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

Picking A Value Leader

The easiest way to rate value is comparing performance to price. But that doesn’t inspire anyone to add extras like USB and SATA controllers, which improve the flexibility of a platform, but don't move the needle on speed. We have to think more broadly than just looking at benchmark results.

Only ASRock was willing to add third-party controllers in this price range, but MSI has a value card up its sleeve in the form of a six month license for XSplit Gamecaster. If you use this program, you probably know that it's the equivalent of two $15 three-month memberships. In other words, MSI overcomes the expected difference in value anyway by cutting a deal with a service company that many gamers love.

That leaves ASRock's controller-rich Z97 Extreme4 as the lowest-priced model in our comparison. MSI also includes a lot of "other stuff" at the same $160 price point as Gigabyte, and Asus falls somewhere in the middle. We haven't seen ECS' solution for sale yet, but we're keeping an eye out for that one. Until it shows up, we're calling a tie between the ASRock and MSI solution for Approved recognition.

Update 5-13-2014

ASRock sent us a friendly reminder that it also offers bonus software in the form of a one-year professional license for cloud hosting by Orbweb.me.

Update 2: 5-13-2014

Newegg began listing the L337 Gaming Z97-Machine today for the low price of $140, undercutting competitor ASRock by $6. Though that would have placed the product higher on our price-to-performance chart, we believe that ASRock's easier overclocking and added features are probably worth slightly more than its $6 premium. If you personally don't want some of those features and won't overclock, the Z97-Machine offers a lower price for your consideration.

  • onover
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
    Reply
  • makishima
    The table detailing the motherboard features on page 1 ... Is it just me, or is the text a bit small?
    I find it small
    Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • SteelCity1981
    so intel it seems doesn't have much faith in their own thunderbolt considering there is no thunderbolt ports on this new chipset!
    Reply
  • 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".
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13285086 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.

    Reply
  • 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 :)
    Reply
  • Crashman
    13285142 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).

    Reply
  • tarkhein
    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/
    Reply
  • Someone Somewhere
    Of course, they're testing throughput, and latency is what is generally considered to matter.
    Reply