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WCCFTech Z97 Motherboard Round-Up OC Top
Hardware

Intel launched their Z97 platform earlier this year which brought new motherboards in the performance platform, aiming support for Haswell, Haswell Refresh, Devil’s Canyon and the upcoming Broadwell CPUs. Intel’s Z97 platform is filled with a variety of boards and each board is targeted towards key segments.WCCFTech Z97 Motherboard Round-Up OC Top

Round-Up of The Best and Top-Tier Overclocking Z97 Motherboards

With such a large list of products that are currently offered in the Z97 chipset based product portfolio, it gets quite frustrating for consumers to find a board that suits their demands. To make it easier for consumers, the board manufacturing companies have separated their products into three categories; Gaming, Overclocking and Mainstream.  Although this helps a bit but even then, the products themselves offer similar specifications, naming schemes and priced equally.  For instance, the MSI Z97 Gaming 3 and Gigabyte GA-Z97X Gaming 3 are both gaming branded motherboards priced at $137.99 US and with “Gaming 3″ in the title, it would more or less confuse the buyer into deciding which product should be bought. While reviews do give a better insight at the products comparing the little details, features and components of products, we couldn’t find a good article which compares these boards against their similar priced counterparts from other manufacturers.

To address this issue and to help ease the process for buyers to get the right product, today we will be doing a round-up of the Z97 “Overclocking” motherboards. We will obviously not be comparing performance based on benchmarks but design schemes, feature set and the components used on these Z97 motherboards which will tell us why they are better than the other similar priced option or why does a $399 US overclocking board is a better option for enthusiasts then a $249 US overclocking board. The products we will be comparing are strictly the flagship overclocking boards from each separate manufacturer so you might see us talk about a XPOWER board and not the MPOWER board so please excuse me but that doesn’t mean that I won’t ever do a similar comparison on the other segment based boards, so stay tuned for that. Regardless, let’s start off these round – up with the beastly, Z97 XPOWER AC from MSI:

Alright, I will say this once. ASUS is on fire. They are literally taking Capitalistic norms and shoving them you-know-where. They have just allowed full overclocking of Intel’s K Series processors specifically the Haswell, Haswell Refresh and Pentium 20th Anniversary families. Normally you would need a motherboard that supports overclocking such as the Z97 but now, ASUS H97, H87, H81 and B85 Motherboards will do just as well.

asus_logo02

ASUS H97, H87, H81 and B85 Motherboards  Now Support Overclocking of Certain ‘K’ Series Unlocked Intel CPUs

You can now very cheaply and at great value reproduce the golden overclocking era by buying a Pentium Anniversary CPU and coupling it with a supported ASUS non-Z motherboard. Ofcourse this capability comes from an unlocked UEFI BIOS which you will need to download if you already have said motherboard. So make sure you download the correct version that corresponds to your ASUS Motherboards. Also those of you who are on a budget, now would be a good idea to buy a Devil’s Canyon and couple it with a non-z ASUS mobo. Ofcourse you will only get access to the multiplier ratio but that should suffice for a 100 – 200 Mhz above the stock turbo boost.

However as always, there is a catch. For one thing, ASUS says that it does not guarantee that the “Haswell Refresh K’ Series will be overclockable on ASUS H97, H87, B85 and H81 Series motherboards and that “ASUS does not guarantee that Intel new Pentium processor and Core K Series (‘Haswell’ and ‘Haswell Refresh’) processors will be overclockable on ASUS H97, H87, B85 and H81 Series motherboards in the event that Intel issues software and firmware updates that result in function changes”. Now this has very interesting implications. Intel has so far turned a blind eye to ASUS’ robin hood antics but in the event Blue decides this is going too far, ASUS wants to make sure you know the implications.

I have always looked at Steam Machines with calculated wariness and forced neutrality. Being nothing more than glorified pre-built PCs with a Linux distro (SteamOS) they are pretty much a reinvention of PCs, and an arguably un-innovative one at that. ASUS has just revealed some incredibly beautiful looking Steam Machines at Computex today and boy is the form factor something. These steam machines were shown under the ROG (Republic of Gamers) Brand, which hints at a possibility that the same might be true for every Steam Machine in the future from ASUS.Slide23

ASUS Unleashes Steam Machines GR8 and G20 – Beauty and Performance in one package, but just how well will they age?

The first model is the compact form factor king GR8, which features a very small size (2.5 litres to be exact). It boasts a 4th Gen Intel i7 Processor and a Nvidia Maxwell GTX 750 Ti. So this can actually work as a portable console-pc hybrid. The Second steam Machine is called the G20 and features a single GTX 780 along with a 4th Gen Intel i7 Processor. Now interestingly this machine has no exhaust ports and ASUS claims that there is a hidden ‘heat tunnel’ which will do the job while staying at 25db (which is the Idle Specification, it is slightly more at Full Load).

I foresee a big problem though. These machines are going to be launched around the same time as the Steam Controller, next year; see the problem now? By the time these machines are released, they will be outdated. CPUs age quite well, and there are still gamers who will swear by their Sandy Bridge CPUs but GPUs are a whole different story all together. The Graphic Processing Unit’s aggressive performance increase per generation is drastically different to the almost stagnant gradient of CPUs.  Infact one could very well argue that the GTX 780 is a bit outdated already. Ofcourse ASUS could always revise the specs, but that would make todays show pretty much redundant.

ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula
Hardware

If you had noticed my articles from a few days back regarding Devil’s Canyon processors from Intel, you might have noticed that we were the first to mention that the high-end Z97 motherboards were going to launch in future from various manufacturer’s. Today at Computex 2014, ASUS went ahead and launched those three high-performance motherboards which true enthusiasts were waiting for that include Z97 ROG Maximus VII Formula, ROG Maximus VII Impact and ROG Crossblade Ranger.ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula

ASUS Latest Z97 Boards Include ROG Maximus VII Formula, ROG Maximus VII Impact and ROG Crossblade Ranger

ASUS has launched three high-end ROG “Republic of Gamers” branded motherboards which will be aimed at the overclocking community at different price ranges. We will start off with the high-end ROG Maximus VII Formula motherboard which features the LGA 1150 socket and Z97 PCH.

ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula

The ASUS ROG Maximus VII Formula is the flagship motherboard of ASUS’s Z97 motherboard lineup featuring the latest version of the ROG ARMOR which includes a strong SECC steel fortifier with termal pad cooling and adopts the CrossChill Copper cooling which offers the option of both air and liquid cooling. Integrated ‘Pin-finned’ heatsinks improve heat dissipation with an increased surface area, while twin G1/4-inch threaded sockets support any standard liquid cooling loop. ROG testing has shown that a liquid-cooled ROG Maximus VII Formula motherboard with CrossChill operates at temperatures up to 23 degrees Celsius lower than air-only cooling.

ASUS ARES III Graphics Card
Hardware

ASUS has unveiled their high-performance ROG ARES III graphics card at Computex 2014 which features the dual Hawaii XT cores. Compared to the previous ARES graphics card and their recent hybrid cooled ARES II, ASUS went with full water cooling support by slapping a EK Water Block on top of their custom designed monstrosity.ASUS ROG ARES III Graphics Card

 

Image is courtesy of PCPerspective!

ASUS Unleashes The ROG ARES III Graphics Card Featuring Dual Hawaii XT Cores

The ASUS ROG ARES III graphics card is a high-end dual GPU card boasting hand picked Hawaii XT cores which are built for mean overclockers. ASUS has moved away from the traditional ARES design and went with a full cover water block from EK Water Blocks which has been featured on top for cooling. The card still uses a custom designed PCB featuring three 8-Pin power connectors and a beefy VRM area that will allow for some monstrous design for overclocking. The ASUS ROG ARES III will feature a fully custom DIGI+ VRM and would include a huge amount of phases (the ARES II featured 20 VRM phases built on the PCB. Aside from the VRM, the card features 8 GB of GDDR5 memory (4 GB per GPU) that runs across a 512-bit x2 interface and clocked at the reference 5 GHz clock speed for Vesuvius. Display outputs include a single DVI, HDMI and a Display port.

As far as cooling is concerned, we have all seen how well the Hawaii GPUs well when they are coupled with water cooling. The best example for this would be AMD’s own reference designed Radeon R9 295X2 graphics card. The ASUS ROG ARES III adopts a full cover water block built by EK Water Blocks that covers a single expansion slot (a huge plus point) and as mentioned by PCPER, ASUS claims that the Ares III will “deliver 25% cooler performance than reference R9 295X designs“, but to achieve this ASUS “highly” recommends a high flow rate loop with at least a 120×3 radiator “to extract maximum performance from thecard,” and they “will provide a recommended list of water cooling systems at launch”.

ASUS TUF Logo
Hardware

Over at Computex 2014, VR-Zone managed to get sight of a concept design ASUS motherboard known as the TUF Sabranco. Based on the Z97 chipset, the motherboard sticks with ASUS’s TUF “The Ultimate Force” brand scheme which also includes the Z97 Gryphon, Z97 Sabertooth Mark 1 and Z97 Sabertooth Mark 2.ASUS Z97 TUF Sabranco Motherboard _1

ASUS Showcases Z97 TUF Sabranco Concept Motherboard

The ASUS Z97 TUF Sabranco is similar to the Z97 Sabertooth Mark 1 in terms of technical specifications but its the design that separates it from the rest of the TUF lineup. The motherboard adopts a white colored PCB which have been absent from motherboards since some time and the Fortifier Armor shield adopts a Snow camo design that resembles a white sabertooth tiger. The design looks pretty neat and even the added memory armor is coated with the same color scheme to match the board layout for better aesthetics.

From a technical perspective, the Z97 TUF Sabranco is fitted with the latest TUF Fortifier shielding which protects the board from damage and enhances the cooling performance. Much of the details are hidden since we can’t spot what’s underneath the TUF armor but we can spot an 8-Pin power connector that supplies juice to the LGA 1150 socket which itself is connected with a beefy 8 Phase DIGI+ supply. Four DDR3 DIMM slots seem to feature some thermal guard to enhance cooling for the DIMMs. The Storage options include 4 SATA 6 GB/s ports and a USB 3.0 header. Now, the most interesting feature of this board is that it comes with two SATA Express ports which will allow the motherboard to equip high-performance SSDs for faster transfer speeds.

Intel-Logo
Hardware

A couple of days back we informed you of the fact that motherboard manufacturers might allow Intel’s Devil Canyon CPU support on Z87 motherboards. Intel is to announce the CPUs at this year’s Computex. The Devil’s Canyon series consists of two variants, the Intel Core i7-4790K and Core i5-4590K. Officially, only the Z97 chipset will fully support the Devil’s Canyon SKUs with full compatibility for their overclocking features. Only Intel’s 20th Anniversary Pentium series is to work with both 8 and 9 series chipsets.

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Image Confirms ASUS MAXIMUS VI EXTREME BIOS Update to Include Support for Intel Core i7-4790K. ASUS Takes The Lead In Z87 Support For Devil’s Canyon.

We received information from the french website hardware.fr that motherboard manufacturers might try to remove the restriction for Devil’s Canyon on 8 Series Chipsets. A manufacturer had informed the French that internal validation tests on the Z87 boards for Devil’s Canyon through an upcoming BIOS update were already underway. It should be kept in mind that architecturally speaking, the Z87 boards are similar to the Z97 boards. The only hurdle in the way is BIOS support. We know that officially, 4th Generation K-series will not be supported by the Z87 chipset at the time of it’s launch. Already however, we have seen no heed being paid to restrictions imposed by Intel on motherboard manufacturers. This was in the form of blatant NDA violations by manufacturers through offering of 9 Series boards online prior to their official launch date set by Intel. Interestingly, in that case as well, it was ASUS who had taken the lead by posting official pictures and renders of its Z97 boards prior to their official launch.

14-1-337x600
Software

Nexus 7 has got a new custom firmware based on the latest Android 4.4.2 KitKat. Lego Android 4.4.2 KitKat custom firmware aims to give you all the features of Slim ROM while adding a few exclusives (features’ list shared below). If you are interested in trying out a new ROM for your Nexus 7 2012, here are the steps to flash Lego Android 4.4.2 custom ROM on your Nexus!Lego Android 4.4.2

Lego Android 4.4.2 features:

Intel-Logo
Industry

At the joint event we told you would happen this Tuesday, Intel and Google were expected to make major announcements related to Intel’s support for Google’s Chrome OS based Chromebooks. Well, they haven’t disappointed either, with the Chromebook range being significantly increased. At the press event on San Fransisco on Tuesday, Chromebook designs were increased to 20. Several OEM including Dell, Acer, Asus, LG and most importantly, Lenovo also announced new models of the low cost notebooks running on Chrome OS.

chromebooks-boxes-etc-june-640x344

All Major OEM Partners Announce Chromebook Variants and Upgrades. Rumors Of Chrome OS Tablet Proven Wrong – Again.

The announcement on Tuesday is the strongest renewal of commitment between the two giants, who have a long history of co-operation. The first half of the presentation focused primarily on devices built around a Celeron Haswell. They also featured minor upgrades which include a Wi-Fi upgrade to 802.11 ac. The low resolution 11.6 and 13 inch displays are to sstay the same. All of these upgrades to Chromebooks will come at the same price as today – around and above $ 300. Intel also mentioned that it will be the only processor vendor to support the 64-bit Chrome OS variant. What lies ahead for Google’s partnership with ARM is now officially open for speculation. There was also no mention of any ARM powered Chrome OS devices.

Intel Logo
Hardware

This just in. Ahead of all the NDA violation drama, it seems that manufacturers have decided to ignore the NDA signing and release their Intel Z97 boards anyways. Intel is notoriously famous for secrecy when it comes towards companies using its design to make their products. We have seen several breaches of NDA this time round, first when we leaked MSI’s images of their boards based on the Z97. Blurred images were then provided by the manufacturer to the press. Then ASUS went one step ahead and officially decimated the NDA by releasing unedited pictures of its boards all over facebook. Well things have heated up it seems, and boards based on Intel’s Z97 have officially appeared on the retailing website.

z97 nda broken

Z97 Models Appear on Newegg (US). Several Other Retailers Around the World Also Make Listings

As it can be seen in the screenshot above, Newegg.com has started to list offerings of Z97 boards. Some important mentions include MSI’s flagship Z97 MPOWER Max AC which costs around $259, ASUS’ TUF Sabertooth Z97 at $249 and Gigabyte’s mid price range model at $149. This however is not the only listing of the boards.

Now ofcourse it could be a surprise, early NDA lift. Since so many retailers are now posting these motherboards ready to ship it would make little sense otherwise. I would be genuinely surprised if all the AIBs have done this without Intel’s consensus. Because NDA be damned forever if Intel does not know about this. The listings are popping up all over the world as we speak, this is quite possibly the first of its kind, early NDA lift.

A few days back we exclusively told you that ASUS would break its NDA on the 28th of April, going directly against Intel’s Embargo and giving reviewers the go ahead to post Press, Previews and Full Fledged Reviews. Well, I am happy (sad?) to confirm that this has indeed happened. ASUS has not only posted the official renders and pictures but full fledged Reviews have popped up, no doubt by ASUS’s approval.

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ASUS Breaks Non Disclosure Agreement with Intel and Allows Sites to Post Full Reviews and Benchmarks

Not to be repetitive, but it appears that ASUS has broken Intel’s Embargo just as we predicted. Now before I get into the details of the massive breach, let me point out just a few locations that have participated in the breach. Most of the breach occurred on ASUS’s Facebook groups, where the pictures of the Z97 lineup (with the Z97 not blurred or pixelated in anyway) cropped up in all their glory. Not only that but ASUS hosted a technical seminar where the entirety of the Z97 Series was detailed. The link to the technical seminar can be found here.

Furthermore, ASUS Malaysia and ASUS Nordic revealed non blurred and non pixelated renders and images of clearly named Z97 motherboards.  And finally the review. Currently only HardOCP has uploaded their review, but as I mentioned before, APAC and EU will go first, so expect more reviews to crop up within the next 24 hours. So keep a look out and maybe you will spot ASUS’s Z97 news rolling around the Internet. We have done a round up of all the leaked (and not leaked in ASUS’s case) Z97 motherboards so far to give you a very good idea of whats coming.

ASUS Maximus VII Ranger render
Hardware

We recently reported in an article that ASUS would be breaking its NDA with Intel and would let publications post about their latest Z97 motherboards. Last week, we posted a major leak of ASUS Z97 motherboards but since it is official now, we are going to do a round-up of all ASUS Z97 chipset based motherboards that would be available in the upcoming month.ASUS Z97 Motherboards

ASUS Z97 Motherboard Round-Up – TUF, ROG, Classic Lineups

The first lineup we will detail is ASUS’s Z97 ROG motherboard lineup which includes ASUS’s Republic of Gamers branded products which are aimed towards enthusiasts, overclockers and gamers. The new motherboards from ASUS include some intresting features this round such as  Intel Ethernet, LAN Guard, GameFirst III, Supreme FX, Sonic Radar II, KeyBot, TrueVolt USB and Gamer’s Guardian which will come in handy for easier connectivity and accessibility. The ASUS Z97 motherboards ‘ROG’ lineup includes the following products which will be detailed below:

  • ASUS ROG Maximus VII Hero
  • ASUS ROG Maximus VII Gene
  • ASUS ROG Maximus VII Ranger

[Report] So something very interesting just cropped up. Intel’s Embargo on the Intel 9 Series chipset, namely the Z97 and H97 lifts on the 11th of May, the same date as release. However it would appear that after the mass leak of 9 Series Motherboard pictures and features, ASUS is planning to break Embargo and push forward the press and review to the 28th of April. Needless to say, if this is the case then the rest of the AIBs will be forced to break NDA on the 28th too, or be left behind.

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ASUS plans to break NDA on 28th April – EU and APAC to break first, Major AIBs could follow suit.

The back channels are abuzz with the talk that ASUS, a very big Add in Board Partner to Intel’s 9 Series Chipset, is thinking about releasing Press and Review of the Z97 and H97 Motherboards on the 28th of April. If such is the case then other AIBs will be more or less forced to follow ASUS, or let it get a complete publicity monopoly. I do not know whether ASUS will in fact, decide to go forward with this plan or not, but other AIBs are starting to take counter-measures to the possible 28th Release.

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Hardware

With the ASUS ROG and TUF Z97 motherboards detailed, what remains is their Legacy lineup which include their long running Deluxe series and Workstation series boards. The ASUS Z97 Workstation while not aimed specifically for consumers is the most feature rich product of the series followed by the Z97 Deluxe.ASUS Z97 Motherboards

ASUS Z97 Motherboards – Legacy Lineup Pictured and Detailed

So the third and last lineup we will detail is ASUS’s Z97 TUF Legacy motherboard lineup which are aimed towards enthusiasts, overclockers and budget users. Built with top of the line components and feature packed, the line-up is aimed towards all performance users and gamers including enthusiasts. The new motherboards from ASUS include some interesting features this round such as  Intel Ethernet, LAN Guard, DIGI+ Power Control, Turbo App, Turbo LAN, Crystal Sound 2, HomeCloud (802.11ac B/G/N) and an interesting new design scheme for next-gen Intel platform. The ASUS Z97 motherboards ‘Legacy’ lineup includes the following products which will be detailed below:

  • ASUS Z97-WS
  • ASUS Z97-Deluxe
  • ASUS Z97I-Pro
  • ASUS Z97-Pro
  • ASUS Z97-A
ASUS TUF Logo
Hardware

While you must have enjoyed feasting your eyes on ASUS ROG Z97 motherboards, you’ll also enjoy the sight of their TUF series which has been updated with new products. In addition to the Sabertooth MARK 1, we’re also going to show you the MARK 2 and Gryphon motherboards in all their glory.ASUS Z97 TUF Motherboards

ASUS Z97 Motherboards – TUF Lineup Pictured and Detailed

The second lineup we will detail is ASUS’s Z97 TUF “The Ultimate Force” motherboard lineup which are aimed towards enthusiasts, overclockers. Built with top of the line Military Grade Components, the Z97 TUF series will include longer and stable performance and take overclocking to the next step. The new motherboards from ASUS include some interesting features this round such as  Intel Ethernet, LAN Guard, TUF Components, DIGI+ Power Control and the latest TUF Frontier thermal shield and barrier for additional cooling and stability to the board layout. The ASUS Z97 motherboards ‘TUF’ lineup includes the following products which will be detailed below:

  • ASUS Sabertooth Z97 MARK 1
  • ASUS Sabertooth Z97 MARK 2
  • ASUS Gryphon Z97


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