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

Z97-Machine Firmware

Trouble figuring out what all of those icons do? Clicking the Advanced icon at the top of the firmware’s opening screen brings up a traditional menu set.

With our old and factory-unlocked Core i7-4770K installed, 4.6 GHz is within easy reach.

Our DDR3-2800 kit also reached its full rated settings on the Z97-Machine, but we did need to find a couple of workarounds for menu limits. Enabling XMP disables manual frequency selection, but selecting XMP first and then switching to manual mode causes the board to keep XMP timings when entering manual mode.

But why would we want to use anything other than the stock XMP multiplier? To begin with, the board only runs in XMP mode with two modules installed, and we wanted to see how far the board could push four modules at the same timings. But then we found another workaround: setting BCLK to 98 MHz and sneaking up to 100 MHz allowed the board to finally boot with all four modules at their rated speed.

Basically, the Z97-Machine acts like a timid human when it gets surprised by a major change in settings, and I spent over half an hour in two-minute intervals waiting for the system to discharge while using the CLR_CMOS jumper. Conversely, small steps got us eventually to huge gains, without those lock-ups.

The Z97-Machine can even save up to eight overclocking profiles, just in case you’re afraid of screwing up your good settings when trying new settings.

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