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ASUS Z97-Deluxe & Z97-A Review

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ASUS Z97-Deluxe & Z97-A Conclusion:

After going through the testing process on these two variations of ASUS Z97 lineup, it's hard not to like what you get in each package. While the Z97-A comes with a bare bones accessory package, it is enough to get the job done, allowing the end user the flexibility of adding hardware later to take advantage of the capabilities of the board. The Z97-Deluxe NFC & WLC, on the other hand, comes with an accessory package that is equipped with everything including the proverbial kitchen sink. Even though there is a disparity in the packaging, you can get the same basic experience with both boards. The layout is similar as well as is the color scheme for both of these ASUS Z97 boards. Subtle differences are down at the hardware level, with differences in the Digi+III VRM phase count, VRM Cooling, and components of the Crystal Sound 2 audio solutions. Subtle, but noticeable if you look for these key differences.

Looking at the baseline performance, I did not see anything terribly out of the ordinary as you might expect. All Z97 boards will perform within a specific envelope when equipped with identical hardware. Overclocking follows this guideline for the most part. Between the Z97-A and Z97-Deluxe NFC & WLC, the maximum overclock was within 21MHz board-to-board, showing that you get the same overclocking experience from top to bottom of the product stack. By manually tuning the Z97-A, I was able to use bclock multiplier overclocking, while the Z97-Deluxe needed a little more finesse and massaging of the bclock to reach its maximum speed of right around 4.7GHz. It took more of a time investment for the maximum clock speed on the Deluxe, but that's part of the allure of overclocking.

If you do not feel like investing the time, you can use ASUS' own 5-Way optimization tool or EZ Tuning wizard in the BIOS to allow the board to set a nice solid overclock based on your installed hardware. With speeds of right around 4.6GHz, it's hard not to let the boards do their thing and come out the other side with a nice performance boost. ASUS' all-digital Digi+ III VRM circuit can be thanked for the stability of the power supplied to the components to allow for such consistent overclocking.

If you have to let cost be your deciding factor, then the Z97-A is your go-to board. It has a great basic feature set, including SATA Express and M.2 storage options. When price is less of a consideration and you will use the added feature set of the Z97-Deluxe NFC & WLC, then by all means go for this board. Of course it comes with added cost, but you get all the latest features, including NFC access to your system for any level of control, along with the wireless charging system that makes charging wireless devices a snap, but does require a Qi-capable device. ASUS Crystal Sound 2 solution varies slightly between the Z97-A and Z97-Deluxe NFC&WLC, but is built well enough on each board to deliver great sound quality in any situation.

ASUS software package includes the tools to get the most out of the hardware, especially when you look at the added functionality of the NFC, WLC, and Thunderbolt 2 add-in card. AISuite 3 includes a ton of added functionality on its own, with USB 3.0 Turbo Boost to improve USB 3.0 throughput, USB BIOS Flashback for a fail safe recovery, Turbo LAN software to manage network traffic, Fan Xpert 3 used alone or as part of the 5-Way Optimization tool, and ASUS Turbo App to allow the end user to improve performance at a per-application level. You also get ASUS Home Cloud, ASUS WebStorage, Wi-Fi Go, Media Streamer, and the list goes on. ASUS UEFI BIOS is, for the most part, the gold standard of BIOS with the ease of use and navigation through the structure of the BIOS.

At the conclusion of the testing, I found that all the associated technologies from ASUS just worked as intended. It's hard to go wrong with either the Z97-A or Z97-Deluxe NFC & WLC. However, if the NFC & WLC feature set is not on your go-to list, then the Z97-A is right up your alley.

 

Pros:

  • Feature set
  • Software package
  • Overclocking
  • Performance
  • SATA Express
  • Crystal Sound 2
  • Sound Solution
  • BIOS

 

Cons:

  • None
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