ASUS Z97-DELUXE Motherboard
By Rafael Coelho on August 4, 2014
The ASUS Z97-DELUXE is a mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the new Intel Z97 chipset, supporting the fourth and the forthcoming fifth generation Core i processors. It brings a high-end audio codec, 10 SATA-600 ports (allowing two SATA Express connections), 10 USB 3.0 ports, and Wi-Fi interface. Let’s take a good look at it.
The “new” Intel Z97 Express chipset is a Z87 chipset rebranded for marketing reasons. They are identical and, therefore, have the exact same specifications. Most motherboards based on this chipset support the new SATA Express and M.2 (successor to the mSATA) connectors, but these are mechanical features provided by the motherboard, not by the chipset.
Like the Z87, the Z97 supports six USB 3.0 ports, six SATA-600 ports, Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.
You can see the ASUS Z97-DELUXE motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).
The ASUS Z97-DELUXE comes with two PCI Express 3.0 x16 slots, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 or x1 speed), and four PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots.
The first two PCI Express x16 slots are controlled by the CPU, so it is based on the 3.0 specification. They share bandwidth, so if the second one (PCIEX16_2) is empty, the first one (PCIEX16_1) works at x16 speed, but if it is populated, both work at x8 speed. The third PCI Express x16 slot (PCIEX16_3) is controlled by the chipset (so it is based on the 2.0 specification) and shares bandwidth with the extra USB 3.0 ports and with the fourth PCI Express 2.0 x1 slot: if one of them is used, the third PCI Express x16 slot works only at x1 speed, not x4.
The motherboard supports CrossFireX and SLI arrays.
There is also an M.2 slot, supporting one SATA-600 or PCI Express SSD module.
Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.
The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the Z97-PRO supports memories up to 3,300 MHz.
The ASUS Z97-PRO has four memory sockets. You can install up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.
In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On this motherboard, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are dark gray. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.
The Intel Z97 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASUS Z97-DELUXE offers those six ports, plus two additional SATA-600 ports controlled by an ASMedia ASM1061 chip (no RAID support) and one SATA Express port, controlled by an ASMedia ASM106SE chip.
One of the SATA Express connectors (controlled by the chipset) can be used as two individual SATA ports, but the SATA Express connector controlled by the ASM106SE chip cannot.
The SATA ports are installed on the motherboard edge and rotated 90°, so the installation of video cards will not block them.
The Intel Z97 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS Z97-DELUXE offers eight USB 2.0 ports, four at the rear panel and four available through two headers located on the motherboard. There are 10 USB 3.0 ports (six at the rear panel and four available through two headers), six of them controlled by the chipset, two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1074 chip, and two controlled by an ASMedia ASM1042 chip.
The portrayed motherboard does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.
This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec, which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally by capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.) The codec chip is shielded against electromagnetic interference.
The analog audio outputs are independent even if you use a 7.1 analog speaker set.
The portrayed motherboard has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one controlled by an Intel i218V chip, and one controlled by an Intel i211AT chip.
The Z97-DELUXE also comes with an IEEE 802.11ac AzureWave AW-CE123H dual-band interface, located on an ASUS Wi-Fi GO! module, which also provides a Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity.
In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with optical SPDIF output, HDMI output, DisplayPort output, Mini DisplayPort output, connectors for the Wi-Fi antennas, four USB 2.0 ports, six USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the analog audio jacks.
The ASUS Z97-DELUXE has a two-digit POST diagnostic display that shows, through a numeric code, which component is preventing the computer from turning on. In Figure 7, you can see a “BIOS flashback” button, which allows you to easily update the BIOS, a clear CMOS button, a reset button, and a power button. There is also a a “CPU_OV” jumper, which allows higher voltage settings.
The “MemOK!” button, shown in Figure 8, allows you to test the compatibility of the memory modules that are installed. There is also a switch called “EZ_XMP,” which overclocks the memory modules.
In Figure 9, you can see the accessories that come with the ASUS Z97-DELUXE.
The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS Z97-DELUXE has 16 phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses a Digi+ ASP1257 controller chip (digital design), and each phase uses one PSMN1R6-30BL (“6030DLB”) and one PSMN2R4-30YLD (“4030DLA”) MOSFETs.
The motherboard uses high-end “5K” solid capacitors and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.
If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.
The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (0504 BIOS):
The main specifications for the ASUS Z97-DELUXE include:
* Researched at Newegg.com on the day we published this First Look article.
The ASUS Z97-DELUXE is an excellent top mid-range (or entry high-end, depending on your point of view) motherboard, targeted to the user who is building a computer using a “Haswell” CPU (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors) and wants it to be compatible with the “Devil’s Canyon” (enhanced fourth-generation) and “Broadwell” (fifth-generation) “Core i” processors, and wants a little more than simple motherboards offer.
The highlights of this motherboard include the extra SATA-600 and USB 3.0 ports, a high-end audio interface, support for two video cards in SLI or CrossFireX, the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth interface, the two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the support for M.2 modules and SATA Express devices.
It is a more complete version of the ASUS Z97-PRO we analyzed recently, with two more USB 3.0 ports, one more SATA Express interface, better voltage regulator, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the addition of the Wi-Fi/Bluetooth module.
Like its simpler sister, the Z97-DELUXE cannot be called a “high-end” motherboard because it does not support a high-end slot configuration; this needs a switching chip to support up to four video cards with no performance drop. However, coming with more features than the average user will ever need, the ASUS Z97-DELUXE will satisfy virtually anyone who is building a high-end PC with up two video cards.