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Three Z97 Express Motherboards, $220 To $280, Reviewed

Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming GT Software And Firmware

Z97X-Gaming GT Software

Gigabyte EasyTune hasn’t changed since our previous review, with default overclocking profiles for the tested Core i7-4970K that include 4.6GHz at 1.35V, 4.8GHz at 1.5V and a 5GHz setting that crashes before we can get a voltage reading. Certain changes that occur at the firmware level require a reboot before those settings are activated.

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Auto Tuning pushed our core to 4.8GHz at 1.5V, just as saw from the “Medium” profile. That voltage level causes near-instant thermal throttling under full load with our Core i7 though, and we’re fairly certain that it’s not even safe over the long term at above-ambient temperatures.

Manual overclocking is a functional option for the most part, though some changes (such as DRAM ratio) require a reboot. DRAM timings aren’t even selectable in software, though.

Gigabyte CloudStation controls remote access for features like remote power management and remote overclocking via downloadable Android or iPhone apps. Other capabilities, such as WiFi Hotspot, require additional hardware like the 802.11n adapter seen in the above screenshot.

“EZ Setup” encompasses chipset-based functions including SSD Caching and Intel Smart Connect. Beyond basic system information, Gigabyte System Information Viewer includes an advanced menu for setting temperature to fan RPM slope.

Z97X-Gaming GT Firmware

Gigabyte’s MIT menu retains the firm’s characteristic submenu spread, launching into a main menu that hosts submenus. It also shows a few system stats, including our highest-stable 1.28V CPU overclock at a motherboard-detected 1.272V.

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We were also able to reach DDR3-2800 with four DIMMs installed at 1.65V. Gigabyte’s “Advanced Memory Settings” submenu unlocks its “Sub Timings” submenus to allow full timing adjustment after selecting either “Manual” (all-channel) or “Advanced Manual” (per-channel) adjustment modes.

Even Gigabyte’s “Advanced Voltage Settings” submenu is nothing more than a launching point for even more submenus, where we find useful settings like CPU Vcore at 1.260V, which produced an actual 1.28V output, according to our meter. Similarly, a DRAM setting of 1.63V yielded the actual 1.65V needed to get our RAM to its XMP-rated data rate and timings.

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