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Asus Builds Budget-Oriented Z97-Pro Gamer Motherboard

Motherboards come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, ranging from cheap entry-level boards to high-end professional boards that cost a fortune. One particular trend that we're seeing with Intel's 8-Series and 9-Series motherboards is that there seem to be more gaming-oriented boards that are built with just the bare necessities, allowing them to target lower price points. Asus has built another one of those boards with its Z97-Pro Gamer.

The motherboard features the Z97 chipset, which is linked to an LGA 1150 CPU socket. This gives the motherboard support for all Haswell, Haswell Refresh, and upcoming Broadwell CPUs, including K-series CPUs with unlocked multipliers. CPU power delivery is handled by Asus' Digi+ VRM circuitry, which is present on this board in a less elaborate, but still more than adequate, form.

For graphics cards there are two PCI-Express x16 slots, and that's it. The motherboard has two PCI-Express x1 slots, two legacy PCI slots, and one additional PCI-Express x16 slot, although the last one only operates in x4 mode, so it won't be all that useful if you're planning to install a third graphics card.

The motherboard comes with a handful of ROG-series features. These include SupremeFX audio with a 300 Ohm headphone amplifier, Asus' Sonic Radar II overlay (which nobody should use, because it's for cheaters), and red and black styling.

In accordance with the features commonly found on Z97 motherboards, you'll also find a SATA-Express interface and an M.2 SSD interface.

Overall, this board brings you what you need to build a decent gaming system, and no more. In the past, you could always build a gaming system on an office-oriented motherboard, and it would work fine, but you never got the gaming-oriented features and looks unless you paid more for a premium board. There is, of course, still a premium to be paid for the Asus Z97-Pro Gamer, but it's not as bad as it used to be.

In Europe, the Z97-Pro Gamer retails for about €135, which translates to about $140 if it were to come to the U.S. Unfortunately, Asus informed us that it doesn't have any plans to launch this board in the states.

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Niels Broekhuijsen

Niels Broekhuijsen is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He reviews cases, water cooling and pc builds.

  • dovah-chan
    I think it would be best to say that the Sonic Radar II overlay has been met with some questionable usage.
    Reply
  • CraigN
    While questionable at-best, I could see it being a huge boon for deaf-gamers.
    Reply
  • TechyInAZ
    Huh? Not in the U.S? Why?

    That motherboard looks great! It would be a great option to have with the gigabyte z97 gaming 3.
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    "...it won't be all that useful if you're planning to install a third graphics card."

    What type of "budget" gamer has 3 graphics cards????? They are NOT budget gamers if they do! A budget gamer opts for a single PCIe-x16 slot since they only plan on running one graphics card.

    Frankly, all of the Tier 1/2 m/b can make a sub-$100 Z97 board; they just don't want to eat into the profits of their "higher-end" line. A Z97 with a single x16 slot, support over-clocking, and has 2-4 DIMM slots will suit every "budget" gamer just fine.
    Reply
  • Mac266
    I prefer to say 'interesting' usage.
    Reply
  • bob hays
    2Be - I'd say that the motherboard you're looking for is the z97-k/p/c from Asus, all close to the $100 range. And the Z97-A which supports 2-way SLI is around 120-130 (my usual recommendation for a build). I'm certain other companies have their versions too but I just know more about Asus' models.
    Reply
  • RedJaron
    14508300 said:
    "...it won't be all that useful if you're planning to install a third graphics card."

    What type of "budget" gamer has 3 graphics cards????? They are NOT budget gamers if they do! A budget gamer opts for a single PCIe-x16 slot since they only plan on running one graphics card.

    Frankly, all of the Tier 1/2 m/b can make a sub-$100 Z97 board; they just don't want to eat into the profits of their "higher-end" line. A Z97 with a single x16 slot, support over-clocking, and has 2-4 DIMM slots will suit every "budget" gamer just fine.
    Absolutely. I'd even go so far as to say a Z chipset shouldn't be considered "budget" at all ( what tight budget can afford a $250 CPU? ) You can get a feature-rich H97 board for under $90. My favorite right now is ASRock's H97M Pro4. The only thing you'll miss from the Z boards is limited OCing and no PCIe lane splitting for multi-GPUs. Neither of which are even considered by people on a tight gaming budget.
    Reply
  • shrapnel_indie
    "...it won't be all that useful if you're planning to install a third graphics card."

    Non-issue if you SLI as NVidia has capped SLI to two cards. AMD cards on the other hand will be forced to only two max with this board.

    Then again, this IS a budget board, can't expect to have all the features of the more expensive boards.
    Reply
  • CraigN
    shrapnel_indie,

    All of the false. I'm not sure where you got that information or think that to be true.
    From Nvidia's own SLI marketing page:
    "Upgrade your rig with a second NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU to enable SLI, the system turbocharger of choice for gamers, which enables everyone’s favorite titles to be played at the highest screen resolutions with every setting maxed out. NVIDIA SLI supports the use of up to 4 GPUs, and thanks to FCAT, SLI is certified by independent press as fast, smooth and responsive."

    You just need a motherboard that supports it. Nvidia requires that all cards have the same bus speed (16x/16x or 8x/8x, 8x/8x/8x, or 8x/8x/8x/8x) in order to SLI. That's the only "cap" they have.
    Reply
  • Onus
    I am deaf in one ear, and Sonic Radar is the single feature that might make an upgrade worthwhile for me. Otherwise, I have no idea where a sound is coming from; a primary reason I do not really enjoy FPS titles.
    Reply