GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1 Black Edition Review
GIGABYTE's entry into the Z97 motherboard market will be built atop the shoulders of their new Z97X-Gaming, the newest iteration in the G1-series. It represents a new direction for their design, hardware and marketing teams; one which hopes to bring the G1 series onto a more neutral ground without sacrificing its gaming roots.
Gigabyte's gaming orientated motherboards have had a rather tumultuous history with seemingly equal portions of detractors and aficionados. Whether you consider yourself part of the former or the latter group one thing is for certain: there are very few enthusiasts who don’t know about these boards and their pedigree. With such firmly entrenched brand recognition, Gigabyte has taken a risk by moving in another direction. Gone is the overly aggressive firearm motif that adorned previous versions, and so too is the whole "Sniper" and "Killer" taglines. In its place is a much tamer, more civilized naming scheme which literally states what these motherboards are made for: Gaming.
At the very top of the new Gaming series is the GIGABYTE Z97X-Gaming G1 WIFI Black Edition. While this is quite the mouthful and a long way away from the G1.Sniper 5 that it replaces as the de-facto halo gaming product from GIGABYTE , the core features will certainly make it a clear Sniper successor. In relation to the rest of GIGABYTE's Z97 lineup, this one sits near the top.
As with the Z87 G1.Sniper 5, the Gaming G1 Black Edition (as we will call it for everyone's sake) is a PLX-enabled ATX motherboard which allows for either two video cards to run in full 16/16 mode or four GPUs in 8/8/8/8 mode. For those of you doing a double take and wondering how that's possible with a platform that only has 16 primary lanes, keep on reading.
As we know, video performance is only half the equation of a truly immersive gaming experience. Thus Gigabyte has backstopped the impressive PCI-E capabilities with an integrated soundcard that promises to provide an immersive, realistic audio experience Just as with the G1.Sniper 5 it replaces, this Core3D based integrated audio solution has been electrically separated from the rest of the motherboard, uses its own high end components, and even makes use of a replaceable op-amp.
To ensure that your games load as fast as possible the Gaming G1 Black Edition not only uses Intel's all new Z97 chipset, but also ups the ante with dual Marvel 88SE9172 controllers for a total of ten SATA ports. Then to make it as future proof as possible, GIGABYTE has included a SATA Express port that -when supporting SSDs become available - will allow 10Gb/s speeds over a single special SATA port. Mix in numerous USB 3.0 ports, a 802.11AC 866 WiFi + BlueTooth 4.0 adapter card, Killer and Intel NIC's, as well as HDMI, DVI, and a DisplayPort, and the G1.Sniper 6….err the Gaming G1 Black Edition is simply loaded with features.
On the software side of the equation GIGABYTE has revamped and refined their included software suite to make it faster, more powerful, and easier to use. Even the BIOS has been refined, and thanks to dual 128MB BIOS options it promises to be the best GIGABYTE has released to date.
Further helping to prove to detractors that this Gaming motherboard is all grown up and has put its 'L33T' days in the past, GIGABYTE has upgraded aesthetics as well. They have removed all the goo-gaws and other accouterments that previously adorned their gaming motherboards while the green and black color scheme is now as dead as disco. It has been replaced by a more elegant and refined black PCB with a red and black scheme that culminates in a new water/air heatsink design that uses the exact same low-key logo that adorns GIGABYTE's very own video card line.
Taken as whole this $365 motherboard appears to have what it takes to both impress and sooth both critics and fans of the previous Sniper/Killer series. However, this motherboard has its sights set on a wider audience and GIGABYTE intends this new Gaming series to be able to compete against the likes of ASUS' Deluxe series and not just the likes of ASRock's Fatal1ty type motherboards. To do this, all these 'killer' features need to work as well as they look on paper; otherwise the Gaming G1 Black Edition will never break out of the hardcore PC gaming niche like GIGABYTE wants it to.
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