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

Overclocking

We conducted our general benchmarks with a brand new Core i7-4790. But overclocking tests require switching back to our faithful Core i7-4770K. Using that processor, 4.60 GHz is the ragged edge of stability at 1.25 V, and any greater voltage causes it to throttle under full load. It’s not clocked higher when it’s throttled.

Most of the motherboards in today’s round-up successfully reach the full measure of our processor’s overclocking capability. Gigabyte comes up a little short, but that could seriously be the difference of a few millivolts that might not impact other builders with different overclocking needs.

Conversely, the Z79X Gaming 5 reached the highest base clock frequency when using the 100 MHz strap. That’s the only ratio available on multiplier-locked processors, so this might be important to anyone running the new Core i7-4790.

ECS wasn’t the company that ran into memory trouble after receiving an award from us, yet its L337 Gaming is the trailing brand in our memory overclocking test. The Z97-A was happy with our DDR3-2800 XMP settings, but wouldn’t let us overclock. And the Z97 Gaming 5 roughly matches the Z97 Extreme4 depending on the number of modules installed.

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  • onover
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
  • makishima
    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
  • Someone Somewhere
    I'd like to see a review on the significance of the 'killer' NICs... I highly doubt they have any difference besides branding.
  • SteelCity1981
    so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
  • H4X3R
    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".
  • Crashman
    Anonymous 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.
  • H4X3R
    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 :)
  • Crashman
    Anonymous 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).
  • tarkhein
    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/
  • Someone Somewhere
    Of course, they're testing throughput, and latency is what is generally considered to matter.
  • tarkhein
    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.
  • Someone Somewhere
    Hmm, I missed that.

    It looks like they're testing at 10Mb/s though, which sort of invalidates all the latency results.
  • ubercake
    Z97-Z in the last paragraph on page 5 (should be Z97-A).
  • airborn824
    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
  • Amdlova
    dooooooo the itx test :) everyone want small cages now. asrocks have better value better power and better desing!
  • sincreator
    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?
  • H4X3R
    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.
  • Onus
    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.
  • geok1ng
    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.
  • palitusa
    Great Review! MSI should be better than Asrock but then again Asrock price is pretty damn good!