Z97 Motherboard Round Up: EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte
Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC Force
The Gigabyte Z97X-SOC Force looks very different than the UD5H on the previous page. This monster is adorned with an orange and black color scheme and sports a wide array of tools that cater to hardcore overclockers. We mention it at the bottom of the page, where we discuss the board’s accessory bundle, but one of the coolest additions to the board is a metal bracket dubbed the OC Brace, which can be used to secure expansion cards when the motherboard isn’t installed in a case.
To feed the board with more power than mainstream products, Gigabyte outfitted the Z97X-SOC Force with a feature it calls OC Peg. It’s essentially an extra power feed that accepts a 6-pin PCI express cable, designed to aid stability when using a multi-card graphics configuration. In addition, the board has switches that give users the ability to turn PCI Express lanes on or off, so you can effectively disable a graphics card, without actually removing it from the system. Another convenience for hardcore overclockers are a pair of USB ports that face the front side of the PCB, which are designed to be used when the mobo is functioning outside of a case.
There is also a large assortment of physical buttons on the Z97X-SOC Force for tweaking various overclocking-related features, without having to enter the BIOS. The OC Tag button lets you load saved overclocking profiles. OC Ignition lets you power up fans and drives without booting the rest of the system, which allows users to check for leaks in a liquid cooling system, maintaining continuous power to drives, etc.
The OC Turbo button will quickly overclock a CPU based on the memory and processor setup, and the OC Trigger Switch lets you jump between higher and lower performance modes, so if you’re just tooling around on your PC, you can keep things stock, but if you’re testing or are otherwise looking for a performance boost, you can flip the switch to enabled your overclocked settings.
The OC Gear button can change BCLK steppings, and there are two sets of +/- buttons that let you bump up the BCLK and CPU ratio incrementally. There’s also the predictable power and reset buttons as well as voltage check points.
With all that said, the Z97X-SOC Force still has a very well appointed BIOS that’s got a wide array of overclocking-related options. Like the other boards featured here, the fan controls in particular are far more robust than previous-gen products. We should also mention that the Z97X-SOC Force sports every display output option out there (DVI, VGA, DP, and HDMI) and its LAN port is powered by a Killer E2201 controller from Qualcomm.
The Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SOC Force included some user’s manuals and a quick installation guid, a driver / utility disc, a case badge, some extension cables for the voltage checkpoints available on the board, a custom IO shield, Crossfire and SLI bridges, two packs of SATA cables and a unique bracket that can be mounted to the board, and allows you to secure expansion cards in place, even if the motherboard is not installed in a case. That’s a pretty unique addition, and something we’re sure the hardcore overclockers out there will appreciate.