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ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies

ASUS Z97 Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies

As well as standard SATA 6Gbps connectivity, both M.2 and SATA Express will be offered on ASUS's Z97 range (and other 9-series motherboards) – some boards will support one or the other while some will support both. The technologies utilise PCI Express lanes to achieve maximum transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s, with ASUS showing its own figures of over 800MB/sec in both.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
Click to enlarge

M.2 drives will be mounted directly to the motherboards using a mini PCI-E-like connetor while SATA Express ones are connected in the usual way via cables. The SATA Express connection requires two standard SATA ports (these can be used individually as they are backwards compatible with older SATA devices) as well as a separate additional connector. This means SATA Express cables will be significantly wider and thicker than regular SATA data ones.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies *ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
Click to enlarge - The SATA Express and M.2 connectors (note that in this example the M.2 connector is on the rear of the motherboard)

While M.2 devices are already on the market, SATA Express ones are yet to debut. However, as part of its Z97 event, ASUS teased its own SATA Express device – a concept model currently referred to as Hyper Express. It showed a system running on the Hyper Express and told us to expect more information at Computex. Essentially, however, it appears to use two M.2 or mSATA devices bundled into a standard 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch form factor. It might therefore be marketed as an easier and space saving alternative to a RAID array, and ASUS also said it's possible that it will be bundled with certain motherboards in the future.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies *ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
Click to enlarge - ASUS demoed a working system using its own Hyper Express concept SATA Express device

A little information was also provided about Thunderbolt, with ASUS simply saying that its ThunderboltEX II/DUAL expansion card is compatible with lots of the ASUS Z97 series, as well as certain existing Z87 motherboards (currently just the Z87-Deluxe). A TB_Header connection is required on the motherboard for compatibility.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
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Onboard audio in the Z97 range is provided by ASUS's new Crystal Sound 2. This uses the Realtek ALC 1150 HD audio codec, which ASUS claims as the highest signal-to-noise ratio in the industry. It also uses shielding, EMI protection and a layout technique to separate left and right channels to minimise noise and interference. ASUS also boasts of its high quality components, including the audio amplifier and Nichicon audio capacitors, which are of course Japanese made. The Realtek HD Audio Manager software can be used to toggle preset equaliser settings for different modes (e.g. game, music, movies), and also to deliver virtual 7.1 surround sound through stereo speakers or headphones.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
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ASUS is also promoting some wireless communication products, namely its NFC Express 2 and Wireless Charger. These will be sold separately, but will also come bundled with the Z97-Deluxe (NFC & WLC) model motherboard.

*ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview (NDA TODAY 8am) ASUS Z97 Motherboards Preview - Storage, Audio and Wireless Technologies
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The NFC Express 2 uses Near Field Communication technology to enable data exchange between itself and compatible devices simply by touching them together. This enables functionality such as remote desktop control, wireless photo transfer, Windows 8 login and more. Meanwhile, the Wireless Charger station uses induction coils and electromagnetic fields to charge Qi-compatible devices – all you need to do is put your device in the right place (atop the Qi logo) and watch the magic happen.