ASUS Motherboard Final Thoughts
As we mentioned in our hardware review of this motherboard, Intel didn’t give vendors a lot new to work with with the Z97 Express chipset. Its main feature– support for forthcoming Broadwell desktop CPUs– isn’t useful yet, and a couple of extra USB 3.0 and SATA 6G ports isn’t that exciting. If you have a Z87 or even a Z77 based motherboard, there’s little compelling reason to upgrade.
That said, if you’re building a new rig, there’s no reason not to get the latest and greatest, and ASUS has upped the ante by including support for SATA Express and M.2 storage technologies. Granted there are no SATA Express SSDs actually available now, but the optional Hyper Express enclosure will let you connect two M.2 SSDs to the SATA Express ports.
Given the multitude of overclocking options and mechanisms, one thing I’d like to see ASUS offer is a “Gentle Introduction to Overclocking”, which would explain the various options in detail, estimate the amount of performance improvement each was capable of, and help a new user progress along the way from simply flipping switches on the motherboard to changing unpronounceable settings in the BIOS.
In my testing, all the built-in overclocking features made the exact same settings to my 4770K CPU as did the same features on the ASUS Z87-Deluxe/Dual motherboard, and the CPU-bound performance was pretty much the same (the SPECViewPerf benchmark scores are different because different video cards were used on the two motherboards). That’s probably just because ASUS has taken automatic overclocking further than anyone else; I consistently get better results from the auto overclocking features of ASUS boards than I do from other boards. From a pure performance point of view, this is about the best you can do short of one of ASUS’ Rampage Extreme motherboards with its liquid nitrogen feature set.
Although the Z97 chipset isn’t as exciting as Intel’s previous chipset launches, ASUS has used the opportunity to buff the shine on their motherboard range by adding features like SATA Express support and tweaking their already excellent BIOS as well as their Windows utilities. Is it possible to have too many features on a motherboard? I don’t know, but the Z97-DELUXE certainly seems to be trying to answer than question.
From a performance point of view, the Z97-DELUXE offers the same performance and auto-tuning capabilities as ASUS’ previous Z87-based motherboards. This isn’t a bad thing; it just shows how far ASUS has pushed the envelope in this area. The “5-Way Optimization” feature in ASUS’ AI Suite 3 utility considers system power and cooling along with CPU frequency for a balanced, stable approach. Granted, you can still do better with hand-tweaking for your particular workload, but in most cases the performance improvement this gets you will be something you’ll only see in benchmarks.
The Z97-DELUXE is an excellent motherboard that offers superior automatic performance tuning as well as all the features and capabilities an enthusiast user could want. At the time of this writing, the Z97-DELUXE version was available for $289.99 (Newegg), and the Z97-DELUXE NFC & WLC sold for $399.99 (Newegg).