So Intel has a bit of a reputation when it comes to chipset releases and NDAs. Apparently the two of them don't go very well together. Yes today is actually the day that Intel's H97 and Z97 chipsets can finally be unveiled. Now over the past few weeks you have been able to read pretty much everything about it as a certain motherboard manufacturer communicated the wrong article release date towards media and press, and then failed to convince mostly Asian and USA press that the release date is today. Well, we follow NDAs and as such today we'll bring our first Z97 review. Intel today releases their series 9 chipsets, amongst them will be low-end and high-end desktop solutions. For the consumers and readers of Guru3D, H97 and Z97 will be the two most interesting ones. For the HTPC end of things H97 is the most appealing as tweaking options are stripped away with a lower price-tag. For the more hardcore gamers and PC aficionados, the Z97 is the most interesting.
So what is new in the Series 9 chipsets you might wonder ? Well, to be honest ... nothing much. Z97 basically is a respin of the Z87 silicon, yet Intel was able to add Sata Express and M2 PCIe SSD compatibility. You don't need a new chipset just for them though as honestly, both solutions use a handful of PCIe lanes from the Intel PCH and that's it. So why a new chipset release then? Well, it's twofold. With the launch of series 9 chipset Intel will also release new Haswell processors. These are respins as well, the new models will be clocked 100 maybe 200 MHz faster depending on the SKU. Closer to the Computex 2014 timeframe however you guys will see Devil's Canyon processors. Basically a new '4770K' processor that is unlocked, yet comes with improved thermal insulation material and heatspreader, allowing these upcoming processors to be able to cool down much better than the existing design. We'll test that in a later article, of course. Is Z97 interesting then, you might wonder ? No, Z97 by itself as a chipset is nothing special. HOWEVER we have plenty to look at as the motherboard manufacturers went totally nuts and started redesigning their motherboards, added new features and made them extraordinarily cool. You'll spot new redesigns build on the DNA of Z87 yet improved massively. Cool looks, features like AC WIFI, M2 SSDs and Sata Express will bring some very interesting features onto the market. So if (at the time) you didn't upgrade to Z87, now might be a good time.
In today's review we look at two motherboards from ASUS, the ASUS Z97-A; the primary focus however will be the Z97 Deluxe series motherboards. The Z97-A mainboard is intended for Intel's 22nm Haswell processors on Socket LGA1150, including the upcoming Haswell refresh processors. The Z97-A is a very interesting motherboard with an attractive price. Your 'entry-level' mainstream Z97 motherboard really. And it certainly has nice looks.
ASUS Z97-A motherboard
For the more high-end to enthusiast and pro-overclockers segmented consumers the Z97 Deluxe will be a more interesting. These motherboards comes with four DDR3 memory slots that can run 3300 MHz DDR3 memory and eats multiple graphics cards for breakfast. You'll spot three PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots for multi-GPU graphics configurations (NVIDIA SLI / AMD CrossFireX). These boards will get many SATA 6Gbps ports, two SATA Express ports and a multitude of USB 3.0 headers. For the Deluxe model ASUS also threw in 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, HDMI output and a shielded 8-channel HD audio solution. Both boards in today's test also have an M2 PCIe Storage slot for extremely fast SSDs topping 700 to 800 MB/sec in read and write performance. The ASUS Extreme Engine Digi+ II will offer very efficient mosfets, the Deluxe model even has BlackWing chokes and 10K black metallic capacitors that supposedly offer better low temperature performance.
Have peek after which we'll dive right into the photo shoot. We'll start off the photo-shoot with the Z97-A, obviously followed by the Z97 Deluxe.
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