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BIOSTAR GAMING Z97X (Intel Z97) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Apr 9, 2015 2:12 pm
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: BIOSTAR

Circuit Analysis




This section will start off with a look at power regulation and then shift into general circuit selection and implementation.




The VRM here is made up of 12 phases. BIOSTAR isn't known for having VRM issues as their component selection is usually very sound. This board is no exception, everything looks normal, there are two MOSFETs for every phase and they are in the popular PowerPAK package. The output filter consists of 6x 560uF 5K capacitors for a total of 2800uF, which is light, but that could be because of the inductors.




The PWM is a Hybrid Digital 6-Phase "Green" VRD 12.5 Intersil ISL6376, it should do a good job with transient response and efficiency. The MOSFETs are from Sinopower, and the low-side is a SM4364 and the high-side is a SM4377. The current ratings of the high-side and low-side are within 10A of each other, which is a good sign, as there is usually a much larger difference, but both MOSFETs have high current ratings.




There are six Intersil ISL6611A which are phase doublers with dual drivers, they expand the 6 phases from the PWM into 12 phases. The memory VRM is made up of the same MOSFETs as each CPU power phase, and a single phase uPI Semiconductor UP1514 is responsible for their power management.




BIOSTAR is using the good-old ALC898 which features really high input SNR compared to even the ALC1150, which is possibly why BIOSTAR decided to use it. BIOSTAR is using an AMP and a Pre-AMP which are those two chips to the right of the Realtek ALC898. They also included four "metalized polypropylene film capacitors" and some electrolytic capacitors, great for the audio's analog domain. BIOSTAR also isolates the analog domain of the audio section from the rest of the board.




This is part of the circuit board inside the GAMING COMMANDER box. There is a register and some other CMOS components to make its features functional. The square IC in the upper right hand corner in the image on the left is possibly some type of differential for the CMedia IC in the image on the right. The CM120B is located in the GAMING COMMANDER box, and BIOSTAR confirms it's a 2.1 channel codec.


When you hit the "Mix" button on the COMMANDER box, this codec is utilized instead of the Realtek on the motherboard. This means that the digital signals from the PCH's Intel Azalia high definition audio processor are routed not only to the Realtek codec, but also this CMedia codec, giving you the choice to use either one.




The Qualcomm Killer E2201 chip is common on gaming motherboards, but the GAMING Z97X also provides the choice to go Intel with the i218v.




The ASMedia ASM1061 on the left provides 2x SATA6G, and the ASMedia ASM1142E provides 2x USB 3.1 on the backpanel.




The ASMedia ASM1184e is a PCI-E 2.0 lane switch, providing 4x PCI-E 2.0 from a single PCI-E 2.0 input. Since most devices that go in PCI-E 1x slots don't utilize the full bandwidth of a whole PCI-E lane, it is sometimes acceptable to use a switch like this to increase lane count. I am not sure exactly where the bandwidth goes, but the PCI-E 1x slots should take up 3 of the 4 downstream ports, and then I would think the ASMedia ASM1061 for SATA 6G would use the rest.


The six ASM1480 are 2x PCI-E 3.0 quick switches and are used to spread the 16X PCI-E lanes from the CPU to the brown PCI-E 16x slots. The ICS clock generator is used for the PCI-E clock for the 16X slots.




Two NXP PTN3360 level shifters and an ASMedia ASM1445 provide the HDMI output.




This single ASMedia ASM1480 switches bandwidth between the SATA Express (and the 2 SATA6G ports) and the M.2 connector shown in the image on the right.




BIOSTAR uses an iTE IT8622E for the SuperIO. This means that the IT8622E provides fan, temperature, and voltage monitoring and control as well as a PS/2 keyboard port. A single Winbond BIOS ROM is used; it is a 64Mbit/8MB chip.

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