Overclocking seems to be more challenging for the CPU than the motherboard these days. The Z97-AR offers much in the way of configuration, but if the CPU isn’t willing, then your options are limited. Overclocking the Z97-AR through 5-way optimization yielded only a 0.9% increase in performance and quite frankly, it was unimpressive. However, when we got down to brass tacks we were able to push our i7 4790K processor to 4.7GHz without much issue (and stable). Granted, the temps got pretty high, but that has little to do with the motherboard. Beyond 4.7GHz, the system became unstable and the famed BSOD presented itself regularly during stability testing at any speeds beyond 4.7.
If you are looking for some ground breaking innovations in the Z97 chipset over its predecessor (Z87), get your magnifying glass out as they are hard to find. The chipset does offer some enhancements over its older brother, but does that mean you should ditch your Z87 board for a shiny new one? Well, if things like M.2 support and SATA express are key drivers in your buying decision, then yes. If you have an older motherboard, then the choice to upgrade is easy.
Ultimately, the motherboard here offers a lot of bang for your buck. Overclocking was easy enough for the novice and robust enough for those that like to tinker a bit more. Crossfire and SLI compatibility for the gamer, overclocking for the enthusiast, and a price tag that everyone can afford makes this motherboard a good option for just about everyone. The UEFI BISO is pretty slick and the included Asus software is hard to beat.
The Z97-AR offers the looks, the features, and just about everything you need rolled up into one happy little package. Team this board up with some quality components and you can build one heck of a rig. Bottom line, would I buy one? Yes… and I would stamp this one with the Editor’s Choice Award based on the amount of bang for you get for your buck.[easyazon_cta align=”center” identifier=”B00KVLIOI8″ key=”wide-light” locale=”US” tag=”compondema06-20″]
Table of Contents
- Board Layout & Features
- UEFI BIOS
- UEFI BIOS Cont.
- Included Software
- Test System Setup
- Benchmarking: Ethernet Performance
- Benchmarking: SATA Performance
- Benchmarking: AIDA64 Benchmark
- Benchmarking: PCMark 8
- Benchmarking: Handbrake
- Benchmarking: Cinibench R15
- Benchmarking: HyperPi
- Overclocking & Final Thoughts