Gigabyte Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI-BK

We’ve looked at a number of Z97 boards previously and have found that the differences between competing vendor offerings is increasingly diminished with each successive chipset. Understandable because there isn’t much difference between the Z87 and Z97 chipset. Thus,there is very little for vendors to do to try and make these newer boards more attractive.

That doesn't mean however that we should accept that all boards will be the same and offer little to no advances. To the contrary, it's a great opportunity for all the engineering teams involved in motherboard design to think of new and exciting ways to distinguish their products from the each other. Add value where there previously wasn't any. A great example that was capitalized on is the audio component of motherboards. Every vendor has some sort of headphone amplifier and makes use of contextually expensive audio capacitors around their audio solution. As you may suspect, GIGABYTE chose to follow in their tradition of providing Creative Labs audio processors instead of relying solely on Realtek codecs. This is but one area where they managed to set themselves apart. This decision has paid dividends by offering the best overall audio solution on the market ,only eclipsed by their previous efforts (controller side) with the original G1 boards that featured the C20K2 audio processor. This is not to be undermined, because it just may still be the most important reason for choosing the GIGABYTE gaming models over the competition.

With future motherboards, perhaps there may be a little more that’s needed because it’s an advantage that can be matched thus equalizing the playing field. One of the features we would have liked to see on the Gaming G1 is M.2 support. We understand that support for this could have been omitted due to space constraints (the board is full as it is) or perhaps the limitations imposed by supporting 4-way SLI, but we still wish we had that as an option. Talking about 4-Way SLI, this brings us to another point which is the GPU support on the G1. There’s only one other competing motherboard we know of that has 4-way SLI support on a gaming board (Z97 Classified) and oddly enough that board shares a common feature set with the Gaming G1 but costs more.

That motherboard however does have M.2 support as well. Perhaps GIGABYTE could have forgone the PCI-Express 1X slots and used those for M.2 instead. After all, one is unlikely to resort to a dedicated sound card on such a motherboard given how impressive the on-board solution is.

As the most expensive and premium Z97 gaming motherboard in their line-up, we are glad to have Wi-Fi (ac support) and Bluetooth on this model. So there’s no board that can claim to offer more in that regard. Instead, we look to the Ultra Durable range and notice that there is native thunderbolt support on the UD7 TH. Granted that this connection also relies on PCI-Express of which there are very limited lanes on the Z97 chipset. Perhaps a sacrifice could be made where there is only 3-Way SLI support, but there’s M.2 and a single Thunderbolt connector. That way we recieve every feature available or possible on the Z97 platform, making it truly the ultimate and most high end gaming board from GIGABYTE.

Finally we must speak of the single graphics card performance of this board. It relies on the PLX switching chip for 4-Way SLI support (thus providing all connected cards with 8X of bandwidth) but as we all know, that chip robs you of single GPU performance slightly. Most vendors have a way around this by either wiring a specific slot directly to the CPU and providing a dedicated slot or routing traces on the board in a way to negate the slight performance penalty incurred in single GPU mode. There’s no such solution on this motherboard, thus you’re going to have to deal with the small reduction in performance as made evident in our performance data. It’s not going to be the difference between a title that is playable and one that isn’t. However it is a performance discrepancy that one should be aware of before deciding topurchase.

If these seem like criticisms they are not, but rather suggestions because we are properly impressed with this board and our expectations are forever higher. They are more advances we would like to see, given just how similar the Z87 model was to this one. That which allows any motherboard to be called a gaming motherboard is still present. So GIGABYTE has you covered there. Should you decide to build a powerful Z97 gaming machine, this will serve you well and you’ll not want for anything. For $350 it’s not an easy board to beat in features. It really does tick all the right boxes and makes a valid case for itself.

With the position that GIGABYTE finds itself in, expectations from their products are forever going to increase. Trading blows with the industry number one (at some point being number one) necessitates that the innovation and features offered take place at an accelerated pace.

Being better than everyone else is not good enough, but pioneering some features is necessary. GIGABYTE made tremendous strides in their UEFI and ridding themselves of the 3D BIOS. The next step needed is implementing more options on these gaming boards. Right now the magic in the entire range is brought about by the mechanical aspect and component quality which remains impeccable. It is however, not matched by the BIOS/software feature set. The Board is still more than capable of powering any high end machine, but there’s some distance that needs to be covered before there’s a real threat to the likes of the ASUS Maximus range for instance. For example, we would like to see some of the features on the SOC board make it on to the Gaming range. Not the BClk adjustments or anything of the sort, but simple features such as Memory Safe button. Given just how advanced the audio part of this motherboard is. The ability to pass audio through the motherboard, even when the system is off, in a fashion similar to what the MAXIMUS VI Impact allows would be a great addition as well. These and many more are possible avenues that remain untapped by the G1 series which could propel the range even further ahead than it is.

All that however is what can be done to improve an already great motherboard. As it stands, with all that GIGABYTE offers and the asking price, this is a decent motherboard that is well worth your attention.

The red and black scheme has grown on us and we’ve gotten used to it. For those who seek an aesthetically pleasing motherboard for their windowed cases, this one won’t disappoint. This is especially with the all the lights on when the board when is powered.

For everyone else, you may consider then Ultra Durable range if you have to have M.2 support, but then you’ll lose out on the audio portion. It’ll be up to you to weigh those options, but if you’re remotely interested in gaming then we would still stick with the Gaming G1 WIFI. It’s a board that despite making few changes to its predecessor remains a very strong contender in this highly contested market.


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