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  • pierrot - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Great article, you read my mind with this, Im planning on an ITX form factor for my next build Reply
  • Zap - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Do it! Unless you have a need for more than six HDDs or more than one graphics card there is little reason to go bigger and have a mostly empty case.

    Alternately there is also the little loved micro ATX. Not as "normal" as ATX and not as sexy as mini ITX, but IMO a very good alternative that gives you room for dual graphics, or some expansion cards.
  • PICman - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Excellent review. Every time I see a review of ITX boards I'm amused by the giant 2x24 power connector plus an additional 2x2 or 2x4. Every other connector on the original IBM PC has an updated version. Has there been any discussion of a smaller power connector? Reply
  • Aikouka - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    I was working in a Dell workstation a few weeks back, and I was rather surprised to see that it didn't have a standard ATX power cable. Its power cable was probably about half the size, and if I remember correctly, the motherboard also provided a connector for a cable that provided power to the hard drive(s).

    I would definitely like to see someone be willing to revamp the power delivery as dealing with that monstrous cable is definitely my least favorite part -- especially on cases with too little room in the back!
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Dell's been using proprietary cables on/off for the last 20 years. I'm glad the current version uses different connectors though. IN the past they've had proprietary cables using AT or ATX standard sockets but with different pinouts so you'd smoke your hardware if you didn't realize it and tried to use a standard PSU as a replacement. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    I've jumped on my soapbox more than once grumbling about the stupidity of a cable that mostly provides 3/3/5v power when the death of legacy PCI has removed the last significant 3.3v component and 5v is only still used for USB more than once in the comments here.

    But between the failure of BTX and the fact that the desktop market is generally seen as being in terminal decline I'm not optimistic about the likelihood of ever getting a 12V centric CTX PSU standard. If pigs ever do fly though, instead of mashing the entire 4/8pin 12v connector into the cut down remnant of the 24pin cable, I'd rather see the main connector only have enough 12V to run an full power CPU+IGP (or lower power CPU + discrete GPU) based system, with the extra power for a full power CPU and PCIe GFX card in a separate and optional cable: Both to keep cost down for lower end systems, and because the 24 wire cable is a major pain to route because of its thickness.
  • PICman - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    While we're dreaming, we might as well make the voltage 24 or 48 V to reduce the current and improve the efficiency of the switching power supply. Reply
  • DanNeely - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link


    Just rationalizing the pinout would be a much lower impact change and could be done with adapter cables in both directions for reasonably current hardware (most of the 3.3/5v capacity in the 24pin is unused on both sides of the cable).

    Unless PCIe refreshed to use the higher voltage as well (and for a number of transition years in any case) we'd still need to provide a lot of 12V power. The USB charging committee's one cable to bind them all goals include 5A@2v power (for faster tablet charging and for low power laptops) which'd bring an additional long term need for significant amounts of 12v into the system. They also want a 5A@20v step for mainstream laptops; so if we did shift to a higher DC voltage that might be a better option instead.
  • The_Assimilator - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    24VDC or even better, 48VDC needs to become the new industry standard immediately. When you have a card like the 295X2 that requires 600W but can only pull that over a 12V line (=50 amps!!!), you have an obvious problem. It's one I fear only Intel can solve, the question is do they have the determination to do it?

    Personally I believe that the PC industry will embrace a new power delivery standard. It means everything will have to be redesigned, which means they get to sell more products. The successor to ATX (which is not BTX) could very well be the boost the PC industry's been looking for.
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, July 24, 2014 - link

    If they ever did change things, any reason why they couldn't just pump in one 12v plug and then let the mother board do DC-to-DC conversion for other voltages? Smaller embedded boards do this, but I don't know if it would scale up well. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    Embedded boards' DC-to-DC circuitry won't handle the high amperages required by e.g. modern graphics cards. You also won't find people running 12-drive RAID arrays off them, for the same reason. It's certainly possible to increase the capacity of the DC-to-DC converters, but then you need heatsinks and whatnot and before you know it you've integrated a switching mode power supply into your motherboard. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    BTX failed because it was merely a revision of the ATX form factor, not ATX power delivery. What we need is the reverse - leave the form factor alone (it ain't broke) but bring the obviously-outdated power delivery spec up to scratch. Reply
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, January 23, 2016 - link

    The form factor is subpar for GPU cooling. Reply
  • owan - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    When I saw this review on the front page and saw the Z97n-wifi I got a bit nervous since I just purchased one of these to go along with a G3258 for a little overclocking/backup gaming system. Glad to see it fares well, I was just as pleasantly surprised by its layout as you were Reply
  • DiHydro - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    In the "GIGABYTE Z97N-WIFI Performance" section, what is the red colored "1m44" result for OCCT mean? Reply
  • DiHydro - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Oh, I think I see. It is the time the test ran before the thermal limit was reached. Reply
  • Wixman666 - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    After 1 min 44 seconds it overheated and started throttling. Reply
  • abugarcia - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    FYI, some of the links on the Test Setup table lead to the incorrect products when clicked (i7-4770k and MSI GTX 770 Lightning). Looks like its this way on some older reviews as well. Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Ah rats, copy/paste error from some other test setup tables I had. Fixed here, will go back to some of the older reviews. Nice spot :) Reply
  • Ubercake - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    As more and more controllers are integrated on the CPU, one value-add I wish the motherboard manufacturers would integrate with the system board is TV-tuner functionality. Reply
  • Gigaplex - Thursday, July 24, 2014 - link

    What standard? There are plenty of types of TV broadcast standards. Reply
  • Erukian - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    What do you guys think of the GA-Z97N Gaming 5? It can be found for $133 after rebate currently and seems to have the higher end audio codec that the ASRock uses in addition to swapping out the intel NIC for the Atheros Killer NIC (better?). Other than that the excellent PCB layout looks very similar to the reviewed Z97N-WIFI but with some changes to the IO port and 8-pin CPU power.

    I'm currently in the market, which is why I'm asking. :)
  • The_Assimilator - Saturday, July 26, 2014 - link

    Intel NIC is best in the business, the "Killer" NIC is yet another marketing gimmick. The Z97N Gaming 5 also loses a SATA port to eSATA. On the flipside, it has decent heatsinks for the power delivery subsystem, which is important for overclocking. Reply
  • austinsguitar - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    see i love these kinds of articles because these are very important products! it's interesting to see how things stack up because this is the biggest market right now. keep up these kinds of articles anand. things have been a little funky here recently.... Reply
  • Kmknapp - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Just built a mini-itx system and love it. Went with the Gigabyte Z97N Gaming 5 board for the audio (Realtek 1150), NIC, and deal at the time. So there are other options in this range incorporating the "improved" audio if you're not into the ASRock.

    2 comments/questions:

    1. On the ASRock board, you mention HDMI passthrough, does this mean you can pass 5.1 or 7.1 audio through HDMI? You apparently can't do this on the Gigabyte board with same controller, and it's frustrating.

    2. Open-bed overclocking strikes me as questionable in a review for this form factor due to the tendency to put these into similarly smaller cases where heat can be a real issue. My build was made specifically for gaming and HTPC in my living room, and as such, goes into an enclosed entertainment center as well.

    Fractal Design Node 304
    Intel i5-4690k (OC to 4.1ghz, ring sync) 4.2+ is OK temp wise, but unstable in stress testing.even at 1.25V
    8gb DDR3
    Gigabyte GA-Z97N Gaming 5
    Corsair H80i w/Cougar Turbo Hyperspiong Silent fans - H80i defaults are LOUD. these make the system all but silent, even under load.
    AMD R280 3GB, Sapphire Dual-X
    Corsair CX600 600W Power Supply
  • goinginstyle - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Can you review the ROG Impact VII please? Just returned the Z97N after a bad OC experience. Reply
  • Bobs_Your_Uncle - Wednesday, July 23, 2014 - link

    Great article & I really appreciate the multi-board comparisons as written up here. And of course, Ian, your work is always top shelf!

    I'm wondering if you're (AT) planning like coverage in the M-ATX form factor, as this is the beast that really intrigues me. M-ATX offers significantly more flexibility & possibilities than the M-ITX platform while maintaining a relatively small footprint.

    The M-ITX form factor seems to have a notably larger range of product offerings than M-ATX does (& subsequently more coverage in tech media) & I frankly don't understand the pronounced balance in favor of M-ITX.
  • homerdog - Thursday, July 24, 2014 - link

    I would like to point out that the ASRock board supports DTS Connect for true 5.1 audio in games over the optical output. ASRock is very good about including this feature on their boards. Most mobo manufacturers don't even bother to list this feature even on their few models that support it. Reply
  • surft - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    Hmm, great revue but I hope this comparison gets updated to include Asus' Z97I-PLUS as well. Reply
  • Madpacket - Friday, July 25, 2014 - link

    Looks like AsRock wins this round. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Saturday, July 26, 2014 - link

    I'm sure the guy at Gigabyte who is responsible for getting rid of their warehouse of surplus VGA ports, was weeping in impotent fury at the fact that he couldn't shoehorn one onto this board. Reply
  • The_Assimilator - Saturday, July 26, 2014 - link

    It really strikes me as odd that the motherboard manufacturers haven't integrated SATA multilane ports onto their boards. That would allow 4 drives to be connected to a single port on the mobo, which would shrink 6x SATA ports down to 1x multilane + 2x SATA. If Intel does the right thing with their next chipset and gives out an additional 2 SATA ports for a total of 8, then the 1 + 2 could be shrunk down to 2 SATA multilane ports of 4 drives each.

    Yes, there's issues with cabling, but in the mITX form factor board space is probably more important than cable count.
  • Valantar - Sunday, July 27, 2014 - link

    Great article, a really interesting read. But a question keeps popping into my head: What about lower power CPUs? With these smaller motherboards (and cases) they are more relevant than ever, yet all the reviews I can see are for the top-of-the-line overclocking models. How about a review comparing the i7-4790k to the 4790s and 4790t (perhaps with some extra effort put into power consumption testing, heat/noise (with regard to small mITX cases), and so on)? I would love to see that! Reply
  • coolhund - Sunday, August 03, 2014 - link

    Would you do me a favor and check if the Asrock Z97E-ITX still has issues with longer USB cables? On the Z87E-ITX things like webcams and USB 3.0 sticks start having massive issues at cable lengths longer than 5 to 6 ft. It even completely kills my partition on a USB 3.0 stick regularly.
    And yes, I tried several high quality and low quality cables that worked before on several other mainboards.
  • saulovh5150 - Sunday, August 03, 2014 - link

    I recently built a system with the MSI Z97I AC, i5 4460, CoolerMaster 550W modular, 16GB RAM, SSD and a GTX770, a mid-class rig and I can safely say it works fine and will never, ever have an ATX rig again. Just be warned that the MSI packs 2 cheap antennas, I could barely get good signal with 2 walls between AP and the PC. When I swapped them for 2 aftermarket antennas all worked really well.
    This review just confirmed I had nothing to worry about feature or performance. I never really needed 3 pci slots since many years ago. Oh, and the system is so quiet.
  • Plipplop - Sunday, August 03, 2014 - link

    Could you correct the mistake quoting MSI Z97I GAMING AC to have lower audio codec ALC892. It really hurts my eye because one reason I ended up ordering MSI was superb audio with Realtek® ALC1150 Codec. Thanks. Reply
  • Plipplop - Tuesday, August 05, 2014 - link

    Sorry, my bad: Theres two boards, MSI Z97I GAMING AC and MSI Z97I AC with slightly lower specs. Reply
  • pc_mark1 - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    I bought a ASRock Z97M-ITX with an i7 4790k. I'm really struggling with boot up with this board. I've installed twice and found I was forced to hard reset in both instances and doing this causes the issues. Without issues I've seen my PC boot in 5 seconds and go into login, once logged in loading wi-fi and finding internet in about 3 seconds. Once I hard reset, I'm seeing boot up slow, with the graphics card going off momentarily, then coming back on and displaying login but not allowing me to type for 2 more seconds. Once in, wi-fi is seeking connection for a further 45 seconds. The hard reset has caused this twice now, but the second fresh install showed the board working for the first 10-15 restarts as I added software and drivers and all worked flawlessly. Anyone got any suggestions? Using 1.1 on the board. Reply

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