Intel’s latest offering, the Z97 Express chipset has been in the market for quite some time therefore we decided to present some Z97 offerings from the house of Gigabyte Technologies.
Overview: Gigabyte Z97X-G1.Gaming, Z97X-SOC Force and Z97X-SLI
Gigabyte Technologies is no doubt an ace motherboard manufacturer and a very well known brand in the technology industry, dealing with PCB market and making motherboards for AMD as well as Intel platform along with Graphic Cards from NVIDIA and AMD. Also considered Intel’s cousin brand, whenever there’s a new chipset unveiled by Intel, Gigabyte are among the first to launch the ready moherboard.Known for their supreme quality components that gives the user unprecidented quality and durability not only on paper but also in reality (I’ve been using a Gigabyte motherboard since 10 years and still works like a charm).
This time, we have chosen to present to you the boards equipped with the second chipset that features top class overclocking features and the LGA 1150 socket, yes, that’s right, we are taking about the Z97 express chipset. Gigabyte unveiled a numerous number of boards ranging from budget segment to feature segment upto high end extreme enthusiast category featuring the Z97 chipset. We’ve chosen three Z97 boards from gigabyte’s lineup which are considered to be quite innovative with respect to the OEM feature set in older lineup. We have a SLI ready board at a very affordable price tag from Ultra Durable lineup. A high end gaming board at not so high price from the G1 series, and a board with supreme value for overclockers from the OC series.
Gigabyte G1.Gaming Z97 : MSRP $200
The G1 lineup is something specially dedicated to gamers and since the days of X38 chipset. And this is no exception. It uses mostly all the features of the the Z97 chipset (plus several OEM add-ons) at a very reasonable price of $200/-. The feature set includes support for Intel Haswell “refresh” CPUs out of the box and has all the red and black bling (unlike the G1.Sniper) to give you the bragging rights.
The CPU draws power from the 24 pin ATX and the 8 pin EPS power connectors, and has the 8 phase PowIR Digital VRMs to get to you aimed overclocks. 4 DDR3 DIMMs supporting a total of 64 GB Dual channel RAM and two PCIe 3.0 running at x16 but split up in x8/x8, 3 PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and two legacy PCI comprise up the expansion area. Display ports comprises of one DisplayPort and one HDMI port. Storage connectivity has a wide range and comprises of 6x SATA III 6GB/s headers and one M.2 slot for Intel’s NGFF SSDs.
The board offers a total of 6 USB 3.0 ports (4 on back panel and 2 via internal header) and 7.1 Ch Creative Sound Core3D audio and audiophiles can again upgrade it with the OPAMPs which are user replaceable and a 115 dBA DAC and audiophile grade electrolytic capacitors and layered-ground isolation. The board features a Broadcom Killer E2100 PCIe NIC with packet prioritization that’s perfect for multiplaying your favourite titles.For even immersive gaming, USB headsets with their own DACs, the board has special USB 2.0 port with extra power output and electrical noise filtering. And ofcourse, the dual BIOS which is one of Gigabyte’s signature feature is also featured on this board (has to be, isn’t it?). And last but not the least, the board comes with wicked red LED lighting.
Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force : MSRP $210
Years back, the GA-X58A-OC was the first board of the OC lineup from Gigabyte, since then Gigabyte had something special for overclockers and system tuners. And now we have the Z97X-SOC Force, the latest and most badass board in the OC lineup. The Z97X-SOC Force is considered the successor of Z87X-OC Force which was a board tremendously acclaimed for its OC capability. The overall board is a bit stripped down in terms o features compared to Z87X-OC Force and is closer to OC roots to make the board look cleaner and provide sophistication in overclocking. The Dual LAN is dropped and the netwoking is handled by Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2200 Gaming network controller. And this maybe called a con to few users that the integrated liquid cooling is also gone.
The SOC Force is very close to its roots, like the most of the OC lineup boards, features OC panel for easy overclocking (though few settings can only be changed via BIOS) but the OC panel comes in handy. The 4 DDR3 DIMM slots can be OCed to a max of 3300 MHz and can handle upto 32GB of unbuffered non-ECC RAMs and supports XMP (extreme memory profiles). Back panel display options consist of 1x D-Sub port, 1x DVI-D, 1x HDMI, 1x DisplayPort.
Audio is controlled by Realtek ALC1150 and supports upto 7.1 Ch HD audio. The Internal Expansion are consists of 4x PCIe slots, one at x16 (gen 3.0) and one at x8 (gen 3.0) and two at x4 (most probably gen 2.1) for 4-way AMD CrossFireX or NVIDIA SLI. 1x PCIe 2.0 x1 and two legacy PCI slots. there are 6x SATA III headers and one SATA Express header supporting RAID 0,1,5,10. The BIOS is a DUAL UEFI BIOS each 128 Mbit. Direct Voltage readout points and OC buttons are present on the OC panel for easy and foolproof OC.
Gigabyte Z97X-SLI : MSRP $125/
The board is undoubtedely aimed for the budget concious users looking for a decent SLI capable board at a $120 – $130 price sweet spot. Mostly, boards at this price bracket don’t support SLI (mostly only CrossFireX) so that does makes the user think about the future multi GPU setup on a system with that motherboard. Board has a LGA1150 (quite expected, isn’t it? lol) and a simple 4 phase VRM design with 60A rated chokes to atleast let the user to OC the CPU 2-3 bins (maybe even higher if done the right way).
The major highlight of this board is undoubtedely the the pair of PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. And 3x PCIe 2.0 x1 slots, other headers are 6x SATA III ports among which 2 of them can be converted into Sata Express headers. The board has high grade ALC1150 HD Audio CODEC which offers SNR as high as 115dBA, ground isolation and Headphones AMP. Networking is controlled by an Intel made GbE controller. The backpanel display includes, Dual link DVI, D-Sub and HDMI port. LPT and COM legacy ports is also available via internal headers and the very useful PS/2 port. Just like all of the boards from GIgabyte’s house, this too has Dual UEFI BIOS.
Gigabyte always proves itself to be one of the biggest contender in the best motherboard league and this year too it has offered us great value for money boards at all prices. Which one would you think is the best suited for you? Please let us know in the comments.