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Asus Z97-Pro review

7 Jul 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
149
inc VAT

A great Z97 board with plenty of connection ports and tweaking options

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Specifications

Processor socket: LGA1150, Dimensions: 305x244, Chipset: Intel Z97 Express, Memory slots: 4, PCI-E x16 slots: 3, PCI-E x1 slots: 3, PCI slots: 0, USB ports: 2x USB, 4x USB3, Video outputs: VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort

The Asus Z97-Pro is designed for power-users who demand the best of both worlds: a sensible, reliable motherboard with all the expansion and connection ports they could want, as well as the onboard controls and scope to overclock and tweak their PC. Indeed, the Z97-Pro has the discreet, attractive design of other motherboards in this mainstream range, such as the Asus Z97-A. However, it also has an onboard power button, a button that flashes the BIOS directly from a USB drive without having to enter the BIOS, and a button for checking the compatibility of your memory and recovering from an unsuccessful overclock.

SPEEDY STORAGE

As the Z97-Pro is a Z97-based board, it’s compatible with 4th- and 5th-generation Intel Celeron, Pentium and Core processors, such as the Core i5-4670K that we used to test the Z97-Pro. Just like the Asus Z97-A, the Z97-Pro supports the faster storage options afforded by the Z97 chipset, which means you can use M.2 and SATA Express SSDs. These forms of storage provide throughputs up to a whopping 10GB/s, but bandwidth restrictions mean you can only use M.2 or SATA Express, not both.

Asus Z97-Pro top down

The board has six Z97-controlled SATA3 ports, although two of them will be disabled if you use the SATA Express slot, and two SATA3 ports controlled by an AS Media controller.

As for RAM, the Z97-Pro has four dual-channel memory slots that support a maximum memory capacity of 32GB. Overclockers will also be pleased to hear that the Z97-Pro supports fast memory that’s rated to work at 3,200MHz. 

EXPANSION

There’s good scope for expansion with the Z97-Pro, but those hoping to bring legacy PCI cards to their new build will be disappointed, as there are no legacy PCI slots. However, there are four PCI-E x1 slots. Also available are three PCI-E x16 slots, but you can only run one card at x16. Due to bandwidth limitations, the first two slots will run at x8 if you populate both of them. The third PCI-E x16 slot will only run at x4 whether or not the first or second slot is populated.

Some boards provide two or three PCI-E x1 ports, but these often become obscured by the casing of dual-width graphics cards. The fact there are four PCI-E x1 slots means that you should have at least one slot available to use even if you have two dual-width PCI-E x16 cards installed.

There’s a good selection of connection ports available too, with two USB3 headers and two USB headers midboard, and two USB and four USB3 ports at the rear. There’s also a Gigabit Ethernet port, six 3.5mm analogue audio jacks, an optical S/PDIF audio port and a PS/2 port. There are also VGA, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, although you can only use three displays simultaneously, not four.

Asus Z97 ports

Also at the rear is the Z97-Pro’s built-in Wi-Fi module to which you must attach the supplied antenna. The Wi-Fi module conforms to the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, which means it’ll provide fast transfer speeds to compatible devices. Even if you don’t have an 802.11ac compatible device, you’ll still be able to use the adaptor with your 802.11n devices.

PERFORMANCE

Powered by our Core i5-4670K, the Z97-Pro scored 111 overall in our application benchmarks, which is the upper end of what we expect to see from a Z87 and Z97 board. The Z97-A, for instance, scored 108 overall in the same test, while the Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5 scored 105 overall. If that still isn’t quick enough, you can push performance even further in the Z97-Pro’s BIOS with the EZ Tuning feature. This feature asks a few questions about how you use your PC and the cooling system you’ve installed. The EZ Tuning feature then uses the information you’ve given to it to overclock your PC, and its overclock helped our test PC score an impressive 141 overall in our benchmarks.

Should you wish to overclock your system yourself, the Advanced mode of the Asus Z97-Pro’s BIOS provides all the options you need. You can alter the voltage and frequency of the processor, memory and chipset, for instance, and specify the operating frequency of the cores depending on how many cores are operating.

Advanced mode looks very similar to a traditional BIOS screen, and although you can use the mouse it’s easier to navigate through Advanced mode with the keyboard. Conveniently, this mode shows you the current voltage and temperature of the processor and RAM.

The Z97-Pro’s EZ mode provides some basic controls that let you set the speed of your fans, enable an XMP profile and change boot priority. Needless to say, most users will want to use Advanced Mode.

The Asus Z97-Pro is a high-quality board, but unless you want to use the 802.11ac Wi-Fi adaptor, need more USB3 ports and would like to use the board on a test bench, you may be better off spending less on an Asus Z97-A. Similarly, if you just want a good-value board that supports CrossFire and SLI, and your overclocking aspirations extend only so far as tweaking a few settings in the BIOS, you may want to save money and buy the Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming 5. Otherwise, the Z97-Pro makes a great backbone for an Intel-based PC. 

Hardware
Processor socketLGA1150
Form factorATX
Dimensions305x244
Processor support4th- and 5th-generation Intel Celeron, Pentium, Core i3, Core i5, core i7 processors
Processor external bus100MHz
ChipsetIntel Z97 Express
Supported memory typeDDR3
Maximum memory speed3,200MHz
Memory slots4
Maximum memory32GB
Motherboard power connectors1x 24-pin ATX, 1x 8-pin 12V
PCI-E x16 slots3
PCI-E x4 slots0
PCI-E x1 slots3
PCI slots0
Motherboard fan headers4
SATA II ports0
SATA III ports8
RAID support0, 1, 5, 10
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s
Motherboard sound (ports)Realtek ALC1150 (6x analogue, optical S/PDIF)
USB ports2x USB, 4x USB3
USB headers2x USB, 2x USB3
Video outputsVGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort
Other ports1x PS/2, connection for supplied Wi-Fi adaptor
Cables included2x SATA
Motherboard clock adjustmentCPU/RAM/Chipset
Motherboard voltage adjustmentCPU/RAM/Chipset
Buying information
Price including VAT£149
Warrantythree-year RTB
Supplierwww.scan.co.uk
Detailswww.asus.com
Part codeZ97-Pro(WI-FI AC)

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