Best z97 Motherboards for Gaming

Best z97 Motherboards for Gaming – Everyone wants the fastest, most reliable, and best performing computing power available. Having a high-end motherboard is crucial if you want to play all the latest games and applications without lag or performance issues. Before we get into looking at three best z97 motherboards of 2016-2017, for the purposes of those who may just be starting out or need a refresher on motherboards, we’re going to cover what they are and why they are all so different.

ROUND UP

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1.MSI Z97-Gaming

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OUR TAKE

One of MSI’s main focus points of the last twelve months has been style. This typically means fashioned heatsinks, almost-invisible traces and if possible a reduction of on-the-board components (trying to balance price as well). MSI wants its motherboards to be shown off, rather than hidden inside a case, such that other users can show it off to their friends and perhaps entice them into a similar build. The Gaming 5 aims to the more cost conscious Haswell build while still maintaining a full ATX size in the red and black livery featuring the MSI Gaming logo.

On the gaming side of the hardware equation the Gaming 5 is fitted with a Killer E2205 network port which comes with application prioritization software, as well as an enhanced Realtek ALC1150 audio solution via Audio Boost. For users with USB DACs there is a feature to offer enhanced power to a pair of USB ports as well to improve power signal quality. There is also M.2 support for 22x42mm to 22x80mm devices up to PCIe 2.0 x2 speeds, and all the fan headers onboard are 4-pin.

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2.MSI MPG Z390

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OUR TAKE

They’re a necessary means to an end for most PC gamers, and that’s fine. So long as a new motherboard does its job, doesn’t get in the way, and allows you to get the most out of the rest of your expensive PC hardware, that’s all you can ask. Unless you’re planning on strapping a bunch of graphics cards together, along with an unwieldy RAID array, then most of us PC gamers can get by with a relatively modest motherboard as the base of their PC.

And that’s what MSI’s MPG Z390 Gaming Edge AC is looking to offer. But, despite its relatively low price for a top-end chipset board, this MSI Z390 still has the sort of lengthy feature set you’d want for your gaming PC. What’s not to like?

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3.ASUS Micro ATX DDR3 1600

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OUR TAKE

If you’re not installing a graphics card, there are VGA, DVI and HDMI outputs. The DVI and VGA ports can support Full HD resolutions at 60Hz while the HDMI port can manage 4,096×2,160 pixels at a jerky 24Hz or 2,560×1,600 at 60Hz.

Performance with our benchmark hardware on board was inline with our expectations, scoring 101 overall. There are no automatic overclocking options that you’d find on more expensive boards; just “optimal” settings in the friendly, albeit basic UEFI BIOS.

The Asus B85M-G is a competent and basic microATX motherboard. If you need more ports and overclocking options, go for the Asus Z97-E instead, but for simple builds this is a great choice.

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4.ASRock ATX DDR3 1333

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OUR TAKE

The ASRock H97M Pro4 is a micro-ATX board with 4+1 power phases and the ability to overclock the unlocked Pentium G3258. Let’s take a look at it — but first, a little vindication: I achieved very poor overclocking results in prior testing, so I bought another G3258 to see if the budget boards I’m testing are the issue, or if I had simply lost the silicon lottery, which was my suspicion.

The board about to be exposed could not overclock the original chip over 4.0GHz stable either, but the new chip was fairly happy at 4.2GHz on the board-selected 1.28V, just getting a little warm in some tests. That warmth discouraged me from going for an even higher overclock, but a tweaker, using a better cooler, may zoom right on past my efforts. Worth noting is that I couldn’t find a spot on or near the VRMs registering as high as 37C on my IR thermometer during my tests.

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5.Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H

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OUR TAKE

We covered the nuances of the Z97 chipset in our Haswell Refresh review on Sunday, but the take home message was storage. Z97 allows motherboard manufacturers to use chipset lanes for SATA Express and M.2 ports, bringing PCIe based storage to the desktop platform without the need for a PCIe card.

At current, these solutions only provide two lanes of PCIe bandwidth (10 Gbps), which should be 66.67% faster than SATA 6 Gbps, but it all comes down to the controller on the device used. There are currently a few M.2 PCIe x2 drives on the market, mostly SATA based, but zero SATA Express, making the manufactures who invest in these storage technologies waiting for future product.

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WRAP UP

As we all know Asrock used to be a smaller sub-division of Asus back in the day, but they were doing so well for the budgeted mainstream niche that Asrock eventually was able to separate and stand on their own feet. Asrock has earned their reputation for consistently shipping out generations of solid and affordable motherboards that really pleased the BYOPC market.

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