by Rob Williams on August 27, 2014 in Motherboards
Our last two Z97 reviews involved some petite motherboards, so it’s time to go all-out – something GIGABYTE’s Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK helps us pull off. Its name implies that gamers are the target here, and as you’d expect from its $350 price tag, it’s packed with features. What more reason do you need to read? Come on in.
I’ve taken a look at two mini-ITX Z97 motherboards over the past month from ASUS and MSI which helped proved that “small” doesn’t have to mean “lackluster”, and now, I’m going to take a look at a model that resides on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s big, it’s mean, and it caters to gamers like few boards do.
The board I’m talking about is GIGABYTE’s Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK, and with a price tag of about $350, it’s clear right from the get-go that this board means business. In some ways, that might also mean that it’s a little over-the-top, but there’s nothing particularly wrong with that, right?
This is what I’d call a proper gaming motherboard: Lots of PCIe x16 slots, a multitude of SATA ports, an LED BIOS readout, onboard power / reset switches, and a dedicated audio card. For those who like to build a rig with a robust water cooling solution, you’ll be happy to know that the MOSFET area of the board can be cooled using 1/4″ tubing.
Before diving more into the board’s specs, let’s talk a bit about the “BK” in this board’s model name. It stands for “Black Edition”, and is far more than just a simple name: It represents the fact that the board survived an intense 168-hour durability test conducted at GIGABYTE’s Taiwan factory. This not only gives someone the peace of mind that their new board is built to last, it also results in GIGABYTE giving the board an incredible five-year warranty.
To learn more about how a Black Edition motherboard is built and tested, check out the below video:
For that extra bit of insurance that the board you receive did in fact undergo such testing, a certificate is included right in the box:
I might be an enthusiast, but if there’s one thing I appreciate from a motherboard, it’s stability first and foremost. As a consumer, then, I’d greatly appreciate knowing that the board I’m buying has passed such rigorous testing, and even if I build my PCs more frequently than once-per-five-years, that kind of warranty is outstanding. After all, I might end up using that board for a second build, or for a friend or family member’s build.
So, let’s see what else this board has to offer. I’ll be covering its design and layout on the following page, but to help you gain an immediate understanding of what this board offers, you can refer to this table:
|GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK|
|Architecture||Intel Z97 (LGA1150)|
|Form-Factor||ATX (12″ x 9.6″)|
|Memory||Up to 4x8GB DDR3-3200|
|Multi-GPU||2/3/4-way AMD CrossFire|
2/3/4-way NVIDIA SLI
|Expansion||2x PCIe 3.0 x16|
2x PCIe 3.0 x16 (Operates as x8)
3x PCIe 2.0 x1
|Storage||1x SATA Express|
6x SATA 6Gbps (Intel)
4x SATA 6Gbps (Marvell)
|Network||1x Intel Gigabit|
1x Killer Ethernet (E2201) Gigabit
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac|
|Audio||Creative Sound Core3D|
TI Burr Brown Amplifier
|USB||Back-panel: 2x USB 3.0 (Intel), 4x USB 3.0 (Renesas)|
2x USB 2.0 (Intel)
Internal: 2x USB 3.0 (Intel), 6x USB 2.0 (Intel)
|Back I/O||2x 1Gbps LAN, 6x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, 1x Optical S/PDIF, 5x Audio Jacks, HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI, Wi-Fi connector (when card is installed), PS/2|
|Features||@BIOS, Q-Flash, Smart Switch, Xpress Install, EasyTune, ON/OFF Charge, EZ Setup, Dual BIOS, Smart Recovery, Smart TimeLock, USB Blocker, Fast Boost, 7x 4-pin Fan Headers|
The best question to start with is, “What is this board missing?” In terms of features that could be seen here, Thunderbolt is the only omission, and that’s not going to affect too many people. As a high-end gaming board, it comes as little surprise that 4 GPUs are supported in either CrossFire or SLI, and yes, bridges are included for all of these configurations (this can be seen on the following page).
Because of its gaming focus, the Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK includes a robust audio and networking selection, with the former involving a Creative chip, and the latter, a Qualcomm Killer Ethernet one. As I mentioned in my look at MSI’s Z97I Gaming AC a couple of weeks ago, I don’t really care too much for Killer Ethernet, and it annoys me when a board includes only it as a wired option. That’s not a problem here, though, as this board includes an Intel Gigabit NIC as well.
I’ll tackle some of the board’s more specific features later, but first, let’s get into a look at the hardware itself.