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Labs Components Asrock Z97 Anniversary

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9/14/2014 10:32:39 AM

The Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition is a gift from Intel to overclockers, delivering astonishing raw frequency performance provided you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty. ASRock has come up with a rather savvy marketing manoeuvre to capitalise on the excitement around the G3258, in the form of the ASRock Z97 Anniversary motherboard. Like the CPU it’s named after, this budget board packs a powerful wallop, but several rather large corners had to be cut to lessen the blow to your wallet or purse.

The use of the Anniversary name suggests this motherboard has a nifty feature or component that somehow makes it the perfect home for Intel’s new bargain blazer, but upon closer examination there isn’t. It’s just a just a damn good value, Z97-based motherboard. It’s quite amazing to see how cheap this board is, as the Z97 is Intel’s latest performance chipset. Designed to extract maximum performance out of the upcoming 5th Generation Core CPU (aka Broadwell), Z97 is usually found in more expensive, premium motherboards around the $180 to $250 price point, aimed at gamers or performance users. Backwards compatible with today’s 4th Generation Core CPUs yet forwards compatible with the long overdue Broadwell, it uses the Socket 1150 design, safe in the knowledge that it should still be compatible with at least the next two generations of Intel CPUs.

Description: The Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition is a gift from Intel to overclockers, delivering astonishing raw frequency performance provided you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.

The Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition is a gift from Intel to overclockers, delivering astonishing raw frequency performance provided you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.

So how has ASRock managed to slash the price of a Z97 board so drastically? The answer is easy – there’s precious little else on this motherboard other than Z97 chipset and its supporting components. Even the physical size of the PCB board has been cut back, as it’s much thinner than average ATX-sized products. Considering how small it is, ASRock has managed to squeeze a healthy number of expansion slots onto the board, with a single PCI 3.0 x16 for a graphics card, alongside three PCIe 2.0 x1 slots and twin legacy PCI slots. They’re rather cramped on this board, though, so expect a few to be shut out of action when their neighbouring slots are occupied.

Strangely absent is one of the key features of the Z97 chipset, an M.2 slot, the exotic new connection type designed for ultra-fast SSDs. For existing Z87-based motherboard owners, it’s the only reason to upgrade right now, as the performance is otherwise identical between the new and the old.

We’re a little surprised that ASRock cut this one defining feature from the board, but in reality most users are still perfectly happy with their SATA 3 SSDs, so it probably wouldn’t have got much use anyway.

For existing Z87-based motherboard owners, it’s the only reason to upgrade right now, as the performance is otherwise identical between the new and the old.

Description: For existing Z87-based motherboard owners, it’s the only reason to upgrade right now, as the performance is otherwise identical between the new and the old.

For existing Z87-based motherboard owners, it’s the only reason to upgrade right now, as the performance is otherwise identical between the new and the old.

Onboard audio is comprised of the absolute basics, in the form of a Realtek ALC887 audio chip, without any of the EMF shielding or proprietary amplification found on more expensive offerings. The power circuitry is similarly simple, with a four-phase solution offering decent performance provided you keep it away from all forms of extreme voltage tweaking. Despite this simple power configuration, we managed a sterling 4.4GHz frequency out of the G3258 CPU, which runs at a default speed of 3.2GHz. Best of all, we achieved this soaring speed increase by using the board’s preconfigured BIOS overclocking options. There was no messing around with voltages, no disabling esoterically named monitoring features or complex mathematics to figure out the right memory ratio. In BIOS, we selected an automatic overclock speed of 4.4GHz, and rebooted the PC to 100% stability. It doesn’t get any easier.

The pre-tweaked BIOS settings will be reason enough for novices to pair this motherboard with Intel’s new wonder chip, giving them all of the performance with none of the effort. The fact that it also delivers the brand new Z97 chipset, along with forwards compatibility, makes the price quite remarkable – we just wish they’d spent a few dollars more to include the M.2 connection. It might not have any fancy features that make this board specially sculpted for the Pentium Anniversary, but the unique combination of chipset, price and easy overclocking results in it being the perfect partner.

Description: The fact that it also delivers the brand new Z97 chipset, along with forwards compatibility, makes the price quite remarkable – we just wish they’d spent a few dollars more to include the M.2 connection.

The fact that it also delivers the brand new Z97 chipset, along with forwards compatibility, makes the price quite remarkable – we just wish they’d spent a few dollars more to include the M.2 connection.

 

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