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ASUS Z97-WS Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Integrated Device Testing

Audio Subsystem Testing

Audio Playback Testing

Using a selection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal music tracks and Windows Media Player, the audio subsystem playback performance was tested for playback accuracy and fidelity.

Playback using the audio test tracks was clear and distortion free using a 7.1 speaker setup through the on-board analogue audio ports.

Listening tests using the selected audio tracks were performed with a Razer Carcharias audio headset as well as a 5.1 speaker setup to exercise the subsystem's audio fidelity. There were no distortion issues using either setup with sound reproduction coming though clearly.

Microphone Port Testing

For testing the board's Microphone input port, the microphone from a Razer Carcharias audio headset was used to capture a 30 second spoken phrase with the assistance of the Microsoft Sound Recorder application. The resulting audio file was saved to the desktop and played back using Windows Media Player.

Even though the recorded audio remained distortion-free at all levels, audio pickup came through muted until recording volume was set to a minimum of 75 and Microphone Boost was enabled with a +30dB setting.

ATTO Disk Benchmark

To validate that the board’s device ports were functioning correctly, we connected an OCZ Vertex 3 90GB SATA III SSD to the system and ran the ATTO Disk Benchmark against the drive. The SSD was directly connected to the native SATA 3 ports. NGFF port testing was performed using an M.2 to SATA III device adapter mPCIe card. ATTO was configured to test against transfer sizes from 0.5 to 8192 KB with Total Length set to 512 MB and Queue Depth set to 10. The SSD selected for testing has a maximum read throughput of 550 MB/s and a write throughput of 500 MB/s on a SATA III controller. The drive tests were repeated three times with the highest repeatable read and write speeds recorded.

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As expected, the SSD performance was better on the Intel-controlled ports in comparison to the ASMedia-controlled ports with one exception - the Intel Z97-based M.2 port. The M.2 drive performance topped out at SATA II speeds with the OCZ drive. However, the transfer speed increased dramatically with another SSD drive plugged into the M.2 port adapter, giving credence to the theory that the M.2 controller may have compatibility issues with older Sandforce 2281-based drives. In the tests on the Intel Z97-controlled SATA and SATA Express ports, SSD performance pushed the performance limits of the drive. The ASMedia controller performance barely broke 400MB/s.

SoftPerfect Research NetWorx Speed Test

In conjunction with Windows Performance Monitor, SoftPerfect Research NetWorx Speed Meter application was used to measure the upload and download performance of the motherboards integrated network controllers. Speed Meter was used to measure average network throughput in MB/s with Windows Performance Monitor used to measure average CPU utilization during the tests.

The LanBench network benchmarking software was used to generate send and receive traffic between the local and remote systems over a five minute period with packet size set to 4096 and connection count set to 20. A LanBench server was set up on the remote system to generate or receive traffic for the tests performed. The upload and download tests were repeated three times with the highest repeatable average throughput and the lowest repeatable average CPU utilization percentage recorded.

Note that that theoretical maximum throughput for a Gigabit Ethernet adapter is 125 MB/s (1.0 Gbps).

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Both Intel-controlled ports performed well with transfer rates averaging almost 120MB/s during upload and lagging by 10MB/s in download testing. The CPU utilization was the lowest I've seen from a network controller yet, with all averages and even spike load well below 5%.

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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