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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 looking for a cheaper alternative to Z77 boards need to look to the Z75 chipset, which has fully fledged overclocking chops. But be warned, the Z75 does without SSD caching. Infuriating stuff, but that's Intel current stratification for you.
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 games performance using a single video card. In the nearer term, it's desirable for efficient scaling with multiple GPUs. On that subject, our early understanding of the Intel 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 motherboard makers will pony up Nvidia's fee to make their H77 boards SLI compatible remains to be seen. None of Asus's nor Gigabyte's new H77 boards support SLI.
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.
This is demonstrably not a PC motherboard for full-on performance enthusiasts. For starters, there's no real overclocking support thanks to locked-out CPU multipliers. Gamers will also want more flexibility than the CrossFireX-only multi-GPU support offered.
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, HDMI and DisplayPort video outputs. You also get 6.1 analogue sound and an optical S/PDIF port.
As a more general computing platform, it also looks solid. Partly, that's thanks to general H77 features such as Intel's Smart Response SSD caching tech and native USB 3.0 support (at last!), along with Intel's Rapid Start technology, which helps PCs spring out of sleep mode more quickly. The fact that you only get two 6Gbps SATA ports, however, is also down to the H77 chipset.
Still, Asus has also done its bit by not skimping on features, including those sound and video outputs as well as extras such as an eSATA port. OK, one glance at the motherboard's layout will tell you it's not an enthusiast item festooned with cooling paraphernalia. But overclocking aside, the reality is the Asus P8H77-M Pro will do everything most PC users actually need.
Look past the locked-out overclocking and this is a nice multimedia platform.
Technology and cars. Increasingly the twain shall meet. Which is handy, because Jeremy (Twitter) is addicted to both. Long-time tech journalist, former editor of iCar magazine and incumbent car guru for T3 magazine, Jeremy reckons in-car technology is about to go thermonuclear. No, not exploding cars. That would be silly. And dangerous. But rather an explosive period of unprecedented innovation. Enjoy the ride.