Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE LGA 1150 “Z97-Chipset” Motherboard Review
Founded in 1986, Biostar is one of the prominent hardware manufacturers of the tech industry focusing in the Asian market. What started as a motherboard manufacturing corporation has now expanded into new markets such as add-on-cards and multimedia solutions along with graphics cards (popular in mainland China).
Coming to multimedia, the motherboard we are going to test today has a large focus on the audio system that it features on-board. The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE comes with an isolated PCB on the motherboard that houses the on-board audio system which other manufacturers have started to offer starting with Haswell generation platform however it should be noted that Biostar was the first to implement this technology back in 2012 prior to Haswell as a part of their Puro Hi-Fi design scheme. So credits for this design scheme have to be given to Biostar in setting a new industry standard.
In addition to the feature, the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE is also special due to its pricing. The board comes at a very reasonable and budget friendly $124.99 US which is lower than what a motherboard with similar feature set may cost. Whether or not these features are as impressive as the higher quality parts remains to be seen in this review.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE LGA 1150 “Z97-Chipset” Motherboard Video Review
Intel LGA 1150 Socket
The Intel LGA 1150 was first introduced during the launch of Intel’s 8-Series platform (Haswell and Z87 Express chipset). As denoted by its name, the LGA 1150 has 5 less pins compared to the LGA 1155 socket which supports Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge processors.
The LGA 1150 socket will be featured on the 9-Series chipset motherboards and will extend support to new CPUs which include Haswell Refresh, Devil’s Canyon (Haswell Refresh K-Series) and Broadwell. Broadwell, which is the codename for Intel’s next generation 14nm processor is planned for launch in 2015 for desktop PCs. The socket on 9-Series chipset boards will also feature support for all existing Haswell processors which will provide current user with an easy upgrade path over the new series.
Intel did one thing right with the new socket and that’s the socket positioning which allows LGA 1155 socket coolers and mounting brackets to remain compatible with the newer socket. So if you have a old LGA 1155 socket cooler that you wish to use with the new LGA 1150 socket? It could be done so, but do note that while the socket looks the same as LGA 1155 socket, the processors are incompatible due to different pin layout so you don’t want to try putting an Ivy Bridge or Sandy Bridge processor into the LGA 1150 socket otherwise it would damage the pins permanently.
Cooler Compatibility With LGA 1150 Socket
While Haswell processors ship with their own boxed coolers and cooler makers providing retention brackets for LGA 1150 compatibility, it should be noted that LGA 1150 socket is easily compatible with both reference LGA 1150 boxed coolers and custom products.
So if you’re upgrading from LGA 1155 to LGA 1150, you can easily equip your cooler on the latest socket from Intel without any sort of trouble.
Intel 9-Series Z97 Platform Control Hub (PCH)
Intel’s upcoming processors would be compatible with the 9-Series “” chipset fused on the LGA 1150 socketed motherboards. There are different tiers of the chips on the Haswell Refresh platform which include Z97 and H97. The motherboard we would be testing today is based on the Z97 PCH. The 9-Series chipset in a whole isn’t much different from 8-Series Lynx Point. The following chart mentions key differences between both platform control hubs:
|Item||8-Series “Panther Point”||9-Series “Lynx Point”|
|I/O Port flexibility||Yes||Yes|
|Total USB 3.0/2.0 Ports||14 USB Ports||14 USB Ports|
|USB 3.0 Capable Ports||Upto 6||Upto 6|
|xHCI Ports||All USB Ports by xCHI||All USB Ports by xCHI|
|PCI Express||Upto 8 PCIe 2.0 (5GT/s)||Upto 8 PCI-e 2.0 (5GT/s)
PCIe M.2 Storage Support
|Total SATA Ports||6 SATA||6 SATA|
|SATA 6 GB/s Capable Ports||Upto 6||Upto 6|
|Legacy PCI||No Legacy PCI for any SKU||Legacy PCI on certain SKUs|
|Digital Display I/F||Display moved to processor||Display moved to processor|
|Analog Display I/F||VGA||VGA|
|SPI||SFDP, Quad Read||SFDP, Quad Read|
The main feature of the Intel 9-Series chipset is support for Intel’s Haswell Refresh and Broadwell processors which means that the new Z97 and H97 will have higher longevity. Aside from that, there’s also PCIe M.2 slot storage support which is 67% faster than SATA Gen 3 (6 GB/s) and its speeds matches SATA Express which are rated at 10 GB/s. Various motherboards have also included M.2 Ultra and SATA Express ports which give user more accessibility. The Z97 chipset will remain as Intel’s high-end mainstream offering while the enthusiast platform will be updated with the X99 chipset in Q3 2014.
It should be noted that due to improvements in 4th and 5th generation core processor power efficiency, the requirements for the processor’s power supply have also been altered. Intel recommends that the users running the Haswell Refresh CPU platform check the list of tested PSUs for ones capable of supporting the latest Intel Core processors. The list can be found at: http://www,intel.com/go/powersupplies/.From the filters at the top right of the page, set 12V2 Min Load 0A to “Yes” to see which PSUs have been found to support the processor’s new power requirements. To make use of the power supplies that meet the 12V2 Min Load 0A, you have to enable the “Lowest CPU Idle power setting”. This option is located under the power tab section and you must set the “Intel Dynamic Power technology” to custom in the primary power settings section in supplied UEFI BIOS on the motherboard.
Biostar Puro Hi-Fi Series Brand
Biostar introduced their Hi-FI series brand in 2012 which was a line of motherboards that feature superior audio quality at a comparatively low price. With the start of Haswell generation of processors, several board makers have started to produce their boards with high-quality audio design and schemes along with PCB isolation which provides audio on-par with some high-quality sound cards.
Biostar Hi-Fi Series Motherboard - a combination of exclusive hardware and software design including ground isolation circuit design, an independent audio power and a built-on-board amplifier. With all these hardware features gives you the best audio quality and performance. As for software, we offer you a free bundle utility "Multi Channel Calibration" which normally you'll find only in high level sound systems, this feature allows you to auto detect your location with a user friendly interface, you can easily adjust the volume of every speakers to make a well balanced surround sound. And of course, the built-on-board amplifier always gives you a super and powerful sound comparing to other motherboards. via Biostar
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Motherboard
The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE is a different motherboard from the other Z97 products we had tested earlier. While other manufacturer's aimed to please specific markets such as overclocking, gaming and casual, Biostar on the other hand launched the Hi-Fi Z97WE which is a motherboard that isn't aimed specifically towards anyone but aims to please everyone who's tight on a budget yet offering features and capability of any costly Z97 product. Priced close to the H97 product market, the Z97 offers more to users boasting a nice design scheme and a user friendly BIOS.
You can check out the features, unboxing, accessories and testing results below for the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Motherboard.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Specifications
The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE being a budget level entry, comes with the most basic features along with some design enhancements from Biostar in the form of software and hardware optimizations and updates. All of the features have been provided in the following chart, do take a look before we head on to much more detailed overview of these features.
|MEMORY||Support Dual Channel DDR3 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2200(OC)/ 2133(OC)/ 1866(OC)/ 1800(OC)/ 1600/ 1333/ 1066 MHz
Support non-ECC memory modules
Support Extreme Memory Profile(XMP) memory modules
4 x DDR3 DIMM Memory Slot
Max. Supports up to 32GB Memory
|EXPANSION SLOT||2 x PCI-E x16 3.0 Slot (x8 + x8, support CrosfireX)
2 x PCI-E x1 2.0 Slot
2 x PCI Slot
|STORAGE||6 x SATA3 Connector
Support SATA RAID: 0,1,5,10
Support both Legacy and AHCI Mode
Support Hot-Plug in AHCI mode
Support Intel Smart Response Technology
1 x M.2(N.G.F.F.) Connector up to 1000MB/s
Support both PCIE NAND for PCIE SSD and SATA NAND for SATA SSD
|USB||4 x USB 3.0 Port
1 x USB 3.0 Header
2 x USB 2.0 Port
2 x USB 2.0 Header
|LAN||Realtek RTL8111G - 10/100/1000 Controller
※Dual GbE, support Teaming
|MULTI GRAPHICS||AMD CrossFireX|
|INTEGRATED VIDEO||By CPU model
Supports DX11.1/ 11/ 10.1/ 10/ 9
Support DirectX Video Acceleration(DXVA) for accelerating video processing
—Full AVC/VC1/MPEG2 HW Decode
Support Advanced Scheduler 2.0, 1.0, XPDM
Support OpenGL 4.0
Support HDMI, 1.4a specification compliant with 3D
Support 3 Displays(HDMI + DVI + VGA)
|CODEC||Realtek ALC892 8-Channel Blu-ray Audio
Support Blu-ray Audio
Support HD Audio
Support Biostar Hi-Fi
|H/W Monitoring||CPU / System / PCH / DDR Temperature Monitoring
CPU / System Fan Monitoring
Smart / Manual CPU / System Fan Control
System Voltage Monitoring
|Overvoltage||CPU VCC_IN/ Vcore/ Vring/ VGT/ VSA/ VIOA/ VIOD/ DRAM/ DDR Ch-A CA Verf/ DDR Ch-B CA Verf/ DDR Ch-A/B DA Verf/ CPU DRAM Vref/ PCH/ PCH PLL|
|DIMENSION||ATX Form Factor Dimension: 30.5cm x 24.4cm ( W x L )|
|OS SUPPORT||Support Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1|
|FEATURES||Windows 8 Ready
Supports PURO Hi-Fi
Supports 100% Solid capacitor
Supports Rapid Switch2
Supports Rapid Debug3
Supports Charger Booster
Supports BIOS Online Update
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Features:
- Support for 4th and 5th Gen Intel Core Processors, enables overclocking on Unlocked Intel Core Processors
- Intel Z97 single chip architecture
- Support 4-DIMM DDR3-2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2200 up to 32G maximum capacity
- On board HDMI supported 4K2K resolution enables high-definition image display
- 100% Solid Capacitors
- BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Technology inside
- Hi-Fi Cap for premium sound quality with lower distortion
- Support Dual GbE LAN
- Support PCIe M.2 Connector
- Intel SRT (Smart Response Technology)
- Intel RST (Rapid Storage Technology)
- Intel Rapid Start Technology
- Intel Smart Connect Technology
Exclusive Biostar Audio and OC Features:
A combination of exclusive hardware & software design including "ground-isolation circuit design","an independent audio power", and "a built=on-board amplifier", with all these hardware features gives you the best audio quality and performance. As for software, we offer you a free bundle utility "Multi-Channel Calibration" which normally you'll find in high level sound systems; this feature allows you to auto detect your location; with a user friendly interface, you can easily adjust the volume of every speakers to make a well balanced surround sound. And of course, the built-on-board amplifier always gives you a super powerful sound comparing to other motherboards.
Upgrading your Audio performance in the easiest way is choosing BIOSTAR ultimate Motherboard. It does support Blu-ray audio DRM (compatible driver/software) and provide the higher audio output of 24 bit/ 192KHz than the 16 bit/ 48KHz from the normal MB. You will experience the high quality sound effect with pure Blu-Ray Audio.
Audio power is an important factor in audio quality. Most AV equipment isolates the power supply for each analog and digital signal to gather high-quality sound reproduction. Equipped with BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Power technology, it will utilize audio components with independent power design for a significant reduction in electronic noise and superb sound quality.
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi Ground ( Golden Line ) is noise-blocking multi-layer PCB design to isolates analog audio signals from digital sources. Unique PCB layout is ideal for exceptional clarity and high fidelity sound.
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi series motherboards have a sampling rate of 192kHz/24-bit which delivers a high quality audio through an analog connection to your home theater system, multi-channel speakers and high-end headphone. You can enjoy real Blu-ray grade high-definition sound that you’ve never experienced before.
The built-in amplifier can drive major high-end headphones with over 100dB loads and offer wide band-width, low noise, high slew rate and low distortion audio source from front panel I/O. Gaming enthusiasts can enjoy a fuller range of dynamic sound with crisper details and less distortion.
Smart EAR is a windows-based audio utility which allows you to easily adjust system volume. With its user-friendly GUI, you can also increase or decrease impedance setting (Low/High Gain) to optimize your headphone performance. You can easily enjoy high-quality and awesome sound.
Metal-oxide film resistors are made of metal oxides such as tin oxide. The electric characteristics are greater stability and reliability than regular metal film resistors when operating in an extremely broad working temperature range. This special component is used in applications with high endurance audio demands.
BIOSTAR Hi-Fi series motherboards come with high quality ‘Non-Polarized Electrolysis Electric audio capacitors’ for each audio channel circuit. The customized audio capacitors deliver low noise, low distortion, and wide bandwidth to achieve the highest sound resolution and sound expansion. The critical component will ensure the most realistic sound effects to gaming enthusiasts.
Embrace exceptional sound quality for the win with 110dB SNR and stylish and efficient EMI shield blocks electromagnetic interference to help provide cleaner audio. It has achieved a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 110dB, yielding almost loss-less audio form rear audio
OC / OV / OH Protection
All BIOSTAR special circuit design detects overvoltage conditions and prevents voltage surges from spreading in real time. It also actively cuts off the overvoltage supply to protect your system. Over current protection, avoid motherboard from damage when doing overclock or an unusual current import. Over heat protection, avoid motherboard & CPU from burning when exceeding the temperature limitation.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE - Unboxing
The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE comes in a box package which includes several marketing logos, company logo and Intel logo on the front. The background of the box is a picture of a sub-woofer which is referring to the Puro Hi-Fi audio design.
The back of the package has a small description of the Puro Hi-Fi design along with specifications and details of each feature the motherboard offers. Some of those features include Solid Capacitors, PCIe M.2, PCI-e Gen 3, USB 3.0, HDMI 4K/2K and BIO Remote 2.
The motherboard itself is located deep inside the box, packed inside the anti-static material. The motherboard out-of-box shows a cool Gold and Yellow design scheme followed by a brown PCB. It comes in the ATX standard which is normal for motherboards these days. We will detail the accessories and take a closer look at the board in the next section.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE - A Closer Look
Being Biostar's only Z97 offering, the Hi-Fi Z97WE comes with the LGA 1150 socket to support Intel's Haswell, Haswell Refresh, Devil's Canyon and Broadwell processors. The socket is powered by a single 8-PIN connector while the ATX 24-Pin connector supplies power to the rest of the motherboard. The board features a 4-Layer design and measures 305mm x 244mm.
The VRM and PCH are cooled by three sets of heatsinks which feature the gold and silver color scheme. These bulky aluminum heatsinks provide adequate cooling to the components beneath and around them. The PCH heatsink has a better design with a Biostar logo and badge embedded on it and retains the gold color.
Four DDR3 DIMM slots offer support for memory capacity of up to 32 GB. Two slots are colored yellow while the remaining two are colored black giving a nice touch to the motherboard's aesthetics. The motherboard supports speeds of up to DDR3-2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2200 which is impressive for a mainstream motherboard.
Expansion slots include two PCI-e 3.0 x16 (x8/x8 electrical), 2 PCI-e 2.0 x1 and 2 PCI Legacy slots. The board comes with AMD CrossFIreX Multi-GPU technology support but doesn't feature NVIDIA SLI support which is a downside for users who could be using multiple NVIDIA GPUs on their previous setups and going to update to Biostar's Hi-Fi Z97WE motherboard.
Right in the middle of the two PCI-e 3.0 x16 expansion slots is a M.2 SSD slot which is able to support Intel’s next generation form factor (NGFF) solid state drives. Featuring up to 10 GB/s data transfer speeds, the slot allows for high-end storage usability.
By taking of the VRM heatsinks, we can see that the Hi-Fi Z97WE uses a 10 Phase power design fitted with high-quality power components such as low RDS MOSFETs and 100% solid state capacitors with armor-plated Biostar technology. The power delivery is controlled by the Intersil ISL6376 VRD12.5 Hybrid PWM regulator. The memory power delivery is maintained by the uPI Semiconductor 1514r controller.
Last up in the closer look section is Biostar's Puro Hi-Fi audio solution which is isolated from the rest of the PCB. The Realtek ALC892 codec (not ALC1150) is placed beneath a small aluminum shroud with the Puro Hi-Fi label which lits up in blue color when the board is powered and also provides EMI shielding. This section of the PCB looks like a audio card as it makes use of high-end 75ohm metal-oxide resistors with 100uF 10V non-polarised audio capacitors.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Gallery:
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE I/O Panel:
The I/O panel on the Z9WE Hi-Fi Puro comes with 4 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, PS/2, 6 Channel Audio Jack (Powered by Realtek ALC 892 codec), HDMI, DVI, VGA, SPDIF ports and dual Gigabit LAN ports (powered by Realtek RTL8111G Ethernet controller). More details are given below:
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 4 x USB 3.0 Port
- 2 x USB 2.0 Port
- 1 x HDMI Connector, resolution up to 4096x2160@24Hz, 24bpp / 2560x1600@60Hz, 24bpp / 1920x1080@60Hz, 36bpp
- 1 x DVI Connector, resolution up to 1920x2000@60Hz @24bpp
- 1 x VGA Port, resolution up to 1920x2000@60Hz @24bpp
- 2 x RJ-45 Port
- 5 x Audio Connector
- 1 x S/PDIF Out Port
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE - Accessories
The accessories package on the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE isn't as vast as the motherboards we had tested out previously since its aimed towards the mainstream market. It does include the usual SATA Cables, I/O Shield, DVD Driver and User Manuals.
- 4 x SATA Cable
- 1 x I/O Shield
- 1 x DVD Driver
- 1 x User Manual
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE - Utilities
Each motherboard manufacturer develops a wide range of exclusive utilities and software for their latest hardware and products these days. Biostar bundles their Hi-Fi Z97WE with some new software utilities allowing easier management and ease of control over the various features on the motherboard. Following Utilities can be found on the installation disk:
- Smart Ear headphone Utility
- Biostar MAGIX Multimedia Software Suite
- Smart Speed LAN
- Intel Rapid Start Technology
- Intel Smart Connect Technology
- Intel Rapid Storage Technology(include Intel Smart Response Techmology)
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE - BIOS
Biostar ships the Hi-Fi Z97WE with their latest UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) BIOS which is a brand new framework that provides an interface for users to manage and configure the system settings. The UEFI BIOS offers a modern clear and easy-to-use graphical user interface. The UEFI comes with colorful easy-to-understand icons leads users into the setup layer directly.
When opened, the BIOS shows the main page which features a red and black color and is limited to a resolution of 1024 x 768. The main page shows BIOS information, total memory installed, system language, system date, time and access level settings which is set to "administrator" by default. On the left side of the screen, you can note the CPU, Memory, Fan voltages, temperatures and frequencies being updated in real-time along with a digital clock on the top. The bottom section has seven icons which navigate to different sections of the BIOS.
The advanced section gives options for PCI Subsystem settings, ACPI Settings, Trusted Computing, CPU Settings and information, SATA Configuration, Intel Rapid Start technology, USB Configuration, SMART Fan control, Super IO configuration, H/W monitor, Intel Smart Connect technology and Network Stack configuration.
Under the settings panel, we can find the system status which displays basic time/date, SATA configuration and IDs for the system, the advanced panel allows users to change IGP settings, enable / disable Intel Rapid Start and Smart Connect Technologies and mingle with various power management features such as Speedstep, C6/C7 states etc. Inside the Boot panel, we can prioritize what device does the board boots up first and set them category wise. This is where you’ll go if you have to install a new Windows from a DVD drive. Last up is the security panel where users can add an admin password to their system and the last one is save and exit.
Next up is the O.N.E panel where overclockers and enthusiasts would go the most. You can configure BCLK, CPU Ratio, Multiplier, voltages, OC Genie, Turbo Boost, EIST, DRAM Frequency, DRAM voltage adjustments, FVIR adjustments and various other settings here. You can also find the, CPU specification and CPU features tab below which allows to adjust various CPU features such as Hyper threading, Active processors, Visualization, C-States and more. Intel’s XMP 1.3 is supported which allows the memory to run at their native OC profiles set by manufacturers. In our case, the Kingston HyperX 10th Anniversary modules were running at 2400 MHz compared to the Non-XMP 1333/1600 MHz.
In the chipset menu, we can find the options to disable or enable several features such as onboard GigaLAN, EuP, ASMP and even set PCI-e slot speeds.There's also the option to adjust primary display, internal graphics. The remaining Security and Boot menus are standard to the ones we find on other motherboards and you can see them in the gallery below:
|Power Supply:||Xigmatek NRP-MC1002 1000 Watt|
|Hard Disk:||Kingston HyperX 3K 90 GB (OS)
Seagate Barracuda 500GB 7200.12
|Memory:||4 x 4 GB Kingston HyperX 2400 MHz
10th Anniversary Edition Memory Kit
|Case:||Cooler Master HAF 932|
|Video Cards:||EVGA GeForce GTX 770 ACX|
|Cooling Solutions:||Phantek PH-TC14PE Triple Fan|
|OS:||Windows 8 Ultimate 64-bit|
Overclocking With Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE
The Core i7-4770K chip we used is a golden sample which overclocks to 4.8 GHz without any issue. The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE pushed it to 4.6 GHz with a BCLK of 100 MHz (x46 Multiplier) at 1.40V max voltage and achieved an overclocked of 4.6 GHz which is pretty good for a Haswell chip considering how they overclock. We also enabled XMP 1.3 profile for our memory clocking it to 2400 MHz at 1.65V on all four DDR3 modules. You can find the CPU-z screenshot below:
*(The overclock was stressed for 1 hour which is enough to tell whether it was stable or not for testing).
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE – BENCHMARKS
PCMark 7 is a complete PC benchmarking solution for Windows 7 and Windows 8. It includes 7 tests combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed for the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete Windows PC performance testing for home and business use.
The POV-Ray package includes detailed instructions on using the ray-tracer and creating scenes. Many stunning scenes are included with POV-Ray so you can start creating images immediately when you get the package.
3DMark Vantage is a DirectX 10 video card benchmark test for Windows that is designed to measure your PC’s gaming performance. While the overall benchmark is great, the utility also provides a good indication of the CPU performance.
WinRAR is a powerful archive manager. It can backup your data and reduce the size of email attachments, decompress RAR, ZIP and other files downloaded from Internet and create new archives in RAR and ZIP file format.
Super PI is used by many overclockers to test the performance and stability of their computers. In the overclocking community, the standard program provides a benchmark for enthusiasts to compare “world record” pi calculation times and demonstrate their overclocking abilities. The program can also be used to test the stability of a certain overclock speed.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE – Gaming Performance
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE – Battlefield 4 Performance
Battlefield 4 is the latest installment in the Battlefield franchise. Developed by DICE and published by EA, Battlefield 4 takes multiplayer FPS to the next level unleashing new levels of destruction and the game changing LEVOLUTION. Battlefield 4 is a true next generation experience on the PC rendered with the power of Frostbite 3 which features stunning DirectX 11.1 effects and Tessellation which only a few games dare to match. In addition to the engine, Battlefield 4 would also be the first to support AMD’s latest Mantle API which will leverage the game performance on AMD hardware.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE – Elder Scrolls Skyrim Performance
Bethesda released their Elder Scrolls Skyrim in 2011 and the hype level shattered the roofs. The game was met with wide success and is built with the latest Creation engine which meant a farewell to the much older game bryo engine from Bethesda. The game has one of the most biggest and well crafted world ever created. The game requires a good CPU for stable performance, most GPUs can handle the game well. It wasn’t until users started pouring in their custom content and mods for the PC version such as high-resolution textures and more which required GPUs with higher VRAM for adequate performance. Skyrim is known as one of the reasons by PC gamers for GPUs with higher VRAM.
Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE – CRYSIS 3 Performance
Crysis franchise is the crown jewel for the PC gamers. Even after going multi-plat, the game is considered to be the most brilliant and gorgeous game ever brilliant, a visual marvel in short. The third and most probably the last title in the Crysis trilogy blends in the most deepest story line of the franchise with graphics that would make any other game cry in shame. Powering the game is the beastly and much user friendly CryEngine 3 that adopts all the features of DirectX 11 API. Simply speaking, the game demands a high performance graphics card than a high performance CPU to play well on higher settings.
Power Consumption And Thermals
On the temperature side, we see that the Haswell Core i7-4770K has temperatures similar to the Core i7-3770K at default settings but as soon as its overclocked, the CPU pushed around the 70-80C even with the top-end air cooler available in the market (Phantek’s PH-TC14 PE). This is due to the low quality TIM used beneath the heat spreader rather than flux less solder. This is a similar issue as faced on Ivy Bridge so expect higher temperatures when overclocking. A water cooling setup is recommended for 24/7 overclocked usage. This issue has been fixed with the release of the latest Devil’s Canyon processors and we will soon have a review on the CPU ready.
The aluminum heatsinks provide ample cooling to the VRMs beneath it and can benefit from air cooling through several case fans and heatsink fans when overclocking. At 4.6 GHz, the temperature reached on the 4770K CPU was around 78-82C at full load which is pretty much expected from Haswell.
I don't review products from Biostar much often, in fact this is the first motherboard I've ever tested from them but it has been an interesting week testing out this and comparing it with Z97X-Gaming 3 from Gigabyte which comes at $7 more price of $132.99 US and we'll be putting a review on that board tomorrow. The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE comes at a low price of $124.99 US which puts it in the H97 products range yet has support for overclock and adds several more features which are exclusive to the manufacturer.
The most interesting thing about this board is that it isn't advertised for a specific market. Every other major company have released at least 2 or 3 tiers of products aimed towards mainstream, gaming and overclocking market. One may guess that the board could be aimed towards audiophiles as indicated from the marketing of Puro Hi-Fi design but that's not the case here. In fact, the Hi-Fi Z97WE is aimed towards every consumer who is on a tight budget yet wants overclocking, gaming and mainstream usability out of a product. The design scheme is interesting which I've really liked although I know that its not built for everyone and while some may like it, others may not. The VRM design scheme is brilliant for a board this cheap, offering 10 Phases for overclocking a Haswell or Devil's Canyon chip beyond 4.5 GHz easily. The I/O has enough outputs for a mainstream user although 2 more USB 3.0 ports would have been great.
The Realtek Audio codec "ALC892" is a older than the ones currently being featured on the Z97 boards "ALC1150" but the motherboard still offers better audio then most sound cards and its better than nothing, especially with a on-board amplifier which headphone users will be pleased to find. To sum it up, Biostar's Hi-Fi Z97WE is a well-built motherboard that will set you up with a wide range of features and decent overclocking for a low cost of $124.99 US.