Intel Z77 Express Chipset:
Intel Z77 chipset is kind of a mix of its predecessor Z68 chipset and Intel’s top-end X79 chipset. From Z68, it inherits the socket LGA 1155 and more importantly the Intel Smart Response technology. While the big brother X79 gives it PCI Express 3.0 support. There is one additional thing which is new to Z77 chipset, that’s the native USB 3.0 support. All the motherboards till now, no matter which chipset, have been using third party controllers for USB 3.0 but now it’s natively supported by Intel with four USB 3.0 ports. The Z77 chipset and all other 7 series chipset will support all the current Intel LGA 1155 2nd generation Core series ‘Sandy Bridge’ processors along with upcoming 3rd gen. ‘Ivy Bridge’ ones.
One important feature that was missing in the X79 is the Intel Smart Response technology, this lets you install a small SSD as a cache drive to accompany your HDD to increase storage performance but its absence was kind of justified considering the X79 is made for enthusiasts who can easily afford to buy SSDs to replace their HDD altogether but Z77, being a ‘mainstream-enthusiast’ grade chipset brings this feature. In fact, some Z77 motherboards even have mPCIe slots on board for mSATA SSDs to be used as cache drives.
Intel Z77 chipset provides 16 PCI Express 3.0 lanes via the upcoming ‘Ivy Bridge’ CPUs. There PCI Express lanes can be used in a couple of ways depending on which market segment the board is targeted on. These will be only available if you put in an ‘Ivy Bridge’ CPU, otherwise all of these will act as PCI Express 2.0 lanes. Intel Z77 PCH also has eight PCI Express 2.0 lanes which can be used for external connectivity.
Like its predecessor, Intel Z77 chipset supports dual channel DDR3 memory with native frequency now bumped up to 1600 MHz as compared to 1333 MHz on previous chipsets. The Z77 chipset also offers the overclocking of both CPU and GPU along with display connectivity options from Intel’s integrated GPU, this feature was previously exclusive to Z68. The Z77 chipset also comes with other usual features like SATA III 6 GB/s, Intel HD Audio, USB 2.0 and gigabit Ethernet LAN.