At COMPUTEX 2014 this year, GIGABYTE announced a new branding for their gaming series of motherboards. While the extra features like high end integrated audio, preset UEFI BIOS and software overclocking and stability, remain the same, the new boards offer a much more mainstream design, rather than the military motif of their previous products. With the arrival of the new Intel Z97 chipset, it seemed like the perfect time for the company to make this move.
We’ve received their latest G1 Gaming motherboard, the GIGABYTE GA-Z97X Gaming GT, which follows the same feature rich design as the previous G1 series, but is now clad in the new red and black styling. We took a detailed look at this new board to see if it measures up to the legacy left by their previous products.
Features and Specifications
If you’re a fan of games, like myself, you want the short-short version of the features. Many of them are a lot like the previous Z87 G1 generation. Let’s break it down.
- Compatible with 4th Gen (Haswell) and 5th Gen (Devil’s Canyon) processors
- Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi MB3 software suite
- OP-AMP audio amplifier: swappable and configurable amplifier socket
- Noise Guard: LED path lighting and noise elimination
- Dual USB DAC-UP for noise-free digital to analog conversion
- Killer E2200 (embedded) network controller: prioritize games
- 4-way NVidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX support
- Intel SATA Express
- DualBIOS UEFI: easy BIOS recovery
The components used to build the board include Nichicon capacitors for consistent audio quality and solid state (black) capacitors all of which improve the life span of the board. Missing though is any sign of M.2 SSD support, which seems to go hand in hand with most Z97 boards. Instead, GIGABYTE has added a SATA Express support instead.
Software includes GIGABYTE’s APP Center which must be installed first if you want to add their useful fan app, EasyTune and Cloud Station apps. Essentially, the entire software suite can be used to control fan speeds individually as well as charging ports or IO connectivity. Additionally, the Killer Network Manager lets users prioritize the programs that require bandwidth. For example, Windows Update doesn’t need to have full bandwidth when you’re gaming, much less be running.
Finally, the GIGABYTE GA-Z97X Gaming GT motherboard comes with a 3 year warranty (4 years in some markets like the UK) and retails for around the $239 US price range.
What’s In the Box?
The box includes a basic amount of items to get your elite gaming system up and running. Users get four black SATA, matching black/read IO shield, two-three-four way graphics bridges, case badges, and manuals along with software DVD. The software on the DVD is mostly likely a little older than what’s on the GIGABYTE support page. So check there after installing the LAN driver from the disc for the latest version. Or use the new GIGABYTE APP Centre to help automate the process, after you install the latest version off their site.
Other than that, the load out is fairly standard for most GIGABYTE gaming motherboards, and comparable to other brands.
What Makes it a Gaming Motherboard?
Certain features make a product truly gamer. You can’t just give it a catchy title or random color theme and expect gamers to spend their hard earned money on just that. In fact, that commonly used tactic most often backfires and turns into a less than stellar user experience. That said, GIGABYTE has spent quite a bit of time giving their G1 series a set of features that resonates throughout their brand. One of those features is the enhanced audio.
GIGABYTE’s AMP UP audio was featured back when they launched their Z87 series of boards, which allows the swapping of OP AMPs, but it’s taken a bit further in this series. An OP AMP is essentially an amplifier IC socket with configurable amplification modes via four dip switches. Gamers can order any of the near 40 compatible amps on the market. The amps all provide varied frequency and volume enhancements so the combinations are many. Just make sure you power off the board before swapping amplifiers.
Audio extras include the Creative SoundBlaster X-Fi MB3 software suite that unlocks more of the audio processor’s capabilities. Gamers can tweak settings to fit the games they like to play including programmable presets. Scout Mode can help give gamers a handy edge detecting their opponents as long as the game supports it. Otherwise, you must rely on skill. Additionally, Sniper Mode augments mouse DPI polling also to help tweak standard or gamer designed mice.