Z97X G1 Gaming GT LGA 1150 Motherboard Review

GIGABYTE’s G1 Gaming GT looks to be a stripped version of the Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi-BK. Like other offerings in the G1 family the G1 Gaming GT is a premium part representing the pinnacle of what GIGABYTE design and innovation can and should offer. We have high expectations for the G1 Gaming GT.

Introduction

GIGABYTE was founded in 1986 as a motherboard manufacturer and has grown to a company that pulls in more than one and a half billion dollars a year in annual revenue with over 7,000 employees. It is publicly traded on the Taiwan Stock Exchange and has had founder Pei-Cheng Yeh at its helm since 1986. Originally known only for motherboards GIGABYTE’s diversified like their competition and now offers a wide range of products including motherboards, graphics cards, PC components, PC peripherals, laptops, slate devices, desktop PCs, network communications hardware, servers and mobile phones.

Of course those additional products are of no consequence right now as we are talking about motherboards here. Specifically the Z97X G1 Gaming GT which on paper seems to be a slightly more economic variant of the excellent Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi-BK we reviewed somewhat recently. At that time GIGABYTE transitioned from its green and black color scheme to a red and black one for this lineup and joins the ranks of ASUS and MSI in terms of aesthetic design. GIGABYTE even got an "eye" style logo which looks almost identical to ASUS’ Republic of Gamers logo.

While I’m not fond of the new branding in general I have to admit that the Z97X Gaming G1 WiFi-BK was a fantastic motherboard. I look forward to seeing if the G1 Gaming GT can deliver a similar user experience and performance for a bit less money. Without any further rambling let’s find out if this is indeed the case.

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The GIGABYTE G1 Gaming GT is based on the Intel Z97 Express chipset. Like other offerings in the G1 family the G1 Gaming GT is a premium part representing the pinnacle of what GIGABYTE design and innovation can and should offer. The difference between this one and the Z97X G1 Gaming WiFi-BK is that the G1 Gaming GT is a "no frills" performance solution. You won’t find WiFi, Bluetooth, or the Creative Labs Sound Core3D here. While a little less robust than the Black Edition motherboard the G1 Gaming GT is at its core a very similar offering for people who want to save money on features they don’t think they will use.

We wouldn’t call it "stripped down" either. The G1 Gaming GT features the AMP-UP audio solution with upgradable OP-AMP, dedicated audio hardware zone, dual DAC friendly USB 3.0 ports, Nichicon audio capacitors, Killer NIC E2200, SATA Express, UEFI DualBIOS, gold plated connectors for display and audio ports, 4-Way CrossFire and SLI support. A Marvell 9172 controller adds extra SATA ports with RAID capabilities and a PEX 8747 chipset gives it the necessary lanes for the aforementioned multi-GPU support.

Main Specifications Overview:

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Detailed Specifications Overview:

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Packaging

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The packaging for the Z97X Gaming GT is standard GIGABYTE fare. The box has the new "gaming eye" logo on it and this is one of the fancier packages with the flap containing information about the product and a clear window showing the motherboard inside. The bundle contains a user’s manual, multilingual installation guidebook, SATA cables, standard 2-Way, 3-Way and 4-Way SLI bridges, I/O shield and case badges.

Board Layout

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The motherboard layout is good for the most part but there is one problem with it. The issue is the awkward location of the CPU fan and CPU OPT headers. These are very badly placed. Granted this placement may not affect everyone but it certainly created issues for me as my fan cable didn’t stretch over there so easily. Where it’s at in my test rig works well for every other motherboard I’ve worked with in recent memory.

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The CPU socket area is clear of any major obstructions. You should have no trouble installing larger cooling solutions beyond possible memory clearance issues. I already complained about the location of the CPU fan headers. You can see the 8-phase power design is cooled by a heat sink with an embedded heat pipe. The cooler’s machine work is exceptional and the photos don’t actually quite do it justice.

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There are four 240-pin DDR3 DIMM slots which are color coded gray and black. A total of 32GB of RAM is supported via 4x 8GB modules. Speeds up to DDR3 3200MHz speeds are supported through overclocking. Module retention is handled by single sided locking tabs which were necessary due to the proximity of the slots to the PCI-Express x16 slot which bumps up against the heat sink that covers the PLX chip. Traditional locking tabs would bump into a large video card were one to be installed here. You can see the CPU fan and CPU OPT headers right behind the DIMM slots which is inconvenient if you ask me.

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The all seeing "gaming eye" is present on the heat sink adorning the chipset cooling hardware. Unlike the MOSFET cooling hardware this heat sink has no heat pipe installed. The finish on this heatsink is fantastic. The heat sink is smooth with no rough edges to worry about while handling the board. There are several SATA ports directly in front of the chipset. Two more fan headers can also be seen here. USB headers and other connections are well marked leaving little potential confusion during installation.

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The expansion slot area has four evenly spaced PCI-Express x16 slots laid out in an optimal pattern for 4-Way SLI or CrossFire. In a 4-Way SLI or CrossFire system your chassis will have to allow a card to hang off the motherboards bottom edge so keep this in mind. These slots operate in a 16x0x16x0 or 8x8x8x8 configuration. The replaceable OP-AMP can be seen behind the first PCI-Express slot along with some DIP switches. The audio subsystem is isolated and path lighting marks off the split between the main PCB and the dedicated audio hardware.

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The I/O panel area shows an unusual attention to detail not normally seen on motherboards. All the audio and video connections are gold plated. You have D-Sub, DVI-D, HDMI and DisplayPort connections. There are six-mini stereo jacks all gold plated as well. There are 2x USB 2.0 DAC-UP ports, 6x USB 3.0 ports including the 2x "DAC-UP" ports designed for reduced noise for external audio DACs. You’ll of course find the PS/2 keyboard or mouse port, RJ-45 and optical output ports here as well.