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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 08 > GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

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Republish review

28-08-2014


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GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 motherboard review and testing

At the present moment motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 is one of the youngest models in the new lineup of GIGABYTE G1.GAMING, which includes solutions focused primarily at gamers. The key features of this series is the use of advanced network controller Qualcomm Atheros Killer E2201, high-quality audio subsystem based on the flagship codec Realtek, as well as improved circuitry and advanced features for the organization of the disk subsystem. The reviewed model is not an exception as it kept all above mentioned features.  Let's look in more detail at its specification and find out other opportunities.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

The specs:

Producer

GIGABYTE

Model

GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 (rev 1.0)

Chipset

Intel Z97

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 / 1800* / 1866* / 2000* / 2133* / 2200* / 2400* / 2500* / 2600* / 2666* / 2800* / 2933* / 3000* / 3100* / 3200* MHz

(*OC)

Memory support

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

Expansion slots

2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (CPU)

1 x PCI Express 2.0 x16 (PCH)

х16

x8+x8

X8+x8+х4

3 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

1 x PCI

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 chipset supports:

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

4 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 x SATA Express (совместим с 2 х SATA 6 Gb/s)

RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10

LAN

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

Audio subsystem

Codec Realtek ALC1150

7.1-channel sound

S/PDIF Out

Power connectors

24-pin ATX main power connector

8-pin ATX12V power connector

Fans

2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

3 x system fan connectors (4-pin)

Cooling

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
2 х PS/2 (mouse or keyboard connection)

1 x LAN (RJ45)

4 x USB 3.0

4 x USB 2.0

5 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)

2 x USB 2.0 each with support of two USB 2.0

4 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 x SATA Express

1 x M.2 (NGFF)

1 х 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

BIOS

AMI UEFI BIOS

2 x 64 Мb

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

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver and utility disc

4 x SATA cables

1 x bridge 2-Way NVIDIA SLI

1 х interface panel plug

Form factor,

Dimensions

ATX

305 х 225 mm

Producer website

GIGABYTE
Updated versions of BIOS and drives are available on support page

Packaging and content

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 is shipped in a cardboard box in standard sizes with high quality printing in black and red colors. Most of the front side is reserved for logo of Series GIGABYTE G1.GAMING. Also here you can find the name of the manufacturer, the model and a small logo brand concept Ultra Durable.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

On the reverse side the buyer will can find a schematic representation of the motherboard, its interface panel, and brief specifications. Additionally, here are the key features and advantages:

  • 2-Way SLI / 3-Way CrossFireX Support – the support of the installation of three graphics cards based on AMD solutions with distribution lines according the schemes x16 / x8+x8 / x8+x4+x4 or two NVIDIA, as adapters of the company do not support scheme with bandwidth x4.
  • SATA Express & M.2 - interfaces SATA Express and M.2 support data rates up to 10 Gbit/s.
  • Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio– pre-installed on the motherboard audio codec Realtek ALC1150 which uses a special amplifier 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.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

The box with the test model, in addition to the disk with the software and interface board plug has four SATA cables and a nice bonus in the form of bridge 2-Way NVIDIA SLI.

Design and features   

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

Model GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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.

Speaking of on-board elements arrangement, we note that due to the slightly irregular width, the edges on the right side have no mounting holes, so you should be careful when connecting devices in these areas. For the rest, all is done at the highest level: the ports and connectors are arranged closer to the edges of the PCB, and SATA interfaces are arranged parallel to the surface.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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-Z97X-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, a pair of sockets for system fans, front panel leading-in socket (with color separation), and CMOS reset. Also here are two sockets for activation of USB 2.0 ports. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets realized on chipset Intel Z97 is eight: four are internal and four on the interface panel.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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 for 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-Z97X-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 and up to 3100 MHz in overclocking mode are supported. 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-Z97X-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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 – 41.9°C;
  • radiator for cooling of processor elements power – 37.3°C.

The received results are characterized as good.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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: black solid capacitors, MOS transistors with lowered resistance of open channel and chokes with ferrite core. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding. Also here you can find additional PCI Express socket next to SATA port. It will be useful for building of strong graphics subsystem made of several graphics cards. 

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

To extend the functionality of GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3  user has seven slots:

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

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 third slot is connected to the chipset and its bandwidth is limited by four PCI Express 2.0 lines. Taking into account the support of technologies AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI it is possible to install up to three graphics cards with the distribution lines for the following schemes: х16 / х8+х8 / х8+х4+х4. The last option would be usable only with graphics cards based on AMD solutions, as NVIDIA adapters do not support the scheme with bandwidth x4. Also note a thought-out layout slots on the PCB, which will allow easily install a pair of graphics cards with three slot cooling system, and you will have one slot PCI Express 2.0 x1.

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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-Z97X-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-Z97X-Gaming 3

To support network connections there is a GB 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-Z97X-Gaming 3

The sound subsystem is an interesting structure with design GIGABYTE AMP-UP Audio. 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. Moreover, right and left audio channels are carried on separate layers of the PCB, which also contributes to improve the overall sound quality. But for experts of audio and gamers there is software Sound Blaster X-Fi MB3, which is used to adjustment of required sound level and gold-plated audio jacks to connect external speaker system.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

Interface panel of the model contains the following ports:

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

This configuration of interface panel can be considered as excellent. In addition to a large number of USB ports, easy connection of multi-channel speakers  as well as the possibility of using peripherals 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-Z97X-Gaming 3

The possibility of organizing the cooling system inside the case of GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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 two are for system fans.

UEFI BIOS

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

The motherboard is equipped with modern UEFI firmware based on microcode AMI with the ability 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 mode (classical BIOS) and StartUp mode (mode of initial settings of BIOS).

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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 +12 V, +5 V and +3.3 V, 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-Z97X-Gaming 3

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-Gaming 3

Frequency multiplier allows to set module connection speed within 800-2933MHz. Memory frequency more than 2933 MHz can be run only with the appropriate memory profile.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-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

Range

Pitch

CPU Clock Ratio

8 – MAX

 

CPU Base Clock

80,00 – 266,66

0,01

Processor Base Clock

1,00 – 2,50

 

System Memory Multiplier

800 – 2933

 

CPU Vcore

0,500 – 1,800

0,001

Performance Upgrade

Auto, 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, 100%

 

CPU Upgrade

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

DRAM Voltage

1,160 – 2,100

0,020

PCH Core

0,650 – 1,300

 

0,005

Processor Graphics Clock

400 – 4000

50

Turbo Power Limit

1 – 4096

1

Core Current Limit

10 – 1000

1

CPU VRIN External Override

1,000 – 2,400

0,010

CPU Graphics Voltage

0,500 – 1,700

0,001

CPU RING Voltage

0,800 – 1,800

0,001

CPU System Agent Voltage

-0,300 - +0,400

0,001

CPU I/O Analog Voltage

-0,300 – +0,400

0,001

CPU I/O Digital Voltage

-0,300 – +0,400

0,001

PCH I/O

1,050 – 1,900

0,005

Intel Processor Graphics Memory

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

 

Timing Control

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

 


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