The ASUS Z97 Pro (Wi-Fi AC) is the first of the new Intel Z97 chipset motherboards to hit the Legit Reviews bench. The ASUS Z97-PRO (Wi-FI AC) carries an MSRP of $219.99 USD and is considered one of the higher-end Intel Z97 motherboards offered by ASUS. Unfortunately for the time being, we can’t share the performance with you, but we will certainly go into details about the ASUS Z97-Pro (Wi-Fi AC) motherboard. While the Intel Z97 chipset is the new chip on the block, it continues to support the Intel Haswell processor and still takes advantage of the LGA1150 socket. So if you’re looking to upgrade motherboards to one that has the Z97 chipset and features that we will be discussing, you won’t need to pick up a new chip anytime soon. On the upside of that, you’ll be ready for Devils Canyon and 5th Generation Broadwell processors when they hit the streets later this year and beginning of 2015.
The new Intel Z97 chipset isn’t a vastly different chipset than the Z87 chipset. The biggest difference here is the addition of the PCIe M.2 support. M.2 takes advantage of a direct interface with the PCIe lanes to create a faster interface that a standard SATA IIIport, the drawback to this that I see is a limited number of PCI Express lanes to go around. The Z97 and Z87 both support up to six SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ports, and six SATA III 6Gbps ports
The ASUS Z97-Pro [Wi-Fi ac] falls pretty much dead center of the mainstream product stack from ASUS. This doesn’t take into account the higher end ASUS Republic of Gamers motherboards.
The ASUS Z97 Deluxe nearly identical to the ASUS Z97-Pro [Wi-Fi ac]. Though it has a couple of more features than the Pro. Really the only differences between the Deluxe and the Pro are the addition of a second Intel LAN, 16 Phase CPU power (instead of 12 on the Pro), as well as some differences on the I/O panel. The I/O panel has a handful more USB ports, but ASUS dropped the DVI and 15pin D-Sub video outputs on the Deluxe. They did keep the DisplayPort though.
ASUS has completely revamped their UEFI BIOS for the new Intel 9 Series of motherboards. This is the first total revamp since the initial launch of the ASUS UEFI BIOS on the Intel P67 chipset several years ago.
SATA Express is a drive interface that is hitting the mainstream with a little more force this time around. ASUS had launched a board awhile back that was capable of SATA Express, but it wasn’t natively supported by the Intel Z87 chipset. This time around though, it’s fully supported by the latest and greatest Intel Z97 chipset. In a nutshell, the SATA Express interface that blends Serial ATA (SATA) and PCI Express lanes to create a significantly faster drive interface. SATA III is limited to a theoretical limit of 600MB/s, SATA Express on the other hand is rated for a theoretical bandwidth of 16Gbps or 1.97GB/s. If you’re looking for a little bit more in depth of an article that breaks down SATA Express a little more, you can check out our SATA Express article here. If you’re looking for some SATA Express performance numbers you can check those out here!
Along with the Intel Z97 chipset, the latest ASUS Z97 motherboards like the ASUS Z97-Pro [Wi-Fi ac] will feature the next iteration of the ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors. The ASUS Dual Intelligent Processors 5 still features the Fan Xpert 3, TPU, DIGI+ Power, EPU and now it includes the Turbo App. Along with the Turbo App, the Dual Intelligent Procedssors 5 can dynamically change the system settings depending on what the system is doing. It can tweak the system for app specific OC, Audio, and networking.
The ASUS Home cloud, is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, a personal cloud server. Using the ASUS Home Cloud allows you to stream your videos, files, and other media to anywhere you are. If you’re out and about and you wanna show off some pictures of your kids, pets, or your car, if they are on your ASUS Home Cloud you can pull them up on your iPhone, or Android device.
The Crystal Sound 2 onboard the ASUS Z97-Pro [Wi-Fi ac] is packed with features. Potentially the most notable aspect of the Crystal Sound 2 is the fact that while it’s technically not a discrete audio card, it is all but completely separated from the rest of the PCB. This essentially makes it a discrete card since
Here is a nice chart that shows the differences between five of the ASUS Z97 boards. As you can see the Z97A offers some good stuff for $149.99, but doesn’t have wireless, uses a lower-end Audio controller, has fewer USB 3.0, SATA III and SATAe slots, fewer power phases and so on. The Z97 Pro steps it up a notch but you’ll open the wallet a bit wider at the ASUS Z97 Pro (Wi-Fi AC) is $219.99.
Here is another break down that betters shows what features are or aren’t included on the same five boards.
Now that you have a good understanding of what ASUS has done with the Intel Z97 chipset series of motherboards, let’s take a closer look at the ASUS Z97 Pro (Wi-Fi AC).