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Five Z97 Express Motherboards, $160 To $220, Reviewed

Z97 Extreme6 Firmware

I mentioned having a new CPU to use for this round-up, and that processor is Intel’s Core i7-4790K. Intel made a lot of noise in March’s pre-launch briefing, but the clamor was muffled by its Computex launch. It turns out that the improved thermal material was no magic bullet; the die in our sample has worse voltage handling characteristics than the Core i7-4770K I was using previously.

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Our general recommendation to stay under 1.3 V over the long term is based on reports from readers, motherboard manufacturers, and professional overclockers, and that remains. In the past, however, we were thermally limited by our CPU at 1.25 V. That constraint shifts to 1.28 V with the -4790K we're using today. Unfortunately, this sample requires that extra voltage to reach the same 4.6 GHz clock rate. For shame Intel, for shame.

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Level 1 CPU load-line calibration keeps our core voltage stable, though the Z97 Extreme6’s 12-phase voltage regulator is certainly part of that stability equation. ASRock is up to its old DRAM overclocking tricks by under-reporting voltage, though we did reach DDR3-2883 at the corrected, 1.625 V setting.

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Z97 Extreme6 firmware includes a menu for ASRock’s Thunderbolt add-in card, plus a range of “Tool” menu items, such as its spin-up utility for rarely-accessed hard drives.

Another firmware item facilitates direct UEFI access to ASRock’s email-based tech support.

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“Easy Driver Installer” lets you grab the newest drivers directly from ASRock’s server prior to loading the operating system.

  • Memnarchon
    At this price Asus could send a ROG product (Maximus VII Hero). I wonder why they choose to send the Z97-Pro instead...
    Reply
  • bigshootr8
    At this price Asus could send a ROG product (Maximus VII Hero). I wonder why they choose to send the Z97-Pro instead...

    My thoughts you can find the hero board within that price range quite easy. http://pcpartpicker.com/part/asus-motherboard-maximusviihero
    Reply
  • bigshootr8
    -snip- duplicate post silly tomshardware.
    Reply
  • Drejeck
    I'd like some ITX Z97 and H97 with M.2 reviewed.
    I'm buying the Asus Z97i-plus because it just mount a 2x M.2 2280 and 2260, and all other connectivity goodness, uninterested in overclocking unless the broadwell i5 K consume less than 90W :D
    Reply
  • mapesdhs
    I recently bought a Z97I-Plus. Being so used to EATX boards as of late, I was a tad
    stunned at how tiny even the packing box is. :D Just pairing it up with a G3258
    initially to see how it behaves. Pondering a GTX 750 Ti, but kinda hoping NVIDIA
    will release a newer version in Sept.

    Ian.

    Reply
  • Crashman
    13953852 said:
    At this price Asus could send a ROG product (Maximus VII Hero). I wonder why they choose to send the Z97-Pro instead...
    They probably wanted to win based on features for the money? We know that the Wi-Fi ac has A $50 WI-FI CONTROLLER, what does the Hero add that's worth $50?

    Reply
  • lp231
    The Asus ROG boards have a red line that lights up showing the audio path through it's build in LEDs, but the mainstream Z97 don't. I had a chance to take a look at one of the Asus Z97 board and took my phone's flash to shine in on it. The color was somewhat yellowish green and it looks really nice.
    Reply
  • g-unit1111
    I have a Z97 Extreme 6, it's a very nice board and it's definitely worthy of the approval award.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    Nice boards!! I love the gigabyte model but I like asus more because yellow heatsinks just don't fit in my opinion.
    Reply
  • Memnarchon
    13956156 said:
    13953852 said:
    At this price Asus could send a ROG product (Maximus VII Hero). I wonder why they choose to send the Z97-Pro instead...
    They probably wanted to win based on features for the money? We know that the Wi-Fi ac has A $50 WI-FI CONTROLLER, what does the Hero add that's worth $50?
    Hello. I think there are more reasons to buy a ROG product, instead of a Wi-Fi controller...
    Better audio quality.
    Better MOF-SETs.
    Better inductors.
    ROG BIOS.
    Generally ROG boards have better quality parts.
    But in the end we need the reviewers (like you) to review as many products as they can, so we can see the performance difference between them.
    Reply