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Pros: Inexpensive. With rebate cost no more then a fast food dinner. Unit arrived in an unmarked box but looked like brand new. I put it into my production machine and it works like a new one.
Cons: None so far. Only time will tell if it's going to work reliably for the long haul.
Other Thoughts: Won't power much of a system but it does have one PCI-e power connector. I have it in a system with no video card, one SSD and one hard drive and a core i5 processor. For that it's about perfect.READ FULL REVIEW
Pros: First impressions. I will tell you this is my first Asrock board but I’ve read enough reviews to know that the quality can be spotty. The Killer Fatality represented itself well. It’s a handsome board done in black and red and it’s not lurid or cheap appearing and the board isn’t so thin it bends easily. The heatsinks are attached well with screws and both the Purity Sound processor and the Killer NIC chip are covered by metal EMI shields. The board comes packed in a black anti-static foam container and held in place by 4 zip ties. This is the best method of shipping a motherboard I’ve seen and I was suitably impressed.
The bundle doesn’t include much, some generic black SATA cables, an SLI bridge, a somewhat amateurish I/O plate that manages to look cheap, a thick user manual and an additional software manual and a small sheet for the cloud service. Oh yes, and a single small black screw in it’s own bag. This perplexed me at first and then I realized it’s for the M.2 slot. Not much but then this isn’t really a high dollar offering.
I built up a modest system for this motherboard including a corei7 4790, 8 gigs of G-Skill memory and an older OCZ 550 watt modular power supply. The video card is an ASUS 650 ti Boost. This is not a powerful video card but it’s rock solid and runs cool and seems more a match for this lower middle level board. I purchased the regular 4790 processor because I realized I was spending extra for the K parts and never overclocking my systems. Honestly, these Intel processors are plenty fast enough for me and the $40 I saved over buying the enthusiast part can be applied elsewhere.
Z97 gives you an m.2 SSD slot and a SATA express port. There are no SATA Express devices out right now and my only m.2 SSD isn’t the faster PCIe variant so I’ll stick with a standard SSD for the boot drive. There are 3 PCIe X16 slots but since this board doesn’t have a plex chip the best you’re going to get is 2 way SLI at X8/X8.
The Realtek Purity Sound performed admirably. I’m certainly no audiophile and all I had hooked up was an old Altec Lansing 2.1 speaker system but the sound did justice to my Avicii True album in FLAC. I’m not really a fan of the Killer network Lan port but it worked OK. Maybe if I was an online gamer it would have more appeal but I’d much rather have a high quality Intel gigabit part. But I stress it performed with no problems. Also you need it if you want to avail yourself of the Asrock Cloud program
The BIOS is an actual surprise and a delight even if it’s not as polished as ASUS. It has more options then I’ll ever use including more configuration settings then I’ve ever seen. If you like red and black then you’ll probably love the color scheme. I found everything and it all worked as advertised although as often as not the mouse wouldn’t work. Also the BIOS had a bad habit of not recognizing my Intel SSD on occasion, forcing me to once again set it as the boot device.
Cons: If you’ve spent a lot of time building systems then I’m sure you’ve had that one system that wasn’t outright bad but was wonky enough so you found yourself watching it all the time to see what would go wrong next. I’m not talking about boards that are defective but boards that have idiosyncrasies or that mess up just enough to make you worry but not bad enough to send it back. The Asrock Z97X Killer was a motherboard like that for me. It never went wrong enough to make me consider RMAing but it kept screwing up enough so I was never comfortable with it. I was always waiting for the next little thing to go wrong.
When I got the motherboard installed the first thing of course was installing Windows. I installed Windows 7 Ultimate X64 on a 240 gig Intel 530 SSD. This is a rock solid if unexciting SSD that’s not cutting edge but always works. Windows installed OK but then I tried installing the drivers from the Included DVD. The first driver installed and then the computer rebooted and… nothing. I had power and fans but no video. First bad feeling. So I waited a prudent amount of time just in case the motherboard was tired but nothing so I hit reset. Same thing. So I shut the system down and turned it back on with the same result. Finally, thinking I’d hosed the motherboard I disconnected the SSD and got the boot screen back up. Relief. Hooked the SSD back up and it went back into Windows 7. The driver install program started back up and installed another driver and rebooted and… well I’m sure you can guess where this is going. At least this time hitting reset worked and brought Windows back up. But each time the driver disk installed a driver I’d get the same problem. Not exactly reassuring but maybe just a transient problem.
Now I will say that in general operation, Windows 7 seemed stable and everything worked. So I tried to install some utilities and again the system refused to restart. Now I’m getting the feeling this motherboard is flaky if not outright bad.
I liked the Windows manner of updating the BIOS although the app for it never was able to find the BIOS and report the version. I simply looked in the BIOS at startup and got the version and then went to the Asrock site and downloaded the latest version. It’s an executable file that you click on and it updates the BIOS. Easy Peasy, right? Well it might have been if the system had been able to get through the reboot, which it couldn’t. It shut down and then started back up. The hard drive activity light flashed and flashed but no video. I knew the drill by then and waited a proper amount of time before I hit reset. Again no video. So I shut the system down completely and restarted it and once again it seemed to start and the hard drive activity light flashed but no video. Took the SSD out and the BIOS once again came up. Just like the first time when I reconnected the SSD the system booted and the BIOS had been updated. Everything is normal and happy and
Other Thoughts: I jumped through all the hoops to install the Asrock Cloud app. You have to create an account with OrbWeb and it quite clearly told me that it was a temp ultimate account good for thirty days. Supposedly you get a free year professional account but I saw nothing to indicate that. The professional account loses you the remote desktop so take that into account. For that you’ll need the ultimate plan that costs $69. I’m going to say now that it does work. It woke the computer up from a shutdown state and gave me access to the desktop and my files. It does work but it gives me a bad feeling. First you need to install Java and I’m no fan of Java. Second it requires you to give Intranet access and that’s not as secure as basic Internet access. And third it’s a cloud based program and I don’t want my naughty selfies showing up on 4chan or Reddit. I will say again that it does perform as advertised but the booklet they give you has an error in configuring the BIOS in that says to enable PCI Devices Power On and the Z97X Killer has only an entry for PCIe devices in the BIOS. Plus you cannot get the software to work using the Killer NIC software on the DVD included in the box. You have to download the newer software from the Asrock site. Like I said, it works but I’m going to remove it from my computer in the interests of security.
The XSplit Broadcaster software isn’t something I’d ever use so the gift certificate included is wasted on me. I’m an avid gamer but not a particularly adept gamer and I’d rather not broadcast my ineptness all across the Internet.
Despite my problems the motherboard was stable when running . I played some games and it was as good as my ASUS Z97 Pro. I used it as my everyday machine and it handled office chores, downloading and media streaming. The USB3 works great as does the sound system and the LAN. Right now it’s behaving perfectly. And it may very well continue to behave as long as I don’t have to reload Windows or update the BIOS. The problem is I’m a tinkerer and I reload Windows on a regular basis and I update the BIOS whenever a new one comes out so I will be honest and say I wouldn’t want it for my only machine due to the problems with rebooting. There’s that nagging suspicion at the back of your mind that it’s flaky and just lulling you into a false sense of security before it goes completely wonky.
OK, let’s put it on the table here. Most motherboards are equal in performance. One Z97 board is about the same as another. Sure there are variations in USB speeds or Lan performance and maybe even a bit in SATA speeds but not enough to notice in everyday use. So you either buy your favorite brand or buy based on features . I like ASUS because they simply work out of the box and because I like the software. But I’ve had Gigabyte boards as well as MSI and they work just as well. This motherboard works fine but it has issues that I’m not willing to live with. It may just be a slightly wonk
This review is from: ECS LIVA 2GB DDR3L RAM installed Black Mini / Booksize Barebone System
Pros: Cheap and easy to assemble mostly. See Cons
Cons: A truly frustrating device even for me and I’ve been building computers for 10 years. First, the actual assembly is easy and involves putting in the wireless card and installing a screw. Then you install the two wifi antennas and that’s easy. But then you have to get the incredibly tiny antenna leads hooked up to the miniscule jacks on the wireless board. And no, these aren’t the usual leads you’re used to on laptop wireless antennas and cards. No, these are perhaps half that size. I’m certainly no kid and wear glasses and I couldn’t even see the jacks on the board. Honestly this is an exercise in frustration that took almost an hour. It’s so frustrating you want to throw the whole thing into the trash and go out drinking until you can forget. It took me an hour to finally get something like the correct hookup. A magnifying glass would help but then you’d need three hands. If you have a kid around with young eyesight have them do this and save yourself a lot of frustration.
Then you have to load windows 8.1. Windows 7 won’t work. Only 8.1. Ubuntu is supposed to work but I’m not into that so it was Windows 8.1. The only way to install the operating system is from a USB optical drive or a flash drive. I don’t have a USB optical drive so I made a bootable USB thumb drive using an older OCZ Diesel 4 Gig drive. Guess what? Wouldn’t work. The machine kept going into the BIOS with no hint of what was wrong. And there’s very little troubleshooting info on this device on the Internet. I thought It was defective but then I decided to try using another flash drive. What did I have to lose? I burned another bootable copy of Windows 8.1 on a Kingston 8 gig drive and this time it worked. I saw some hints on the Internet that this is a problem so if it happens to you try another flash drive or better yet use a USB optical drive.
Other Thoughts: The Liva actually runs Windows 8.1 tolerably well. Just make sure you have a powered USB hub because there are only 2 USB ports and you need one for the mouse and one for the keyboard. Considering that everything you want to install has to come on a USB flash drive that leaves you one USB port short.
This is an early review. I just got done installing Windows and the drivers, which come a DVD and that you have to transfer to a flash drive to get installed. The Liva isn’t fast. It’s glacial compared to a reasonably new system but it works OK. I’m going to play with it some more tomorrow and see what happens but right now the frustration is wearing off and it looks cute sitting there, so small and innocent looking. Just remember those wireless antenna leads.