ASUS Z97-DELUXE Motherboard Components
Although ASUS has packed their boards with everything imaginable, the primary purpose of Z97 Express is to support 14nm Broadwell-D desktop processors when they arrive in early 2015. Intel plans to debut a full lineup of refreshed 4th-generation 22nm Haswell desktop processors later this year (code named Devil’s Canyon: faster speeds, improved thermal interface material), but ahead of that release they’ve set the groundwork for 5th-generation processors with Z97. Intel Z97 Express uses the same LGA 1150 socket design, and supports both existing 4th-generation and upcoming 5th-generation Intel desktop processors. The good news is that socket LGA 1150 will fit Haswell, Devil’s Canyon, and Broadwell desktop processors and can use the same heatsink cooler as Z79 and Z89 boards have used (LGA 1156, LGA 1155, LGA 2011). The bad news is that Broadwell is still a very long ways off.
Surrounding the LGA 1150 socket is an array of Japanese 5,000-hour solid capacitors, which are well known to provide superior durability and sustained stability. Hidden under solid aluminum heatsinks are the boards sixteen power phase components, the heart of ASUS’ DIGI+ power control. A large white square surrounds the Intel LGA 1150 socket, illustrating the available area designated for (aftermarket) heatsink coolers. Note that there’s at least an extra 1/8-1/4 inch surrounding this area, so that oversized RAM modules will not interfere with cooler placements.
Four DIMM slots support up to 32GB of non-ECC unbuffered DDR3 system memory when using 8GB RAM modules. Modules must be set in pairs, occupying either black or gray slots for each set. Similar to past ASUS designs, these DIMM sockets utilize retaining levers on one side (top) and a permanent edge on the other (bottom). ASUS MemOK! assists you in recovering from an unbootable system due to unstable memory overclock, while ASUS EZ XMP helps you overclock that memory using its designed profile.
Two front-panel USB 3.0 headers are supported by the board’s ASMedia ASM1042e chip, which also supplies six separate SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports in the back to compliment four Intel-supplied USB 2.0 ports.
Realtek ALC1180 audio is output through either a 7.1-channel digital optical Tos-Link SPDIF output or 5.1-channel analog 3.5mm audio jacks that feature a new de-pop circuit to reduce start-up noise. ASUS uses highest-quality Japanese capacitors to provide warm sound with natural fidelity, and utilizes separate PCB layers for stereo channels to help preserve the sound quality of sensitive audio signals. All audio enclosures are treated with EMI shielding covers, which prevent and reduce electrical noise interference that might affect amplifier sound quality. Once you’re plugged in, ASUS Crystal Sound 2 takes control to auto-optimize an audio profile fine-tuned to either headset or speaker hardware.
Thanks to Intel’s Z97 Express chipset paired to ASMedia chips, there’s no shortage of SATA-based storage connectivity. An ASMedia ASM1467 chip delivers the first two SATA 6 Gb/s ports (black), then Intel’s Z97 Express pitches in for two pairs of ports in the middle, followed by four more SATA 6 Gb/s ports and a pair of SATA Express ports by way of three ASMedia ASM1467 chips. An ASMedia ASM106SE SATA-Express bridge chip controls the M.2 (socket 3) SuperSpeed Inter-Chip, and an ASMedia ASM1480 16-to-8 channel multiplexer/demultiplexer switch chip ties everything together on the bus.
ASUS Z97-DELUXE and Z97-PRO boards provide the full ATX complement of seven slots: three PCIe x16 and four PCIe x1. Shared between three PCIe x16 slots are sixteen PCIe 3.0 lanes of bandwidth available, which can be dedicated towards a single graphics card, or split into an x8-x8 configuration with two cards. The board’s PLX chip enables a 8x/4x/4x configuration with three video cards installed, but don’t worry about 4x holding you back because these are PCIe 3.0 lanes after all.