Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC Motherboard Review
Many motherboard manufactures are offers many Overclocking features in their premium board segments. But on the other hand Gigabyte is offering a whole Overclocking series of boards designed for enthusiasts and professional overclockers in mind. Following the success of the GIGABYTE Z87X-OC motherboard, the #1 most overclocked motherboard on HWBOT.org in 2013, GIGABYTE has unleashed 2 new Z97 based overclocking motherboards, the Z97X-SOC FORCE and Z97X-SOC.
And we like to thanks Gigabyte for providing Z97X-SOC motherboard for reviewing.
Now let's see what this Intel Z97 chipset based board have for us.
Looking at the front of the box, we see gigabyte logo with OC F1 car graphics and motherboard model no. At the rear of the box, we find that Gigabyte goes into great detail on the specifications of the motherboard. Opening the box gives a glimpse of the actual product.
Inside the box
Board is a solid build in a black and Orange colour theme..
- Supports 4th and 5th Generation IntelÂ® Coreâ„¢ processors
- Premium 4-way CrossFireâ„¢ support
- Precise digital CPU power design
- SATA Express support for 10 Gb/s data transfer
- Exclusive GIGABYTE OC Features
- Intel GbE LAN with CFOS internet accelerator software
- 2x copper PCB design
- Realtek ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in rear audio amplifier
- New Heatsink design with 8 onboard fan connectors
- Long lifespan Durable Black Solid caps
- APP Center including EasyTuneâ„¢ and Cloud Stationâ„¢ utilities
- GIGABYTE UEFI DualBIOSâ„¢
Detailed layout of the board
1. Intel LGA 1150 socket, supporting current 4th generation and 5th generation CPU.
2. 4 x DIMM slots supporting maximum 32GB of 1600/1333MHz DDR3 or up to 3200(O.C.) DDR3 memory.
3. ATX Power connector (24-pin EATXPWR)
4. ATX CPU Power Connector(4-pin ATX12V) & (8-pin ATX12V_2x4).
5. OC PEG adds auxiliary power to the PCIe slots of your motherboard, improving system stability in extreme configurations. This is especially useful in power-hungry 4-way graphics configurations.
6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 1 x CPU fan header, 1 x water cooling fan header (CPU_OPT), 6 x system fan headers
13. Gigabyte Overclocking buttons directly on the motherboard.
14. Back Panel Connectors : 4 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports, 4 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports, 1 x optical S/PDIF Out connector, 1 x D-Sub port, 1 x DVI-D port, 1 x HDMI port, 1 x DisplayPort, 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, 1 x RJ-45 port, 6 x audio jacks (Center/Subwoofer Speaker Out, Rear Speaker Out, Side Speaker Out, Line In, Line Out, Mic In)
15. 16. 1 x SATA Express connector, 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors and two internal USB connectors (OC Connect) for easy data save, BIOS flashing or software installation.
17. System Front panel Connector
18. Front . USB 3 Port. Connector
19. USB 2.0 Connectors
20. 21. Serial port and Front panel Audio connector
22. Expansion Slots
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)* For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x8 (PCIEX8)* The PCIEX8 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX16 slot. When the PCIEX8 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode.
2 x PCI Express x16 slots, running at x4 (PCIEX4_1, PCIEX4_2)* The PCIEX4_1 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX8 and PCIEX16 slots. When the PCIEX4_1 slot is populated, the PCIEX16 slot will operate at up to x8 mode and the PCIEX8 will operate at up to x4 mode.When installing a x8 or above card in the PCIEX4_1 slot, make sure to set PCIE Slot Configuration (CPU) in BIOS Setup to x4. (Refer to Chapter 2, "BIOS Setup," "Peripherals," for more information.)* The PCIEX4_2 slot shares bandwidth with the PCIEX1 slots. The PCIEX1 slot will become unavailable when a PCIe x4 expansion card is installed.(The PCIEX16, PCIEX8 and PCIEX4_1 slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)
1 x PCI Express x1 slot(The PCIEX4_2 and PCIEX1 slots conform to PCI Express 2.0 standard.)
2 x PCI slots
Let's now see what all components Gigabyte have planned for this board.
1 2. CPU voltage regulator circuit has high end 10K Durable Black solid capacitors. IR3564B is IR (International Rectifier) Dual Loop, 4+1 multiphase AMD SVI1 and SVI2 and Intel VR12 and VR12.5 PWM controller for high efficiency, highly accurate CPU Voltage regulation ID, controlling IR3553M (Integrated PowIRstage) is a synchronous buck gate driver co-packed with a control MOSFET and a synchronous MOSFET with integrated Schottky diode with output current capability of 40A DC each..
3. Asmedia ASM 1442K chip managing output display ports
4. The NXP Semiconductors PTN3360D HDMI / DVI level shifter switch Chip
5. Intel i217v one Gigabit Ethernet controller chip.
6. ITE IT8620e is SuperIO chip monitors temperatures, voltages and other key metrics for normal operation and overclocking.
7. Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Audio is powered by Realtek ALC1150 chip which is a high-performance multi-channel High Definition Audio Codec that delivers an exceptional audio listening experience with up to 115dB SNR, ensuring users get the best possible audio quality from their PC.
The ALC1150 provides ten DAC channels that simultaneously support 7.1-channel sound playback, plus 2 channels of independent stereo sound output (multiple streaming) through the front panel stereo outputs. Two stereo ADCs are integrated and can support a microphone array with Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Beam Forming (BF), and Noise Suppression (NS) technologies. The ALC1150 incorporates Realtek proprietary converter technology to achieve Front differential output 115dB Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) playback (DAC) quality and 104dB SNR recording (ADC) quality.
A semi-transparent line on motherboard separates the whole audio section from the rest of the board in order to minimize interference. In addition Gigabyte used one N5532 Op-amp for rear audio amplification. So listening under Stereo mode produces high audio quality with excellent dynamic range.
RightMark Audio Analyzer (RMAA) suite is used for testing Gigabyte High Definition audio against Asus Xonar DX Sound card. You can see clearly the difference between Noise level, dynamic rang and Total harmonic distortion percentage produced by AMP-UP Audio.
RMAA Asus Xonar DX
8. Intel Z97 Express Chipset.
9. IDT 6V49322NLG clock generator IC for SATA Express interface.
10. Fan control and monitoring is performed via ITE IT8791E the system controller
11. Gigabyte uses two SPI chip labeled MXIC MX 2SL12873F a capacity of 128 Mb for storing UEFI BIOS
12. NXP L04083B . NXP Semiconductors a 4 differential channel, 2-to-1 multiplexer / demultiplexer switch for PCI Express Generation 3
13. IT8892E is a single-function PCI Express to PCI bridge chip
14. Texas Instruments 37A-G3 RS232 Transceiver chip for serial port.
15. 2-Phase digital memory power supply section. Vishay SiRA18DP MOSFETS each package limited to 33A. IR 3553M is a synchronous buck gate driver co-packed with a control MOSFET and a synchronous MOSFET with integrated Schottky diode with output current capability of 40A DC each
16. 3 x RT9018B chips is a high performance positive voltage regulator designed for use in applications requiring very low Input voltage and very low dropout voltage, used for voltage tweaking.
17. The ICS 9DB633 is a PCI-E 3.0 six output differential buffer, clock generator.
Test system configuration - Intel i7-4790K, 2 x 4GB ADATA XPG V3 DDR3 PC3-23400 (2933MHz) RAM, Corsair H100i cooler, Samsung 830 SSD 256GB, Corsair RM1000 PSU, Asus HD-7750, Asus Xonar DX Sond Card, WD 1TB Green, HP DVD RW Drive.
Overclocking on Gigabyte Z97X-SOC was very easy. Auto tuning feature of Gigabyte's EasyTune application took Intel i7-4790K from stock 4GHz to 4.4Ghz easy and further tweaking system was stable at 4.7Ghz.
With AIO cooler in Push-Pull fan configuration and using Gigabyte OC buttons we were able to CPU-Z validate at 4.9Ghz.
Hyper PI 0.99b
Wattage reading as per displayed by APC Pro 1000VA (Model no. BR1000G-IN) UPS.
- Affordable price tag for an OC board
- Good and easy OC with Easy Tune
- On-board OC buttons
- Lot of Fan connectors
- No M.2 connector.
- PCI slots (Seriously.. Instead of legacy PCI slots, must have provided PCI-e x1 or x4 slots)
Gigabyte Z97X-SOC showed great performance in our testing. And thanks to Gigabyte for making Overclocking easier with these SOC series boards. All the tweaking options and buttons are consolidated in the top right area called OC Touch. It's much easier to do any tweaking as compared to other motherboards where all the options are scattered across the whole PCB.
For normal users or mild overclockers the Gigabyte Z97X-SOC is a great board for the money. However if you are extreme overclocker and going for professional overclocking, you should go for Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force and even more if you are planning for LN2 Overclocking than Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force LN2 edition is my recommendation.