Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE

Introduction

Biostar is a company founded in 1986 headquartered in Taiwan. In the early years of existence, Biostar focused exclusively on producing motherboards, later expanding to produce graphics cards and IT accessories.

 

Official Product link:

http://www.biostar.com.tw/app/en/mb/introduction.php?S_ID=731#spec

Packaging and accessories

The Hi-Fi Z97WE model comes packaged in a box with a black background and red & gold accents.
On the front side of the box we see printed both the name of the manufacturer and the name/model of the motherboard. Also here we find listed a few features of the motherboard.

The back of the box presents in detail the product and enumerates the features of the motherboard.

 

On the side of the box we find placed both the name of the product & the manufacturer, also we find listed the specifications of the product.

 

Accessories

The product comes with the following accessories:
– 1x Manual
– 1x Quick set-up guide
– 1x Driver dvd
– 1x I/O shield
– 1x Velcro cable tie
– 4x SATA cables

 

Specifications

Chipset: Intel Z97
CPU SUPPORT:
– Intel® Core™ i7 LGA 1150 Processor
– Intel® Core™ i5 LGA 1150 Processor
– Intel® Core™ i3 LGA 1150 Processor
– Intel® Pentium® LGA 1150 Processor
– Maximum CPU TDP (Thermal Design Power) : 95Watt
– Ready for Intel 4th Gen. unclocked CPU (codename Devil’s Canyon)
– Ready for Intel next enthusiast-class CPU(codename Broadwell)
– Support CPU Bclk overclock
MEMORY Support:
– Dual Channel DDR3 2800(OC)/ 2600(OC)/ 2400(OC)/ 2200(OC)/ 2133(OC)/ 1866(OC)/ 1800(OC)/ 1600/ 1333/ 1066 MHz
– Support non-ECC memory modules
– Support Extreme Memory Profile(XMP) memory modules
– 4 x DDR3 DIMM Memory Slot
– Max. Supports up to 32GB Memory
EXPANSION SLOT:
– 2 x PCI-E x16 3.0 Slot (x8 + x8, support CrosfireX)
– 2 x PCI-E x1 2.0 Slot
– 2 x PCI Slot

STORAGE:
– 6 x SATA3 Connector
– Support SATA RAID: 0,1,5,10
– Support both Legacy and AHCI Mode
– Support Hot-Plug in AHCI mode
– Support Intel Smart Response Technology
– 1 x M.2 (N.G.F.F.) Connector up to 1000MB/s
– Support both PCIE NAND for PCIE SSD and SATA NAND for SATA SSD
USB:
– 4 x USB 3.0 Port
– 1 x USB 3.0 Header
– 2 x USB 2.0 Port
– 2 x USB 2.0 Header
LAN:
Realtek RTL8111G – 10/100/1000 Controller
Support Wake-On-LAN
Support PXE
Dual GbE, support Teaming
MULTI GRAPHICS:
AMD CrossFireX
INTEGRATED VIDEO:
By CPU model
Supports DX11.1/ 11/ 10.1/ 10/ 9
Supports HDCP
Support DirectX Video Acceleration(DXVA) for accelerating video processing
Full AVC/VC1/MPEG2 HW Decode
Support Advanced Scheduler 2.0, 1.0, XPDM
Support OpenGL 4.0
Support HDMI, 1.4a specification compliant with 3D
Support 3 Displays(HDMI + DVI + VGA)

CODEC:
Realtek ALC892 8-Channel Blu-ray Audio
Support Blu-ray Audio
Support HD Audio
Support 2/4/6/8-channel
Support SPDIF_out
Support Biostar Hi-Fi
REAR I/O:
1 x PS/2 Keyboard
4 x USB 3.0 Port
2 x USB 2.0 Port
1 x HDMI Connector, resolution up to 4096×2160@24Hz, 24bpp / 2560×1600@60Hz, 24bpp / 1920×1080@60Hz, 36bpp
1 x DVI Connector, resolution up to 1920×2000@60Hz @24bpp
1 x VGA Port, resolution up to 1920×2000@60Hz @24bpp
2 x RJ-45 Port
5 x Audio Connector
1 x S/PDIF Out Port
INTERNAL I/O:
1 x USB 3.0 Header
2 x USB 2.0 Header
6 x SATA3 6 Gb/s Connector
1 x M.2 (N.G.F.F.) Connector
1 x Front Audio Header
1 x Front Panel Header
2 x CPU Fan Header
4 x System Fan Header
1 x Serial Header
1 x CIR Header
1 x TPM Header (TPM V1.2)

DIMENSION:

ATX Form Factor Dimension: 30.5cm x 24.4cm (W x L )
OS SUPPORT: Support Windows 7 / 8 / 8.1

FEATURES:

Windows 8 Ready
Supports PURO Hi-Fi
Supports 100% Solid capacitor
Supports Rapid Switch2
Supports Rapid Debug3
Supports Charger Booster
Supports BIOS Online Update

 

Visual inspection

The Hi-Fi Z97WE model uses a black & white/gold color scheme, the PCB of the motherboard has a glossy finish.

 

The CPU socket area is clean due to the heatsinks used, behind the top heatsink we find placed the 8 Pin connector for the CPU power.

 

The layout of the motherboard is efficient, this is highlighted by the 6 (six) 4 Pin PWM connectors installed on the motherboard, their position is the following:

Within the options offered, the Hi-Fi Z97WE model features an extreme overclocking LN2 option. The jumper to “tell” the motherboard that liquid Nitrogen is used to cool the CPU is placed next to the two 4 Pin CPU fan connectors.

 

On the right side, we find the 4 DIMM slots that support DDR3 RAM with speeds starting from 1066 MHz up to 2800(OC). The motherboard supports a maximum of 32GB.

 

The motherboard features two (of each) PCIe x16, PCIe x1 and PCI slots, for a total of 6 slots.

 

Located at the bottom of the motherboard, we find the M.2 SATA port placed between the PCIe x16 slots.

 

The Chipset is being cooled by a gold heatsink which is held in place with plastic clamps and springs.

 

The audio system is isolated from the rest of the PCB, this is highlighted by a yellow line traced on the PCB, also here we find 6 audio capacitors.

 

The Hi-Fi Z97WE model uses 6 SATA 6 Gb/s ports which are controlled by Intel’s Z97 chipset.

 

Below the Chipset heatsink we find the dual-digit POST display, after the boot sequence it shows in real time the temperature of the CPU. Next to it we find two buttons (Power & Reset).

 

On the back side we have the I/O panel, one feature of this model is the usage of two Realtek RTL8111G LAN ports.
The I/O panel is as follows (from left to right):
– 1x PS/2 (Keyboard)
– 2x USB 2.0 ports
– 1x HDMI
– 1x DVI
– 1x VGA
– 2x LAN Realtek RTL8111G
– 4x USB 3.0
– 6x Audio Jacks Realtek ALC892

 

Bios

From a design point of view, the Bios of the Hi-Fi Z97WE model remained unchanged from the other models. However this Bios offers every setting you need to run the board on a daily basis and in the case of extreme overclocking.

The first page of the Bios offers general information about the system, on the left side we find displayed the time, frequency & voltage of both the CPU and memory and the temperature of the CPU.

 

Software

Like any top tier motherboard, The Hi-Fi Z97WE model comes accompanied by a rich software bundle designed to improve & ease the user’s experience.
Included in the software bundle we find a couple of applications with the purpose of allowing the user to customize the system settings and to increase performance. These applications can manage everything from controlling the fans connected to the motherboard up to overclocking and Bios update.

Toverclocker

Bios Update

Green Power Utility

Smart Speed LAN

Additional Software:
BullGuard
Biostar MAGIX Multimedia Software Suite
Intel Rapid Start Technology
Intel Smart Connect Technology
Intel Rapid Storage Technology (include Intel Smart Response Technology)

 

Testing

The following system was used to test the motherboard:
– CPU: Intel i5 4690K
– RAM: 8GB Crucial Ballistix Tactical
– GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 660 OC Gaming
– HDD: Samsung SpinPoint F3 500GB
– SSD: Samsung 840 EVO 120GB
– PSU: Seasonic M12II-520 EVO Edition Bronze 520W
– CPU Cooler: SilverStone Tundra TD02 with NoiseBlocker eLoop B12-PS
– OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit SP1
– Case: Phanteks Enthoo Luxe White
– Display: AOC i2769VM

 

The processor was used with the stock turbo frequency of 3.9 GHz and overclocked to 4.5 GHz with a core voltage of 1.187 V.
The two RAM modules had been tested by increasing the memory speed from the default X.M.P speed of 1600 Mhz to a stable overclock of 2133MHz CAS 11 with a voltage of 1.5 V.

Software used for testing the motherboard:
– 3D Mark – FireStrike, CloudGate, SkyDiver, IceStorm.
– SiSoftware Sandra Business 2015
– CineBench r11.5
– SuperPi mod 1.5
– wPrime v1.55
– Battlefield 3
– Tomb Raider 2013
– Far Cry 4
– The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
– GRID Autosport

The test results are as follows:

3D Mark

FireStrike

 

CloudGate

 

SkyDiver

 

IceStorm

 

SiSoftware Sandra Business 2015

 

CineBench r11.5

 

SuperPi mod 1.5

 

wPrime v1.55

 

Battlefield 3

 

Tomb Raider 2013

 

Far Cry 4

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

 

GRID Autosport

 

Final thoughts

After testing and using it, the Z97WE Hi-Fi model distinguishes itself by the inclusion of two Realtek RTL8111G LAN ports and the LN2 function. In terms of performance it can be included among the top tier Z97 motherboards. As a downside, the Bios requires a modernization of the interface, as this is not only unappealing but in some cases it might hinder the use of the motherboard.

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