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The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 is a microATX socket LGA1150 motherboard targeted for the “Haswell” processors (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, and Core i7 processors). It is part of ASUS’ TUF (The Ultimate Force) series and, as such, comes with ASUS’ exclusive thermal armor to improve the system’s thermal management. Therefore, even though this motherboard uses the microATX form factor, it is targeted to users building a gaming PC. Let’s see what this motherboard has to offer.
The new Intel Z87 chipset provides two important upgrades compared to its predecessor, the Z77: six USB 3.0 ports instead of four and six SATA-600 ports instead of only two. Another important difference between the two chipsets is where the video outputs of the motherboard are connected. While with both chipsets the video is generated by the CPU, on the Z77 the video signal was routed to the chipset, and the video outputs were connected to the chipset. On the Z87 chipset, the video outputs are connected directly to the processor. Both chipsets support up to three independent video monitors. The Z87 supports all other features provided by the Z77, such as Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while it is in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASUS GRYPHON Z87 motherboard without the thermal armor in Figure 1. In Figure 2, you can see the components of the thermal armor and, in Figure 3, the motherboard with the thermal armor installed. The thermal armor comes with a fan, which is installed at the motherboard’s rear panel and blows hot air present in the unit under the thermal armor to the outside of the computer.
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), and one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot.
The two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, with the first slot working at x16 when only one video card is installed, and with both working at x8 when two video cards are installed.
The third PCI Express x16 slot is 2.0 and works at x4. If you plan to install a dual-slot video card in this slot, you will have to buy a case with at least five slots. (Computer cases targeted to microATX motherboards usually have four.) This slot cannot be used if you install a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot.
The PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots support both SLI and CrossFireX technologies. It is important to note that, according to the motherboard’s manual, the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot doesn’t support these technologies and can’t be used to install a third video card under SLI or CrossFireX modes.
[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the GRYPHON Z87 supports memories up to 1,866 MHz.
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 has four memory sockets. Since DDR3 memory modules can be found in capacities up to 8 GiB, you can have up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS GRYPHON Z87, the first and third memory sockets are beige while the second and fourth are brown. When installing two memory modules, use the beige sockets.
[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]
The Intel Z87 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). This motherboard doesn’t have any additional SATA ports. The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards won’t block them.
The Intel Z87 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four located on the motherboard rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard, and six USB 3.0 ports, four available on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header.
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 doesn’t support FireWire ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1+2 audio format, i.e., eight channels plus two independent channels for audio streaming. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC892 codec, which is a decent audio codec for the average user, providing 97 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 90 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good for the average user, but if you want to work professionally capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.), you should pick a motherboard with a codec that offers a signal-to-noise ratio of at least 97 dB SNR at its analog input.
The analog audio outputs are independent and the motherboard also comes with an on-board optical SPDIF output. It also has a two-pin header labeled “SPDIF_OUT”, where you can install an adapter to have a coaxial SPDIF output or to connect a cable to older video cards that required a physical connection to have audio on their HDMI outputs.
The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port, controlled by an Intel I217-V chip.
In Figure 8, you can see the motherboard rear panel with four USB 2.0 ports, DVI-D output, optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, four USB 3.0 ports, one Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.
In Figure 9, you can see the motherboard rear panel with the thermal armor installed. Note the fan.
[nextpage title=”Other Features”]
The “MemOK!” button, shown in Figure 10, allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed.
The “BIOS Flashback” button, shown in Figure 11, allows you to upgrade the motherboard BIOS by installing a USB memory on a USB 2.0 port containing the new BIOS file, without the need to turn the computer on and load the operating system or the motherboard setup program. On other motherboards from ASUS with this function, the button is located on the rear panel.
A button called “DirectKey,” also shown in Figure 11, allows you to enter directly into the motherboard setup program.
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 comes with three thermal sensors (to be installed on the headers located next to the “BIOS Flashback” button in Figure 10), allowing you to monitor the temperature of three places in your computer.
The portrayed motherboard supports the installation of a TPM (Trusted Platform Module), in charge of storing encryption keys in order to increase the security of the computer.
In Figure 12, you can see all of the accessories that come with the ASUS GRYPHON Z87.
[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS GRYPHON Z87 has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator is controlled by ASUS DIGI+ ASP1251 chip, which uses a digital design. Each phase is driven by two NTMFS4937N MOSFETs, which provides a maximum RDS(on) of 6 mΩ.
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 uses high-end solid Japanese electrolytic capacitors, from Nichicon, on its voltage regulator circuit (a.k.a. “10K Black Metallic Capacitors”). According to ASUS, these capacitors have a lifespan five times longer than regular Japanese solid capacitors and have a higher temperature tolerance (between -55° C and +105° C, making them military-grade components). This allows you to use liquid nitrogen on your CPU without damaging the capacitors.
All coils used on this motherboard are ferrite-core models.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
[nextpage title=”Overclocking Options”]
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (1007 BIOS):
- CPU Base Clock: From 80.0 MHz to 300.00 MHz in 0.1 MHz increments
- Memory Frequency: From 800 MHz to 3200 MHz in 266 MHz increments
- Host/PCIe Clock: From 80.0 MHz to 133.33 MHz in 0.01 MHz increments
- CPU Core Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.9200 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Cache Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.9200 V in 0.001 V increments
- System Agent Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Analog I/O Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Digital I/O Voltage Offset: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
- CPU Input Voltage: From 0.800 V to 3.040 V in 0.010 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) Voltage: From 0.7000 V to “DRAM Voltage” in 0.0125 V increments
- Chipset (PCH) VLX Voltage: From 1.2000V to 2.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
- Memory Voltage: From 1.20 V to 1.92 V in 0.005 V increments
- Memory Termination Voltage (VTTDDR): From 0.6000 V to 1.0000 V in 0.0125 V increments
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
The main specifications for the ASUS GRYPHON Z87 include:
- Socket: LGA1150
- Chipset: Intel Z87 Express
- Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
- Parallel ATA: None
- Serial ATA: Six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5)
- External SATA: None
- USB 2.0: Eight USB 2.0 ports, four on the motherboard real panel and four available through rtwo headers on the motherboard
- USB 3.0: Six USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and two available through one header on the motherboard
- FireWire (IEEE 1394): None
- Thunderbolt: None
- On-board video: Controlled by the CPU; HDMI and DVI-D connectors
- On-board audio: Produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC892 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 97 dB SNR for the outputs, and 90 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
- On-board LAN: One Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel I217-V chip
- Buzzer: No
- Infrared interface: No
- Power supply required: EPS12V
- Slots: Two PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slots (working at x16/x0 or x8/x8), one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 or x1), and one PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot
- Memory: Four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1866, 32 GiB maximum)
- Fan connectors: One four-pin connector for the CPU cooler, five four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans, and one three-pin connector for an auxiliary fan
- Extra features: Thermal armor, three thermal sensors, and support for TPM
- Number of CDs/DVDs provided: One
- Programs included: Motherboard utilities
- More Information: https://www.asus.com
- MSRP in the U.S.: USD 169.00
The ASUS GRYPHON Z87 is a motherboard targeted to the enthusiast user who wants to build a gaming PC inside a small form factor case, using one of the new “Haswell” CPUs (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors).
The main highlight of this motherboard is its thermal management, with a thermal armor that prevents air that was heated by the motherboard from going inside the computer case, where it would heat other components. This thermal armor comes with a fan that removes this hot air from the motherboard. The motherboard also comes with three thermal sensors, allowing you to monitor the temperature of three points inside your computer.
Other highlights of this motherboard include the presence of six USB 3.0 ports, six SATA-600 ports, two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, a good voltage regulator circuit with high-end capacitors, and more. The audio codec used is more than adequate for the average user.
There is, however, one drawback with this motherboard, but it shouldn’t affect most users. It is regarding the PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot, which works at x4 speed and you can’t use it with SLI and CrossFireX configurations. Plus it is blocked when you install a dual-slot video card in the second PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, rendering it pretty much useless.