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ASRock Fatal1ty Z97X Killer Motherboard Review

The ASRock Z97X Killer is a well-balanced gaming motherboard that offers a range of useful features and a likeable style.

Performance is generally good. Memory-intensive tests will suffer due to ASRock’s use of slacker secondary timings than competing motherboards. In games, ASRock’s Z97X Killer doesn’t show any cause for concern, managing to match the frame rates shown by other Z97 boards.

ASRock’s Z97X Killer offers an impressive variety of features, given its £125 price tag. Killer’s E2200 series NIC and a pumped-up audio configuration will please gamers, as will the optimised multi-VGA support. HDD Saver is an interesting tool which we are disappointed that we couldn’t test out. Support for 10Gbps storage connections via M.2 or SATA Express connectors is also pleasing.

Layout of the Z97X Killer is excellent. Fan header distribution is sensible and multiple graphics cards can fit without cooling concerns. The M.2 connector is difficult to access in a built system, although a drive’s (typically) ugly PCB is also hidden from sight, allowing the eye-catching colour scheme to flourish.

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ASRock has made subtle changes to its UEFI implementation. The 1920×1080 resolution is welcomed, as is the convenient My Favourites section. The interface is well-laid-out and easy to navigate, although we would prefer more slots to save BIOS settings and an improved method of tweaking fan speeds. Intermittent issues with mouse operation is a big disappointment.

The most glaring issue we encountered was performance at stock speeds. Unlike its competitors, ASRock does not automatically apply all-core turbo upon enabling XMP. Not only that, but in order to get a representative view of stock performance, users must apply the Performance mode via ASRock’s OS software, otherwise rapid multiplier adjustments hamper the board’s stock execution.

While both of these points are easy to solve manually, many users may question why the best possible performance is not available ‘out-of-the-box’, as it is with many competing motherboards. And then there’s the wasted heat and power from the 1.28V MCT VCore level, as well as the dysfunctional ‘override’ voltage mode that forces overclockers to tweak additional settings.

Available to pre-order for £124.99 from OverclockersUK, the ASRock Z97X Killer is a worthy option in the sub-£130 gaming motherboard market. Its price does put it above the competing options from MSI and Gigabyte, and Asus’ ROG Maximus VII Ranger is around £5 more expensive. We have said it many times, but the sub-£150 gaming motherboard market is a particularly fierce battling ground.

With a strong set of gaming-orientated features, as well as some novel but useful additions, ASRock’s Z97X Killer is a good option for a mid-range gaming motherboard. Add in the XSplit and Orbweb.ME licenses and the Z97X Killer becomes an option with even better value. Just make sure that you’re able to operate the UEFI to get the board’s best performance. If you aren’t confident in a UEFI environment, there are better options available, such as MSI’s Z97 Gaming 5.

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Pros:

  • Good set of gaming features – Killer E2200 NIC, Purity Sound 2, mouse setting controls.
  • M.2 and SATA Express connectors.
  • XSplit 3-month premium license and Orbweb.ME 1-year subscription.
  • Unique HDD Saver tool.
  • High resolution, thorough UEFI implementation.
  • Good colour scheme with matte black PCB.

Cons:

  • UEFI implementation has its issues with mouse support.
  • Poor optimisation for out-of-the-box and MCT performance.
  • Override voltage setting in UEFI still doesn’t do what it should.

KitGuru says: A competitive motherboard packed with useful features, but many users will be inconvenienced by the awkward settings affecting the part’s ease-of-use. A good option if you’re confident when entering the UEFI. 

WORTH BUYING

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Rating: 8.0.

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