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Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5 review

Andrew Unsworth
15 Sep 2014
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
114
inc VAT

Spacious for a Mini-ITX board, the Z97N-Gaming 5 has good performance and many desirable features

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Specifications

Processor socket: LGA1150, Dimensions: 170x170, Chipset: Intel Z97 Express, Memory slots: 2, PCI-E x16 slots: 0, PCI-E x1 slots: 0, PCI slots: 0, USB ports: 2x USB, 4x USB3, Video outputs: HDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I

The Z97N-Gaming 5 is a Mini-ITX motherboard designed for those who want a decent games machine but don’t need multiple graphics cards and hard disks, or a large case in which to fit them all. That doesn’t mean the Z97N-Gaming 5 is short on desirable features, though. The board has a Killer E2201 gigabit Ethernet port that prioritises gaming traffic for more reliable online gaming, five SATA3 ports and no less than four USB3 ports on its backpanel. There’s also provision for overclocking should you be using the board with an unlocked processor.

There’s only one expansion port, and that’s a PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot for a graphics card. Other than that, there are two memory slots for up to 16GBs of RAM with an overclock ceiling of 3,200MHz, and one USB3 and one USB header. These, combined with the aforementioned five SATA3 ports mean that the Z97N-Gaming 5 can form the basis of a versatile compact gaming PC.

Other backpanel connection ports, besides the four USB3 ports, include two USB ports, a single PS/2 port, an eSATA port, an optical S/PDIF port, five analogue audio ports and two connection ports for the bundled WiFi antenna. There are also three graphics outputs: DVI-I, HDMI and DisplayPort.

The Z97N-Gaming 4’s preinstalled Wi-Fi module works on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and is even compatible with 802.11ac routers. The 802.11ac connection speed is rated at 867Mbit/s, and while that isn’t the fastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi speed it is faster than you’d get with 802.11n. The MSI Z97I Gaming AC also comes with a Wi-Fi adaptor, but it comes separately so that you have the option of fitting it should you want to use it, and you have to screw two antennas into it. In contrast, the Z97I Gaming AC’s Wi-Fi adaptor is a wired affair that terminates in an antenna on a magnetic base. Which you prefer will come down to preference, but the Z97N-Gaming 5’s antenna is better if you want to position the antenna for better reception.

We found that the Z97N-Gaming 5’s onboard components were better organised than the MSI Z97I Gaming ACs, and we could use our large third-party air cooler without obscuring the memory slots or the graphics card slot. We also like the use of colour on the front panel pins so that we could see them more easily and distinguish between them. All this helps when the board is installed in a case.

PERFORMANCE

The Z97N-Gaming 5 scored 100 in our new and much more challenging benchmarks, which involve converting Ultra HD video to Full HD video while playing an Ultra HD video. 100 is the same score as our reference setup, but it’s worth noting that the MSI Z97I Gaming AC scored a higher 105 in the same test. The Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5 also scored slightly less than the Z97I Gaming AC in our older benchmarks, scoring 108 compared to the MSI Z97I Gaming AC’s 113.

Curiously, the Gigabyte Z97N Gaming 5 gave better results in our overclocking test, with a score of 144 in our old benchmarks compared to the MSI Z97I Gaming AC’s 132. The Core i5-4670K was clocked at 4.7GHz and our memory clocked at 2,133MHz in each test.

We also much preferred the Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5’s BIOS, as you have a choice between a graphical, heavily mouse-driven screen with plenty of sliders and graphs, or a more traditional text-driven BIOS. The MSI Z97I Gaming AC’s BIOS has all the advanced overclocking and BIOS features you could want, but it looks dated now and the text-driven BIOS could be better organised.

The Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5’s text-driven BIOS looks a lot less dense in comparison, and has an automatic overclocking feature that’s ideal for those who want to make the most of their unlocked Intel processor but don’t want to risk damaging it by changing settings themselves. You can apply different levels of overclock, from a mild 20 per cent to a considerable 100 per cent. It’s a great feature.

The Z97N-Gaming 5's HD BIOS screen makes good use of graphical elements


The Z97N-Gaming lets you switch to a more traditional text-based BIOS with a press of the F3 button

CONCLUSION

Choosing between the Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5 and the similarly priced MSI Z97I Gaming AC is difficult, as both are essentially good boards but both have different strengths. The Z97I Gaming AC produced better results in our new and old benchmarks at stock speeds, but less in our manual overclock test. We also found the board to be a little cramped and couldn’t fit our SilverStone Argon AR03 air cooler without obscuring either the memory or the graphics card slot.

The Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5, on the other hand, has enough room to fit a decent air cooler without obscuring components, and the use of colour on the front panel pins is a great boon in seeing which connector should go where. It’s just a shame that the SATA ports aren’t coloured. 

So the MSI Z97I Gaming AC is a great board if you just want to use a stock Intel cooler or have room in your case for a liquid cooler’s radiator, but on balance we prefer the Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5.

Hardware
Processor socketLGA1150
Form factorMini-ITX
Dimensions170x170
Processor support4th- and 5th-generation Intel Core, Pentium and Celeron processors
Processor external bus100MHz
ChipsetIntel Z97 Express
Supported memory typeDDR3
Maximum memory speed3,200MHz
Memory slots2
Maximum memory16GB
Motherboard power connectors1x 24-pin ATX, 1x 8-pin 12V
PCI-E x16 slots0
PCI-E x4 slots0
PCI-E x1 slots0
PCI slots0
Motherboard fan headers1
SATA II ports0
SATA III ports5
RAID support0, 1, 5, 10
Wired network ports1x 10/100/1000Mbit/s
Motherboard sound (ports)Realtek ALC1150 (6x analogue, 1x optical S/PDIF)
USB ports2x USB, 4x USB3
USB headers1x USB, 1x USB3
Video outputsHDMI, DisplayPort, DVI-I
Other ports1x PS/2, 1x eSATA
Cables included1x SATA
Motherboard clock adjustmentCPU/RAM/GPU/chipset
Motherboard voltage adjustmentCPU/RAM/GPU/chipset
Buying information
Price including VAT£114
WarrantyTwo-year RTB
Supplierwww.scan.co.uk
Detailswww.gigabyte.com
Part codeGA-Z97N-Gaming 5