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Motherboard Asus Z97-Deluxe Review: Getting to Know a New Intel’s Chipset

Intel’s Z-series chipsets have been recently supplemented by a new Z97 Express companion. Its release coincides with the launch of an updated Haswell Refresh CPU line for LGA 1150 socket. The new platform is thought to support PCI Express M.2 interface that substitutes an old-fashioned mSATA one. It is also supposed to support SATA Express interface and the forthcoming Intel Core 5th generation CPUs. What are the real differences between Z97 and preceding chipsets? Let’s find it out through the example of Asus Z97-Deluxe motherboard.

Basic Specifications

— form-factor: ATX, 305x244 mm dimensions;
— chipset and CPUs: Intel Z97 Express, 4th/5th gen Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processors for Socket LGA 1150;
— interface: DMI 2.0, 20 Gb/sec;
— memory: 4x DIMM slots, DDR3 standard, two-channel, 64 GB ultimate capacity, 1066 MHz-3300 (OC) MHz frequencies;
— multi-GPU support: AMD CrossFireX, Nvidia SLI;
— expansion slots: 3x PCI-e 3.0 x16, 4x PCI-e 2.0 x1;
— integrated audio: Realtek ALC1150 controller, 8-channel HD;
— network: Intel I218V, Intel I211AT;
— storage: 4x SATA III 6 Gb/sec ports under Intel Z97 control — RAID support (0/1/5/0+1/JBOD), 2x SATA 6 Gb/sec under ASMedia ASM1061 control – RAID 0, 1 support, 2x SATA-e 10 Gb/sec under ASMedia ASM106SE control – RAID 0, 1 support, 1x PCI Express M.2 under Intel Z97 control;
— system monitoring: Nuvoton NCT6791D;
— power supply: 24-pin ATX, 8-pin ATX 12V;
— I/O rear panel: 2x video ports (HDMI and DisplayPort), 6x 3.5 mm audio ports, 1x S/PDIF out, 2x RJ-45, 1x Thunderbolt interface, 2x antenna sockets, 4x USB 2.0, 6x USB 3.0;
— proprietary technologies: 5-way Optimization, Ai Charger+, USB Charger+, EZ Flash 2, Crash Free BIOS 3, MemOK!, Ai Suite III, Fan Xpert 3, My Logo 2, Q-Fan, Q-LED, Q-Slot, Q-DIMM, Q-Shield, Q-Connector;
— shipping contents: user’s manual, DVD with software and drivers, Exclusive Features, SLI bridge, 6x SATA III 6 Gb/sec cables, a set of Q-Connectors, rear panel shield, external antenna for a wireless module.

Design and Ergonomics

The motherboard is based on a black matte PCB with gray inclusions. Its power supply is organized according to 24+8 scheme, whereas CPU power supply operates under 16-phase scheme. Digi+ VRM ASP1257 acts in capacity of the main PWM controller. As opposed to the conventional hardware base used in Z87 and previous motherboards, the new-comer employs new solid-state capacitors and chokes. Low Rds(on) transistors are covered by two heatspreaders; upper heatspreader consists of two parts with gold-like and black coating. Special thermal rubber is used as thermal interface. Side heatsink is connected with the one lower the socket by a heat-pipe.

Both heatsinks are fixed by screws on the reverse side of the PCB. They are accompanied by two aluminum plates which cover soldered drivers. One more heatspreader is housed on Intel Z97 chipset; its shape resembles a spacer. USB connectivity is supported by means of two ASMedia ASM 1074 controllers. Functioning of drives and storage devices is realized due to ASMedia ASM1061 controller, as well as due to the integrated chipset.

The bottom-right part of the PCB contains a socket for the connection of keys and indicators, EPU and TPU switches, a pair of USB 2.0 hubs, one connector for the connection of TPM module. The middle part of this section accommodates Power, Reset, Clear CMOS keys and Post-codes indicator.

The implemented Intel I218V and Intel I211AT controllers ensure the motherboard’s operation within Ethernet 10/100/1000 networks. System monitoring is realized thanks to Nuvoton NCT6791D chip, soldered between PCI-e x 16 slots. The top-right corner of the PCB houses one dedicated button and a switch; both are intended for memory modules.

Dedicated wireless module on the rear panel accommodates two connectors for network antennas. This module is mounted due to two screws. It is made by AzureWave to support IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac standards and Bluetooth 4.0.

Integrated Audio

Asus Z97-Deluxe comes with an integrated audio subsystem. It is based on Realtek ALC1150 controller that produces 8-channel HD sound. This controller is accompanied by Nichicon capacitors and dual R4580I operational amplifier from Texas Instruments.

BIOS

Asus decided to use not only a new chipset for its newest motherboard, but also a new BIOS interface. Therefore, menu is uploaded on EZ Mode page that offers quick and simple settings (i.e. selection of power-saving mode or automatic overclocking). Here one may found system monitoring info, including CPU temperature, CPU voltage, as well as motherboard temperature. In addition, it’s possible to use one of the hot keys. The Main BIOS page offers some system information, time and security settings. ‘My Favorites’ tab allows to create a list of the most used settings from any interface section.
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  • 02 May 2014, 17:07
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