Z97 Motherboard Round Up: EVGA, MSI, Gigabyte
GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK
Gigabyte pulled out all of the stops on this next motherboard, the GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK. On some levels, this board may seem like somewhat of a cross between the Z97X-UD5H and the Z97X-SOC Force, but upon closer inspection you’ll find that the GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK is in a class of its own. This board is not only packed with features, but Gigabyte goes the extra mile and performs an extended server-level 168 hour (7 day) durability test to ensure the boards are stable and in perfect working order before leaving the factory.
Every GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK—the BK stands for Black Edition—motherboard is stress tested in a custom facility, and if it passes, a certificate of validation is included with the board. This is one of those “features” that isn’t tangible, and adds considerable cost, but we think it is a great way to help ensure quality and good initial user experience. As long as your board doesn’t get beat to hell in shipping (and you’ve installed it right), you can rest assured a GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK is going to boot up and work properly from the get go.
In terms of its feature-set, the GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK is similar to the Z97X-UD5H in that it offers all digital voltage regulation and the board is part of Gigabyte’s “Ultra Durable” family of products. It also offers a total of 14 USB ports (eight USB 3.0 and six USB 2.0), ten SATA 6Gbps connectors, CrossFireX and SLI support, DualBIOS technology, and On/Off Charge support. The GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK also offers DVI, HDMI and DP display outputs, though they are gold plated—as are the audio outputs. This board sports both Intel and Killer E2200-series LAN controllers too (it's bundled with a WIFI card as well).
Other noteworthy features include on-board power and reset switches, newly designed heatsinks, a POST code error reporter, and a totally redesigned BIOS / UEFI that gives users the ability to navigate through its various menus with a mouse (like the other GB boards featured here).
Gigabyte also put considerable resources into optimizing the audio-related features on this board. The GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK features Gigabyte’s AMP-UP technology, which is fancy marketing speak for an upgradable OP-AMP. Audio duties are handled by Creative Labs’ Sound Core3D chip, with full support for the Sound Blaster SBX Pro Studio suite. The audio circuitry on the board gets its own zone, that’s isolated from other componentry, it uses high end, Nichicon audio capacitors, and all of the audio connections are gold-plated. Like the EVGA Classified, the GA-Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK’s socket also features higher gold content as well.
The Gigabyte Black Edition Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi-BK comes with a ton of stuff. It has some beautiful, braided SATA cables, a couple of manuals and installation discs, an IO shield, a USB 3.0 port dock that can be mounted in a 3.5” drive bay, a PCI Express WiFi card and antenna, two, three, and four-way SLI bridges, a Crossfire bridge and a “certificate of unmatched stability and reliability” signed by Dr. Kevin Meng, Gigabyte’s Manufacturing Business Unit VP and General Manager.