does pack in Intel Smart Response Technology though, so you can use a smaller SSD along with your regular hard drive for better performance.
We wish there were some more USB 2.0 ports in the rear
Foxconn also bundles some utilities on the disk for monitoring and tweaking settings through Windows. Fox One allows you to do just that, modify CPU and memory bus speeds as well as voltages. You can even monitor system temperatures as well. Again, it’s not the most robust software around as compared to what Asus or Gigabyte offers, but it’s functional and gets the job done.
Test rig configuration
Before starting with 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. The setup logged an overall PCMark 7 score of 5009 and 3DMark 11 score of 4105.
Debug LED and physical power button is a nice addition
Verdict and Price in India
For Rs.6,600, this is easily one of the cheapest Z77-based motherboards in the market today. If you can live with multi-GPU support, UEFI BIOS and Virtu MVP, then we highly recommend you check this one out as it offers very good value for money.
Updated 20 May, 2013, 4:38 pm IST
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