The Board - A Closer Look
As I mentioned earlier, the Biostar TZ77XE4 comes equipped with a Power/Reset/Clear CMOS button, pictured above. These come in super-handy when setting up the system for the first time, or if like me, you'll just be using the board for benchmarking. The BIOS is a 64 Mb chip that sits just above the SATA ports, programmed with a full UEFI BIOS. Below the SATA ports is a dual-digit POST display that can be set in BIOS to display system temps after the POST process has completed, and will help you figure out boot issues should you have any.
The socket is fully populated with SMD components; I didn't find a single unpopulated spot in the middle of the socket. The rear of the socket is pretty busy, with many pins sticking out around two sides, and there are also several input drivers on the backside of the board as well. I also noticed that the heatsinks are attached with screws, something that in my opinion is a must for a high-end products like this one, where the user may remove heatsinks to add watercooling.
The DIMM VRM is an analog single phase, shown in the first image above. As you can see by the silk-screen print right next to the DIMM phase, the board supports up to 2400 MHz and then some, and this VRM design should be more than adequate to get much more than just 2400 MHz. The CPU VRM is managed by an Intersil ISL6367 controller, shown in the second image above. This is a big change for Biostar, who has primarily used much older analog VRM designs in the past. Now that they have made the transition to more contemporary designs, this should greatly improve voltage regulation as well as helping the VRM be as efficient as possible. I've noticed many boards for the Intel Z77 Express use this same controller, so this should help the TZ77XE4's overclocking abilities too.
The Supe rI/O chip for the Biostar TZ77XE4 is the same ITE IT8728F we've been seeing quite often recently, that allows a fairly decent level of fan control. I did also manage to locate an Advanced Analog Circuits AZ324M-E1, which seems to be responsible for PLL control. It's capable of operation from -40 C to +85 C, which should help keep clocks stable no matter what type of clocking you plan, even if going sub-zero.
There are two Asmedia SATA IC's on the Biostar TZ77XE4, the first being the Asmedia ASM1061 seen in the first image above, which provides the secondary SATA 6 Gb/s internal ports, while the second image above shows an Asmedia ASM1453 SATA switch, which allows the TZ77XE4 to switch one of the internal Intel Z77 Express SATA 3 Gb/s ports into the eSATA port found on the rear I/O panel.
Realtek supplies both audio and LAN controllers on the TZ77XE4, with a Realtek ALC898 hidden under the metal cover shown in the first image above. This high-end Realtek CODEC is what provides the 110db "Puro Tone" functionality, and I'm sure the metal EMI shield that sits over it plays some role in that as well. The RTL8111E LAN controller rides on the PCIe bus, of course, and is so utterly common that it's found on countless products now.
The final two components are the ITE IT8893E PCI-to-PCIe bridge that pushes the PCI ports, and the Asmedia ASM1480 PCIe 3.0-compliant switches that shift eight of the PCIe lanes from the primary PCIe x16 slot to the middle x16 PCIe slot. Both of these components are on many Intel Z77 Express products, so they are sure to be more than capable, and considering what they do is pretty trivial, are not really that important, but I figured I'd mention them anyway. I've found them on many Intel Z77 Express products, so they may even be a minimum requirement for the platform.