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May 3, 2014

Haswell Refresh-Ready Motherboards Based on Intel Z97 Chipset Up for Order




Over the past couple of weeks, we saw several motherboards based on the Intel Z97 chipset get launched, though most of them weren't immediately available. Now they've started to crop up online though.

It wasn't exactly certain they would be put up for order this week, despite that quite a few of the products were supposed to become available this month (May 2014). There are, after all, still some days left before the Haswell Refresh series of central processing units reach stores (Core-series, Celeron and Pentium desktop and laptop chips). And, historically, when a company says that a product will debut this or that month, the chances of the release happening near the end of said month are about as high as the odds of it coming to pass in the first week. Nevertheless, the motherboards are already coming out. At least some of those from ASUS, Gigabyte and Micro-Star International anyway. Newegg has them listed. At the price of $150 / €150 we have the ASUS Z97-A and GIGABYTE Z97X-UD3H, then at $160 / €160 you'll find the MSI Z97-Gaming 5 and Z97-Gaming 7.

Even more expensive is the MSI MPower, at $200 / €200, while the ASUS Sabertooth Z97 and MSI Z97 MPower Max AC ship at $250 / €250 and $260 / €260, respectively. Searching “Z97” under the “motherboard” category will net all of these results, and some we haven't mentioned. Curiously, the ASRock mainboards that came out late last month (April 2014) aren't there, or weren't at the time of this article's writing. Odd, given how ASRock easily has the greatest collection (for now), numbering five distinct mainboard models. There are two main advantages to the Z97 chipset, besides the intrinsic support for Haswell Refresh CPUs. One of them is support for M.2 solid state drives. M.2 SSDs are much smaller than 2.5-inch and even mSATA, and are known as NGFF (Next Generation Form Factor) as well.

The other main asset of Z97 is native support for SATA Express technology, a type of SATA which enables a bandwidth of up to 12 Gbps by using PCI Express links alongside SATA ones. The ASUS HyperExpress SSD is an example of a storage device that can use the tech to reach almost 800 MB/s data throughput. No doubt the number of Z97 mainboards will increase by the end of the month. Probably within the next two weeks even, since Intel's CPUs will be out by then, and even if they don't debut that soon, the platforms normally precede the chips by a decent interval.

Gigabyte Z97 SOC Force
Image credits to Gigabyte

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