Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

Today the market of computer components is not experiencing the best of times. A role played by the fact that users are moving from large stationary PC to various mobile solutions. However, the desktops are in no hurry to leave the stage, and if not actively used for entertainment, at least for the job. And some small companies can still be found in the buildings of dinosaurs AT motherboards Tomato and a Celeron 333, which is loaded Windows XP, gritting his “hard drive” 10.2 GB. Now about this when buying a computer is no longer think about it. It does not even have time to get out a new interface, like all manufacturers of “iron” is already eager to present their updated models with its support.

This is understandable, because in today’s world, the one who first released a ready-made solution is on horseback. But sometimes such haste leads to the potential of the previous generation interface has not yet disclosed, and already on the verge of a new higher performance. This means that users are investing in the future, which is very vague. It is impossible to argue that this interface will be widely distributed, because it can simply remain unclaimed. And there are lots of other examples.

Not so long ago replaced the good old USB 3.0 came very young USB 3.1. Many reacted to this event without enthusiasm, and perhaps rightly so. Not all drives with USB 3.0 exhausted the capacity of the interface, and there is already on the way new. What can we say about all there charging, fans, mouse and other peripherals, which are still quite versions USB 2.0 or even 1.1.

But facts are facts, and motherboard manufacturers hurried to release updated models with support for a more modern interface.Among the pioneers and went SHALL ASUS, updated the almost the entire range of products. At first glance it is enough to solder the new controller and the trick is done. But in fact it is necessary to establish an entire infrastructure with additional equipment, which will take advantage of this interface, and this is difficult. As the same tester can understand that USB 3.1 is really better USB 3.0, if there is no appropriate equipment? Is that believe in the word and copy virtual tsiferki press release.

This review when considering the updated motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1, we paid attention to the new interface USB 3.1. By the way, the conventional model of ASUS Z97-A was already in our testing.

 ASUS Z97-A: A brief history of the development of USB

As usual, the basis of the creation of this interface was the idea of a single universal standard for connecting various peripherals. At the time of his incarnation various external components connected to the PS / 2, COM-port, MIDI-port, LPT, SCSI, and other things.

Perhaps that is why it was decided to create a universal interface where you could connect all these devices, and in late 1996 there was the first specification of USB 1.0. First, he is not widely used, but gradually began to appear more and more devices that are connected to the USB port. With the advent of USB flash drives, memory has experienced a revolution, but until that time had already come USB 1.1 and almost simultaneously with the appearance of “flash cards” released USB 2.0.

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

It is no secret that the main components of success was the simplicity of plug and connecting cable, which is to release USB 2.0 inclusively costs only four wires, two of which were intended for the power supply (5 V, 500 mA maximum per device), and two – for data transmission . USB 1.0 offers two types of speeds: Low-Speed (1.5 Mbit / s) and Full-Speed (12 Mbit / s). According to the specification the maximum length of the shielded cable can be up to 5 meters, which for peripheral devices was often enough.

With the advent of drive manufacturers have reflected an increase in data rate. Fortunately by the time even computer networks have begun to actively migrate to the standard Ethernet 100BaseT. The volume of information grew, and they had to somehow convey, besides the era of digital photos and videos, where the size of the uncompressed data was enormous. On this basis, the USB interface needs to be modernized. Thus, in 2000, it appeared the specification of the new standard USB 2.0. He became the most common computer interface for connecting peripheral equipment, and even the mass of devices that are not related to computers in general.

With the release of the new specification was three speeds: Low-Speed (1.5 Mb / s) Full-Speed (12 Mbit / s) and High-Speed (up to 480 Mbit / s). It maintains full compatibility with the previously released devices standard USB 1.0, which just worked on their previous speeds. The theoretical capacity of the new regime in the High-Speed was increased 40 times. Power specifications remain the same: 5 V, 500 mA maximum per device. Another undoubted advantage of the USB interface is its tree topology, which allows you to connect up to 127 devices, including various types of hubs HUB.

In 2008 it adopted the final specification of the new standard USB 3.0. In addition to the existing four conductors were added two twisted pairs, which is why the cable has become much thicker. The maximum data rate is increased to 5 Gbit / s, which is much higher than 480 Mbit / s Standard USB 2.0. One of the first controller introduced his company NEC, and the firm to complete its start ASUS motherboards are special cards with the new interface.

Then the same chip unsoldering steel directly on the boards themselves. Then already completely chipset manufacturers have become integrated into the host controller.

It should be noted that, despite the various marketing manipulation, USB 3.0 has not yet acquired such a crazy popularity as USB 2.0. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the finished unit can not approach the theoretical limit of transmission 5 Gbits / s and “flash drives” in most cases enough speed USB 2.0. However, the undoubted advantage is to improve the characteristics of the power is now in the same 5, the device can receive as much as 900 mA. However, this is more like a spirit of the times, because users were more likely to resort to interface to recharge their mobile devices.

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

And that’s where another 5 Gb / s mass is not mastered, there is a new standard that doubles the speed. Yes, USB 3.1 provides for 10 Gbit / s. At first this figure seems fantastic. However, the noise dies down around the interface Thunderbolt, and 10GBase-T is widely used in server hardware. On this basis, we can not assume that there was some kind of revolution in terms of speed. In addition, most of the peripheral equipment such a huge channel just is not needed. The only application – a high-speed external storage devices, the speed of which decided to equalize the internal as quite recently there were two new standards: M.2 and SATA Express.

However, while complete solutions are in no hurry and will appear there at all – it is still a big question. Nevertheless, the characteristics of the new interface have been improved. In addition to increased capacity, data encryption system has changed.More on USB 3.0 packet size is 10 bits, of which 8 bits accounted for useful data, and 2 were checksum. Now it is using another encoding scheme, namely 128/132 bits. Naturally, this would require a new algorithm to be able to correct distortions in the single-bit 128-bit packet without retransmission. It should be added that remains compatible with previously released USB devices, and the new port is practically not changed.

However, with the release of the new standard USB 3.1, it was decided to release a brand new socket, called USB Type-C. Its main advantages are that it is compact and symmetrical, which means that now there is no difference which side to connect the cable, which is very convenient.

And since it is still a review of the motherboard, then let’s move on to its consideration.

 ASUS Z97-A: Packaging equipment

Before us is a medium-sized box, made in the usual style of ASUS.

Dimensions of the package is only slightly superior to the board itself mainly in thickness, providing a place for the delivery kit.

On the front side is the manufacturer’s logo and the familiar slogan of the company: In Search Of Incredible.

Virtually the entire left half of the fragment takes chipset cooling system, where instead of the logo is an inscription 5-WAY Optimization, which means using the technology of the same name.

Left in the middle of the full name of the model. Separately allocated inscription USB 3.1, make it clearer that it is another version of the board. At the bottom is full of icons, among which is also referred to the support of the new standard USB 3.1, as well as reports on its theoretical bandwidth of 10 Gbit / s.

On the front side there is no cover, since the product still belongs to the middle price segment, so look at the back of the packaging.

Here is the basic information about the product and its benefits. We present the model name, her picture with captions to the main components, specification, several inserts describing the key features. Top technology in detail painted on the 5-WAY Optimization.

In addition, it describes the corporate cloud services, which provides ease of use for the user’s remote access interface, USB 3.1, the use of technology Turbo APP, Turbo LAN and Crystal Sound 2. In the latter lies that need ordinary gamer: increase application performance, fast network connection and crystal clear sound.

It’s time to look inside.

Top special white cardboard tray and anti-static bag is the motherboard itself.

Under it are supplied, which can not be called very rich.

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

Among the information carriers can be found the following:

  • User Guide (Manual);
  • Exclusive Features (main features of the device);
  • DVD disk with software and drivers for different operating systems;
  • The sticker on the casing with the logo of ASUS.

These are the accessories are supplied.

  • Four cable SATA 6 Gb / s;
  • A flexible bridge SLI;
  • Connector Kit (Q-Connector);
  • The plug on the rear panel.

 ASUS Z97-A: The design and features of the board

It is a full-size ATX motherboards and its dimensions are 205 x 244 mm. This means that it is not narrow and has nine holes for mounting.

In appearance, this board is not much different from the normal version without controller USB 3.1. The surface of the printed circuit board is also glossy, and the PCB is much darker, but also brown.

As for connectors and expansion slots, all similarly, so these two models can be confused.

Workmanship is at a high level. Note that the reverse side, there are no chips, since all the elements are located in front. To this should be added that most of the resources involved chipset and additional controllers are not so many.

Power is supplied to the motherboard through the primary and secondary connectors ATX scheme 24 + 8.

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1

To install the memory modules DDR3-type connector has four black and gray colors.

The manufacturer claims to support modes of DDR3 1066/1333/1600 / (1866/2133/2400/2600/2666/2800/2933/3000/3100/3200/3300 (overclocking)) MHz with a nominal voltage of 1.5 V, which can be increased. According to the specification maximum memory capacity can reach 32 GB.

Food processor performed on vosmifaznoy scheme.

As the main PWM controller chip is used here labeled DIGI + EPU ASP1252.

Solid capacitors, inductors in ferrite housings and type transistors Low Rds (on).

The last two are covered with radiators. Both are made of an aluminum alloy and the composite structure is used. One part of them is painted black and the other in gold. The area of the fins have a sufficiently large, which should positively affect the heat dissipation.

Let us not forget that these decisions are, however, and the complete absence of radiators, focused on the use of CPU cooling systems staff (boxed) type when the air passes through the cooler and into the surface of the board.


As the thermal interface applied termorezinka gray about 1 mm thick. As it can be determined that these radiators are already shot more than once. By the way, why are mounting system chosen is not the most successful.

This two plastic clips with springs on the edges of each radiator. Because of frequent dismantling radiators begin just hanging out because they have a small base, and large size. In spite of this, their task they cope well, because the temperature difference with direct contact with the surface of the transistor and the radiator is only 5 degrees.

As for the chipset, it is closed the familiar hockey. Of course, not present, but simply a form of the radiator.


On top is golden decorative plate with the logo of the manufacturer. The body of the radiator is also made of aluminum alloy and painted black. Reber almost no and I have already met criticism users, such cooling is not enough even for not very hot chipset, but the engineers know better. Fixing is effected from the back side by means of two spring-loaded screws. Contrary to expectations, as the thermal interface used is not “chewing gum”, and gray termorezinka about 1 mm thick.

By hiding the radiator chipset Intel Z97.

The board present newfangled interface M.2, which is not implemented in the simplest way, as the lines PCI-e is not very much. It provides a theoretical capacity of about 10 Gb / s.

The same rate provides an interface SATA Express, which is also present here. Last combined with conventional SATA 6Gb / s and is implemented using the built-in controller chip. In the neighborhood you can find four SATA 6 Gb / s.

In the lower right corner there is a connector for the buttons and indicators of the housing.

Next feature switches placed TPU and EPU, and three blocks to connect six devices USB 2.0.
Incidentally, the back panel jack are no USB 2.0. There you can find only four USB 3.0 ports and two USB 3.1. First implemented by the chipset, but the others are presented by the controller ASMedia ASM1142.

This is the main difference from the motherboard ASUS Z97-A. Once the board is one block USB 3.0, which is placed near the power connector.

On board are seven expansion slots, two PCI-e x1, three PCI-e x16 and two regular PCI.

From multi-graphics technology supports both SLI, and CrossFire. The upper and the middle slot PCI-e x16 bisect sixteen lines PCI-e of the third generation, which enables the processor. The bottom gets only four lines of type from the Gen2 chipset, which has allocated for PCI-e x1.

In the lower left corner of the posted audio codec. Despite the grandiose name Crystal Sound 2, it is represented by Realtek ALC892 chip and closed decorative cover.

Near wired special audiokondensatory, which should improve the sound quality. By tradition newfangled audio codec submitted to the PCB separately. Its boundaries are marked strip without metallization layers about 1 mm thick. On the reverse side throughout it are LED backlight, which distinguish it from the operating device.

Next to the audio codec wired I / O controller and system monitoring Nuvoton NCT6791D.

Slightly above a controller bridge PCI-e – PCI, which is represented by chip ASMedia ASM1083.

Under the rear panel connectors soldered chip Gigabit Ethernet controller Intel I218V.

At the bottom of the center to the left edge of the left front audio panel connector, the connection module TPM, COM port and power button Power.

Another switch button are present in the upper right corner.

The rear panel has the following interfaces.

  • A connector PS / 2 keyboard or mouse;
  • Two slots USB 3.1;
  • Four connector USB 3.0;
  • A video output HDMI;
  • A video output DisplayPort;
  • A video output DVI-D;
  • A video output D-Sub;
  • One Gigabit Ethernet RJ-45 connector;
  • Five audio connectors of type minijack;
  • One optical connector S / PDIF Out.

One of the interesting features should be noted the complete absence of USB 2.0 interfaces on the rear panel, as well as four different video output standards.

 ASUS Z97-A: Integrated sound

The audio codec chip presented Realtek ALC892. Listening was carried out with the help of headphones Sennheiser HD201, Zalman ZM-RS6F and acoustics Microlab PRO 1.

Compared to other motherboards sound somehow especially not manifest itself. It should be added that the channel Realtek ALC892 codec is no longer young, and the board itself is not so much the budget, it was impossible to unsolder least ALC1150, which is not much, but better.

 ASUS Z97-A: Conclusion

First, a few words about the new interface. In my opinion, it has turned out excellent, but all the spoils of his name. The index of 3.1 tells us about some temporary revision or correction of mistakes compared with 3.0. In this case, second likely it occurred. And anyone not like it when it is carried on some experiments of his own account.

As for the advantages, almost all indicators a new standard avoids the previous one. Most of all I liked the new connector Type-C because it can finally insert, without looking into the connector and without fear of side. Speed, of course, the above, but it does not look like some bizarre background on the same Ethernet 10Gbase-T, or Thunderbolt. Maintain compatibility, allowing existing equipment will work, there is little for the future. However, to unlock the potential capacity is now almost impossible.

As for the motherboard, then we have the usual workhorse. There is even nothing to complain about. Yes, this is a relatively low-end solution on Intel Z97 chipset with support for the new interface. But the board is focused on the mass buyer, who plans to overclock processors and memory on the platform Intel LGA 1150. It provides maximum functionality at a price two times lower than top solutions, and compared to the conventional model should not cost much more expensive.

Review and testing motherboard ASUS Z97-A / USB 3.1 updated: May 21, 2015 author: John Malkovich