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ASUS Z97-WS Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

CPU Cooler Fit and Included Accessories

CPU Cooler Fit

To test the amount of space surrounding the CPU socket, we mounted the Noctua NH-D14 cooler to the CPU socket. This behemoth CPU air cooler sports a dual fan construction and two huge vertical cooling towers.

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Even with its four integrated PCI-Express x16 slots, ASUS designed the Z97-WS with sufficient room to host this large cooler. There is more than adequate space along all sides of the socket to accommodate the cooler and a card in the primary PCI-Express x16 slot without fear of contact between the cooler and the back of the video card's PCB.

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The three-sided VRM / PLX heat sink poses no space constraint issues for the cooler or its vast array of heat pipes. There is plenty of breathing room for the cooler to its front and rear. Further, all four memory slots remain usable with the cooler in place.

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The Noctua hold down mechanism is large enough to quickly determine exactly how much space is available around the CPU socket. The top mounting bracket fit tightly within the allocated space with minimal contact with the right and left brackets. However, this contact did not impede cooler mounting to the socket.

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The cooler's backplate sits over the socket backplate with the risk of direct board contact minimized. Although the backplate does not directly rest over any board components, there are several chips to the upper right of the area behind the socket that could pose problems with coolers that use larger backplates.

Included Accessories

ASUS includes the necessary accessories to get the board up and running with minimal hassle.

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The Z97-WS' manual was thorough, documenting in full the board's features and setup as we've come to expect from ASUS. Also included is a driver DVD with all necessary hardware drivers and Window's utilities, as well as an ASUS-branded case badge.

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The included rear panel shield has a flat black base with port identifying text and icons colored light grey for a very readable combination. The USB ports tied to the Q-Code Logger and USB BIOS Flashback functions are color-coded to minimize any port confusion.

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ASUS bundled in eight 6Gb/s rated SATA cables for use with the integrated port. The cables have integrated port locks and a mix of straight and 90 degree connectors.

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For multi-GPU use, ASUS included three SLI bridges - a two-way, three-way, and four-way NVIDIA SLI connector.

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For use with the on-board front panel headers, ASUS included their Q-Connector header plugs. You simply plug the front panel plugs into the Q-Connector blocks, then plug the Q-Connector blocks into the appropriate board front panel headers. It makes the installation of the front panel plugs much easier.

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For use with the integrated headers, ASUS included two rear brackets adding a serial port, two USB 2.0 ports, and an IEEE 1394 port to the system.

July 14, 2014 | 03:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why is "Lack of accessible PCI-Express x1 slot with all PCI-Express x16 slots populated" a weakness? What motherboard allows you to do 4 way sli with a slot left over?

July 14, 2014 | 04:26 PM - Posted by YTech

I understand your point :)

Maybe Morry wants to add a sound card in there too, but just can't because the GPU cards are taking away 2 slots.

I see the same issue with Micro-ATX with 2xSLI support, not sure how I'll manage to add another PCIE x1 card in there... :(

Maybe something to point out to others and the vendors to read these.

Morry > What's your reason behind this?

July 14, 2014 | 10:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

If you're up for it then you can remove the second slot's display connectors, the stock heatsink/fan, and then cut the second slot off the GPU and install a water block and only use the top 3 display outputs per GPU. However, this voids the living crap out of your warranty and requires custom watercooling.

July 14, 2014 | 04:45 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The motherboard and case would have to have 9 expansion slots to accept an additional single slot card. That’s a different form factor altogether and this shouldn’t be a weakness.

July 14, 2014 | 04:52 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

There are some boards that design the PCIe layout with a PCIe x1 card to the left of the primary PCIe x16 slot.  This is a minor nitpick issue on my part (kind of like the CMOS battery placement that y'all always nail me for), but not a major detractor from the board.  It was a very nice board that tested well...

July 15, 2014 | 09:04 AM - Posted by YTech

Morry > Would you have a reference link or something for that board design you're referring to? I'd like to see it for comparisons :)

Thanks.

July 18, 2014 | 07:00 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

The MSI Z97 Gaming board has a PCIe x1 slot to the right of the primary x16 slot, though it does not have a PLX chip integrated:

http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Motherboards/MSI-Z97-Gaming-7-Motherboard-R...

July 14, 2014 | 03:32 PM - Posted by Areus

AI Suite III looks much improved over II. I'm sure this isn't news, but it is the first I am seeing of it.

July 15, 2014 | 08:11 AM - Posted by Hirogen6 (not verified)

Aww man, I went right to the conclusion looking for a mention of the CMOS battery location, and was left wanting!

July 16, 2014 | 12:38 AM - Posted by elgrandeburro

Micro Center, which has many other boards priced extremely well, has this one priced $63 more than most other retailers. Oddly enough, they've also incorrectly listed it as the "ASUS Z97", leaving out the"-WS". Would dig picking it up from them, but not at their current pricing.

July 18, 2014 | 12:52 AM - Posted by SolarAxix (not verified)

Microcenter will price-match the board.

I was able to get it for a great price at Microcenter.

Check out my post here:

http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2390681

July 18, 2014 | 12:59 AM - Posted by SolarAxix

I should have mentioned that I got it for $239.99 plus taxes which is a great price for a motherboard with a PLX PCIe multiplexer.

July 16, 2014 | 03:46 AM - Posted by PapaDragon

Thanks for the review Morry!

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