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

Z97-A Firmware

Asus completely revamps its UEFI GUI in the Z97-A, though it contains the same settings as the firm’s previous firmware generation. The menu still starts with two overclocking options, Manual or XMP, where XMP actually means “manual with XMP enabled”.

Unless you're using a K-series CPU, overclocking is limited to a handful of 100 MHz speed bins over stock. So, we reverted to our Core i7-4770K to test it. That CPU reaches its full-load thermal threshold at 1.25 volts, which we achieved using the board's 1.245 V setting. That's the sort of correlation we like to see.

It seems that everyone cheats on memory voltage to maximize DRAM stability. Our voltmeter showed the target 1.65 to 1.66 volts at the board’s 1.62 V setting, even though the board’s volt meter reported only 1.63 volts.

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Occasionally informative, the little information box at the bottom of this GUI version also makes us scroll through an extra page of settings—compared to Asus’ previous GUI—to reveal its full set of primary, secondary, and tertiary memory settings.

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Two additional submenus provide voltage stability techniques to protect your overclock, and power-limiting settings to protect your CPU from your overclock. Asus told us last year that its defaults are best-suited to the majority of hardware, and so we follow that guidance.

  • 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