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EVGA Z97 Classified Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: EVGA

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of EVGA

  • 300% more gold content in the CPU socket
  • EVGA EZ Voltage read points
  • 4-Way SLI® Support
  • Onboard Clear CMOS, Power and Reset Buttons
  • USB 3.0 Support
  • Onboard CPU Temperature Monitor
  • SATA 6G Support
  • Triple BIOS Support
  • 100% Solid State Capacitors
  • PCI Express 3.0 Support
  • EVGA Vdroop Control
  • Supports Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 Socket 1150 Processors
  • EVGA E-LEET Tuning Support
  • Creative Sound Core3d

Motherboard Layout

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The EVGA designed the Z97 Classified motherboard with a matte black and dark chrome accents on the integrated heat sinks. All slots, ports, and buttons are black-colored in keeping with the desired board aesthetics. EVGA took innovative liberties with component placement and design, rotating most of the ports on the board's edge by 90 degrees so that the cables sit parallel to the board's surface when engaged. Note that this port rotation includes the PCI-E and ATX 24-pin power ports, the fan headers, the EZ Voltage port, USB 3.0 header, and SATA ports.

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The back of the board's PCB is relatively clear of components and circuitry. The area directly behind in the CPU is completely void of components minimizing the risk of board damage from the cooler back plate resting on top of or crushing components.

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EVGA designed the Z97 Classified board with the following ports in its rear panel assembly: four USB 2.0 ports, four USB 3.0 ports, dual Intel GigE NIC ports - an I217-LM controlled port to the left of the audio ports and an I210 controlled port to the right of the I217-LM port, dual mini-HDMI video ports, a CMOS clear button, an optical audio port, and five analogue audio ports. Note that the audio subsystem supports up to 6-speaker 5.1-based audio output or headphone output.  The grey port in the lower right of the audio riser is a dedicated headphone port.  EVGA also includes a rear panel port enclosure that fits over the entire rear panel assembly, fixed to the board via the two mounting screw holes on either side of the rear panel area.

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The Z97 Classified motherboard has a total of six device ports - five PCI-Express x16 slots and one PCI-Express x1 slot. For the PCI-Express x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x16 bandwidth with cards in the primary and secondary slots with two cards populated, x16 / x8 / x8 with cards populated in slots 1, 2, and 4, and x8 / x8 / x8 / x8 with cards populating four of the PCI-Express x16 slots. EVGA was able to accommodate 8x bandwidth in tri and quad-card operation using a PLX bridge chip sitting underneath the heat sink to the right of the PCI-Express slot area of the board.

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The audio subsystem components are located above the PCI-Express slots. EVGA integrated a Creative Labs Core3D audio chipset into the board, as well as discrete headphone amp and preamp chips, to provide superior audio fidelity, Even though their is no PCB separator line evident, the audio components are electrically isolated from the rest of the board components to minimize distortion and interference between the audio subsystem and the other integrated board components.

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To the upper right of PCI-Express x16 slot 5 is are a 6-pin PCI-Express power connector, the front panel audio header, the EVGauge header, and an on board speaker. Notice that the PCI-Express power connector is rotated 90 degrees, pointing out towards the outer edge of the board, so that the cable site parallel to the plane of the board when engaged. The 6-pin power connector accepts a six pin video power connector from the system system PSU to provide extra power to the PCI-Express x16 slots when using multiple video cards with the board. The EVGauge header can be connected to an external EVGA EVGauge device panel for direct output of your CPU frequency. When used in conjunction with the EVGA ELEET windows software, the EVGauge will output real-time CPU frequency, accounting for both SpeedStep and Turbo frequency changes.

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Along the lower left of PCI-Express x16 slot 5 are a USB 2.0 header, the mSATA/mPCIe device port, and a 3-pin system fan header. Notice that the fan header is rotated 90 degrees, pointing out towards the outer edge of the board, so that the cable sits parallel to the plane of the board when engaged. The mPCIE device port accepts mSATA devices running at SATA 6Gbps speeds, as well as mPCIe devices running at up to 10Gbps speeds. The port configuration can be manually configured via the port options from the Onboard Device Configuration sub-menu within the Advanced section of the system UEFI BIOS. Note that the port is controlled by an on board Marvell controller chip.

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The front panel header, ECP device header, and the CMOS battery clear button are located in the lower left corner of the motherboard. The ECP device header can be connected to an external EVGA ECP device panel for direct control of board voltages, disabling PCI-Express ports, clearing the CMOS settings, and output of the BIOS diagnostic code during startup or the CPU temperature after system initialization.

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The Intel Z97 Express chipset is covered by a large, low profile heat sink just below the PCI-Express x16 slots. The heat sink is matte-black with a the Classified series logo along the right side on a dark chrome metal strip.

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EVGA integrated a total of eight on-board SATA 6 Gb/s ports, a USB 3.0 header, and two 3-pin fan headers into the board's lower left quadrant, located just under the chipset cooler. All ports have been rotated 90 degrees, pointing out towards the outer edge of the board, so that the cables sit parallel to the plane of the board when engaged. The six SATA ports to the left of the port block are tied to the Intel Z97 chipset controller, while the two right-most ports are tied to the Marvell controller. Note that the primary and secondary SATA ports are located at the left side of the port block.

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To the lower right of the Z97 chipset are PCI-E Disable switch block, the triple BIOS Selector switch, and the removable BIOS chip. The PCI-E Disable switches can used to disable the the five PCI-Express x16 slots. The triple BIOS Selector switch allows you to choose from one of three integrated BIOS chips for use with the board. This is very useful if you corrupt one of more of the board's BIOS chips. Note that you should one use the PCI-E Disable or BIOS Selector switches with the board powered off to avoid damaging the board and/or on board components. EVGA also bundle the BIOS chip in a removable package so that you can switch out the chip with a new one if the BIOS chip becomes irreparably damaged.

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EVGA included a total of four DDR3 memory slots in the board's lower right quadrant. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in memory slots 1 and 3 or slots 2 and 4 with slots 2 and 4 being the primary memory slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 2933MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications.

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Just below the DIMM slots are the 24-pin ATX power connector, the GPU Link header (XG1), the 2-digit diagnostic LED display, the Probe IT voltage measurement header, and the power, reset, and CMOS clear buttons. The GPU Link header is used to connect supported video cards to the board, using the supplied GPU Link cables, for direct card voltage configuration from within the system's UEFI BIOS. The diagnostic LED display can be used in conjunction with the table provided in the user manual to identify and troubleshoot board boot-related issues. The Probe It voltage measurement header is used in conjunction with the included cable assembly for direct board voltage measurement using a volt meter.

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To the upper right of the DIMM slots are the CPU fan headers, the secondary CPU fan header (CPU2_FAN), and dual 8-pin ATX12V power connectors. All fan headers are of the 4-pin variety.

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The CPU socket is clear of obstructions with more than enough room on all sides to accommodate even the larger CPU coolers. The Z97 Classified comes standard with a total of 8 digital power phases, which are more than sufficient to keep the board stable under all operating conditions. Note that the integrated heat pipe cooler connects the CPU VRMs, the PCI-Express PLX, and the Z97 chipset heat sinks so that heat is optimally dissipated, alleviating possible board hot spots.

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To the upper right of the CPU socket and the VRM heat sink is a 4-pin system fan header.

June 23, 2014 | 10:16 AM - Posted by Paul Jones (not verified)

Can you please talk about motherboard support for DDR4?

Reports are that DDR4 is available in Japan now.

http://www.tweaktown.com/news/38609/ddr4-ram-hits-japan-retail-shelves-1...

I pretty much refuse to upgrade my mobo without DDR4 support.

June 23, 2014 | 10:23 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

DDR4 will require a new processor architecture and new chipset. That will not be occuring with the Z97 platform.

June 23, 2014 | 12:33 PM - Posted by jchambers2586 (not verified)

When will we see DDR4 on mainstream boards.

June 23, 2014 | 01:49 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Whenever Skylake comes out, sometime in 2015 if the leaked roadmap holds up.

June 24, 2014 | 01:07 AM - Posted by Penteract (not verified)

Haswell-E (X99 Chipset) will have quad-channel DDR4 support. It is scheduled for release Q3 2014.

June 23, 2014 | 11:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It seems that EVGA still has a ways to go with its motherboards before it's on Asus' level.

June 23, 2014 | 04:32 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Aesthetically-speaking, it is a nice looking board though.  And it performs well once its dialed in...

June 23, 2014 | 11:55 PM - Posted by Fluxcored

Quite a few connectors oriented 90 degrees to face the edge of the motherboard. This has to be one of the first implementations of 24pin ATX in this way.

June 24, 2014 | 10:23 PM - Posted by Sean Sinha (not verified)

The 90 Degree ATX came about during a phone call between myself and Jacob while I was working at OCZ in their development labs. I had all sorts of motherboard ideas that OCZ would never get around to doing after we decided NOT to get into the motherboard-marketing game. I am glad Jacob ran with the 90 Degree ATX.

June 24, 2014 | 10:25 PM - Posted by Sean Sinha (not verified)

And the sideways connectors has been around since their Z68 series of stuff. Z68 FTW was first with it.

June 23, 2014 | 04:50 PM - Posted by Totalslaughter (not verified)

"would have detrimental effects on the board's long term health or use."

Is that supposed to be (would not have) ?

June 24, 2014 | 01:50 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Thanks for pointing that out, its been corrected...

June 23, 2014 | 11:37 PM - Posted by Lithium (not verified)

You missed one strong point on this one.
There is only few boards that can do triple SLI with one space between cards; or triple SLI with three slot cards.
I have ASRock 3-Way-SLI 2S2S bridge.
So can this board do SLI with 1-3-6 PCI-e slots?

Next, Dolby Digital Live / DTS Connect.
I think that not all Core3D boards support this.
Manufacturers must pay for this option.
So can this board do Dolby Digital Live / DTS Connect?

Cheers

June 24, 2014 | 08:58 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I don't believe it can. I have a board with a similar layout. Morry can correct me if I'm wrong, but on my board (a z77 board), the third PCI-e does not use the PLX chip, where as the 2,4,and 6 slots do. Once i put anything in those slots, the third slot is deactivated. This board may behave the same way.

June 24, 2014 | 02:11 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Concerning the PCIe X16 ports, any of the five ports can be used with the following bandwidth constraints (per the product manual):

PCI-E Lane Distribution 
 PE1 – x16 (x8 if PE2 is used) 
 PE2 – x16 (x8 if PE3 is used) 
 PE3 – x8 
 PE4 – x16 (x8 if PE6 is used) 
 PE5 – x1 
 PE6 – x8

Thanks...

July 10, 2014 | 11:56 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Just heard back from our corporate rep on this - the board does not support Dolby Digital Live / DTS unfortunately...

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