MSI and Gigabyte are working on Z97 express chipset and also developed the board prototypes. Here’s our report on that
Z97 Chipset boards leaked specs
Intel schedules the Haswell refresh launch in April and only one month left for the scheduled launch for the CPUs along with the 9 series motherboards, we see many 3rd party OEMs show off their prototypes of the future chipsets. We currently have Gigabyte and MSI prototypes boards’ leaked specifications and pictures. And contrary to the previous rumors about the incompatibility of Haswell chips with 9 series chipset support, Intel stated that 9 series chipset would support Haswell chips along with Haswell refresh CPUs, but we don’t know whether Haswell refresh would be backward compatible with 8 series chipset or not.
MSI’s Z97 lineup
The two bare-bone prototype motherboards that were exposed from the Z97 lineup from MSI are the Z97 Gaming 7 and Z97 Gaming 3 boards which would be part of the future wave of MSI Gaming lineup but we didn’t spot them with their retail heatsinks on them. But we don’t have any information about the XPower and Legacy Z97 boards.
Z97 Gaming 7:
The Z97 Gaming 7 has specs and features of a full fledged flagship board and would maybe represent the Gaming series flagship. The power layout comprises of 12 20 Phase DigitALL Power Design and the power is fulfilled by a 8 pin power connector and a regular 24 pin ATX connector. The socket remains same as 8 series just as expected, the LGA 1150 and will support both Haswell and Haswell Refresh CPUs. Memory frequencies supported up to 2666 MHz +(OC) of DDR3 modules and four Dual channel DIMM slots. The other connectors include, three PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots and four PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots along with the revolutionary M.2 slot that supports Intel’s NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) SSDs like the 530 series. The board features eight SATA III headers along with USB 3.0 headers. The Z97 PCH is hidden beneath the prototype heatsink which would be replaced by the Gaming series “Dragoon” heatsinks. For overclockers, The board includes direct Voltage read-out points and On/Off buttons along with OC genie, Reset buttons. The board features MSI Audio Boost 2.0 audio tech along with the KillerLAN controller which reduces network traffic. The components used belong to the Military Class IV standard.
Z97 Gaming 3:
The Z97 Gaming 3 sports slightly cut off features, the Z97 Gaming 3 has a 6 Phase DigitALL power design and same 8 pin power connector and 24 pin ATX connector. The board features same LGA 1150 socket and 2666 MHz + OC memory frequencies of DDR3 memory modules and sports four DIMM slots. The PCI-E expansions include two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots and 3 PCI slots and the M.2 interface as explained earlier. We noticed three SATA III headers but this board lacks OC features like the Gaming 7 board but still features Military Class IV components and Audio Boost 2.0 along with KillerLAN controller.
Gigabyte’s 9 series lineup. Featuring H97 and Z97 boards.
Gigabyte prototypes feature same bare bone boards with test Heatsinks and no bling at all. But the peripheral connector layout prompts some handy features. Gigabyte has currently developed a Z97 mini ITX board along with a full size Z97 ATX and Z97 mATX boards and two H97 boards.
Z97 mini ITX prototype:
As we can see from the picture above. We have a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot and two DDR3 DIMMs , six SATA III, rest of the specs are unknown to us at the moment.
Z97 mATX prototype
The mATX variant has 2x PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots and support CrossFire and features four DDR3 DIMMs and same 6 SATA III headers and two PCI slots
H97 ATX boards:
One of the H97 boards have two PCI-E 3.0 x16, two PCI slots and four DIMMs while the other one supports single PCI-E 3.0 x16, single PCI slot and only two DIMMs and both the boards feature six SATA III headers and two PCI-E 3.0 x1 slots.