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GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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The Z97X-SOC Force motherboard is the premier offering in GIGABYTE's Overclocking Series of boards. The overclocking series boards are designed with enhancements and features meant to appeal to enthusiasts and professional overclockers alike. The Z97X-SOC Force board deign is based on the previous generation Z87X-OC Force, featuring the same black and orange coloration typical to the series. The board does contain several evolutionary changes making the board easier to use and more appealing to its target users. At an MSRP of $209.99, the Z97X-S0C Force is competitively priced to appeal to all levels of enthusiasts.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE enhanced the board power regulation system designed into the current generation boards, allowing for use of a simplified cooling and fewer power phases. As a result, the Z97X-SOC Force is packed with 8-phase digital power circuit for the CPU, using International Rectifier (IR) based PowIRstage digital controllers and 10k-rated black solid capacitors to ensure system stability under any conditions. The Z97X-SOC Force board comes standard with the following integrated features: six SATA 3 ports; one SATA Express 10 Gb/s ports; a Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 NIC; four PCI-Express x16 slots; a PCI-Express x1 slots; two PCI slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, CMOS battery clear, OC Ignition, OC Tag, OC Turbo, OC Touch, Settings Lock, Direct to BIOS, and Memory Safe buttons; Dual-BIOS, active BIOS, and IC Trigger switches; OC PCIe and OC DIMM switch jumper blocks; integrated voltage measurement points; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

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Continue reading our review of the GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force motherboard!

Technical Specifications (taken from the GIGABYTE website)

CPU Support for Intel® Core™ i7 processors/Intel® Core™ i5 processors/ Intel® Core™ i3 processors/Intel® Pentium® processors/Intel® Celeron® processors in the LGA1150 package
L3 cache varies with CPU
(Please refer "CPU Support List" for more information.)
Chipset Intel® Z97 Express Chipset
Memory 4 x DDR3 DIMM sockets supporting up to 32 GB of system memory
* Due to a Windows 32-bit operating system limitation, when more than 4 GB of physical memory is installed, the actual memory size displayed will be less than the size of the physical memory installed.
Dual channel memory architecture
Support for DDR3 3300(O.C.) / 3200(O.C.) / 3100(O.C.) / 3000(O.C.) / 2933(O.C.) / 2800(O.C.) / 2666(O.C.) / 2600(O.C.) / 2500(O.C.) / 2400(O.C.) / 2200(O.C.) / 2133(O.C.) / 2000(O.C.) / 1866(O.C.) / 1800(O.C.) / 1600 / 1333 MHz memory modules
Support for non-ECC memory modules
Support for Extreme Memory Profile (XMP) memory modules
(Please refer "Memory Support List" for more information.)
Onboard Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor:
1 x D-Sub port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz
1 x DVI-D port, supporting a maximum resolution of 1920x1200@60Hz
* The DVI-D port does not support D-Sub connection by adapter.
1 x HDMI port, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz or 2560x1600@60Hz
* Support for HDMI 1.4a version.
1 x DisplayPort, supporting a maximum resolution of 4096x2160@24Hz or 3840x2160@60Hz
* Support for DisplayPort 1.2 version.
Support for up to 3 displays at the same time
Maximum shared memory of 1 GB
Audio Realtek® ALC1150 codec
High Definition Audio
2/4/5.1/7.1-channel
Support for S/PDIF Out
LAN Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2201 chip (10/100/1000 Mbit)
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

Multi-Graphics Technology Support for 4-Way/3-Way/2-Way AMD CrossFire™/2-Way NVIDIA® SLI™ technology
Storage Interface 1 x SATA Express connector
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
Support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10
(SATA Express and SATA3 4/5 connectors can only be used one at a time.)
USB Chipset:
6 x USB 3.0/2.0 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
8 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports (4 ports on the back panel, 2 ports onboard, 2 ports available through the internal USB header)
Internal I/O Connectors 1 x 24-pin ATX main power connectorŠ
1 x 8-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x 4-pin ATX 12V power connector
1 x OC PEG power connector
1 x SATA Express connectorŠ
6 x SATA 6Gb/s connectors
1 x CPU fan header
1 x water cooling fan header (CPU_OPT)
6 x system fan headers
1 x front panel header
1 x front panel audio header
1 x S/PDIF Out header
1 x USB 3.0/2.0 header
1 x USB 2.0/1.1 header
2 x USB 2.0/1.1 ports
1 x serial port header
1 x Clear CMOS jumper
1 x power button
1 x reset button
1 x Clear CMOS button
1 x Gear button
1 x OC Turbo buttonŠ
1 x OC Tag button
1 x OC Trigger switch
1 x CPU BCLK Down button
1 x CPU BCLK Up button
1 x CPU Ratio Down button
1 x CPU Ratio Up button
1 x Memory Safe button
1 x Settings Lock button
1 x Direct to BIOS button
1 x OC DIMM switch
1 x OC PCIe switch
1 x OC Ignition button
1 x Clear Battery button
2 x BIOS switches
1 x onboard voltage measurement module
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)
I/O Controller iTE I/O Controller Chip
H/W Monitoring System voltage detection
CPU/System/Chipset temperature detection
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed detection
CPU/System overheating warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan fail warning
CPU/CPU OPT/System fan speed control
* Whether the fan speed control function is supported will depend on the cooler you install.
BIOS 2 x 128 Mbit flash
Use of licensed AMI UEFI BIOS
Support for DualBIOS™
PnP 1.0a, DMI 2.7, WfM 2.0, SM BIOS 2.7, ACPI 5.0
Unique Features Support for APP Center
* Available applications in APP Center may differ by motherboard model. Supported functions of each application may also differ depending on motherboard specifications.
@BIOS
EasyTune
EZ Setup
Fast Boot
ON/OFF Charge
Smart TimeLock
Smart Recovery 2
System Information Viewer
USB Blocker
Support for Q-Flash
Support for Smart Switch
Support for Xpress Install
Bundle Software Norton® Internet Security (OEM version)
Intel® Rapid Start Technology
Intel® Smart Connect Technology
Intel® Smart Response Technology
Operating System Support for Windows 8.1/8/7
Form Factor ATX Form Factor; 30.5cm x 24.4cm
June 11, 2014 | 10:52 AM - Posted by eddie (not verified)

fix the pricing section

June 11, 2014 | 11:01 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Fixed, thanks for pointing this out...

June 11, 2014 | 10:55 AM - Posted by eddie (not verified)

What i want to see is a truly striped down board that is meant to do nothing but overclock. I mean why would you need audio on an OC board, just fill it with PCI-e slots and plx splitters, same thing goes for the onboard video. Get rid of everything that is not needed.

June 11, 2014 | 11:04 AM - Posted by Chaitanya Shukla

I agree on no need for integrated audio, but on these consumer sockets gpu is embeded into cpu so they cannot be removed by board manufcaturers. Also there really is no need of plx chips on oc oriented boards.

June 11, 2014 | 10:55 PM - Posted by eddie (not verified)

don't see why they could not ditch the ports on the back though, put something like more usb or something there. Also plx chips would be nice of you wanted to bench 4 way gpus not by amd.

June 11, 2014 | 05:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Morry, I noticed in the Conclusions you noted that the CMOS battery placement was a strength. If I am running Crossfire or SLI, the CMOS battery placement in my opinion sucks, especially if I have my video cards water cooled. What exactly is an ideal place for the CMOS battery and why?

June 11, 2014 | 05:55 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Theoretically, you could run SLI or CrossFire with the board without impacting the battery.  Ideally, the best place for the battery is by the DIMM slots in the the lower left corner of the board, both locations which remain accessible most of the time.

If you start talking about dual or tri-card mode, there are quite a few components that become hard to get to especially when using full sized cards...

June 12, 2014 | 01:55 AM - Posted by Oubadah (not verified)

Vs it's predecessor's battery placement, it's definitely an improvement.

June 12, 2014 | 11:32 AM - Posted by D1RTYD1Z619

WHY WHY WHY DO THEY CONTINUE TO PUT PCI SLOTS?!

June 18, 2014 | 10:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

There are not enough PCI-E slots from the chipset to allocate a 1x slot to each board position. Therefore the motherboard makers have a choice of using a PCI-E 1x to 2x PCI bridge which allows for using all seven slots in the ATX spec or leaving one of the slots blank on the board. I can see why they don't want to leave blank slots, but the slot next to the primary GPU is almost always useless anyways. Some boards also leave the first slot blank and put the primary GPU in the second slot which makes more room for the CPU cooler. and GPU backplate.

June 12, 2014 | 10:32 PM - Posted by Oubadah (not verified)

Why, oh why, did Gigabyte replace the perfectly good Intel NIC with this killer rubbish? When you ran the network tests, did you have the killer bloatware installed, or just the driver? Also, how exactly was the CPU utilization measured? Does your percentage include the CPU overhead from the simultaneous disk I/O too?

June 13, 2014 | 09:03 AM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

For the network testing, the Killer software was installed in addition to the driver.  For measuring CPU utilization, Windows Performance Monitor was used with the average measured from that taken as the reported average...

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