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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 10 > GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

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GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 motherboard: review and testing

The hero of today’s review, motherboard GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 is based on chipset Intel H97 described on the example ASUS H97-PRO. Let’s remind it has only several key differences from flagship Intel Z97. According official information it has no CPU overclocking capability and doesn’t support the distribution of PCI Express 3.0 16 lines according schemes х8+х8 and х8+х4+х4. And the advantages of Intel H97 include the realization of the technology Intel Small Business Advantage, more reasonable cost, as well as the same quantity of ports USB 2.0 / 3.0 and SATA 6 Gb/s like for the older model. Also do not forget about the support of rapid interfaces SATA Express and M.2 with carrying capacity up to 10 Gb/s.

As for GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3, this model is positioned as moderate gaming solution with impressive list of advantage which will be described little bit later. But let’s start from the technical specification.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The specs:




GA-H97-Gaming 3 (rev 1.0)


Intel H97

CPU socket

Socket LGA1150

Supported CPUs

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

1333 / 1600 MHz

Memory support

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

Expansion slots

1 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (CPU)

1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 (PCH)



2 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

3 x PCI

Disk subsystem

Intel H97 chipset supports:

4 x SATA 6 Gb/s

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

1 х M.2 (M.2 2242, M.2 2260, M.2 2280)



1 x Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 (10/100/1000 Мb/s)

Sound subsystem

Codec Realtek ALC1150

8-channel sound


Power connectors

24-pin ATX main power connector

8-pin ATX12V power connector


2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

3 х system fans slots (4-pin)


Aluminum radiators on the elements of processor power subsystem.

Aluminum radiator on the chipset

External I/O

1 x HDMI

1 x DVI-D

1 x D-Sub

1 x DisplayPort
1 х PS/2 (mouse or keyboard connection)

1 x LAN (RJ45)

4 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

6 x audio jacks

1 х optical S/PDIF Out

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 x port COM

1 x port TPM

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS reset

1 x S/PDIF Out



2 x 64 Мb

PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, SM BIOS 2.7, WfM 2.0, ACPI 5.0


User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver and utility disc

4 x SATA cables

1 х interface panel plug

Form factor,



305 х 214 mm

Producer website

Updated versions of BIOS and drives are available on support page

Packaging and content

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 is shipped in standard cardboard box, decorated with qualitative black-red printing. The bigger part of front side is given to logo of series GIGABYTE G1.GAMING. Also here is the name of producer, model and a small logo of brand concept Ultra Durable.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

On the reverse side of the box the user can learn the appearance of the item, configuration of its interface panel, as well as short technical parameters and key features:

  • 2-Way CrossFireX Support – the support of two graphics accelerators based on GPU of company AMD with line distribution according the following schemes: х16 / х16+х4.
  • SATA Express & M.2 - interfaces SATA Express and M.2 support data rates up to 10 Gbit/s.
  • Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio– preset on the motherboard audio codec Realtek ALC1150 which uses a special amplifier TI N5532 with the support of studio headphones with impedance up to 600 Ohms, offers eight-channel sound and provides audio playback with a ration signal/noise on a level of 115 dB.
  • Audio Noise Guard with Trace Path Lightning - the area of the PCB with soldered sound system is shielded with a special metal strip with LED-backlit of red color.
  • Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201 - network controller, which has the ability to automatically specify a game traffic and raise its priority with respect to the low-level system traffic, providing low latency to transfer game data.
  • All New Heat Sink Design - the structure and design of cooling heat sinks were improved for efficient striking appearance and efficient operation. 
  • Gold Plated CPU Socket - the socket contacts are covered with a 15-micron layer of gold.
  • Long Lifespan Solid Capacitors – only solid-state capacitors with extended lifetime are  used in all power circuits of the motherboard.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The box with the test model, in addition to the disk with the software and interface board plug has four SATA cables.

Design and features    

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Model GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 is made on the dark brown circuit board with the format ATX (305 x 225 mm). Its design can be assessed as good. The only thing we propose to use a black color of the board as it is better matches with red radiator.

On-board elements arrangement did not have any complaints. The only moment to be noted is the absence of mounting holes in the right sides which is connected to the reduced width of the model.  

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The reverse side of the printed circuit board is notable by the presence of the standard support plate of CPU socket, as well as plastic fastening clips of three radiators for cooling system.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in socket, S/PDIF Out, COM and TPM ports, socket for system fans, front panel leading-in socket (with color separation), and CMOS reset. Also here are three sockets for activation of USB 2.0 ports. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets realized on chipset is eight: six are internal and two on the interface panel.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The possibilities of organize a disk subsystem are presented by socket M.2 (SSD-drives of formats M.2 2242, 2260 and 2280 are supported), four SATA 6 GB/s ports and one SATA Express which is compatible with two interfaces SATA 6 Gb/s. There is a support of arrays SATA RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10. The operation of all interfaces is realized by chipset Intel Z97. 

Note that there are certain restrictions on the simultaneous use of voiced above ports. Thus, the user can use either SATA Express or M.2 (NGFF), or two SATA 6 Gb/s (in the scheme SATA3 4/5), due to a lack of available lines of chipset.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The system board has four DIMM-slots for memory modules of DDR3 standard. RAM can operate in dual channel mode. To implement the plates must be installed either in the first and third or second and fourth slots. Modules operating at frequencies up to 1600 MHz in the nominal mode. Maximum memory capacity can reach 32 GB, which is sufficient for almost all tasks.

Leading-in socket on a remote panel with USB 3.0 ports is also located on the right side of the PCB. Total number of USB 3.0 ports is six: two internal and four on the interface panel. They operated due to set of system logic.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Cooling system of the product includes three radiators: one for heat removal from chipset Intel Z97, while others cover the CPU power subsystem. In the process of testing the following temperature indices were fixed:

  • radiator for chipset cooling – 32.8°C;
  • radiator for cooling of processor elements power – 45.2°C.

The received results are characterized as good because they indicate about efficient operation of cooling system.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Processor power supply is performed via 8-phase scheme for computational cores and additional joints. Converter is based on a digital PWM controller ISL9582. The circuitry is made by high quality components such as: solid capacitors, MOS transistors with reduced resistance of open channel and chokes with ferrite core. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

To extend the functionality of GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 user has seven slots:

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

As you can see, the novelty is equipped with three slots for organizing the graphics subsystem. Two of them are connected to the processor and share 16 available lines of the standard PCI Express 3.0. The second slot is connected to the chipset and its bandwidth is limited by four PCI Express 2.0 lines. Taking into account the support of technology AMD CrossFireX it is possible to install two graphics cards with the distribution lines for the following scheme х16 / х16+х4. But such option will not completely reveal the potential of bundle of two pairs of graphics accelerators, so it is better to use the model as the solutions for one graphics card.

Due to lack of available chipset lines slot PCI Express 2.0 x16 (x4) shares bandwidth with two connectors PCI Express 2.0 x1. Therefore, in the case of board installation, the slots PCI Express 2.0 x1 will not be available.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

As chipset Intel Z97 does not support PCI bus, the operation of one of socket is implemented using the bridge PCIE-PCI based on the controller ITE IT8892E.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

If you decided to take advantage of the integrated graphics core, then you have four video outputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I and D-Sub. The switching between them is realized by chips SMedia ASM1442K and PTN3360DBS.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Multi I/O capabilities are based on ITE IT8620E chip which controls the operation of the system fans, PS/2 ports, as well as provides the monitors.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

To support network connections there is a Gigabyte LAN-controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201. It has the set of hardware and software advantages to speed up the processing of gaming network traffic.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The sound subsystem has an interesting structure. It is based on the HDA-codec 8-channel sound Realtek ALC1150 with operates together with separate amplifier TI N5532 to support headphones with impedance up to 600 Ohm. In addition, the entire audio path is shielded from the interference of other components of the motherboard with a protective strip with LED-backlit. Another interesting item is software software Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3, which is used to adjustment of required sound level.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Interface panel of the model contains the following ports:

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

Interface Panel offers very good opportunities to connect peripherals. In addition to the large amount of ports USB, easy connection of multi-channel speakers, as well as the possibility of using devices with interface PS/2, it has a good set of video outputs including HDMI with gold-plated audio outputs and support of display image with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels (4K Ultra HD).

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The capability of organizing the cooling system inside the case of GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3 is very good. There are five 4-pin fan connectors, two of which are used for the cooling system of CPU, while the other three are for system fans.


GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

The motherboard is equipped with modern UEFI firmware based on microcode AMI with the capability to operate in four modes: “Smart Tweak HD” (resolution 1280), “Smart Tweak” (resolution 1024 without the display of CPU state, memory and system sensors), “Classic” (classical BIOS) and “StartUp” (mode of initial settings of BIOS).

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

As you may have noticed, during operation in the mode “Smart Tweak HD” there is no a separate section responsible for the monitoring of voltages and temperatures on the main components, as all the required data is displayed directly on the side panels. Here you can monitor the temperature of the processor and the fan speed; monitor the voltage on the modules of RAM, processor and on the lines of +12V, +5V and +3.3V, as well as a number of other important parameters. Also note that not all items available in the mode “Classic” mode are in “Smart Tweak HD”.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

All settings related to key elements of the system are grouped in the respective tabs.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Using “Frequency” tab you can choose one of six types of automatic optimization of system parameters.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

Frequency multiplier allows to set module connection speed within 800-1600MHz.

GIGABYTE GA-H97-Gaming 3

If necessary, the section “Voltage” can provide the access the voltage on all the key components of the system.

Adjustments required to optimize the system:


Menu name



CPU multiplier

CPU Clock Ratio

8 – MAX


RAM frequency

System Memory Multiplier

800 – 1600


CPU voltage

CPU Vcore

0,500 – 1,800


Profiles of automatic overclocking

CPU Upgrade

Auto; 4,3; 4,4; 4,5; 4,6; 4,7 GHz


RAM voltage

DRAM Voltage

1,160 – 2,100


Chipset volatge

PCH Core

0,650 – 1,300



Graphics core frequency

Processor Graphics Clock

400 – 4000



Turbo Power Limit

1 – 4096



Core Current Limit

10 – 1000



CPU VRIN External Override

1,000 – 2,300


Graphics core voltage

CPU Graphics Voltage

0,500 – 1,700



CPU RING Voltage

0,800 – 1,800


System Agent voltage

CPU System Agent Voltage

-0,300 - +0,400



CPU I/O Analog Voltage

-0,300 – +0,400



CPU I/O Digital Voltage

-0,300 – +0,400




1,050 – 1,900


Memory capacity for CPU graphics core

Intel Processor Graphics Memory

32, 64, 96, 128, 192, 224, 256, 320, 384, 448, 512, 1024


RAM timing

Timing Control

CAS, tRCD, tRP, tRAS, tRRD, tWTR, tWR, tWTP, tWL, tRFC, tRTP, tFAW


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