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ASUS Z97-Pro Gamer Motherboard Review

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Features and Motherboard Layout

Features

Courtesy of ASUS

  • LGA1150 socket for the 4th, New 4th & 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7/ Core™ i5 / Core™ i3, Pentium®, and Celeron® processors
  • Dual DDR3 3200(O.C.)support
  • SupremeFX - Flawless audio that makes you part of the game
  • Intel Gigabit Ethernet, LANGuard & GameFirst II - Networking that just goes faster
  • Sonic Radar ll - Scan and detect to dominate
  • M.2 & SATA Express – Top-speed transfers for faster gaming
  • Gamer's Guardian - for real-world protection
  • Upgrade flexibility to ultimate-speed 10Gbit/s with ASUS USB 3.1 Card

Motherboard Layout

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ASUS designed with Z97-Pro Gamer with a gamer appealing black and red aesthetic, a black PCB and black colored PCI-Express x16 slots, DIMM slots, and SATA ports with red highlights on the VRM and chipset heat sinks. Additionally, the audio PCB divider line glows red when powered, making for a nice effect in-line with the board's color scheme. ASUS designed the board with a clean look and more than enough room between components for easy use and access.

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Aside from the normal traces and solder joints, the back of the board is completely devoid of any components or chips, minimize the possibility of board damage during install or use. The area behind the CPU socket is completely component-free, with no risk of damaging the board using your favorite CPU cooler with the board.

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ASUS integrated the following rear panel ports into the Z97-Pro Gamer: a PS/2 keyboard / mouse port, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 4 USB 3.0 ports controlled by the Intel Z97 chipset, an Intel I-218V GigE NIC RJ-45 port, an HDMI video port, a DVI video port, a VGA video port, an optical audio output port, and 6 analogue audio ports.

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The Z97-Pro Gamer motherboard has a total of seven device ports - three PCIe x16 slots, two PCIe x1 slots, and two PCI slots. For the PCIe x16 slots, the board supports full x16 bandwidth with a single card, x8 bandwidth with cards in the primary and secondary slots with two cards populated, and x8 in the primary and secondary slots and x4 in the tertiary slot with three cards populated. Notice that ASUS designed the board's PCIe slot layout so with a PCIe x1 slot to the right of the primary x16 slot so that an x1 slot remain available under all circumstances Additionally, there is sufficient space between the primary PCIe x16 slot and the secondary PCIe x1 slot to accommodate a dual slot cooler. Note that the two PCIe x1 slot share bandwidth with the M.2 port and the SATA 4 port.

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The integrated M.2 slot is located just below the primary PCIe x1 slot. The slot supports both SATA 6G and PCIe type devices, as well as M.2 cards up to 80mm in length. The CMOS battery is located to the lower right of the secondary PCIe x16 slot.

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ASUS integrated the latest version of their SupremeFX audio subsystem into the Z97-Pro Gamer, placing the audio components on a physically separate PCB to minimize noise and crosstalk from other integrated components. The PCB separation line glows red when the board is actively powered. The front panel audio header is located just below the audio subsystem's capacitor bank in the upper left corner of the board.

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In the upper left corner of the board are the the front panel audio header, and S/PDIF output header, the CMOS clear jumper, a temperature sensor header, and a trusted platform module header.

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Along the lower left of the tertiary PCI-Express x16 slot are the serial port header, a 4-pin system fan header, and the USB 2.0 headers.

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The USB 2.0 headers and the front panel header are located in the lower left corner of the board.

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The Intel Z97 Express chipset is covered by a large aluminum, low profile heat sink just below the PCIe x16 slots. The heat sink is flat black in color with red highlights and an ASUS logo.

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ASUS includes a total of four on-board SATA 6Gb/s ports and one SATA-Express 10 Gb/s port located just under the chipset cooler. All ports are controlled by the Intel Z97 chipset controller.

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The on-board DDR3 memory slots are located just below the CPU socket in the lower right section of the board. Dual Channel memory mode is enabled by seating memory modules in like colored slots with slots 2 and 4 (the grey colored slots) being the primary memory slots. The board supports up to 32GB of memory running at a maximum speed of 3200MHz. Note that memory speeds above 1600MHz are considered overclocked speeds and are outside of the official Intel stock memory speed specifications. To the lower left of the memory slots are the Intel Z97 chipset controlled USB 3.0 header, and the 24-pin ATX power connector.

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To the upper right of the DIMM slots are two 4-pin fan headers, the CPU fan header and the secondary CPU fan header.

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The CPU socket is clear of obstructions with the power circuitry and VRM hybrid cooler located above and to the right of the socket. The VRM coolers are simple passive heat sinks designed for maximum compatibility with CPU coolers. ASUS designed the area around the socket carefully to avoid unnecessary obstructions with lower profile components used for those in close proximity to the socket.

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

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The integrated 8-pin ATX12V power connector is located to the upper left of the CPU socket, in between the two VRM heat sinks.

Video News


June 8, 2015 | 02:43 PM - Posted by TheTolsonator

Finally a black and red z97 board that isn't stabbing you in the eyes with the amount of red. Simple splashes of color do wonders!

June 8, 2015 | 07:05 PM - Posted by SilverBullet (not verified)

I still don't get for a 'gamer' board why there is all the display options. Also a PS2 port really? If it's a gamer board, no one should be using on board gfx.

June 8, 2015 | 07:21 PM - Posted by JxcelDolghmQ (not verified)

I still use PS/2 for an IBM Model M keyboard. It's not completely unheard of, and they aren't exactly running out of space anyway.

As for the display options, it can be nice to have a few additional ports in case your video card doesn't have enough or enough of the right ones. (This works with multiple discrete cards but I'm not sure if this works with integrated GPUs - maybe someone can confirm?) Certainly it's not the most important feature, but keep in mind that people may have different needs than you.

June 8, 2015 | 07:35 PM - Posted by Dr_b_

What is the target market for a gamer board with PCI and VGA connectivity? I cant understand the PS2, but VGA and PCI? That is getting old even in the server space.

June 8, 2015 | 09:07 PM - Posted by Morry Teitelman

Some gamers still have their favored PCI cards, including sound cards, that they've been using for years.   As for the other video ports, its possible to use them for secondary/terciary monitors...

June 9, 2015 | 04:22 AM - Posted by CrisisHawk

The two PCI slots are positioned in such a way that if you are running SLI/crossfire they are both covered by duel slot cards anyway. And you still have access to 2 PCI-e 1X slots and the bottom slot. So while some people are still holding on to a soundcard or something they still want a PCI slot for, they are not going to make a difference to most people. And if you are using enough add in cards that they are a problem, you should probably be looking at a higher end board anyway.

As for VGA, there is probably some oddball case where someone wants to use an old monitor as an auxiliary display, but other than that I don't know what self respecting gaming enthusiast is still using a VGA monitor, let alone plugging it into the motherboard. Still, I'd prefer to see some more HDMI/displayports and some more USB replace that DVI/VGA block.

June 9, 2015 | 06:22 AM - Posted by justin150 (not verified)

With all the new technologies coming out I am putting on hold building a new gaming machine for 6 months.

m.2, u.2, and NVMe or not.
DDR3 or DDR4
Skylake?
Another round of GPU updates (or rebrands in AMD case)
USB3 or 3.1 type C
Gsync/Freesync
4K or not.
Windows 10

The only thing I can be certain of is my old mechanical hard drives can be ditched - perfect for a NAS (particularly in 6+TB per disk), no longer needed for desktop machine [do we really need all those SATA sockets?]

I am a firm believer in "you can never have too much memory" but I do not wish to break bank to afford it.

Monitors for gaming - bigger is better but hate proprietary standards, and refresh rate fixed at max 60 MHz sucks.

Never been a big fan of multi-GPU set ups though

And I watercool the CPU and GPU

June 9, 2015 | 07:28 PM - Posted by jchambers2586

I just bought me a new case for my skylake build I am on z77 and will me moving to skylake. I just upgraded to a 970 from a 570 that was a huge perfomance improvement.

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