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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 04 > ASUS Z97-A

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28-04-2014


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Motherboard ASUS Z97-A based on Intel Z97 Express: review and performance testing

According to the information of Intel Company that during this year we will see three new series: Intel Haswell Refresh (May 2014), Intel Devil`s Canyon (June 2014) and Intel Broadwell (end 2014 – beginning 2015) it would be great to announced a new line of chipsets.

Intel Z97 Express

At the present time we have information only about chipsets of Intel Z97 Express and Intel H97 Express. The first is the leader solution with a maximum range of available possibilities. The second one does not support overclocking of processors with unlocked multiplier and distribution of sixteen PCI Express 3.0 x8 lines according schemes х8+х8 and х8+х4+х4 but at the same time offers the implementation of Intel Small Business Advantage technology package.

Intel Z97 Express

However we would like to postpone the familiarity with Intel H97 Express and talk about the leader. For testing we have motherboard ASUS Z97-A the first board made on the basis of Intel Z97 Express.

 ASUS Z97-A  

In point of fact Intel Z97 Express chipset is a slightly updated version of Intel Z87 Express, and skeleton diagram is shown in the image above. Chipset architecture is the same: 16 PCI Express 3.0 processor lines with the possibility of its distribution according schemes x16/ x8+x8 / x8+x4+x4, 8 chipset PCI Express 2.0lines, 14 USB 2.0 ports, 6 USB 3.0 ports and 6 interface SATA 6GB/s.

Intel Z97 Express

In fact there are only several key differences from the Intel Z87 Express, namely realized support of interface SATA Express, drives PCI Express and M.2 PCIe (NGFF SSD). Data carrying capacity of interfaces significantly exceeds the capabilities of current SATA 6GB/s and it can reach 10 GB/s. Also drives with M.2 PCIe (NGFF SSD) interface can operate as the primary loading device, which significantly will increase the speed of system startup.

Intel Z97 Express

The support of Intel Device Protection Technology with Boost Guard is provided. It is designed to protect loading sector of your PC and block harmful software.

The main change in the new platform refers to the requirements of the power subsystem for processors Intel Broadwell, so the future line of CPU will not be compatible with motherboards based on 8 series Intel chipsets.

For better clarity we want to give a comparative table of supported chipsets of past and current generation:


Intel Haswell

Intel Haswell Refresh

Intel Devil`s Canyon

Intel Broadwell

Intel Z87 Express

Yes

Yes

Limited support *

No

Intel Z97 Express

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

*unconfirmed information

And since there are no more differences between the chipsets we offer to proceed to get acquainted with ASUS Z97-A.

ASUS Z97-A 

The specs:

Producer

ASUS

Model

Z97-A (rev 1.0)

Chipset

Intel Z97 Express

CPU socket

Socket LGA1150

CPU supported

Intel Core i7 / Core i5 / Core i3 / Pentium / Celeron 4th and 5th generation: Intel Haswell, Intel Haswell Refresh, Intel Devil`s Canyon, Intel Broadwell

Memory frequency

3200* / 3100* / 3000* / 2933* / 2800* / 2666* / 2600* / 2400* / 2133* / 1866* / 1600 / 1333 / 1066 MHz (*OC)

Memory support

4 x DDR3 DIMM-slots with support of memory up to 32 GB

Expansion slots

2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16

1 х PCI Express 2.0 x16

x16

x8+х8

x8+x8+x2

2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

2 х PCI

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 Express chipset supports:

1 x M.2 (NGFF)

6 x SATA 6 GB/s (4 standard + 2 compatible from SATA Express)

1 x SATA Express (compatible with 2 x SATA 6 GB/s)

RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10

LAN

1 x Intel WGI218V (10/100/1000 Мб/с)

Audio subsystem

Realtek ALC892 codec

8-channel

S/PDIF Out

Power connectors

1 х 24-pin ATX main power connector

1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power ATX12V

Fans

2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

4 x system fan connector (4-pin)

Cooling

Aluminum fan on the chipset

Aluminum fan on elements of power subsystem

External I/O

1 x HDMI

1 x DisplayPort

1 x DVI-D

1 x D-Sub

1 x LAN (RJ45)

4 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

5 x audio ports

1 х PS/2 (for mouse and keyboard connection)

Internal I/O

1 x USB 3.0 each with support of 2 USB 3.0 (19-pin)

3 x USB 2.0 each with support of 2 USB 2.0

4 x SATA 6 GB/s

1 x SATA Express with connection of two SATA 6 GB/s

1 х TPM socket

1 x COM socket

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x S/PDIF out

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS jumper

1 x MemOK button!

1 х DRCT socket

1 x start button

1 x TPU switch

1 x EPU switch

1 х EZ_XMP switch

BIOS

64 Mб Flash ROM UEFI AMI BIOS

PnP, ACPI 5.0, SM BIOS 2.7, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver disc

1x set ASUS Q-Connectors

3 x SATA cables

1x 2-Way NVIDIA SLI bridge

1 х faceplate of interface panel

Form-factor, dimensions

ATX

305 х 244 mm

Producer website

ASUS
Updated versions of BIOS and drives are available at support page

Packaging and content

ASUS Z97-A

ASUS Z97-A motherboard is shipped in a standard cardboard box decorated with quality printing. A key element of the front side is the image of the chipset cooler with the support of technology Dual Intelligent Processors 5 with 5-Way Optimization. Additionally you can pay attention to the logo of the manufacturer, the name of the chipset, support of technology NVIDIA SLI, AMD CrossFireX, operating system Windows 8.1, as well as DTS Connect and DTS UltraPC II audio technology.

ASUS Z97-A 

The reverse side traditionally has the diagrammatic representation of the motherboard, a brief list of its technical characteristics, as well as the key features and advantages of the products:

  • Dual Intelligent Processors 5 with 5-Way Optimization. The board is equipped with two chips: Energy Processing Unit – EPU and TurboV Processing Unit – TPU. 5th generation of such schemes operate together with digital power subsystem DIGI+VRM and technologies Fan Xpert 3 и TurboAPP that provides fine optimization of system operation depending on current users’ requirements. 
  • TurboAPP. Allows to choose a necessary performance level for separate application. ASUS AI Suite III software allows to adjust not only the performance but also choose a proper audio profile for each application and configure the prioritization of network traffic.
  • New UEFI BIOS interface allows to choose a special EZ mode in BIOS which depict all necessary settings on one display and simplifies system configuration.
  • EZ Tuning Wizard is a special assistant for overclocking of system and organization of RAID-arrays.
  • Fan Xpert 3 is an intelligence control system of fan. It allows to get an effective cooling at optimum noise level.
  • SATA Expess / M.2 (NGFF). Due to the capabilities of Intel Z97 Express chipset the motherboard is equipped with two high-speed sockets to connect the drives.
  • DRAM 3200 (O.C.). A maximum RAM frequency during overclocking can reach 3200MHz.
  • ASUS Home Cloud – is a proprietary concept that includes the following features:
    • Remote GO! – a proprietary software for wireless PC connection to other digital devices. The aim is to realize four scenarios of their usage: synchronization of information with supported cloud storage, remote control, file transfer from one digital device to another one and the usage of mobile devices instead of keyboard and mouse.
    • Media Streamer is a transmission of media files on DLNA devices.
    • NFC Express 2. Separately purchased module with two USB 3.0 ports and NFC support allows to realize wireless file transfer to PC from compatible compact devices. Using set identifier you can provide the procedure of rapid Windows 8 log-in.    
    • Wireless Charger. Separately purchased module allows to realize wireless charging of portable devices.
    • Crystal Sound 2. Preinstalled Realtek ALC 892 audio codec realizes high playback quality of 8-channel sound.  To avoid interferences caused by electrostatics a special shielding technology EMI Protection Covering is used. To provide maximum sound quality special audio capacitors of Nichicon company are applied. Also there is a support of technologies DTS technologies Connest and DTS Ultra PC II, and the presence of the S / PDIF out port on interface panel.

TurboLAN. Using kit software you can control PC network activity in real time and provide each program the access to network resources.

ASUS Z97-A 

In the box you’ll find the most necessary accessories. Scope of supply includes:

  • driver disk;
  • user's manual;
  • three SATA-cables;
  • 2-Way NVIDIA SLI bridge;
  • faceplate of interface panel

Design and features  

ASUS Z97-A 

The product is performed on dark brown printed circuit board of ATX format (305 x 244 mm). As you can see, there is a new style of radiator cooling system. Round cooler on Intel Z97 Express chipset looks very attractive. As for color style, it is the same: dark and yellow colors are dominated, except that bright yellow was replaced by a more noble dark color with a bronze tint. As a result, the design appearance deserves only the highest grade.

Regarding on-board elements all ports and connectors are arranged on the optimal locations on the edges of the board and DIMM-slots include latched on one side only. As a result you won’t face with the problem with building and further operation of the system.

ASUS Z97-A

On the reverse side of the board you can find the standard support plate of processor socket, as well as plastic mounting clips on the elements of the power subsystem, while the cooler on chipset is fixed with screws.

ASUS Z97-A

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in sockets, S/PDIF out, COM and TPM ports, DRCT socket (allows to connect an additional button for BIOS and place it out the frontcase panel) as well as front panel leading-in socket. Also here are three leading-in sockets for USB 2.0 activation. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets is eight: (six internal and two on the interface panel).

Also here you can find two small switchers: TPU and EPU. The first has three conditions: “Off”, “1” (automatic system overclocking using increased multiple) and “2” (automatic system overclocking using increased frequency of system bus and CPU multiplier). The second one has two positions and is charged with activation of energy saving function (EPU).

ASUS Z97-A 

ASUS Z97-A 

The possibility of disk subsystem organization is performed by M.2 (NGFF) socket, four SATA 6 GB/s ports and one SATA Express which is compatible with two SATA 6 GB/s. All of them operate due to chipset. Here is the support of SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10.  

Since M.2 (NGFF) slot is actually a combination of interfaces PCI Express and SATA, due to the lack of free chipset lines, two PCI Express x1 slots share the line with M.2 (NGFF), so you cannot use them simultaneously. All PCI Express x1slots are active in BIOS by default, while connector M.2 (NGFF) is disabled.

ASUS Z97-A 

ASUS Z97-A motherboard is equipped with four DIMM-slots for memory modules of DDR3 standard which are equipped with latches on both sides. RAM can operate in dual channel mode. For its implementation modules should be installed either into first and third or second and fourth slots. Memory boards operating at frequencies from 1066 up to 1600 MHz in the nominal mode and up to 3200 MHz while overclocking are supported. The maximum memory capacity can reach 32GB and this value will be enough for almost all tasks.

Leading-in sockets with USB 3.0 ports is traditionally placed in the right part of the board. Total number of USB 3.0 ports is six: two internal and four external.

In addition we want to pay your attention to MemOK! Button. It is a button used to adjust settings of RAM to enable system operation. Also here is EZ XMP switch used for activation of proper RAM XMP-profiles.  

ASUS Z97-A 

ASUS Z97-A 

Cooling system of the product consists of three aluminum radiators. The first provides heat removal out of чипсета Intel Z97 Express chipset, while the others cover the elements of power subsystem. In the process of testing the following temperature indices were fixed:

• radiator for chipset cooling - 37,9°C;

• radiator for cooling of processor elements power - 32,8°C.

The received results are characterized as good.

ASUS Z97-A 

ASUS Z97-A 

Processor power supply is performed via 8- phase scheme for computational cores and additional joints. Converter is based on a digital PWM controller ASP1252 with integrated DIGI+VRM power consumption subsystem control. All power components of CPU have high reliability level: solid capacitors and chokes with ferrite core are used. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.

ASUS Z97-A 

To extend motherboard functionality the user has seven slots:

  1. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  2. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (in mode х16 or х8);
  3. PCI;
  4. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  5. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (in mode х8);
  6. PCI;
  7. PCI Express 2.0 x16 (in mode х2).

Due to the support of NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFIreX technologies this configuration offers to organize graphics subsystem from one or two graphics cards. The third PCI Express x16 socket is connected to chipset and only two lines are used. That’s why it is not suitable for installation of graphics core. The arrangement of expansion slots will allow you to install two graphics card with three-slot cooling system.

Two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots divide M.2 (NGFF) lines it means that user has the choice: to connect high-speed drive or use two aforesaid expansion slots.

ASUS Z97-A

If you decided to take advantage of the integrated graphics core you have four video outputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-D and D-Sub navigated by chip ASMedia ASM 1442K.

ASUS Z97-A

Since chipset Intel Z97 Express does not support PCI bus the functioning of the two respective connectors is realized with using a PCIE-PCI bridge based on the controller ASMedia ASM 1083.

ASUS Z97-A

Multi I/O capabilities are based on NUVOTON NCT6791D chip which controls the operation of the system fans, COM and PS/2 ports, as well as provides the monitors.

ASUS Z97-A

To support network connections there is GB LAN-controller Intel WGI218V. Network resource sharing and traffic can be realized by the proprietary TurboLAN utility.   

ASUS Z97-A

Sound subsystem is based on HAD codec of 8-channel sound Realtek ALC892 that supports 2/4/5.1/7.1 sound systems and ahs several proprietary features (concept Crystal Sound 2).

ASUS Z97-A

Interface panel of ASUS Z97-A model contains the following ports:  

  • 1 x HDMI;
  • 1 x DisplayPort;
  • 1 x DVI-D;
  • 1 x D-Sub;
  • 1 x PS/2 for mouse and keyboard connection;
  • 1 x LAN (RJ45);
  • 4 x USB 3.0;
  • 2 x USB 2.0;
  • 1 х optical S/PDIF out;
  • 5 x audio ports.

This layout of interface panel can be considered as perfect because it includes all the most popular video outputs, a large number of USB ports, convenient connection of multichannel speakers, the use of peripherals with PS/2 interface, and an optical audio output. Also it is possible to put COM port using the internal connector on the back panel of PC.

UEFI BIOS

Motherboard ASUS Z97-A uses a modern pre-loader with UEFI basis. To provide the setting is possible using the mouse. It provides two usage scenarios.

ASUS Z97-A 


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