First Look – GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD5H
If you followed our preview of the GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD5H, then you know it follows the previous generation Intel Z87. The UD5H offers NVIDIA SLI and AMD CrossFireX support with auxiliary SATA power for the gamers, or bitcoin zombies. Two PCIX Gen 1 and PCI 32bit slots fill the ranks. Power, reset, and UEFI BIOS reset buttons and BIOS selectors populate the upper corner for those who may have open enclosures. The board sports 8 SATA ports, five of which are SATA Express tethered. The DDR3 slots can support most everything in to the 3000 MHz frequency ranges.
The IO back panel offers 8 USB (6 USB 3.0 and 2 USB 2.0). An aging serieal combo port is there for users who have legacy keyboards or mice. The video out ports include a DVI, legacy VGA, and HDMI. Dual Gigabit NICs give users the choice between a Killer E2201 or Intel Gigabit interface. The audio receives the capacitor support, keeping things clear on the audio, in addition to a rear audio amplifier, which is better than stock. This is also one of the few boards that offers a mini-SATA M.2 port piped directly in to the PCIE.
Quality wise, there isn’t anything out of place that would question the stability of the platform. High quality capacitors, chokes, and VREG components populate the entire board. A total of 6 fans augment cooling possibilities either manually or through the Easy Tune management utility.
Inside the Box – GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD5H
The GIGABYTE GA-Z97X-UD5H doesn’t come with much extra that we’ve come to expect. There are four SATA cables, SLI bridge (also works with AMD), IO shield, software disc and manual plus one little sticker. The UD5H usually came with a little something extra in the past. If there were a UD5H-WiFi model, it would no doubt come with more, but it would also cost more.
As it stands, the gold GA-Z97X-UD5H starts off at $230 US/CA but can be found for $180 at some retailers. The Black Edition GA-Z97X-UD5H offers additional testing, a longer warranty, but the same bundle at $230, but comes dressed in black. Both boards are identical otherwise.
First Look – ASUS Z97 Sabertooth Mark-I
The ASUS Z97 Sabertooth Mark I returns with the Thermal Armor shell. The armor gets two optional fans to install below and behind the CPU socket to add a little extra air flow if your enclosure doesn’t quite cut it. Two silver slides open and close allowing more air to hit the VREG MOSFETs underneath. The board offers 9 fan ports all managed through the BIOS or through AI Suite 3 and Thermal Radar software. An Easy Tuning Wizard makes automated or manual overclocking easier than ever. Just ensure you have excellent cooling and let the software do the rest.
Expansion includes three PCIE slots for NVIDIA SLI and CrossFireX support as well as three PCIX Gen 1 slots. 8 SATA ports are provided which is typically more then enough for the normal user. All the USB 2.0 and 3.0 headers line the bottom of the board. A MemOK automated memory configuration button is next to the main power slot.
The back IO panel offers 8 USB (4 USB 3.0 and 4 USB 2.0), Display and HDMI port, as well as dual NICs in the form of an Intel I218V and Realtek 8111GR interfaces. A BIOS reset switch is included should you get too eager with settings. The Realtek ALC1150 gets a circuit change this time around, as Asus engineers continue using a shielded PCB design, audio amplifier, separate left and right channel layers, and circuits that eliminate popping commonly associated with audio during start-up as well as switching between output sources.
In terms of quality, a lot of lower profile high tolerance components line the board to ensure stability regardless of whether the TUF shielding is in place or not.
Inside The Box – ASUS Z97 Sabertooth Mark-1
The $250 US/CA ASUS Sabertooth Z97 Mark I comes with four SATA cables, SLI/CrossfireX bridge, IO shield, software disc, manual, flashier TUF INSIDE case sticker and includes the Quick Connect front panel header as well as a package (dark gray right) with TUF items.It includes voltage wire leads, PCIE slot caps, DIMM slot caps, USB caps, and other port caps that can be used to protect every unused motherboard port, or block them off for a very clean orderly look. There is also two option fans included that mount to the TUF motherboard guard to move a little more air.
Next, let’s see what the MSI Z97 Gaming 7 and ASRock Fatal1ty Z97 Killer have to offer!