ASUS P8H77-M PRO Motherboard Review

A first look at Intel's cut down 7 series platform

ASUS P8H77-M PRO Motherboard Review

While Intel's new Ivy Bridge chips haven't exactly been a revelation on the desktop, the first of its new 7 Series chipsets have been a lot more satisfying. Previously, we've only had a taste of boards based on the premium Z77 member of the species. But thanks to the new Asus P8H77-M Pro, it's time to take the H77 for a spin.

In simple terms, the H77 chipset is a slightly more mainstream and multimedia-orientated alternative to the fully-featured Z 77 platform. That means it shares most of the same features, including the well-established Intel LGA 1155 socket and hence support for both older Sandy Bridge CPUs, like the Core i5-2500K, and the latest Ivy Bridge specimens such as the Core i5-3570K.

However, there are detail differences that you’ll either be quite relaxed about or regard as non-negotiable deal breakers, dependingon the workloads your PC spools up. On the one hand then, the H77's feature set looks like a solid choice for 2D video buffs. On the other, it loses some capabilities that performance junkies demand.

Forgamers, as we'll see, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.

As for the Asus P8H77-M Pro itself, it's a compact MicroATX board that's nevertheless generously specified, especially when it comes to graphics and video outputs. In that context, it doesn't really compete with Z77-based boards. Instead, the competition is the older generation of H67 efforts, including the Sapphire Pure Platinum H67 and Gigabyte H67MA-UD2H.

Ten better
The best way to understand the new H77 chipset and, therefore, the Asus P8H77-M Pro is as a direct replacement for the previous generation of H67 boards.

Up to a point, everything is as you'd expect. Just like the H67. the H77’s feature set certainly packs plenty of multimedia prowess. The Asus P8H77-M Pro adds a few of its own flourishes, too. But as ever with Intel's platforms, there are some frankly pretty arbitrary product differentiation measures to get your head around.

It's all about which of the key Intel 7 Series features are offered by each of the new chipsets. The Z77 is the easiest to pin down because it gets everything. For the H77, there are ticks next to the boxes for processor graphics support, SSD caching and USB 3.0, but there's a big fat cross next to CPU overclocking. You just can't increase the CPU multiplier settingforthischipset.

Exactly how much the latter is important is admittedly somewhat subjective. But generally speaking, we don't much care for artificial limitations. It wouldn't cost Intel a penny to turn on overclocking for the H77, but that would make it harder for Intel to charge extra for the Z77.So it goes.

Still, whatever your attitude is to Intel's tactics here, one thing is for sure. There’s no point paying extra for a K Series processor with an unlocked multiplier if you're going with an H77 board. You simply won't be able to overclock it in any meaningful sense.

It's also worth noting that the H77 supports Lucid Virtu MVP and therefore using both discrete graphics and Intel's integrated GPU in parallel. The main benefit of this is allowing access to the QuickSync video transcode engine inside Intel’s HD Graphics core. For the Asus P8H77-M Pro’s part, it has the home theatre thing covered thanks to a full complement of video-out ports including VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort. The latter allows for desktop resolutions up to 2,560 x 1,600. If nothing else, that gives you plenty of options as a temporary backup should your discrete graphics card bomb out.

If there's a sticking point with the Asus P8H77-M Pro it involves overclocking, or the lack of support thereof. We don’t want to get bogged down with this subject since it's true that most PC users wouldn't think to overclock their systems.

However, it's also clear that performance enthusiasts lookingfora cheaper alternative to Z77 boards need to look to the as yet unseen Z75 chipset which has fully fledged overclocking chops. But be warned, the Z75 does without SSD caching. Infuriating stuff, but that's current Intel stratification for you.

Gaming platform
With the overclocking issue dealt with, what about gaming? With a few caveats, the H77 and the Asus P8H77-M Pro make for a decent enough gaming platform. We like the fact that you can slap in a good graphics card and retain access to the Quick Sync video transcode engine. You also get support for PCI Express 3.0 and thus tons of bandwidth.

In the very long run, that might be critical for gaming performance usinga single video card. In the nearer term, it's desirable for efficient scaling with multiple GPUs. On that subject, our early understanding of the H77 platform was that it wouldn't actually support multi-GPU.

However, Asus has served up AMD CrossFireX support, so that appears not to be the case. Whether any of the board makers will pony up Nvidia's fee to make their H77 boards SLI compatible remains to be seen. None of Asus' or Gigabyte's new H77 boards support SLI.

However, the Asus P8H77-M Pro's real strength is as a compact and relatively affordable multimedia platform. The highlights start with that four-strong array of VGA.DVI.HDMIand DisplayPort video outputs.

You also get 6.1 analogue sound and an optical S/PDIF port thrown in.

As a more general computing platform, it also looks solid. That is partly thanks to general H77 features such as Intel's Smart Response SSD caching technology and native USB 3.0 support (at last!), along with Intel's Rapid Start technology, which helps PCs springout of sleep mode more rapidly. The fact that you only get two 6Gbps SATA ports, however, is also down to the H77 chipset.

This is demonstrably not a board for full-on performance enthusiasts. For starters, there's no real overdocking support thanks to locked out CPU multipliers. Gamers will also want more flexibility than the CrossFireX-only multi GPU support offers.

Still. Asus has also done its bit by not skimping on features including those sound and video outputs as well as extras like an eSATA port. Okay, one glance at the board's layout will tell you its not an enthusiast item festooned with coolingparaphernalia. But overclocking aside, the reality is the Asus P8H77-M Pro will do everything most PC users actually need.

In the real world, solid performance and plenty of features is what you want from a motherboard. That’s exactly what the Asus P8H77-M Pro delivers. You get most of the best Intel 7 Series features along with some nice multimedia peripherals added by Asus.

Technical analysis
The H77 chipset isn't an out-and-out performance platform, so you'd expect the Asus P8H77-M Pro to be slightly of f the pace compared to quickest Z77 boards. So it proves with Asus' own Sabertooth beast besting it across the board. Of course, that's relevant only for context. More significant is that Asus has the measure of the closer H77 competition in the form of the Gigabyte H77M-D3H even if they're not priced on a par and therefore not directly comparable. Also, if you’re here looking for overclocking results, the bad news is that the H77 chipset is multiplier-locked. Boo hiss to Intel.

Chipset Model H77
GPU Supported
CPU Dependent Video
Number of PCI Express x16 Slots 2
Processor Socket Socket
H2 LGA-1155
Form Factor Micro
Celeron Dual-Core
Total Processor Supported 1
32 GB
64-bit Processing Yes
of Memory Slots
Audio Channels 7,1
Number of SATA Interfaces 7
Number of Total Expansion Slots 3
Number of Network (RJ-45) Ports 1
DisplayPort Yes
Number of USB Ports
Number of USB 3.0 Ports 2
Number of PS/2 Ports 1
Number of Onboard USB Ports
Number of Onboard USB 2.0 Ports 6
Express Standard
PCI Express 2.0
Total Number of PCI Express
Form Factor
Number of eSATA Ports 1
Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
Width 244.0
Depth 244.0 mm
Manufacturer ASUS
Computer International
Product Name P8H77-M
PRO Desktop Motherboard
Serial ATA/600
Part Number