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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 11 > ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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Republish review

26-11-2014


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ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER motherboard: review and testing

ASUS has expanded its lineup of motherboards of announced series ASUS Game by a flagship model ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER, which favorably compares with quite an extensive list of benefits. Since the tested model is aimed at gamers, it is logical that most of its features are aimed specifically at this target audience. It includes not only the excellent quality of the audio subsystem, but also the use of high-end network controller from Intel, supplemented with proprietary technology GameFirst II, which optimizes Internet traffic in order to increase the priority of online games. And as we face a model based on the flagship chipset Intel Z97, the producer could easily implement opportunities for the organization of the disk subsystem, which is to support interfaces M.2 and SATA Express with throughput up to 10 Gb/s.

Also according to tradition here is the support of a number of proprietary technologies, which will be discussed later, but first let's take a look at the complete list of specifications of ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

The specs:

Producer

ASUS

Model

Z97-PRO GAMER (rev 1.0)

Chipset

Intel Z97

CPU socket

Socket LGA1150

CPUs supported

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

Memory frequency

3200* / 3100* / 3000* / 2933* / 2800* / 2666* / 2500* / 2400* / 2200* / / 2133* / 2000* / 1866* / 1600 / 1333 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

х8+х8+х4

2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

2 x PCI

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 chipset supports:

1 x M.2 (M.2 2260, M.2 2280)

4 x SATA 6 Gb/s

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

RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10

LAN

1 x Intel WGI218V (10/100/1000 Мb/s)

Sound subsystem

 

Codec SupremeFX

8-channel sound

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)

3 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 DVI-D

1 x D-Sub

1 x LAN (RJ45)

4 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

6 x audio jacks

1 x Optical S/PDIF out

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

Internal I/O

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

3 x USB 2.0 each with support of two USB 2.0

4 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 x SATA Express

1 х socket TPM

1 x socket COM

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x S/PDIF out

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS

1 х socket for connection of temperature sensor

BIOS

64 Mb Flash ROM UEFI AMI BIOS

PnP, ACPI 5.0, SM BIOS 2.8, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver disc

4 x SATA cables

1 х bridge 2-Way NVIDIA SLI

1 х interface panel plug

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-PRO GAMER

Packing of motherboard ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER is designed as a usual cardboard box, which has a very nice design in brand colors Series ASUS Gamer. On the front side, in addition to the name of the manufacturer and model of the device, it is possible to draw attention to a number of logos at the bottom indicating about the support for OS Windows 8.1, NVIDIA SLI and technology AMD CrossFireX, as well as the possibility of display image with a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels (4K Ultra HD).

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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:

  • SATA Express & M.2 - new product is equipped with support of interface SATA Express and M.2, which have a capacity of up to 10 Gb/s.
  • SupremeFX - preset audio codec offers eight channel audio support, and provides audio playback with a ratio signal/noise at the level of 115 dB. In order to avoid interference caused by electromagnetic interference, is used shielding codec technology, and to ensure maximum sound quality using special audio capacitors ELNA. We also note the amplifier TI R4580I with support of headphones with an impedance of 300 Ohms.
  • Sonic Radar II - during the game on the screen appears radar, which by analyzing the sound of footsteps, gunfire or requests for help, visualizes information about the location of enemies and allies that will definitely give you a distinct advantage on the virtual battlefield.
  • GameFirst II - technology designed to optimize Internet traffic in order to increase the priority of online games, which should reduce the delays and make the gameplay more comfortable. You can also select the priority broadcast media, VoIP or file sharing.
  • DRAM Over-current Protection - Special fuses protect the memory modules from the damage caused by excessive amperage or short circuit.
  • Stainless Steel Back I/O - interface panel is made of high quality stainless steel with coated chromium oxide. It has a high resistance to oxidation, making it three times more susceptible to breakage.
  • 10K Black Metallic Capacitors - motherboard uses exclusively Japanese solid capacitors Nichicon GT with increased up to 10 000 hours of life and 20% increase in thermal resistance.
  • ESD Guards - special fuses for added protection against electrostatic discharges.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

In the box with the ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER we found a good set of accessories:

  • CD with drivers and utilities;
  • User Guide;
  • four SATA cables;
  • bridge 2-Way NVIDIA SLI;
  • the interface panel plug.

Design and features  

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

New product is made black PCB of format ATX (305 x 244 mm). It looks fine thanks to a favorable combination of dark and black red radiators of cooling system.

Due to the relatively small number of on-board elements, all of them are grouped at a sufficient distance from each other, and therefore, the assembly of system will be the most comfortable. Besides DIMM-slots are equipped latches with only one hand.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

The reverse side of new product has the standard base plate of the socket and fastening screws of three radiators.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in socket, S/PDIF out, socket for connection of temperature sensor, COM and TPM ports, CMOS, one of three sockets for system fans, 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.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

The capability of disk subsystem organization is performed by M.2 socket (which support of format SSD-drive M.2 2260 и M.2 2280), 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. 

Due to lack of available chipset lines, interface M.2 (NGFF) shares bandwidth with two slots PCI Express 2.0 x1 and one port SATA 6 Gb/s (on scheme “SATA6G_4”), so their simultaneous use is not possible.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER C motherboard is equipped with four DIMM-slots for memory modules of DDR3 standard. 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 1333 up to 1600 MHz in the nominal mode and up to 3200 MHz while overclocking are supported. The maximum memory capacity can reach 32 GB and this value will be enough for almost all tasks.

In addition we want to pay your attention to remove panel with USB 3.0 ports. As for the support of USB 3.0, the total number of such ports is six: four are external and two internal. All of them are realized by chipset.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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

  • radiator for chipset cooling – 38.5°C;
  • upper radiator of cooling elements of the power subsystem processor – 50.5°C;
  • bottom radiator of cooling elements of the power subsystem processor – 48.2°C.

The obtained results clearly indicate ample effectiveness of the installed cooling system, indicating that the correct selection of materials and design radiators.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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 of series Nichicon GT and chokes with ferrite core are used. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.    

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

To extend motherboard functionality the user has seven slots:

  1. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  2. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (mode х16 х8);
  3. PCI;
  4. PCI Express 2.0 x1;
  5. PCI Express 3.0 x16 (mode х8);
  6. PCI;
  7. PCI Express 2.0 x16 (mode х4).

Due to the support for technologies NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX this configuration offers the user to organize the graphics subsystem with maximum of three graphics cards. In this case, only two PCI Express x16 slots are connected to the processor, which is divided between 16 lines of standard PCI Express 3.0. In turn, the third PCI Express x16 connector is connected to the chipset and uses only four lines, so it is suitable only for installation of the graphics accelerator based on the GPU of AMD, as a model of NVIDIA does not support slots with x4 bandwidth for running in mode NVIDIA SLI.

Separately note that the location of the expansion slots allows you easily install two graphics cards with three slot cooling system. In this case, you will still have access to one connector PCI Express 2.0 x1.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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-PRO GAMER

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-PRO GAMER

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

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

Sound subsystem is based on HAD codec of 8-channel sound SupremeFX that supports 2/4/5.1/7.1 sound systems and has several proprietary features described in the begging of the review. It presupposes the presence of a special audio amplifier TI R4580I with support of headphones with impedance up to 300 Ohm and high quality audio capacitors ELNA. The codec is protected from electromagnetic interference by special casing.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

Do note that the range of the audio subsystem is shielded by protective strip with red LED-backlit.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

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

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

This arrangement can be safely described as very successful, because it has enough USB ports, ample opportunities for connecting multichannel speakers, as well as three video outputs (including HDMI with the ability to display image with a resolution of 4096 x 2160 pixels (4K Ultra HD)). Separately, we recall that using the appropriate connector on the PCB you can bring the COM port on the rear panel.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER has good opportunities for the organization of the cooling system inside the case. Here are five 4-pin fan connectors, two of which are used for cooling the CPU, and the other three are for system turntables.

UEFI BIOS

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

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

The first one is “EZ Mode”. All necessary settings are concentrated on one screen and overclocking is realized due to “EZ Tuning Wizard”.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

Or initial “Advanced Mode” where all setting should be manually performed.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

All overclocking items are in section “AI Tweaker”.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

Frequency multiplier allows to set module connection speed within 800-3400MHz.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

If necessary you can get the access to memory delay adjustments.

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

To increase the stability during overclocking process you can use the setting of DIGI+ VRM digital subsystem control.

Adjustments required to overclock and optimize the system:

Parameter

Menu name

Range

Pitch

RAM frequency

Memory Frequency

3400, 3200, 3000, 2933, 2800, 2666, 2600, 2400, 2200. 2133, 2000, 1866, 1800,

1600, 1400, 1333, 1066, 800

 

System bus frequency

BCLK Frequency

80,0 – 300,0

0,1

 

CPU Strap

Auto, 100, 125, 167, 250

 

RAM timing

DRAM Timing

CAS Latency, RAS to CAS, RAS PRE Time, RAS ACT Time, DRAM COMMAND Mode, RAS to RAS Delay, REF Cycle Time, Write Recovery Time, READ to PRE Time, FOUR ACT WIN Time, WRITE to READ Delay, Write Latency

 

 

Min. CPU Cache Ratio Limit

8 – MAX

1

 

Max CPU Cache Ratio Limit

8 – MAX

1

Operation PWM-controller frequency of CPU power converter

Fixed CPU VRM Switching Frequency(KHz)

300 – 500

50

 

Long Duration Package Power Limit

1 – 4096

1

 

Package Power Time Window

1 - 127

1

 

Short Duration Package Power Limit

1 - 4096

1

 

CPU Integrated VR Current Limit

0,125 – 1023,875

0,125

 

Power Current Slope

Auto, Level -4 – Level 4

 

 

Power Current Offset

Auto, -100% - 100%

12,5 %

 

Power Fast Ramp Response

0,00 – 1,50

0,001

 

Power Saving Level 1 Threshold

0 – 80

1

 

Power Saving Level 2 Threshold

0 – 50

1

 

Power Saving Level 3 Threshold

0 – 30

1

 

CPU Core Voltage Override

0,001 – 1,920

 

0,001

 

CPU Cache Voltage Override

0,001 – 1,920

0,001

 

CPU System Agent Voltage Offset

0,001 – 0,999

0,001

 

CPU Analog I/O Voltage Offset

0,001 – 0,999

0,001

 

CPU Digital I/O Voltage Offset

0,001 – 0,999

0,001

CPU input voltage

CPU Input Voltage

0,800 – 2,700

0,010

RAM modules voltage

DRAM Voltage

1,20000 – 1,92000

0,00500

Chipset voltage

PCH Core Voltage

0,70000 – 1,50000

0,01250

 

PCH VLX Voltage

1,20000 – 2,00000

0,01250

 

DRAM CTRL REF Voltage

0,39500 – 0,63000

0,00500

 

DRAM DATA REF Voltage on CHA

0,39500 – 0,63000

0,00500

 

DRAM DATA REF Voltage on CHB

0,39500 – 0,63000

0,00500

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

ASUS Z97-PRO GAMER

“Monitor” section provides the access to information about CPU and chipset temperature. And to check the voltage on power lines +12V, +5V and +3,3V and other parameters is possible from any section because this information is displayed on the right side face. Also it is possible to make screenshots in BIOS mode. 


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