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Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Review

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Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE Closer Look:

Biostar's Hi-Fi Z97WE is an ATX form factor motherboard measuring 12 x 9.6 inches, allowing an easy fit in any chassis designed to use the form factor. The Hi-Fi Z97WE is built to support Intel socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core series processors, including the Core i7 4770K and 4790K, as well as Intel's upcoming architecture codenamed Broadwell. The layout is pretty much standard for the form factor, with a pair of 16x PCIe 3.0 slots to support multi-GPU technologies. Biostar is using a new fabric with this board to improve moisture resistance in humid environments with a new fabric weave. This fabric is thinner, but woven much tighter to significantly reduce the gaps between threads achieving the permeability of the design. The color scheme uses a combination of yellow, black, and gold, which is becoming popular in this segment. On the back side of the PCB, the only item of note is the CPU retention bracket. Each of the heat sinks used on the board are held on with spring-loaded screws; a more secure method than push pins. 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting at the left side or top of the I/O panel, connectivity includes: a pair of USB 2.0 ports; a keyboard/mouse-capable PS/2 port; an HDMI port that supports resolutions up to 4K/2K; D-sub and DVI-D ports, which can support up to three displays using the onboard graphics on an installed Intel CPU when combined; a pair of Realtek RTL 8111G-managed Gigabit LAN ports, which support teaming functionality for increased bandwidth; four of the six onboard USB 3.0 ports supporting the Charger Booster function; and the analog and optical outputs for the 7.1 HD sound supplied through a Realtek ALC892 codec. Expansion capabilities include: a pair of PCIe 2.0 1x slots; a pair of legacy PCI slots; an M.2 slot; and a pair of PCIe 3.0 16x slots that will run at x8 x x8 when both slots are populated. Strangely, the only supported multi-GPU strategy according to the documentation and Biostar's website is CrossFireX. Biostar chose to use the Realtek ALC 892 codec to manage the PURO Hi-Fi sound solution on the Hi-Fi Z97WE. Biostar's Hi-Fi solution is designed with a noise-blocking, multi-layer PCB, Non Polarized Electrolysis audio capacitors, and an amplifier said to drive 100dB loads.

 

 

 

Along the bottom of the PCB is where you find most of the connectivity to the board outside of the power and drive connections. From the left are the front panel audio connection, system fan header, infrared header, serial port header, TPM header, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, another of the five system fan headers, onboard power and reset buttons, and the front panel header. Above the first USB 2.0 header is an ASmedia ASM1083, x1 PCI Express to 32-bit PCI Bridge controller, which enables the PCI slot expansion capability on the Hi-Fi Z97WE.

 

 

Starting up the right side of the PCB are the Debug LED, CMOS clear jumper, and six SATA 6Gbps ports. The SATA ports support RAID 0,1,5,10, Intel's SRT drive technologies, and share functionality with the M.2 module. When the M.2 slot is populated with a SATA M.2 device, the port labeled 3L is disabled. When a PCIe M.2 device is used, both the upper and lower ports are disabled to feed the M.2 device. Further up is the USB 3.0 header supporting up to two more USB 3.0 ports, the 24-pin ATX power connector, and four DDR3 DIMM slots that allow the board to support up to 32GB of non-ECC DDR3 memory at speeds of up to 2800MHz (OC) in a dual-channel configuration.

 

 

Across the top of the PCB are a system fan header, LN2 jumper for when you are going extreme on your cooling solution, a pair of 4-pin CPU fan headers that can be managed with Biostar's TOverclocker utility or via the BIOS, and an 8-pin auxiliary CPU power connector. As seen in these pictures, the VRM heat sinks are not the largest, but are fully functional. ESD protection is used on each of the rear I/O connections to prevent damage to the PCB or installed components.

 

 

The Hi-Fi Z97WE is designed for use with Intel's LGA socket 1150 Fourth Generation Core processors and is built around the Z97 PCH. A 10-phase power circuit is used and features the use of Low RdsOn P-Pak MOS and solid capacitors that run cooler to deliver higher overclocking margins. The heat sink package over the VRM circuit could be considered small by most people. The small size does not seem to impede functionality and should see enough airflow to keep the power circuits happy when using an air-cooled cooling solution. The heat sink over the Z97 PCH is a low profile design that keeps the PCH cool in operation. The gold color fits well with the black PCB, but it seems like the yellow slots are just not a good match visually. That of course is personal preference and your opinion may vary from mine.

 

 

After looking at the hardware, the Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE should deliver comparable performance, but the key will be how the package works as a whole with the common installed components. Another concern will be how the sound solution compares to the others in the field that use the ALC 1150 codec.




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