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GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Overclocking and Conclusion

Overclocking

To give a feel for the Overclocking performance potential of the Z97X-SOC Force board, we attempted to push it to known CPU-supported performance parameters with minimal tweaking. We were able to get the board running stable for over 4hrs at a 4.67GHz CPU speed, a 2340MHz memory speed, and a 4.0GHz ring bus speed with a 167MHz base clock. System stability was tested running the AIDA64 stability test in conjunction with EVGA's OC Scanner X graphical benchmark running at 1280x1024 resolution and 8x MSAA in stress test mode. Note that 16GB (2 x 8GB) of Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3-2400 memory modules were used for the overclocking tests.

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Note that this is is meant only as a quick preview of the board's performance potential. With more time to tweak the settings to a greater extent, pushing to a higher base clock and ring bus speed may have been achievable, in addition to an overnight stability run without issue.

Performance

The GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force motherboard performed admirably in all tests with its performance remaining within tolerances for all benchmarks run. Overclocking-wise, the board easily took what we threw at it, running the DDR-2400 memory at close to full speed without any stability issues encountered.

Pricing

As of May 12, the GIGABYTE Z97X-SOC Force motherboard was available pre-order at Newegg.com for $209.99. The board was also available from Amazon.com for $209.99 with Prime shipping.

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Conclusion

The Z97X-SOC Force is a well designed board, featuring almost anything an enthusiast or professional overclocker would desire in an overclocking motherboard. GIGABYTE improved upon their previous generation design, including additional DIMM slot and overclocking-related controls. One of the more innovative features is the CMOS battery reset button, giving the user the ability to reset the CMOS board memory without removing the physical CMOS battery. The board is lean on extra SATA and USB ports, but has plenty to appeal to the overclocking crowd it is targeted at, as well as gamers and enthusiasts alike. Layout-wise, GIGABYTE places all integrated components keeping well spaced and accessible. Additionally, the power regulation circuitry was overhauled to lessen the on-board circuitry footprint as well as reducing the operating temperatures of those components. This resulted in the need for fewer on-board power phases without affecting the board's overclocking performance potential.

Strengths

  • Stock performance
  • Overclocking performance
  • Board layout and design
  • Optimized power circuitry
  • CPU socket layout and spacing
  • Overclocking-related integrated features
  • Optimized memory socket design
  • Clear CMOS battery button
  • Price
  • UEFI BIOS design and usability
  • CMOS battery placement

Weaknesses

  • Lack of accessible PCI-Express x1 slot with primary PCI-Express x16 slot occupied
  • Lack of integrated PLX chip for enhanced PCI-Express x16 slot performance
  • Inclusion of PCI slots instead of additional PCI-Express x4 or x1 slots

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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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