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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.

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