Gigabyte provided us with the Z97N Gaming 5 motherboard so that we could do a legit build in our Core V1 review... now we explain why this board is such an attractive option for gamers fond of a smaller form factor.
I've had the pleasure of building with a lot of motherboards ranging from standard ATX through the micro ATX to the mini ITX form factors and I'll admit that I'm pretty taken by the smaller boards. Gigabyte's latest G1 Gaming series Z97 offering is no exception, in fact it's a stand out. The Z97N-Gaming 5 is obviously aimed at PC gamers and although not marketed specifically as an overclocking board it's more than capable in that regard as well. The feature list is extensive and the Z97N-Gaming 5 challenges the compromises that builders traditionally have to make with high end mini ITX in terms of cost and capacity to expand.
When you look at the cost of motherboards, smaller doesn't always mean cheaper and the gaming/performance Mini-ITX boards generally are not "wallet friendly". This is one of the less expensive performance mini ITX boards and it has 5 internal SATA3 ports to capitalise on storage potential. 5 onboard SATA ports is great for life after gaming in a few years' time when it would serve well as a small form factor NAS in a case like the Node 304 which can hold up to 6 3.5" hard drives.
As is the trend with 'Gaming grade' boards hitting the market, Gigabyte has loaded the Z97N-Gaming 5 with everything except the proverbial kitchen sink - in this case, that kitchen sink being an NGFF/M.2 SSD slot. It isn't a big omission and is only likely be an issue for a very small group of the target 'gamer' demographic. The key inclusions are listed at a high level below:
- Killer E2200 Networking
- Upgraded ALC1150 115dB SNR HD Audio with built in rear Audio Amplifier
- Gold Plated Audio Jacks
- High End Audio Capacitors
- SoundBlaster X-Fi3 Audio solution
- Dedicated Audio hardware zone and Audio Noise Guard with trace path lighting
- DVI-I, Gold plated HMDI and gold plated Display Port
- PS/2 Port
- Integrated 2x2 802.11ac 867Mbps Dual Band WIFI + Bluetooth 4.0 module
- Intel WIFI / Intel WiDi support
- Durable Black Solid Capacitors
- 5 SATA 3 Connectors
Initially we tested the board as part of our Core V1 build but we have since used it for almost 2 months and we haven't encountered any issues at all with drivers, utilities or performance - the Z97N-Gaming 5 has been absolutely rock solid with a legitimate overclock of 4.6GHz on our Intel i5-4670K.