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Asus Z97M-Plus Motherboard Review

Another day, another mATX Z97 motherboard review. Today's candidate is the Asus Z97M-Plus, which we're comparing to ASRock's Z97M OC Formula and Z97M Pro4.

Final Word

Performance Value

As I say most every time, a value score based solely on money and measured benchmarks isn't all-inclusive since not everything about a board can be measured. With a similar price to the OCF and similar performance numbers, it's not surprising to see them essentially tied for value according to this math. But we need to look deeper.

Final Word

In this review, the Asus Z97M-Plus has been compared to the ASRock Z97M OC Formula. What's the verdict? In terms of CPU overclocking, the Plus takes a more refined approach. ASRock uses brute force by throwing a bigger VRM at the problem. Asus gives you more detailed control over voltage and power delivery. The result is roughly the same. For those who want fine control over their CPU voltage, or have more temperamental chips, Asus offers more than the competition. The strange Turbo Boost behavior might be a turn-off to some, but only those who won't be manually tuning their CPU on this board.

Unfortunately, RAM support on the Plus is lacking. It excels at DDR3-2400, but it simply can't reach higher frequencies. This is great if your RAM can't go above 2400 or if you don't want to spend extra money on premium modules. Those wanting the absolute fastest RAM system should look elsewhere.

My biggest disappointment in the Plus is in the small details. The OCF added value with a premium audio chip, Killer networking, a fuller I/O backplate, more fan headers and SLI support. The Plus doesn't have any of these. In terms of actual features, it's more comparable to the ASRock Z97M Pro4, a board that sells for less. The extra money spent on the Plus gets you an M.2 slot and more refined BIOS control. Whether or not that's worth it is entirely up to you, the buyer.

I want to stress this isn't a bad board. It's actually quite solid in consistency and features. I would have no complaint about quality or reliability if using it in a personal system. What matters is the price. At higher prices it simply can't compete with something like the Z97M OC Formula, which offers more hardware for the same money.

The Z97M-Plus is like a better overclocking Z97M Pro4, but with an M.2 slot. That makes it worth about $15 to $20 more than the Pro4 in my book, but not the $35 Asus originally asked. But with Skylake and the 10-series boards now out, these prices are completely relative as the 9-series boards will likely see end-of-life price drops. If you can find this on sale in the $100 to $110 range, it's a great deal.

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Eric Vander Linden is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter.

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  • Nossy
    Micro ATX has become that middle child that gets ignored most of the time.
    Reply
  • Non-Euclidean
    "I gave some meaningless style points to the OCF last time for its sharp colors. I give the same empty points to the Plus by not treating me like a squirrel and thinking stylish anodizing will sway my head."

    So apparently anodizing isn't stylish, and doesnt treat you like a squirrel, but when presented with "sharp colors", you sprint outside looking for acorns!

    We arent looking for a style review and you admit you are a sucker for one style, but then feel insulted when the next board isnt the style you prefer. That's hypocrisy.

    But thanks for the view from Tom's Styleware Guide!
    Reply
  • Non-Euclidean
    This board has M2 10Gb/S. That isnt on the specifications and should be. You did imply it, when you said a cable wasnt needed for M2, but it should be on the spec table.

    Why wasnt it tested with an M2 drive as the boot drive?
    Reply
  • vertexx
    Seriously, I kept hitting "refresh" thinking this was some archive from mid 2015. What's the relevance of running a z97 motherboard review now? That ship has sailed.....
    Reply
  • blazorthon
    The first and second SATA ports are not forward-facing even though ports three through six are. I'm not sure why Asus would do this, especially since port one and two are the most likely to be used.

    Two SATA slots are forward facing because not all cases are made in such a way that sideways ports can be used conveniently (if at all).

    Other than if you're using a SATA M.2 SSD, it doesn't matter at all which SATA ports you use, so whether the 1 and 2 slots are forward facing or 3 and 4 or 5 and 6 makes no difference. 1 and 2 aren't any more necessary to be filled first than any other SATA slots.
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    Minor typo re "shroter" at the end of the first page:

    "SATA cables are on the shroter side ..."


    Blazorthon's right about the SATA ports, one can boot from any of them.

    Reply
  • firefoxx04
    4+1 power delivery at over $100? Really?
    Reply
  • joex444
    Tomorrow: Testing the limits of LGA1366's three-channel RAM.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    17354518 said:
    Micro ATX has become that middle child that gets ignored most of the time.
    I rather like the form factor, one of the reason we're trying to devote some space to it.


    17354790 said:
    So apparently anodizing isn't stylish, and doesnt treat you like a squirrel, but when presented with "sharp colors", you sprint outside looking for acorns!

    We arent looking for a style review and you admit you are a sucker for one style, but then feel insulted when the next board isnt the style you prefer. That's hypocrisy.

    But thanks for the view from Tom's Styleware Guide!
    Try rereading it with your tongue in your cheek. Notice the points are meaningless and they both got the same amount? If a manufacturer wants to gussy up a board with fancy colors and RGB lighting, I will comment on that. If a mfr keeps things strictly business, I will comment on that as well. Neither impacts my final recommendation on the product.

    I didn't say I'm a sucker for anything except good function and value. It seems today there's a trend to make every computer component as fancy looking as possible. Personally I'd rather not pay extra money for fancy anodizing and RGB lighting. Just give me a product that works for as low a price as possible. I'm telling Asus that it doesn't have to dress up a board to get an award from me.

    17354872 said:
    This board has M2 10Gb/S. That isnt on the specifications and should be. You did imply it, when you said a cable wasnt needed for M2, but it should be on the spec table.
    It was on the spec table when I turned it in. Looks like it got lost somehow. I'll get that fixed. Thanks.

    17354872 said:
    Why wasnt it tested with an M2 drive as the boot drive?
    Because the Z97 test bench components need to be kept consistent from one board to another so that the results are properly comparable. Right now we use a 2.5" 840 Pro since not all boards have an M.2 slot.


    17355097 said:
    Seriously, I kept hitting "refresh" thinking this was some archive from mid 2015. What's the relevance of running a z97 motherboard review now? That ship has sailed.....
    This review was finished a while ago, but we've had so many things in the publication queue, it didn't come out till now. Regardless, just because Skylake is out doesn't mean Haswell is suddenly horrible. Skylake prices are so volatile and inflated right now, global availability still isn't assured, so a cheaper Haswell build is perfectly acceptable for many people right now.


    17355321 said:
    Two SATA slots are forward facing because not all cases are made in such a way that sideways ports can be used conveniently (if at all).
    How is a forward-facing SATA port less convenient than a perpendicularly mounted one? What mATX case is so incredibly tight around the mboard leading edge that it can't accommodate edge-facing SATA ports? This board is narrower than the mATX spec allows so it actually has more room on the leading edge than a full size mATX board.

    17355321 said:
    Other than if you're using a SATA M.2 SSD, it doesn't matter at all which SATA ports you use, so whether the 1 and 2 slots are forward facing or 3 and 4 or 5 and 6 makes no difference. 1 and 2 aren't any more necessary to be filled first than any other SATA slots.
    I understand that port number doesn't matter when they're all SATA 6Gbps and that you can set your boot drive priority in the BIOS. However, for people that like to order their drives according to SATA port, it's annoying. Call me OCD if you want.


    17355470 said:
    4+1 power delivery at over $100? Really?
    With CPUs getting more power efficient, and with Haswell integrating some power control onto the chip itself, massive VRMs aren't as necessary now as they used to be. I understand it feeling like a cut corner given the board's competition. But at the same time, expecting to go for maximum overclock on a mainstream priced board is unrealistic.
    Reply
  • heinlein
    "I prefer windowless cases, and flamboyant colors don't mean anything behind a steel panel. A board only needs a good feature set at a good price to earn my respect."

    Very refreshing to read that. When I read tech reviews; some things are important to me like is the layout user friendly, performance/power used, thermals, and noise; things like PCBs with a checkered flag motif or extraneous LEDs are useless to me. It is annoying to find a product that fits my needs and know that it is more expensive than it should be because they decided to add cosmetic items like LEDs.

    Reply