Hi-Fi Z77X Overview
Once I pulled this board out of the box I started trying to figure out what makes this board stand out from other Z77 boards. I knew there was going to be a focus on audio since Biostar put Hi-Fi in the name and a big sound wave on the front of the box. Knowing all that he audio section was the first place I checked out. There are six big blue capacitors and 10 oversized resistors a Faraday cage over the audio codec and the audio section of the boards is on its own little PCB Island. I’ll go over those components later in the feature section, but for now just know that Biostar is not messing around in the audio department.
The color scheme is mostly Black with some Blue accents, so it will be easy to make an all black and blue system. I’m thinking an all black case with some blue LED fans and a pair of blue/black themed video cards would look nice. The PCB is flat black which helps accent the black and blue heat sinks on the mosfets and chipset (PCH). I really like the attention to detail and coordination of the blue capacitors, large audio capacitors and blue resistors (and Blue VGA/D-Sub Connector on the rear I/O).
If you look at the CPU area you can see that there is an eight-pin power connector and 13 chokes, which in this case means 13-phase power. The eight-pin power connector and 13-phase power will give you some headroom if you plan on overclocking. You will probably run into heat issues or stability issues before you hit a power cap.
A quick overview of the rear I/O from left to right shows: a keyboard PS/2, Two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, VGA/D-sub, DVI, two USB 3.0 ports, two more USB 2.0 ports (totaling 4), a Gigabit Ethernet port and six audio connectors.
The PCI-e layout is probably my favorite part of this board. Biostar has done away with the old school PCI slots and replaced them with PCI-e x1 slots. I like having the x1 slot before the x16 slot because it gives you more room for your CPU cooler. With this orientation you have some extreme expandability and I’ll give you a few example to help illustrate my point.
There are two full slot spaces between the first and second x16 slot which means you could have two triple slot cards (plus a x1 slot), three double slot cards (plus two x1 slots), two double slot cards (plus two x1 and one x4 slot) just to list a few of the most likely scenarios. If you wanted to run threeway SLI or Crossfire you would still have room for an Ethernet card (or other x1 component). You could run SLI or Crossfire and still have room for an Ethernet card or sound card (or any two x1 components) plus a TV Tuner or Capture card (anything x4). This board has a lot of expandability and Biostar has gone out of their way to make sure you have room to if you need it.
The Front I/O has two USB 2.0 headers (four ports total), power button, reset button and the usual front panel pin outs for your power, reset, HDD LED, Power LED and speaker. I’m going to mention the USB 3.0 header now since it’s is located next to the Chipset between the first two PCI-e x16 slots. The location might be a problem for people with multi-card setups, but if you attach the USB 3.0 cable before installing your second video card you will be fine.
The front I/O section also has a Debug/POST LED that scrolls through POST codes while booting, gives you a debug code if there is an error and shows you the CPU temperature after POST. I know the debug/POST LED is a small thing, but I’m a fan of multipurpose useful gadgets. I always have speedfan running and I like to look through the side panel of my case to check my CPU temp at a moments notice. I monitor my temps like an overbearing parent, even though there are fail safes to prevent damage to my CPU or video cards it’s just always been something I’ve always watched closely…I’m OCD like that.
There are six SATA ports next to the chipset that have been angled at 90’ to make room for long graphics cards. I’m a fan of angled SATA connectors because it makes hiding the cables easier and allows you to have long cards pass over the ports without the cables getting in the way. The four SATA ports on the left are SATA 3Gb/s and the two on the right are SATA 6Gb/s.
Moving on down to the right are the 4 memory slots (Dimms) that support up to 8GB each (32GB total) and as you can tell from the image this board supports Dual channel DDR3 2400+ which according to Biostar’s website means up to 2600. It is probably possible to go past that mark but it will be wholly dependent on your memory, OC ability, cooling and patience.
The Biostar Hi-Fi Z77X comes with four black SATA cables, one SLI bridge, one Crossfire bridge, a black I/O Shield, user manual a Driver CD and a multi channel calibration device. The multi calibration device was new to me, but it is supposed to help you properly balance your audio based on your room which I thought was cool.