Doesn’t make the most of Z97, but is a great board for a modest build
Processor socket: LGA1150, Dimensions: 305x190mm, Chipset: Z97, Memory slots: 4, PCI-E x16 slots: 1, PCI-E x1 slots: 2, PCI slots: 2, USB ports: 2x USB, 4x USB3, Video outputs: DVI-D, HDMI, VGA
Although the Gigabyte Z97-HD3 uses the Intel Z97 chipset, it doesn’t make much use of it. There’s no support for M.2 or SATA Express drives, for instance, and there are just four USB3 ports at the rear of the board. It is fairly cheap, though, and has fairly decent scope for expansion considering its modest 19cm depth.
There are two PCI-E x16 slots, but only one runs at x16, the second runs at x4 whether or not there’s a card in the first slot. There are also two PCI-E x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. You will, however, not be able to use the two PCI-E x1 slots if you install a card in the second PCI-E x16 slot.
If you only want to install one graphics card and plan on using the other expansion slots for I/O cards, TV tuners and so on then you should have no problems with this board. The only concern we have is that you might have trouble fitting an expansion card in the first PCI-E x1 slot if you use a large third-party CPU cooler. We used a SilverStone AR03 cooler in our test PC and the heatsink hung over the first PCI-E x1 slot. This won’t be a problem if you use the stock Intel air cooler, though. Similarly, you’ll find it’ll be a tight squeeze to install a card in the second PCI-E x1 slot if you have a dual-width graphics card installed in the first PCI-E x16 slot.
We were certainly pleased to see four memory slots, which are capable of taking a maximum capacity of 32GB. There are also six SATA3 ports, three USB headers and one USB3 header, so you can have an extra six USB ports and two USB3 ports if your PC case supports them, or if you can get hold of some brackets. It’s a real shame that no brackets are included in the box.
The GA-Z97-HD3 has a trendy new BIOS with a basic welcome screen from which you can select different views. We chose Smart Tweak HD mode, as it provided overclocking and configuration functions that were accessible and fairly well laid out. One of the BIOS options lets you overclock your system in 20 per cent increments. We applied an 80 per cent performance increase, which overclocked our Intel Core i5-4670K processor to 4.6GHz and our memory to 1,866MHz. With our test PC running at these frequencies, our test PC scored 128 overall in our PC benchmarks, which is an excellent increase on its rather mediocre score of 106 with the processor and memory running at stock frequencies. This is especially true when you consider that it takes only a mouse click to enable these overclocks. It is worth noting that you’ll need a good third-party processor cooler if you want to make the most of the GA-Z97-HD3’s overclocking potential.
The GA-Z97-HD3 may not make the most of the Z97 chipset, but it does provide all the essentials you need for a typical build, and has some good automatic overclocking tools. If you just need a good-value board for your new Haswell processor then you’re likely to be happy with the GA-Z97-HD3.
|Processor support||4th generation Intel Celeron, Pentium, Core i3/i5/i7|
|Processor external bus||100MHz|
|Northbridge chipset||Intel Z97|
|Southbridge chipset||Intel Z97|
|Passively cooled northbridge||Yes|
|Memory type supported||DDR3|
|Maximum memory speed||PC3-23464|
|Dual channel support||Yes|
|Power connectors||1x 24-pin ATX, 1x 8-pin ATX|
|PCI Express x16||1|
|Dual graphics architecture||CrossFire|
|PCI Express x4||1|
|PCI Express x1||2|
|RAID chipset (maximum disks)||Intel Z97 (RAID 0, 1, 5, 10)|
|Sound (ports)||Realtek ALC887 (6x analogue out)|
|Legacy ports||PS/2, Parallel header, serial header|
|Other ports||4x USB3, DVI-D, HDMI, VGA|
|Cables included||1x SATA|
|SETUP AND OVERCLOCKING|
|CPU clock maximum adjustment||166MHz|
|Warranty||Two years RTB|