Motherboard tier list: Z97 chipset

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Z97 chipset:



Intel’s latest 9-series OCable MoBo platform, though it varies very slightly from 8-series, there are some minor improvements, like addition of M.2 slot for instance. Being the latest OCable chipset from Intel’s most active socket right now, it comes in all shapes and sizes. From sub $100 budget boards to $300+ enthusiast level monsters, this chipset has it all.

This chipset will also support Intel’s upcoming Broadwell CPUs, though a BIOS update may be required. As of now though, all current LGA1150 chips are supported w/o the need for any BIOS updates. The overall MoBo quality is rather decent, with almost no low quality units (boards which can fry your CPU), but they should be appropriately matched with the overall build. Features and OCing ability vary quite a bit. That is where tiers play a role, look for Tier descriptions for more info.

Key:

Red: MSI
Blue: ASROCK
Green: GIGABYTE
Gold: ASUS
Gray: ECS
Pink: BIOSTAR
Black: EVGA


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Tier One-Class A: Extreme Enthusiast Level. 4 Way SLI supported, power packed with superb VRMs and thermals for extreme OCing, all premium features, these boards are the best Z97 you’ll get in the market. Extreme boards shall be a right term to define them. You can’t go wrong quality wise, they’re solid boards.

Note: The 4 Way SLI on this chipset is not as effective as in X99 due to 16 PCIe lanes from the CPU (vs 28 in i7 5800 or 40 in 5900 series,ie, X99), even after usage of PLX chips.

E-ATX Form Factor:

Z97 Classified
XPOWER AC

ATX Form Factor:

EXTREME9
Z97X Gaming G1 (WIFI-BK edition as well)
Z97X Gaming GT
Z97-WS


Honorable mention: Z97X-SOC-FORCE, the LN2 version of this board broke world OCing records. This one is no less, minus the 4 way SLI ability.



Tier One-Class B: Enthusiast Level. Premium featured MoBos with SLI capability, M.2 and enough power to run any current CPUs with very high-extreme OCing capabilities. Just a step lower than Extreme Enthusiast boards, they’re no less than feature laden. Solid quality, shall serve you long.


ATX Form Factor:

MSI GAMING 7
MPOWER (MAX AC edition as well)
Z97-GD65 Gaming
Gaming 9 AC (ACK as well)
EXTREME6 (AC as well)
OC Formula
PROFESSIONAL
Z97X-Gaming 5 (not to be confused with MX version)
UD5H (BK as well)
Z97X-SOC (No M.2)
Z97X-Gaming 7
GA-Z97X-UD7 TH (No M.2)
G1 SNIPER (No M.2, but this MoBo hit 5Ghz mark stable in some reviews)
Z97X-SOC-FORCE (no M.2, but great for OCing, has SATAe)
Z97-PRO (AC as well)
MAXIMUS VII HERO/ RANGER/ FORMULA (great boards for OCing)
DELUXE (NFC&WLC edition as well)
Sabertooth Mark1/ Mark 2 (no M.2, great for OCing)
Z97 FTW

mATX Form Factor

Z97M OC Formula
MAXIMUS VII GENE
Z97 Gryphon

Mini-ITX Form Factor:

MAXIMUS VII IMPACT


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Tier Two-Class A: High end. Mainstream performance oriented boards, SLI capable with good enough thermals and power to take up any CPU, great for some serious OCing. Have many premium storage features such as M.2 and/or SATAe as well. Quality is good, no known persistent issues.

ATX Form Factor:

GAMING 5
Fatal1ty Z97X Killer
EXTREME4
UD3H (BK as well)
Z97-A
Z97-AR
PRO GAMER
GAMING Z97X
Z97 MACHINE

mATX Form Factor

MX-Gaming 5
Z97M Gaming

Mini-ITX Form Factor:

Z97 GAMING AC
Z97I GAMING ACK
GA-Z97N-Gaming 5
Z97I-Plus
Stinger AC (Core 3D as well)



Tier Two-Class B: SLI Capable. Entry level SLI capable boards with good enough thermals for decent OCing, not the best choice for very high OCing though. M.2 isn't a compulsion. These bring the SLI ability at an affordable price point.

ATX Form Factor:

Z97S SLI Krait Edition
Z97S SLI Plus
G45 Gaming
G55 SLI
Extreme3 (no M.2)
Z97X-Gaming 3
Z97X-SLI
Z97-E
Hi-Fi Z97WE
Hi-Fi Z97Z7
GAMING Z97W


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Tier Three: Mid range. Crossfire Capable MoBos with SATA III for budget oriented gamers. Power phases and thermals are not awesome, still decent for everyday use and some decent OCing, but not with the highest TDP CPUs. Have all the standard features, M.2 is not a compulsion though. Quality is decent, OCing ability is moderate for most boards.

ATX Form Factor:

PC MATE
GAMING 3
Z97 G43
MSI U3 Plus
Guard Pro
Z97 Fatal1ty KILLER (Not the ‘Z97X’, which is SLI capable- Both are good at OCing)
PRO4
Z97 HD3
Z97 D3H
Z97P D3
Z97-K/CSM
Z97-C
Z97 PK

mATX Form Factor

Z97M G43
Z97M PRO4
Z97M D3H
Z97M Plus (has M.2)

Mini ITX Form Factor (Not CFX capable):

Z97I AC
Z97E-ITX/ac
Z97M-ITX/AC
GA-Z97N-WIFI
Z97I DRONE

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Tier Four: Basic Motherboards. They have all the basic features, ie., 4 DIMMs, one x16 slot, SATA 3 with USB 3.0 headers. Suited for gamers on tight budget and mainstream general-purpose users. Don’t expect high performance in terms of OCing. Not suitable for high end builds. Average quality, but fine for OCing lower TDP CPUs like Pentium.

ATX Form Factor:

Z97 PRO3
Anniversary

mATX Form Factor

Z97M-DS3H

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Currently Untiered.The board is either new and/ or there aren't enough comprehensive reviews about it.

Z97X GAME PLUS

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NOTE: This thread is a part of the article series 'Motherboard tier list'.
 

bobybrown123

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Aug 16, 2014
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By the Extreme3 in Tier 2 High End, Is this the mobo, cause I have this: ASRock Z97 Extreme3 LGA 1150 Intel Z97 HDMI SATA 6Gb/s USB 3.0 ATX Intel Motherboard
 

deathshadow

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Feb 19, 2014
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Fair enough. I too want to build with the gaming 5 in the coming months as it looks so awesome, but the amount of hate msi's QC receives on the forums here really worries me. Could you please address it here so that anyone interested in msi isn't put off by it :)
 
MSI currently has no such issues, a couple of their boards, from AMD platform, were (rightly) critized of having overheating VRMs and DOA memory slots. Currently MSI has the same RMA rate as Asus, and they infact use high quality components, such rumours are biased and one should not be put off by it. MSI is as good as other brands, if not better.
 

deathshadow

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Feb 19, 2014
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Thank you. And it's a great list btw, will help potential buyers a lot. As choosing a motherboard is probably the trickiest part of a build.
 

Nathan White

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Oct 5, 2013
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You mentioned broadwell working in 1150 socket. That's no longer the case. The chipset may be the same but the socket will be 1151 instead
 

Mac266

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Mar 12, 2014
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Sorry mate, but you're incorrect here. Broadwell is confirmed for all 9 series chipsets.

Skylake is socket 1151, with the 100 series chipsets.
 
For the best bang for buck, it really depends on the money involved. Z97X-SLI is a good entry level SLI board but can't really match Z97 Gaming 5 or Z97-A in performance, which in turn are kinda lowish in front of Z97 GT or M7 Hero.

Also, Nathan White, can you provide a source?
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Having two microarchitectures launching for client computing in one year makes us wonder if there's much reason to opt for delayed Broadwell-based processors when they become available in six months' time. Perhaps Broadwell's one redeeming factor is compliance with the current LGA 1150 socket used on Haswell chips/boards. Skylake, meanwhile, will use a new socket known as LGA 1151.
As seen here: http://hexus.net/tech/news/cpu/74481-intel-broadwell-skylake-client-cpus-launching-2015/
 

pwiebe

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Jan 12, 2013
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Can someone tell me why there's such a difference in tier levels for Asrock motherboards between H97 and Z97? Particularly the Z97 PRO3 & Anniversary. Here they're listed as Tier 4, but in the H97 list they are Tier 2.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator


Because the H97 and Z97 Pro and anniversary editions are not the same board. The Z97 boards are built with overclocking in mind while those two H97 boards are more mainstream and not necessarily intended for enthusiast builds.
 
^Pretty much. Z series boards have lots of competition due to more features, the two major ones being SLI ability and OCing ability. Since ALL H series boards lack both of them, there's nothing much to tier Pro3 and Anniversary lower than Tier 2.

Reading the tier description would help. Tier 1 H series boards are CFX capable, while tier 2 aren't. Since build quality is reasonably good for the price and specs of the board, all non-CFX capable H series boards are Tier 2. Z series have a lot more to look out for, VRMs and thermals, OCing ability, SLI ability, etc.
 

mac3pc

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Nov 21, 2014
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What about ASUS Z97 GRYPHON Armor Edition?
Is it on the list? Can't see it in any tier. If not, why not?


Plus, how do you compare it with Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 Sockel 1150 M-ATX? Also, is this one in tier TWO?
 
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