Asus has announced a very fancy Z97 motherboard – the Z97 WS. This is a workstation class motherboard built on the Z97 platform, with support for the fifth generation of Core series processors from Intel that drop into the LGA1150 socket.
Power delivery for the CPU is taken care of with an elaborate VRM circuit that draws its power from not one, but two 8-pin EPS power connectors. Power is also brought to the motherboard through a single 24-pin ATX power connector as well as a single 6-pin PCIe power connector. Why, you might ask? Well, that's because the motherboard has a grand total of four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, which if all populated, will obviously draw a little more power.
The motherboard also has two PCIe 1x slots along with a single PCIe 4x slot. Storage connectivity is achieved by four SATA3 (6 Gb/s) ports, along with two SATA-Express connectors, which if either is unused will bring two additional SATA3 available. The motherboard also has the M.2 slot found on most Z97 boards.
Regarding overclocking, the motherboard also has some pretty serious hardware. Onboard there is a reset switch, power switch, along with TPU, EPU switches, as well as a clear CMOS button and Dr. Power switches. The motherboard also has an EZ XMP switch, which will make installing RAM with Intel XMP profiles a snap.
External connectivity is handled by two USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports (with another four available through internal headers), dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet, eSATA, DisplayPort, Mini DisplayPort, HDMI, as well as an optical Toslink output accompanied by, lastly, 7.1 channel analog HD audio.
All in all, this is a serious motherboard from Asus that reflects in the price tag. It's just shy of $300 on the street and is available immediately.
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Would love to see an all black & white color scheme for once. Would probably be too difficult to do, though.
Looks like those USB ports found on the WS are no longer there, but there are 2 internal USB 3 headers, good if your case has 4x front USB 3. The other board that has this was their P8Z77-V Pro. Not even the deluxe has 2 internal USB 3 headers.
Can't tell if there are PLX switches sorry.
Keep in mind, this is a WS class mobo. It isn't intended to be as "flashy" as a gaming rig component. "Beauty" is in the eye of the beholder.
Indeed, it's too bad ASUS stopped putting on Thunderbolt 2.0 connectors on their Z97 motherboards. Big drawback just as Intel announced 10Gbps Thunderbolt networking.
I will be going for GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD7 TH which does have Thunderbolt 2.0