Wednesday05 October 2022

Asus Z97I Plus Design and Features Review - Packing a Lot into a Little Space Featured

Reading time is around minutes.

The Layout -
The layout of any motherboard is important. Even simple mistakes in component placement or the signal traces can cause major issued in performance and stability. With the ATX form factor we find that this is even truer; the devices we drop onto them demand more and cleaner power while the signal speeds push faster and faster. As we mentioned before the Z97I Plus is a mini-ITX motherboard. Normally when you are looking at something this small you are not going to get a lot or power. In this case Asus has made the effort to create a board that runs on the full Z97 chipset and also give you close to the same performance that you would get out of a full sized board. This is clear when you look at the tracing layout of the board. It is clean and well-tuned from what we are seeing (which is hard to do at this size).
Asus Z97I Plus-7

With the smaller size you do have to make some concessions though. You are only going to get a pair of DDR3 slots and only on PCIe x16 slot. However, you do still get multiple USB 3.0 ports and a front header. Asus did make an unusual split with the SATA ports though. Instead of placing them along the front edge of the board they split them with two along the front edge of the board and two right behind the memory slots.  This puts them in an awkward position if you drop in a large GPU.

Asus Z97I Plus-9 Asus Z97I Plus-8

Asus does give you some nice room around the CPU if you want to drop in a larger cooler, but you will have to take the proximity of the RAM slots.

Looking at the top edge of the board we find all of the major voltage regulation for the board power. Asus has covered this with a fairly cool looking heatsink. At the end of this heatsink there we find the 8-pin aux power connector. As with 99% of these it is in a position that is awkward unless you use an adapter. In fact just go ahead and get one regardless of the board you buy.

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Asus dropped in three PWM fan headers in this region just to make sure they gave you enough. This will cover most of the closed loop water cooling systems on the market as well as the higher-end air coolers.
Asus Z97I Plus-10
Next to that is a TPM (Trusted Platform Module) header and the BIOS battery. Below that is one very cool feature of the Z97I Plus, a dual band 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth adapter. Now we do want to point one thing out right around the wireless adapter; there are what appear to be four caps that are not solid. These are intended for use with the audio system on the board and are filter capacitors (to make the audio cleaner). These are necessary to help keep the amplifier on the board clean and to help the audio maintain its vibrance. The Asus design team also separated the right and left channels with their own board layer. It is a nice touch on the part of Asus.

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Oh yeah, one more item we want to talk about. On the bottom of the board is an M.2 SATA connector for a small form factor SSD. With the number of these that just hit a Computex this is going to be an option that will bring some very interesting build to this board.
Asus Z97I Plus-14Moving around to the I/O ports we find a normal layout: multiple USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports along with DVI, VGA, Displayport, and HDMI. The audio only has three ports and an optical out, but that should be enough for most PC surround sound systems. For Ethernet you get an Intel Gigabit port and some new software to help you make the most of it.
You can check out our video coverage as well to get a better feel for the board.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 June 2014 18:57

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