There are many ways to do something different in the motherboard space, especially with respect to functionality and design. In terms of the design element, we have seen many motherboards recently go for a black and red theme, but in the past we had yellow, pink, and all sorts of interesting combinations. Upon popular request, ASUS is releasing the ASUS Z97 Mark S, an arctic camouflage special edition version of the TUF Z97 Sabertooth Mark 1. We were lucky to get motherboard number #0001 for review.
All the recent talk of Haswell-E and high-end refreshes has obscured the more casual computing market. The Bay Trail platform uses Intel’s Atom based Silvermont cores and competes directly against AMD’s Kabini for integrated computing, digital signage and cheap computing models. Today we compare two mini-ITX Celeron J1900 based motherboards: the GIGABYTE J1900N-D3V at $85 and the ASUS J1900I-C at $92, as well as the SoC itself.
Sometimes it feels odd to review the cheaper elements of the motherboard market. The more expensive models have more to play with, whereas the sub $160 market for Z97 comes down to the choice of an individual controller or two. Here is where brand loyalty and styling seem to matter more than absolute feature set. To make matters worse for MSI, one of the other manufacturers is also branding their motherboards with ‘Gaming X’, making it harder to forge that nomenclature as a brand. Today we are looking at the MSI Z97 Gaming 5 at $160, which at the time of writing is sold out on Newegg.
This mainboard looks good, easy to tweak, provides excellent performance at nominal mode and with CPU overclock. And it’s simple good platform, because it’s a flagship mainboard designed and manufactured by large and well-known company.
The mainboard has comfortable design, good features set and basic bundle. It has good overclocking power and typical performance. The mainboard has many pros, but we found one very bad thing: power consumption of GA-Z97X-Gaming 3 is too high.
MSI mainboards don’t seem to have improved much with the transition from Intel’s Z87 to Z97 chipset. Although they have actually got better in some aspects, there are some “buts” that prevent us from calling the tested model perfect.
Next in our recent run of lower cost motherboards is the MSI Z97 Guard-Pro, a motherboard that MSI billed to me as one suited for the overclockable Pentium G3258 on a budget. At $110, we see if it differs much from the more expensive options on the market.