The box states that the board has the GAMING COMMANDER unit inside and the symbol that many have referred to as the Borg eyepiece from Star Trek is actually part of BIOSTAR's logo. The board sits in an antistatic bag and there is also a piece of foam to help cushion the board which is great for protection.
The accessory package is pretty basic, however, there are some highlights. There are 4x SATA6G cables with a BIOSTAR cable tie, the GAMING COMMANDER box, I/O shield, manuals, and a really cool credit card 4GB USB drive with the drivers and software. The GAMING COMMANDER box features volume, mute, XLouder button, a MIX button, headphone jack, microphone jack, status LEDs, and a temperature monitor. The cross has three colors which change depending on the temperature.
There are five fan headers circled in blue, they are all PWM headers. You will notice that there is a shield that protects the heat sinks and some of the PCB from dust; however, its real purpose is for aesthetics. Many users never grew up looking at circuit boards imagining they were really tiny cities for electrons (like I did), and thus they would rather look at nicely designed plastic than the awesomeness of the circuitry. All joking aside, providing the choice between a shield, which would help the motherboard blend better with other components, and no shield is a nice addition.
At this price point, every little addition counts. The back of the board is pretty bare, which is what I like to see. There are a few things worth mentioning such as the audio isolation path, the extra strips of solder to help cooling around the power components, and the doublers/drivers for the CPU VRM.
The IO panel is filled with all types of goodies; 4x USB 3.0, 2x USB 3.1 (the two closest to the audio ports), dual NICs, a 30u gold plated TOSLINK with S/PDIF, shielded DVI, Dual HDMI (4K support), DisplayPort, and a PS/2 keyboard port.
A single card will result in 16x in the top slot and 0x in each of the remaining brown 16x slots for 16x/0x/0x. The PCI-E ports support 3-Way CrossFireX at 8x/4x/4x, or two way at 8x/8x/0x. The placement of the battery is a bit off-putting, as you have to remove the GPU in the first slot to remove the battery if you need to clear the CMOS that way, however, there is a ClearCMOS button in a better position.
BIOSTAR is making full use of the SATA support from the PCH, offering 8x SATA6G (2 from ASMedia controller), and SATA Express (which shares bandwidth with two SATA6G ports). Two extra SATA 6G are provided by an ASMedia controller.
The POST Code display is a must at this price level, BIOSTAR has also retrofitted the POST code to display the CPU temperature during operation. The right angled USB 3.0 header is also a nice touch, that header is an expensive part and not very common because of its price. The part of the shield where the BIOSTAR logo is prominently displayed actually is removable so you can install an M.2 drive.
BIOSTAR hasn't forgotten overclockers; they provide power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons as well as an XMP button to easily enable XMP and a LN2 mode switch. The BIOS ROM is also replaceable.
Taking the shield off is quite easy; there are six screws and six nuts that hold them in place. Removing the shield reveals low-profile heat sinks that cool down the PCH and the CPU VRM.
The PCH heat sink is held down by plastic push pins, but BIOSTAR made sure the CPU VRM heat sinks use screws, and contact looks solid.
This is the front panel box; it isn't easy to take apart. I took it apart so you don't have to.
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- Page 1 [Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing]
- Page 2 [Packaging and the GAMING Z97X]
- Page 3 [GAMING Z97X Circuit Analysis]
- Page 4 [BIOS and Software]
- Page 5 [Test Setup and Overclocking]
- Page 6 [CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks]
- Page 7 [System IO Benchmarks]
- Page 8 [Temperature and Power Consumption]
- Page 9 [Final Thoughts]
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