Z77 mATX Motherboards and OS X

Discussion in 'Buying Advice' started by Asus-Freak, Sep 24, 2012.

  1. Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 5:07 AM #1
    Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    Some years ago I walked away from “Big Clunky Computer Cases”. At the time I didn't want to sacrifice performance or features to do so and that hasn't changed to date. For some time now manufacturers have been providing mATX boards that offer comparable feature sets as well as performance equal to their ATX counterparts. I decided to test a few of these motherboards as I was interested in not only their performance, but how easy they would be to setup with OS X. Intel provides to manufacturers many versions of their current chipset in order to reach specific price points or markets. Examples being the H77, B75, Q77 and others, but all of these choices impose certain limitations that aren't attractive to me. When I spend good money on a processor (which is always the high end) I expect to utilize a 100% of its capabilities, if not today, sometime in the future. Now don't get me wrong, I've seen some very nice builds using chipsets other than the Z77, but those aren't the focus of my testing. If you'd like to have more information on the Intel Chipsets and the differences between them, you can start your research here: Intel


    I selected Z77 only boards for the reasons I stated above, yet the focus here is not overclocking, benchmarking, or placing one manufacturer against another, it’s simply to build a fast, stable, OS X friendly system that anyone can put together and do so easily… Once again, the goal here is not to pick Winners and Losers, but to identify which boards can meet the objective.


    I chose the following boards as their spec sheets suggested OS X friendly features. I was hoping to test the GIGABYTE GA-Z77MX-D3H and GIGABYTE G1.Sniper M3, but they didn't fit the profile as they currently use non-supported audio chipsets. Certainly users can search out and find alternative solutions like USB audio, but I was focused on "Out of the Box" ready (excluding bios mod). I also considered the ASUS Maximus V Gene but decided against it as it's priced out of the reach of a lot of users and offers little more than "bragging rights" as it relates to OS X performance and functionality. Of course if you're dual booting a Windows gaming box you may want to consider it, but I have owned every version of the GENE since Asus released the series and could never justify the price/performance ratio.


    Asus P8Z77-M Pro - Amazon - Newegg
    MSI Z77MA-G45 - Amazon - Newegg
    ASRock Z77 Pro4-M - Amazon - Newegg
    BIOSTAR TZ77MXE - Amazon - Newegg


    Additionally it was important to me that Intel's Power Management worked. To achieve this requires a modified UEFI bios if you don't want to deal with patching your aicpupm kext every time Apple does an update. You can check out this thread to see if there's a bios available for your board. If you have any questions regarding the process, "samisnake" has an excellent FAQ here. Please be sure to take a few minutes and read this before flashing.


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    Test configuration for all boards:

    Intel Core i5-3570K Ivy Bridge - G.SKill 8Gb Ram (2X4) - OCZ 120GB Agility 3 Series 2.5" SATA III SSD - HD4000 - Multibeast Settings Minimal to achieve a 100% working system. Install procedure and tools: Unibeast - Muitlbeast v5 - Mountain Lion 10.8.2 - All boards tested with Modded Bios.


    For the sake of this post, the "Buzz Word" today seems to be "No DSDT Needed", so let's use this criteria for our test boards and see how they fair.

    Do yourself a BIG favor; read, print, and read again the instructions for Unibeast and Multibeast as the majority of issues experienced are directly related to not understanding what these tools do or how to properly use them. So let's get started...

    All boards are tested in my test bench setup shown below. Therefore I can not test front panel USB ports and can't provide pictures of a completed in case installs. I can and will comment on any issues I see that may present potential installation problems.


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    MSI board Installed)


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    First Up:


    ASUS P8Z77-M PRO LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard
    Bios Settings = Factory Default Modded Bios = Yes (1504) DSDT=No
    (This is the only board tested with a 3770k instead of the 3570k as I was too lazy to pull this box apart.)[​IMG=full]
    This is an extremely easy install using Unibeast and Multibeast. Two reboots to a 100% working system.

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    Intel Speedstep working.

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    I can settle for this Geekbench score. Stock bios settings, stock voltages.

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    Install notes and comments:


    Bios flashed with Asus "Flashback" procedure. (See manual or website for details)

    Sleep
    erratic and working only 90% of the time. The easy fix was PleaseSleep. Since then working without issue.

    Meet the Objective =
    Yes ("anyone can put it together and do so very easily")

    I won't spend any more time on this board as most people would believe I am bios toward it. LOL Who'd a thunk it?


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    Moving on to:

    MSI Z77MA-G45 LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 Micro ATX Intel Motherboard with UEFI BIOS

    Bios Settings = Factory Default - Enable Resume from S3 by USB Modded Bios = Yes (.140) DSDT = NO

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    Very easy install using Unibeast and Multibeast. Two reboots to a 100% working system.

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    Intel Speedstep working.

    [​IMG=full]

    Default bios settings, default voltages.

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    Turbo Multiplier 42, default voltages. Of course 4.2 Gig.


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    Install notes and comments:

    Bios flashed with MSI M-Flash. Very easy, requires USB drive formatted fat32. (See manual or website for details)The UEFI bios is attractive, intuitive, and easy to navigate. No complaints or problems whatsoever.

    USB 3.0:
    I have no 3.0 devices to test yet the 3.0 ports are backward compatible with 2.0 devices and work fine. Post time from Power Button to loading the OS is extremely fast, though this is something MSI has always done well. On the desktop the system is real snappy, very stable, and just runs great. I had no problem with the OS or any applications, and it blew through a few hours of "Prime" without issue. I'm really liking this board.

    Sleep works perfectly.
    You do need to enable "Resume from S3 by USB" in the bios to properly wake with the mouse or keyboard, power button sleep works regardless.

    Meet the Objective =
    Yes ("anyone can put it together and do so very easily") This board is a No Brainer and should certainly be at the top of your short list.

    This board has already found a home in my backup system, very nice product.

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    Let's move on to:


    ASRock Z77 Pro4-M LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s

    Bios Settings = Factory Default, Set Shared Video Memory to 64M, Enable USB Keyboard Power On, Enable USB Mouse Power On Modded Bios = Yes (1.30) DSDT = NO

    [​IMG=full]


    Easy install again. Two reboots to a "almost" working system.

    [​IMG=full]

    Intel Speedstep working.

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    Default bios settings, default voltages.

    [​IMG=full]

    Turbo Multiplier 42, default voltages.

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    Install notes and comments:


    Bios flashed with ASRock Instant Flash. Once again very simple. Requires USB drive formatted fat32. (See manual or website for details) Bios settings: Must set video shared memory to 64MB for HD4000 to work properly.

    This UEFI bios is very cool. It's attractive, intuitive, and very easy to navigate. I believe it's the best implementation I've seen to date including Asus and Gigabyte.

    Post time from Power Button to loading the OS was incredible, when you need to get in to the bios though, be quick! LOL I attempted to change the bios settings to provide a little more time but regardless of delay seconds I chose, it seemed to ignore my choices. On the desktop the system seems blistering, incredibly responsive, and very damn fast! Also I had no problem running a few hours of "Prime" or any applications.

    Now the bad news: Audio continually pops and clicks even while the system is idle, very annoying. I tried various system definitions to resolve this with no success. USB 3.0 ports are not backward compatible with 2.0 devices. Forget Sleep, it's not going to happen. No bios setting or system definition made a difference, and using this minimal hardware configuration seems to rule out any hardware influence. Possibly it could be resolved with a DSDT though doubtful, it doesn't bring us even close to "No DSDT" needed.

    Meet the Objective =
    No ("anyone can put it together and do so very easily") My immediate impression as I fired up this board was maybe this is the replacement board for my Z68 Play Box. It took very little time to conclude that the best thing I could do was eat a $109.00 to through this board in the trash! ASRock fans: Sorry to be so blunt but I'm thinking this board is not ready for prime time. Maybe a bios update will fix the audio and sleep problems.

    Update: It appears there's a solution to sleep if you care to roll a DSDT:
    Sleep/Wake solved on ASRock z68 motherboards (Lion)


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    Finally:

    BIOSTAR TZ77MXE LGA 1155 Intel Z77 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s

    Bios Settings = Factory Default, Enable AHCI, Enable ACPI Auto Config, Enable USB Wake From USB Modded Bios = Yes DSDT=NO

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    Once again, same settings as the previous boards.

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    Intel Speedstep working.

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    Default bios settings, default voltages.

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    Turbo Multiplier 42, default voltages.

    [​IMG=full]


    Install notes and comments:

    The Bios flash procedure for the Biostar is rather unique and both the manual and Website discourage users from flashing. Apparently they believe they never have a bios issue, or they understand how bad their procedure sucks! Because of this I hesitate suggesting that a inexperienced user attempts to flash this board out of the box. If you want to use this board (and there are some good reasons to do so), you might consider adding NullCPUPowerManagement to the above Multibeast settings to get the board up and running allowing you time to get familiar with the bios and the flash procedure before going for it.

    The UEFI bios is attractive and easy to navigate, but NOT very intuitive. If you're accustom to the Asus or Gigabyte bios you'll find yourself a little confused and intimidated with the terminology. It takes a little time and patience to understand it.

    In the picture of the board above it seemed a little too "cutesy" to me. But when I opened the package and pulled out the board, that changed. It was like WOW, very damn cool! The color combination is not overwhelming as I thought it would be and I'm thinking Ram with Red heat spreaders, Water Cooling with Red coolant, in a Windowed White Case would be a killer look.

    I really like the board layout. The placement of the front panel USB header is back to where we're use to seeing it. The straight up SATA ports won't interfere with your connections like the right angle ports do with some of the mATX cases. And the silk screen labels on the board are big and very easy to read! Don't need a manual in front of you to hook up this board. Unlike the other boards, when on the desktop the system doesn't feel blistering fast or exceptionally responsive, it's more like smooth and silky. It's hard to explain and very subjective so I'll just leave it there. I had no problem with the OS and applications, and it blew through a few hours of "Prime" with no issue.

    USB 3.0 ports are backward compatible with 2.0 devices and presented no problems whatsoever.

    Sleep works perfectly.
    You do need to enable "Resume from S3 by USB" in the bios to properly wake with the mouse and keyboard, power button sleep works regardless.

    Meet the Objective =
    No ("anyone can put it together and do so very easily") Although it's a nice board and I believe many users will enjoy it, the bios and the bios flash procedure dictates a No answer... With that said, if you are confident of your skills and believe you can work through the flash process, by all means put this on your list to consider.

    Because this board looks soooo sexy, thought I'd add a few picks.


    [​IMG=full] [​IMG=full] [​IMG=full] [​IMG=full]


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    So there you have it:
    As I conclude this post I'd like to mention how interesting it was testing these boards. I wasn't surprised with the similarities, that was intentional. But I was once again amazed on how easy the process has become to build a high performance OS X box. There are reasons for this, hardware continually improves, the UEFI bios has opened the door for the OS to talk directly to the hardware, and of course, tools like Unibeast and Multibeast provided here. Thanks Tonymacx86, Macman, and all the mods...

     
  2. kev7in

    kev7in

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 9:41 AM #2
    kev7in

    kev7in

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    Nice write up. I just got the Asus p8z77 m pro with 3770k.
    Big noob here and just looking for a case and cooler (and I suppose psu). I think I'm just gonna go with the fractal, even tho it's pretty big for a mATX. Got any other suggestions?

    I def got this booked marked for next week when I start building. Thanks!

    :clap:
     
  3. samisnake

    samisnake Moderator

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM #3
    samisnake

    samisnake Moderator

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    Great write up

    Gotta say, that biostar looks really interesting. Even has a qcode readout. Rarely see that on matx boards.

    Thanks for an interesting read
     
  4. minihack

    minihack

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 10:59 AM #4
    minihack

    minihack

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    This is a great write up. Thank you. Hopefully it will give people some confidence to try out a greater variety of builds and not to be afraid of OS X.

    Having dipped my toe in the water of Z77 boards with Uefi I would add that as long as you research the critical components for nominal OS X compatibility and select appropriately (audio, network, integrated graphics, Intel processor family) it would seem that with this chipset a good board is generally a good board regardless of the OS.

    Only caveat to the above is that to be ready for when it comes to advanced stuff (like HDMI audio etc) where DSDT editing is needed it'd be nice to also do a quick DSDT pull from the board to check for a DSDT that compiles without errors the first time as that can be a god send when tweaking. I know that is not the point of this piece though and again, well done and many thanks for doing this testing.
     
  5. Huberer

    Huberer

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 11:52 AM #5
    Huberer

    Huberer

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    Thanks for this test. First I was thinking about going the miniITX route with the Z77 chip but can't find a proper one (with 5 internal sata connectors). Now because of you I will go the mATX route. Have to choose between the MSI or Asus one. I guess the winner will be MSI (cheaper and sleep works without any hitch - very important)

    Edit: Just one question: How did you connect your monitor to the mainboards (HDMI, DVI)?
     
  6. mrengles

    mrengles

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 3:09 PM #6
    mrengles

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    Great read Ken!

    Keep up the great work. Your a real asset to the community.

    -Mrengles
     
  7. Mate94

    Mate94

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 3:59 PM #7
    Mate94

    Mate94

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    Wow, fantastic work and write up kduvernay!:clap:

    Thank you so much!;)
     
  8. Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 5:15 PM #8
    Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    I'm using the Fractal Design Define Mini and like it a lot. Luck with the build.
     
  9. Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 5:20 PM #9
    Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    DVI,,, I'm sure you'll be happy with either the MSI or Asus.
     
  10. Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    Sep 24, 2012 at 5:25 PM #10
    Asus-Freak

    Asus-Freak

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    samisnake, minihack, mrengles, Mate94: Thanks for the comments.
     

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