This motherboard manages to be compact and feature-rich without noticeable compromises or a high price. All the latest interfaces are supported, along with plenty of headers and clever tweaking (fans, overclocking) software. There's even SLI for those that want it, and I think most of us won't miss WLAN in our desktop builds. This is a solid base for any build from silence to high performance.
The price at the time of writing was a very reasonable 129 EUR. Premium boards with the same Z77 chipset like the Asus Maximus V Gene or the SPCR Recommended P8Z77-V Pro go for around 189 euros. That difference will easily justify a CPU and RAM upgrade if you go with the M PRO.
- Assembly is relatively painless. The board is easy to handle but the rigid I/O shield can be a pain. Good labels and okay manual, some clever peripherals but nothing groundbreaking.
- Plugging everything in is straightforward and there were no obstructions in my setup, even with the large CPU cooler and memory slots. NB the SATA ports are facing sideways, not "up", so some cases and angled connectors may not be compatible. For me it made cable management easier.
- Special mention for having PCI-E x16 available in the top slot, good for long cards in the Define Mini or cases with a similar layout.
- CPU socket location incompatible with Define Mini motherboard tray cutout. Otherwise wiring and sockets line up nicely with said case.
- The fan control is great (Fan Xpert+, not 2 like in the P8Z77-V). While not total, as in you can't turn fans off for semipassive cooling or define values without restrictions, it does control both PWM and analog fans on Chassis Fan headers at least (3, good for mATX) and has an intuitive software interface, both in UEFI and in OS (Windows-only?). The only major downside is that you can't define very low values: either the software decides it's dangerous based on fan data (it analyses your fans, smart!) or it's hardcoded at a 41 % minimum. This is okay so inexperienced users don't cook their rig accidentally, but frustrating for hardcore silencers.
- BIOS updates are necessary. Two were already out at the time of writing, both included "stability improvements".
- Most of the motherboard works without any software installations but should not be used as-is. A number of drivers and other software required for board to have all features advertised. Allows modular setup where unwanted features don't get in your face.
Bad for: hardcore silencers out-of-the-box (stock fan control still limited), shoestring budget setups, monster builds (you want ATX), backwards compatibility (no PCI, IDE).
Highly recommended. Meets all common requirements and has clever bonuses. I was skeptical of the PRO name due to past experiences, but this one seems more like the well-received EVOs of yore.
Here's some pictures with a shoddy phonecam:
This is my two cents. I have not run comprehensive tests (aside from Memtest, ORTHOS and AS SSD Benchmark) or done extensive comparison with the competition beyond pre-purchase research and what I've gleaned from reading enthusiast sites with interest. My specs are in my signature. Feel free to ask questions!