ASUS Z97A Motherboard Review
The Z97A is the entry level board, but don't let that fool you into thinking that it hasn't got a raft of cool features. It's so easy for people to assume that they need loads of elements that they'll never actually utilise and thus overlook something which is more modest but will still get the job done.
It's unlikely that the Z97A will win any beauty contests with the its brown aesthetic. However, we can't be the only people who recall when the lowest cost offering came with a bright blue PCB, three or four colours of plastics, a heatsink that seemed to mainly be designed to remove the skin off your knuckles, and vertical storage ports. So with that in mind we think that the Z97A is inoffensive. No we wouldn't choose this colour scheme, but equally if you're building on a budget then looks aren't a factor and performance is. That's where the combination of the outstanding Intel Chipset and ASUS' build quality comes into its own.
There is plenty of room between the PCI slots, and SLI/Crossfire is a very realistic prospect. The inclusion of both PCI Express slots and legacy PCI ones allow you to run the hardware you might have on hand without being forced to upgrade. The importance of that can't be underestimated at this level. Sure we all wish we could refresh our whole system every six months, but we don't.
The gold heatsinks are the element of the new ASUS Z97 range that has divided opinion in the office the most. It's much nicer than the previous gold offerings, being a lot lighter and looking more like actual gold.
There is no lack of modern storage options on the Z97A, with the board supporting SATA 6Gb/s, SATA Express, and just below the CPU socket is a M.2 port for your little SSD. The DRAM OK button is hugely useful if you've been struggling with system stability as it will ensure that the board boots up without a hitch.
Yes we can hear you wailing at the back that brown and gold is hardly the most beautiful motherboard colour combination around. Fortunately we don't judge solely upon the looks, and the performance will cause a few jaws to drop.