Compromises or Value?
I know a few gamers who are still running the now ancient socket 775 Intel CPUs which makes their core platform 6 years or older. One guy has a Q9550 with 8GB RAM and more recent graphics card but 90% of the time he plays Team Fortress 2 or CounterStrike so he's not complaining. Relevance? The platform still suits their needs despite the motherboard being at least 2 years out of warranty and the CPU being deemed End Of Life by Intel in 2011. By selecting components carefully, a system builder can effectively get a longer system warranty (at a component level) for peace of mind that their rig is covered against an early retirement and costly upgrade. It's not hard to find memory with a lifetime warranty or power supplies backed by a 5-7 year warranty.
There are a few notable omissions on the Gryphon Z87 when compared to the more expensive boards we have reviewed lately. Compared to the Maximus VI Gene which is about $85 more expensive (board to board, not including the armor), the Gryphon Z87 makes the following design compromises:
- memory compatibility,
- ASMedia ASM1061 controller for 2 additional 6Gb/s SATA ports,
- SupremeFx sound and sonic radar
- ASmedia USB 3.0 controller for 4 additional USB 3 ports
- mPCIe Combo II connector
- power buttons and onboard LED error display
Listing out the above may look like a lot but when you look at the Gryphon for what it is, it's a very interesting offering. It has ample USB 2 and USB 3 ports, 6 internal 6Gb/s SATA ports should suffice in most micro ATX cases and most gamers won't be bothered by the high end memory compatibility options or missing onboard power and reset buttons. The ALC892 audio might deter some enthusiasts but it's fine unless you are used to better and USB headsets make onboard analog audio redundant anyway. Remember too that this board is SLI and Crossfire capable - one of the cheapest multi GPU platforms around in the micro ATX form factor.
The added inclusions are higher grade components, better thermal monitoring and fan control software, 2 years more warranty than most other options and all of the core features including multi GPU in Crossfire and SLI.
Once you add the armor kit, the gap starts to close on the Maximus VI Gene ($34 difference) and brings the fully armored Gryphon on par price wise with the MSI Z87M Gaming. With the armor factored in, the decision suddenly gets a bit harder and the true factors like the workstation purpose, builder style, aesthetics, brand loyalty come in.
This places it price-wise as below:
- ASRock Z87M Extreme 4 at $159
- ASUS Gryphon Z87 (not including option armor kit) at $185
- ASUS Gryphon Z87 + Armor kit at $235
- MSI Z87M Gaming at $235
- ASUS Maximus VI Gene at $269
- Gigabyte G1 Sniper M5 at $275
At $235 with the armor fitted, this is likely to be a platform for enthusiasts with a specific build requirement or vision, gamers with that kind of budget will spend that sort of money on the Z87M Gaming or stretch to the Maximus VI Gene.
This review was more difficult than I had thought at the outset because it's difficult to know what to compare the Z87 Gryphon with and the thermal armor required a different testing approach to do it justice.
The ASUS Z87 Gryphon is a good product and will be well suited to system builders who are working to a budget but wanting SLI in the micro-ATX form factor with a durable board and are not concerned about some of the luxury extras. It will appeal to those who want the style of the Sabertooth but in a more LAN friendly size.
Aesthetically, the board is great and with the armor kit, it's quite subtle. The plastic top armor plate has a checker plate finish and will reflect LEDs as shown in our test gallery. You can choose to make the board a feature or blend into the background so that you can show off your crazy water loop, LED bling and other crazy mods - being colour agnostic is something that can't be said for most motherboards.
The Gryphon performed well in all of my testing, was a pleasure to game on and overclocked well.
Where this board really shines for me is how easy it is to work with when combined with the armor kit. Moving it from the test bench to a water cooled case with a cumbersome and heavy copper water block connected to 2 thick hoses wasn't a worry as the board was well protected for an accidental knock. Positioning the board was also easy as the armor provides more places to hold the board without the worry of Electro Static Discharge (ESD) or scratching it. The additional durability testing and warranty make the TUF series something to consider if you are in hot, dusty or humid areas.
The software bundle isn't as rich as some of the other alternatives but we were not left wanting and the inclusion of thermal sensors all over the board that can be used to drive fan speeds basically make manual fan controllers redundant.
The ASUS Gryphon Z87 might not have absolutely all the features that you "want" but it's almost certainly got everything you "need" plus a little bit more.
ASUS went to a lot of effort to make the Gryphon look and feel durable and 'TUF' - it's backed by a 5 year warranty which is more than most (possibly all) other motherboards. For those looking for a sub $200 SLI capable board though, this one is hard to beat.
|ASUS Z87 Gryphon 'TUF' Series Motherboard|
Cost effective microATX SLI platform with option of buying the armor to make it more affordable
The microphone levels were a bit soft