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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.

Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.