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::>Motherboards > 2014 > 07 > GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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25-07-2014


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GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI motherboard: review and testing

When selecting components for the gaming system there are situations when you select a quality and functional-based motherboard based on flagship chipset with one graphics card. Over time, the demands for games are increased and one graphics accelerator can be insufficient for the desired level of comfort playback of the virtual world. And here the question arises: buy a second similar adapter for a bunch of AMD CrossFireX/NVIDIA SLI or more productive, but expensive graphics card? Only at this stage, some people begin to clarify the distribution of lines of PCI Express x16 interface on the board. However, not all models based on the flagship sets ensure the functioning of these connectors in mode x8+x8 for two graphics cards. Often you can find mode x16+x4 that does not allow to implement a bunch of NVIDIA SLI or cannot provide sufficient efficiency of configuration AMD CrossFireX. For such cases GIGABYTE decided to develop a very interesting novelty.

Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI offers the possibility of organizing a graphics subsystem with a maximum of two graphics cards. At the same time the line of PCI Express 3.0 are distributed over quite relevant scheme x8+x8.

With the average cost at the time of reviewing about 120 dollars, the novelty has not only the above-mentioned advantages, but also high-quality sound subsystem on the basis of flagship audio codec Realtek ALC1150 and wide opportunities for connecting disk drives, which are realized through the use of flagship chipset Intel Z97.  

At first glance, it sounds very good? However, let's not jump to conclusions and begin study detailed specification of GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

The specs:

Producer

GIGABYTE

Model

GA-Z97X-SLI (rev 1.0)

Chipset

Intel Z97

SPU 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* MHz

(*OC)

Memory support

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

Expansion slots

2 x PCI Express 3.0 x16 (CPU)

 

х16

х8+х8

3 x PCI Express 2.0 x1

2 x PCI

Disk subsystem

Intel Z97 chipset supports:

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

6 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 x SATA Express

RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 10

LAN

1 x Intel WGI217V (10/100/1000 Мb/s)

Sound subsystem

Codec Realtek ALC1150

8-channel sound

S/PDIF Out

Power

24-pin ATX main power connector

8-pin ATX12V power connector

Fans

2 x CPU fan connector (4-pin)

3 x system fan connector (4-pin)

Cooling

Aluminum radiator on chipset

Aluminum radiators on power elements of the processor

Extenral I/O

1 x HDMI

1 х DVI-D

1 x D-Sub

1 x HDMI

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

1 x LAN (RJ45)

4 x USB 3.0

2 x USB 2.0

6 x audio jacks

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

6 x SATA 6 Gb/s

1 x connector of audio output to front panel

1 x set of front panel connectors

1 x CMOS reset

1 х S/PDIF Out

1 х COM port

1 x LPT port

BIOS

AMI UEFI BIOS

2 x 64 Мbit

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

Packaging

User’s manual

Warranty description booklet

Driver and utility disc

2 x SATA cables

1 х 2-Way NVIDIA SLI bridge

1 х interface panel plug

Form-factor, dimensions

ATX

305 х 214 mm

Producer website

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

Packaging and content  

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Motherboard GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI is shipped in thick and high-quality cardboard box, decorated in printing in dark yellow. The front side is given to the logo branded concept Ultra Durable, which includes the following features:

  • Cool - power circuits use high efficient field-effect transistors with low heat release and radiators with effective design.
  • Performance - the novelty has support technologies AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI, sockets SATA Express и M.2 and qualitative sound subsystem and gigabyte network controller Intel.
  • Durable - involves the use of fuses on each USB and LAN port for effective ESD protection as well as increased protection against humidity and voltage spikes.
  • Safe - this model is equipped with two chips with firmware BIOS (main and backup) that will allow you to avoid a visit to the service center in the event of damage of the main chip, for example in case of unsuccessful BIOS updating. Also gold-plated sockets are applied.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

On the reverse side there is a schematic representation of the motherboard, its interface panel, and the description of the key benefits of new item.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

In addition to CD with software and interface panel plug in the box we found two SATA cables, bridge2-Way NVIDIA SLI.

Design and features

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

New product is based on dark brown ATX PCB and has slightly non-standard dimensions (305 x 214 mm). In this connection, in the upper and lower corners of the right edge the mounting hole are absent. Therefore, you should be careful during installation the memory modules and connecting the main power connector, as excessive force may cause the damage of the PCB.

As for the design, the overall design restraint is diluted by bright red color radiators, allowing GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI to look more expansive than the cost.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

The reverse side of the PCB has not only the usual base plate of the socket, but also three radiators secured with plastic clips.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

At the bottom of the board there are the following connectors: front panel audio leading-in socket, S/PDIF Out, COM and LPT ports, front panel connection module (with color detection to simplify the connection of cables) and CMOS. Also here are three leading-in sockets for activation USB 2.0 ports. Total number of USB 2.0 sockets is eight: six are internal and two on the interface panel.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

The possibilities to organize a disk subsystem are presented by socket M.2 (SSD-drives of M.2 2242, 2260 and 2280 formats are supported), six SATA 6 Gb/s ports and one SATA Express. There is a support RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5 and RAID 10. Operation of all interfaces is provided by Intel Z97 chipset.

Separately, we note that there are some restrictions for 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), because of a lack of free chipset lines.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

The system board has four DIMM-slots for memory modules of DDR3 standard operating in dual 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 3000 MHz in overclocked 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. All of them are operated due to set of system logic.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Cooling system of the product includes three radiators: one provides heat removal from chipset Intel Z97, while the second is responsible for the cooling of power subsystem elements. In the process of testing the following temperature indices were fixed:

  • radiator for chipset cooling – 41.5°C;
  • radiator for cooling of processor elements power – 35.6°C.

The received results are characterized as worthy because there is enough margin of safety.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Processor power supply is performed via 4-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 low resistance of open channel and chokes with ferrite cores. Basic 24-pin and additional 8-pin connectors are use for power feeding.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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

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

Due to two PCI Express x16 slots and support of technologies AMD CrossFireX and NVIDIA SLI it is possible to install two graphics cards. And since both slots are connected to the processor, in the case of installation of the two graphics accelerators line PCI Express 3.0 will be distributed according the scheme x8+x8. Also note that you can easily install two graphics cards with three slot cooler, and at the same time you will have one free slot PCI Express 2.0 x1.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Since chipset Intel Z97 doesn’t support bus PCI, the functioning of the connector is implemented using PCIe-PCI bridge based on the controller ITE IT8892E.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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 chips: PTN3360DBS и ASMedia ASM1442K.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

To support network connections there is a GB LAN-controller Intel WGI217V and network resource sharing will provide the utility cFos Speed, that also guaranties the reduce of latency during information transfer. 

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Sound subsystem of model GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI is based on the 8-channel codec Realtek ALC1150, which provides sound playback with signal/noise ratio (SNR) at the level of 115 dB and recording at level 104 dB. In addition, it supports technologies Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Beam Forming (BF) and Noise Suppression (NS). The codec banding uses audio amplifier that provides operation even of studio headphones with an impedance of 600 Ohms.

The audio path is shielded from interference of other motherboard components with a protective strip with LED-backlit. And to reduce crosstalk the left and right audio channels are placed on individual layers PCB.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Interface panel of the model contains the following ports:

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

Note that this configuration is very successful for this price segment, since it has three video outputs (including HDMI), four USB 3.0 ports, as well as convenient connection of multi-channel speakers and the ability to use the periphery with interface PS/2. Also don’t forget using the appropriate modules on the surface of the printed circuit board you can put on the rear panel COM and LPT ports.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

The possibilities of organizing the cooling system inside the case of GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI are very good. There are five 4-pin fan connectors, two of which are used for CPU cooling system, while the other two are designed for system fans.

UEFI BIOS

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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 a permanent display of the processor status, memory and system sensors on the sides), Classic mode (classic version of BIOS) and StartUp mode (mode of initial BIOS setting).

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

As you may have noticed that during operation in mode Smart Tweak HD there is no certain section responsible for monitoring of voltages and temperatures on main components. All this information is displayed on side faces. Here you can see the CPU temperature and fan speed, monitor the voltage on the memory module, processor, and power lines +12V, +5V and +3.3V, as well as a number of other important parameters. Note that all items in Classic mode are available in Smart Tweak HD.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

In the section «Frequency» it is possible to select one of the six types of automatic optimization of system parameters.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

Frequency multiplier allows to set module connection speed within 800-2933MHz. Frequencies higher 2933 MHz are  run by using the appropriate memory profile.

GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-SLI

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

Adjustments required to optimize the system:

Parameter

Menu name

Range

Pitch

CPU multiplier

CPU Clock Ratio

8 – MAX

 

 

CPU Base Clock

80,00 – 266,66

0,01

 

Processor Base Clock

1,00 – 2,50

 

RAM frequency

System Memory Multiplier

800 – 2933

 

CPU voltage

CPU Vcore

0,500 – 1,800

0,001

Profiles of automatic overclocking

Performance Upgrade

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

 

CPU Upgrade

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

RAM Voltage

DRAM Voltage

1,160 – 2,100

0,020

Chipset voltage

PCH Core

0,650 – 1,300

 

0,005

Graphics core frequency

Processor Graphics Clock

400 – 4000

50

 

Turbo Power Limit

1 – 4096

1

 

Core Current Limit

10 – 1000

1

 

CPU VRIN Protection

150,0 – 400,0

50

 

DDR CH(A/B) Voltage Pro

150,0 -300,0

50

 

DRAM Termination

0,325 – 1,939

0,003

 

CPU VRIN PWM Switch

300,0 – 400,0

50

 

DDR CH(A/B) PWM Switch

200,0 - 300,0

50

 

CPU VRIN External Override

1,000 – 2,400

0,010

Graphics core voltage

CPU Graphics Voltage

0,500 – 1,700

0,001

 

CPU RING Voltage

0,800 – 1,800

0,001

System Agent Voltage

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

RAM capacity for CPU graphics core

Intel Processor Graphics Memory

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

 

RAM timings

Timing Control

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

 


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