- Intel Z97
- Core i7 / i5 / i3 / Pentium / Celeron (LGA1150)
- DDR3 3000(OC)/2933(OC)
- $129.99 –
- $5.92 Shipping (restrictions apply)
Perfect board for the masses 07/01/2014
• Great feature-set at a low price
• Attractive board for open window builds
• Great PCI-E spacing for SLI/Crossfire
• A pair of x8 PCI-E slots for dual GPU builds (as opposed to the “SLI capable…with a x4 slot”)
• Software package that has some nice applications worth using
• Board layout is good overall
• M.2 slot on the board
• DualBIOS (for those failed overclocking experiments)
• Enough overclocking options in the bios to have a little fun
• Secondary CPU fan header (good for fan-speed control with dual-fan CPU coolers)
• Flexible memory support (speed/brand)
• Narrow ATX spec (good for smaller mid-tower cases)
• 3-year warranty
• Comes with case badge (a LOL for me – but a lot of people gripe when there isn't one included)
• None at all for the price point – so I will start my notes HERE:
Went with a budget initial build. I figured that your average builder wouldn't dump a 4770k/2400 MHZ RAM/ SLI GTX-780’s into a board like this.
Pentium G3220/stock cooler
8GB 1333 RAM
IGP for graphics
Intel 240GB 530 SSD
700wt OCZ Modstream PSU
Windows 8 install from a USB 2.0 drive had me at a desktop pulling updates in less than 7 minutes. All devices properly detected.
I used an open-air test bed for the build, but for somebody building in a case, show a little care when inserting the 24-pin, as this is a narrow ATX board (right-edge standoffs are not used), so there isn't much support along that edge. A lot of people list this as a CON, but it’s actually nice to have the narrower spec in a smaller mid-tower box where space is at a premium. Besides, it’s not like you’re constantly removing/inserting the 24-pin, so who cares. It’s one and done for most people.
Overall board layout is solid. Wide PCI-E spacing for airflow running multi-GPU setups, and enough spread around the CPU socket, that larger-size air coolers shouldn't be much of a problem (outside of the stock cooler, I also popped on an Enermax ETS-40 (no issues), and a Corsair H55 (the secondary fan header was excellent for this, giving me a place for the pump header/fan header that allowed the mobo to control the pump/fan speeds for me). Some people will gripe about the SATA headers being under the GPU area. Again, it’s not much trouble to pop 2 screws + a PCI-E lock, nor are you doing it that often. They have to put those SATA headers somewhere, and if they were placed below the GPU area, it would still be too cramped to get your fingers in – so you’re popping the card anyway. I see this as a negative point in a lot of reviews, and just don’t understand why it’s a problem. So good overall board layout, with no complaints on my end.
I/O on the backplane is what you see at this price point. A little light on the USB 3.0 ports, and no optical out. The Z97X-SLI does include the legacy PS-2 port (great for failed overclocking experiments that require a PS-2 keyboard to access the bios), and a couple of USB 2.0 ports (very useful for USB 2.0 devices that get twitchy on USB 3.0 ports). Board I/O is standard, with front panel USB connectors, the same tired front panel connector block (somebody needs to set a standard here, so a single block-plug can be used), and a couple legacy PCI slots (nice for they guy that is still using a nice quality PCI sound card, or RAID card).
Bios isn't bad. Actually has some memory timing options (not usually seen in a budget board bios), and enough voltage settings to allow you to play. The UEFI interface looks nice, and is easy to navigate. Included software package had a couple of highlights, with the Windows GUI BIOS updater working flawlessly, downloading the latest BIOS from Gigabyte’s site, and updating without issue. The Smart Start software was also cool, as it returns the Windows 7 start button functionality to a Windows 8 build (similar to Stardock’s Start 8 widget). The remaining software included the normal stuff to get you up and running (drivers, Adobe Reader), and a Gigabyte branded overclocking tuner (see notes below).
We know the Z97X-SLI is solid for a budget gaming build, so time to up the ante on the hardware.
4670k w/Corsair H55
16GB 1866 MHZ RAM
EVGA SLI GTX780’s
Took the easy way out, and used Gigabyte’s EasyTune software within the App Center. Pulled a pretty easy 4.24 GHZ overclock. Didn't run Prime 95 for stability, just played COD Ghosts for a couple hours, and had no issues. Would love to have tried an M.2 SSD, but they have two different connectors, and with the tech being so new, most of the drives are out of stock.
A really nice offering from Gigabyte here. The Z97X-SLI offers a nice mix of features, capability, and looks, for not a lot of money (current price is $124 here at Newegg.com). Proof that you don’t need to open up your wallet for quality and functionality. It’s tough to admit sometimes, but folks who build their own machines for gaming, with the intent of doing a little overclocking, almost always spend more than they need to on the motherboard, due to marketing and hype. The Z97X-SLI is not for hardcore LN2 overclockers, nor is it for people that are trying to set 3dMark records – it’s for the 90%+ in between. Gigabyte has a solid track record for build quality longevity, so pretty safe to say that the Z97X-SLI should be a solid foundation for your 1150 build.
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