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Intel Z97 Express: Five Enthusiast Motherboards, $120 To $160

Tom’s Hardware readers set a higher bar for enthusiast-class motherboards, demanding overclocking capabilities and more robust feature sets. Priced from $120 to $160, we welcome the first five Z97 motherboards to our enhanced definition of mainstream!

Intel Z97 Express: Five Enthusiast Motherboards, $120 To $160 : Read more
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  1. The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
  2. Quote:
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?

    I find it small
  3. I'd like to see a review on the significance of the 'killer' NICs... I highly doubt they have any difference besides branding.
  4. so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
  5. The Asrock one is better. Not everyone will be using XSplit, and as tradesman1 (a moderator on this site) said "I myself won't touch MSI mobos due to the poor QC".
  6. SteelCity1981 said:
    so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
    READ PAGE ONE to find out why this chipset has the same features as the previous chipset.
  7. Good review :) I am looking forward to the best price:features motherboard review though (extreme6). I have a quick question crashman: Do asrock still use Capxxon caps (or just crappy caps in general). I would like to know the company of the caps if possible, once again, thank you :)
  8. H4X3R said:
    Good review :) I am looking forward to the best price:features motherboard review though (extreme6). I have a quick question crashman: Do asrock still use Capxxon caps (or just crappy caps in general). I would like to know the company of the caps if possible, once again, thank you :)
    I wish I knew. It appears that they get their caps custom-wrapped to get the gold color, and that the custom wrapping only has specifications (no branding).
  9. Quote:
    I'd like to see a review on the significance of the 'killer' NICs... I highly doubt they have any difference besides branding.


    Not exactly the most comprehensive review, but here is Asus' take on NICs: http://rog.asus.com/312772014/labels/guides/tried-and-tested-why-intel-ethernet-is-still-better-for-gaming/
  10. Of course, they're testing throughput, and latency is what is generally considered to matter.
  11. Quote:
    Of course, they're testing throughput, and latency is what is generally considered to matter.

    Latency is down the bottom of the page if you didn't realise.
  12. Hmm, I missed that.

    It looks like they're testing at 10Mb/s though, which sort of invalidates all the latency results.
  13. Z97-Z in the last paragraph on page 5 (should be Z97-A).
  14. I am upgrading my 965BE this week to a 4770k. Looking at the MSI Gaming 3 what does evryone think? i am keeping my SSD HDD and Saphire HD6950 for now. Any suggestions for a Z97 board under $180
  15. dooooooo the itx test :) everyone want small cages now. asrocks have better value better power and better desing!
  16. Usually when games are tested on motherboards the results are virtually identical. Strange that the MSI board came up as far ahead as it did in this case. Any ideas on why this happened Crash?
  17. I wish I knew. It appears that they get their caps custom-wrapped to get the gold color, and that the custom wrapping only has specifications (no branding).


    Well, then i guess i'll have to hunt that info down because i do not like investing in mobos with cheap components, no matter how many features it has.
  18. I had to replace a cap on a cheap ASRock mobo that I knocked off myself with too-aggressive cable management. What appeared to be an exact replacement was a Nichycon, which is a good Japanese brand.
    As to MSI, I wouldn't touch their cheap boards, but their Z77A-GD65 Gaming board really surprised me over how nice it is, and how cool the VRMs stay under load. If my primary were full ATX, I'd be using it there.
  19. After reading about the total mess that is adding SATA Xpress and M2 to a chipset starving for PCIe lanes, my upgraditis will wait for Haswell-E and X99. X97 feels like a notebook chipset.
  20. Great Review! MSI should be better than Asrock but then again Asrock price is pretty damn good!
  21. how far back should you be to make this upgrade worth wile if not coming off from AMD ?
  22. Wow! Asrock and MSI beat out Gigabyte and Asus! Never thought I'd see that one coming!
  23. Hopefully we shall see more M.2 SSD's soon, since it seems to be the successor to M-SATA. I like the thought of less cables to deal with. I want a Mini-ITX rig and M.2 or M-SATA is perfect for one, imo.
  24. H4X3R said:
    The Asrock one is better. Not everyone will be using XSplit, and as tradesman1 (a moderator on this site) said "I myself won't touch MSI mobos due to the poor QC".

    I never recommend MSI. Too many issues with those things.
  25. junkeymonkey said:
    how far back should you be to make this upgrade worth wile if not coming off from AMD ?


    Good question. I went from a Sandy Bridge 2600k to a Haswell 4770k and it was huge.
  26. I've used all these brands before and have good luck with each one and say that they're all equal/solid; except one. The ECS/PCChips/L337. A cheap company can try branding their stuff as 'elite' all they want, it still doesn't stop the fact that they use low quality parts and an outdated BIOS. Biostar and Foxconn are even better than them.
  27. After reading the article it really only reduced choice by one board. I base my finally purchase on company's history of bios update period, uses of quality components, the boards layout. In these Asus and Gigabyte are generally above the rest. Maybe tomshardware future motherboard articles could include average bios update period by company, delve into the layout, and quality of parts used.
  28. my asrock mobo running an i5 107mhz never get an fsb 4200mhz 2 cores and 4.0ghz 4 cores. :) people think will have the same Motherboard after five years. "military class product LOL asus and msi trow these shit on the fan all the time. but you can't shot the motherboard or piss on that. this will avoid de guarantee
  29. H4X3R said:
    Well, then i guess i'll have to hunt that info down because i do not like investing in mobos with cheap components, no matter how many features it has.
    ASRock says these are "Supreme 12K Platinum capacitors". I've never heard of Supreme capacitors, but ASRock says they are made by Nichicon in Japan.
    sincreator said:
    Usually when games are tested on motherboards the results are virtually identical. Strange that the MSI board came up as far ahead as it did in this case. Any ideas on why this happened Crash?
    No clue. We looked but couldn't find anything going on. MSI got tested last so maybe there was an update?
    Anonymous said:
    Maybe tomshardware future motherboard articles could include average bios update period by company, delve into the layout, and quality of parts used.
    Not all firmware updates are important though. We usually go deeper into layout, but these were laid-out the same way so the comments were condensed in the interest of time.
  30. Does the ASRock have a CLR_CMOS button on the motherboard or not? The specs table says it doesn't, but puts CLR_CMOS on the Internal Button list, and I can't quite make it out on the photo.
  31. Whats the size of those motherboards?
    Probably standard ATX, but couldn't find it with a quick look..
  32. which is better msi z97 gaming 5 or ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer
  33. MSI Z97 is suck because they are the only vendor doesn't support SATA Express.
  34. Onus said:
    I had to replace a cap on a cheap ASRock mobo that I knocked off myself with too-aggressive cable management. What appeared to be an exact replacement was a Nichycon, which is a good Japanese brand.
    As to MSI, I wouldn't touch their cheap boards, but their Z77A-GD65 Gaming board really surprised me over how nice it is, and how cool the VRMs stay under load. If my primary were full ATX, I'd be using it there.


    Thanks a lot.
    Now i am encouraged to jump on a Z97 extreme6 and get dem 32gbps speeds and i shall laugh at everyone else with their $400+ motherboards that only have 10gbps speed ;)
  35. Crashman said:
    H4X3R said:
    Well, then i guess i'll have to hunt that info down because i do not like investing in mobos with cheap components, no matter how many features it has.


    ASRock says these are "Supreme 12K Platinum capacitors". I've never heard of Supreme capacitors, but ASRock says they are made by Nichicon in Japan.


    Great :)
  36. Queenslander said:
    Does the ASRock have a CLR_CMOS button on the motherboard or not? The specs table says it doesn't, but puts CLR_CMOS on the Internal Button list, and I can't quite make it out on the photo.
    The specs table says it doesn't have one on the I/O panel, but has on on the top (internal features). It's located next to the other buttons (click the image to enlarge).
    nekromobo said:
    Whats the size of those motherboards?
    Probably standard ATX, but couldn't find it with a quick look..
    You can tell full ATX by the row of three widely-spaced mounting holes along the back edge. Full ATX has three rows of them: Two of these boards are slightly shorter (in depth) than Full ATX and don't quite reach the third row of standoffs.
    Anonymous said:
    MSI Z97 is suck because they are the only vendor doesn't support SATA Express.
    MSI offers an SATA express card for its M.2 slot. And SATA-Express is a cable standard for extending M.2 off the board. Furthermore, all of the competing brands disable M.2 when SATA-Express is installed. And finally, oh, just read the last paragraph on the first page :)
  37. Onus said:
    I hope my systems are also still running in 2020; they seem easily enough to meet my foreseeable needs.


    Yeah my Gigabyte 990FX-UD3 has been running strong for four years now. Can't say the same for the Asus M4A87TD Evo I was running.
  38. g-unit1111 said:
    Onus said:
    I hope my systems are also still running in 2020; they seem easily enough to meet my foreseeable needs.


    Yeah my Gigabyte 990FX-UD3 has been running strong for four years now. Can't say the same for the Asus M4A87TD Evo I was running.


    My MSI GD-70 is still kicking and overclocking like new. I've had this board for 5 years now and has been overclocked since day 1. I know a lot of people bash MSI, but from mine and my brothers experiances with their hardware we haven't had one issue. I also have a MSI 7950 TF III(1070/1500). One of my brothers still has his p67a GD-55, and MSI TFII GTX570. They have both been overclocked from day one as well. He's running a i5 2500k @ 4.8ghz on his board. My youngest brother has the MSI 560ti 448 TFIII.

    Honestly, the biggest issue i've seen from MSI motherboards is that their motherboards bios are usually buggy on release. Usually after one or two updates they run fine. Too bad the reviews are allready written by then...

    I just had to post my experiances with MSI, since so many people here like to bash them. I don't understand how Guru3d can give their boards such good reviews, and they get slammed so bad by some moderators in here. I guess there have been some bad experiances over the years?

    Actually the only peice of hardware I've had trouble with was my old motherboard, the Asus mvp m3a32-wifi. That board cost me over $300 and gave out just outside of a year. Then Asus wanted me to pay all shipping to the place of purchase and back, and the place I purchased it from wanted the shipping from them to Asus. It worked out to be over $100 for shipping, so I bought my current board(MSI GD-70) on sale for $150. My Asus board also overclocked horribly compared to my MSI board.

    I guess it's all based on experiances, but I still will recommend an Asus board/MSI board if the price is right and the reviews are all in line.
  39. No, it only has AMD boards. It is not my spreadsheet. I don't remember which tech site posted it, and I don't have it in my work PC's bookmarks. I would assume that the same company's Intel boards in the same price range would be of similar quality.
    Edit: Check out http://www.sinhardware.com/. It's blocked at work, but I believe he's got a lot of VRM info on Intel boards.
  40. Based on this spreadsheet: https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AgN1D79Joo7tdE9xMUFlMEVWeFhuckJEVF9aMmtpUFE&gid=0 many of MSI's cheap AMD boards have horrible VRMs. I don't think this extends to their "better" boards.
    For example, I personally got to review a Z77A-GD65 Gaming board. I was expecting to bash it, particularly for bad overclocks and/or hot VRMs (I even bought an IR thermometer to gather the evidence). I was pleasantly surprised. It was one sweet board. I overclocked an i5-3570K to 4.2GHz on stock voltage. The VRMs didn't go over 38C. I liked other features on the board too. If my primary rig weren't microATX, I'd probably have swapped it in.
  41. That speadsheet you listed only has AMD boards on it. Do you have a similar speadsheet for Intel chipsets by chance? It could help in giving advice on certain model boards in the future. Is this your own speadsheet? Just wondering :)
  42. I hope my systems are also still running in 2020; they seem easily enough to meet my foreseeable needs.
  43. These are great boards, too bad i wont be upgrading from my Z77X-UD5H until 2020 or i would have grabbed that Gigabyte board.
  44. thundervore said:
    These are great boards, too bad i wont be upgrading from my Z77X-UD5H until 2020 or i would have grabbed that Gigabyte board.


    Wow, that is a long time.
  45. Isn't that the one you just killed, or am I thinking someone else?
  46. In the specs list on Page 1 of the review, I strongly feel you should start adding "Thunderbolt 2.0" connectivity under networking. Since I'm looking to connect multiple computers into a 10Gbps Thunderbolt network once the Win8 driver is released, this is the most important feature of any new Motherboard for me. Please consider adding this. Thanks
  47. I'm a little saddened to see the absence of eSATA on the Extreme4. I know a lot of people like USB 3.0 for external storage, but I still prefer eSATA.
  48. On MSI's Gaming 5 motherboard: "Notice that the Z97 Gaming 5 has no SATA Express cable provision? That’s because MSI agrees with my boss that the M.2 interface is mostly useful in notebooks that lack space for RAID arrays, and that RAID arrays are most practical in desktops."

    I'm confused, if MSI thinks M.2 belongs in laptops, then why did they put it in their desktop motherboard? And if that's not the case, then what's better, an M.2 drive or a RAID array?
  49. Vaeserion said:
    On MSI's Gaming 5 motherboard: "Notice that the Z97 Gaming 5 has no SATA Express cable provision? That’s because MSI agrees with my boss that the M.2 interface is mostly useful in notebooks that lack space for RAID arrays, and that RAID arrays are most practical in desktops."

    I'm confused, if MSI thinks M.2 belongs in laptops, then why did they put it in their desktop motherboard? And if that's not the case, then what's better, an M.2 drive or a RAID array?
    They added the slot but stopped short of adding a cable provision for the same interface (SATA Express). If you have the space for RAID, you're usually better-off with RAID.
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