ASUS Z97-DELUXE (NFC & WLC) Hardware
ASUS Dual Intelligent Processor 5
All the ASUS Z97-series motherboards use a number of third-party and custom-made chips to implement proprietary features, such as “5-Way Optimization”. ASUS Dual Intelligent Processor 5 is a collection of five applications that manage system control for adjustable hardware aspects on ASUS Z97-series boards. ASUS Turbo App and ASUS Fan Xpert are two apps that depend heavily upon a Nuvoton NCT6791D system management chip to maintain voltage, adjust system parameters, manage network priority, and optimize audio. ASUS TPU delivers “on-the-fly” overclocking for CPU and iGPU via a TPU KB3720QF chip, which operates in either “Ratio Boost” or “BCLK + Ratio Boost” mode. ASUS DIGI+ Power Control delivers precise digital power control for increased stability by using 16-Phase digital power control chokes. Finally, an ASUS EPU chip detects and shuts off unused ports to save energy.
ASUS Wi-Fi GO!
Included with the ASUS Z97-DELUXE and Z97-PRO kits is a ASUS 2T2R dual-band 2.4/5.0 GHz wireless antenna (WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac compliant). ASUS Wi-Fi GO! enables users to create a wireless hotspot using the new 802.11ac standard, producing up to 867 Mb/s data throughput. Users can also utilize wireless AP Mode support for an extended wireless 802.11 a/b/g/n connection. The ASUS Interactive Home Cloud enables remote data sharing and control through three function sets: Wi-Fi GO!, Media Streamer, and NFC Express 2. ASUS Media Streamer is a a digital repository for sharing media for remote access, and matches nicely to smart devices. ASUS Wi-Fi GO! enables a remote desktop, file transfers, Cloud GO! support, and a remote keyboard and mouse.
ASUS NFC Express 2
Near Field Communication (NFC) is a wireless data exchange technology that allows for simplified transfer simply by touching NFC devices together. Bundled with the ASUS Z97-DELUXE (NFC & WLC) board is their new ASUS NFC Express 2 near-field communication receiver, along with a yellow tag that contains a NFC chip paired to the receiver. The NFC Express 2 receiver yields another two USB 3.0 ports directly on the hub. The last bundled extra is the ASUS Wireless Charger station, which will recharge supported WPC Qi 1.1 compliant battery-powered devices.
Some key features that ASUS NFC Express 2 unlocks are:
- Remote Desktop: remotely control your PC anywhere, anytime
- Windows 8 Login: tap to log in to your PC – no typing required
- Video-to-go: Tap to pick up movie clips from your PC, from right where you left them. Don’t miss a moment of what you’re watching with smart resume functionality. Tap your phone to switch video output from your PC to your phone to your smart TV and pick up right where you left off. *Install ASUS Media Streamer to enable this function.
- Photo Express: Photo-transfer from smartphone to PC
- Quick-Launch Apps: Launch favorite apps, games, websites – all at once
- Bluetooth Pairing: Auto pairing with your PC and play music stored in your smart devices. Tap to pair your smart devices with your PC for Bluetooth A2DP* playback through your PC speakers. *The Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) is a Bluetooth profile that allows for the wireless transmission of stereo audio streamed from one device to another.
ASUS Wireless Charger
ASUS also bundles a wireless charger unit with their Z97-DELUXE (NFC & WLC) motherboard kit. Wireless charging uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy between two objects, usually between a wireless charger and battery-powered device. Wireless chargers typically use an induction coil in both charging station and portable device to send the energy to charge batteries. Qi (pronounced “Chee”) is an interface standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium for inductive electrical power transfer. The ASUS Wireless Charger unit is compatible with Qi-certified products fitted with a Qi wireless charging receiver (not included).
ASUS ThunderboltEX II/Dual
The newly designed ASUS ThunderboltEX II/Dual expansion adapter delivers two Thunderbolt connectors plus two DisplayPort inputs, and comes bundled with the Z97-DELUXE (NFC & WLC) motherboard. All other ASUS Z97-series motherboards (and previously released Z87-series boards) support the ThunderboltEX II (single port) or ThunderboltEX II/Dual expansion adapters, which may be purchased separately. The new dual-port adapter is based on the Intel DSL5520 Thunderbolt 2 controller chipset, delivering 20 Gb/s bandwidth on each port and allowing six devices per connection for a total of twelve chained devices.
The Z97-DELUXE series motherboards can support three monitors natively since Thunderbolt ports can each be used to drive DisplayPort monitors, and all three ports (Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, and HDMI) support 4K Ultra HD resolutions (albeit at a 24Hz refresh rate).
At the time of this writing, performance results were under embargo by Intel. That period has passed, and Benchmark Reviews has published our test results here: ASUS Z97-DELUXE Motherboard Performance Review
Intel Z97 Express Final Thoughts
For the sake of discussion, I will presume that we’re all wondering why Intel would offer a fresh motherboard chipset without a corresponding new processor to launch with it. Intel’s Z87 Express chipset works wonderfully with current 4th generation Haswell desktop processors, and board partners like ASUS have (over)loaded their product with features beyond the needs of most enthusiasts. We’re still a few months away from a Haswell series refresh with Devil’s Canyon, which retains the same 22nm architecture for LGA 1150 but delivers small speed bumps at each SKU level and comes with improved pre-applied thermal interface material. Z97 Express sets the groundwork for 5th-generation processors, but these 14nm Broadwell-D desktop CPUs are not rumored to debut until Q1 2015. That could mean two things for the next year: 1) with at least 6-9 months until Broadwell arrives, system builders will continue to use Haswell-based CPU inventory, and 2) once Broadwell arrives, Z97 Express will remain the supported channel board chipset for quite some time afterward. Of course, there’s still time for Intel to make changes to their plans for X99 Express, but their roadmap draws a clear picture of the plan.
As it looks now, Haswell-E (Enthusiast) is where things will get interesting. The new 14nm enthusiast 6- and 8-core desktop CPU will utilize a new LGA 2011-3 socket, which is why is won’t be supported on Z97 Express. With the arrival of Intel’s X99 Express chipset enthusiasts will be treated to: DDR4 memory support, five PCIe 3.0 x16 card slots, and ten SATA 6 Gb/s ports. Intel’s Haswell-E processors and X99 Express motherboards are rumored for arrival in late 2014 near the holiday shopping season.
With this Z97 Express chipset launch, we’ve got a new channel board that can and will support all Haswell, Devil’s Canyon, or Broadwell desktop processors available now or in the future. This will likely create quite the product life cycle for Z97-based boards, well into 2016. This bodes well for the ailing desktop computer industry, which has trimmed away so much fat that all that remains are bone and the strongest muscles. Keeping Intel’s strategy to remove itself from the desktop board market, Z97 and X99 could be what we’re given to chew on for quite some time.
What do you think?