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Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review

Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review

Manufacturer: Gigabyte
UK price (as reviewed): £106 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $129.99 {ex TAX)
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Gigabyte has landed awards at all price segments in the past and while its UDX ranges are undeniably swoon-worthy, the overclocker in us always delights at cheaper boards being able to push CPUs to their limits on a budget.

The company has a range of successful Z87 boards that are currently retailing for much less than £100, but the GA-Z97X-SLI comes in at £106 - not hideously expensive by any means, but priced so you might expect some extra features or noteworthy overclocking prowess.

It's also the cheapest board we're looking at today in our Z97 roundup, with the Asus Maximus VII Ranger and MSI Gaming 7 boards representing a fair step up both in terms of price and features.

That said, the GA-Z97X-SLI still managed to cram in the two new storage features that are making waves with Z97; SATA Express and M.2 are both here, with the M.2 slot placed in a particularly handy location just above the top 1 x PCI-E slot for easy access.

It's a skinny ATX board too, measuring just 214mm across. As such, the CPU socket area is a little cramped, especially as there are heatsinks to side and above the CPU socket itself.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
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Thankfully these are fairly low-lying so shouldn't interfere with many CPU coolers. The layout is good too, and unlike the similarly-priced ASRock on test today too, the SATA ports are mounted parallel to the PCB for easy cable tidying and a cleaner overall look, while the two power sockets are located on the edge of the PCB as is the USB 3 header.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
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Despite its namesake, CrossFireX is also supported and 2-way setups will be able to take advantage of both 16x slots running at x8 speed, rather than one dipping to x4, which shouldn't hamper low to mid-range cards at all. There's plenty of other ports available too - in fact we couldn't really ask for a better range or layout here and as we've already mentioned, despite the M.2 port also sitting amongst them, it's still easy to get at both it, the top 1x PCI-E slot and the main 16x PCI-E slot.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
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There's noise isolated audio circuitry - this seems to becoming the norm now instead of being a ROG-only feature, however, the rest of the board does betray the low price tag; there's no LED post code readout or power, rest or CMOS clear buttons although there are five 4-pin fan headers.

Overclocking and EFI

The EFI proved to be fairly basic for the most part but does include a front end startup guide that gives easy access to often-used features, or you can switch to classic mode with a more familiar tabbed feel. There's a fairly limited baseclock range, which hits a wall at 133MHz, but if you're dealing with a K-series CPU, this likely won't make any difference as you're dealing with the multiplier.

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
Click to enlarge

Z97 Motherboard Group Test - Asus, ASRock, Gigabyte and MSI Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI Review
Click to enlarge

Applying our usual 1.27V saw stability achieved at 4.7GHz - a good result from such a cheap motherboard, but sadly 4.8GHz was a bit too far for the GA-Z97X-SLI and the similarly-priced ASRock board gets a couple of extra brownie points here, managing 4.8GHz.

Specifications
  • Chipset Intel Z97
  • CPU support LGA1150 compatible
  • Memory support 2 slots: max 32GB
  • Sound 8-channel Realtek ALC1150
  • Networking Intel Gigabit
  • Ports 6 x SATA 6Gbps via Intel Z97 (two sacrifice for SATA Express or M.2) 1 x M.2, 6 x USB 3.0 (2 x via header), 8 x USB 2.0 ( 6 x via header), 1 x LAN, audio out, line in, mic, S/PDIF out, HDMI, DVI, VGA
  • Dimensions (mm) 305 x 214

Head over to the final page to see the performance analysis and conclusion.