EVGA Z97 FTW Motherboard Review

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Freshly released with the Devil’s Canyon CPUs is EVGA’s Z97 motherboard lineup. Falling in the middle of this new lineup is the Z97 FTW. This motherboard is marketed toward a more budget-minded crowd than the flagship Z97 Classified. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that the Z97 FTW is going to perform poorly though, because it doesn’t. The Z97 FTW is still designed to push any i5 or i7 Haswell CPU to the limits of ambient cooling and is loaded with nifty features that both new builders and veterans can appreciate!

Specifications and Features

Taking a quick look at the specifications of the Z97 FTW, there’s a few things that stand out. Among those is the 6 phase power section, 2666 MHz DDR3 Dual-Channel support, and 4x PCIe 3.0 slots. The board supports SLI/Crossfire in PCI-E 3.0 x8/x8 configuration, has six USB 3.0 ports (2 front/4 rear), and six USB 2.0 ports (2 front/4 rear).

EVGA Z97 FTW
CPU
  • Socket 1150
Chipset
  • Intel Z97 Express Chipset
Memory
  • 4 DIMM Dual-Channel DDR3 2666MHz+ (up to 32GB)
Slots
  • 4x PCI Express 3.0 x16 Slots (Single at x16; dual at x8/x8; triple at x8/x4/x4; quad at x8/x4/x4/x1)
  • 1x PCI Express 3.0 x1 Slot
Graphics
  • HDMI Port
  • DisplayPort Port
On-Board SATA/M.2
  • 6x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by Intel® Z97, support RAID (0, 1, 5, 10, JBOD)
  • 2x SATA3 6.0 Gb/s Connectors by Marvell 9220
  • 1x M.2 Socket Type2 Slot
USB
  • USB 3.0 – 2x Front – 4x Rear
  • USB 2.0 – 2x Front – 4x Rear
Audio
  • Rear – 5x 2.5mm and 1x SPDIF
  • Front – 1x Front Panel Connector
LAN
  • 1x RJ-45 Gigabit LAN Ports
Multi-GPU
  • Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ and PhysX™
Form Factor
  • 12 in. x 9.6 in. (30.5 cm x 24.4 cm) ATX

The next table lists the high-level feature set of the Z97 FTW. All images and descriptions provided by EVGA.

2014-09-08 22_44_55-www.evga.com_products_pdf_142-HR-E977.pdf Brand New GUI BIOS Interface – Focused on functionality.
PCI-E Disable Switch – Quickly and easily troubleshoot!
E-LEET X Tuning Utility – Adjust your overclocking in O.S.
Dual BIOS Support – Use 2 separate profiles!
6 Layer PCB – Improved overclock stability and PCB cooling.
Higher Gold Content – Lower inductance, better power delivery!
2014-09-08 22_40_21-www.evga.com_products_pdf_142-HR-E977.pdf EZ Voltage Read Points – Easy read dedicated read points.
Onboard CPU Temp Monitor – Monitor CPU temps quickly and easily.
Passive Chipset Heatsink – No fans, lower noise, longer lifespan.
2014-09-08 22_40_50-www.evga.com_products_pdf_142-HR-E977.pdf 6 Phase PWM – Cleanest variable power switching.
2014-09-08 22_41_07-www.evga.com_products_pdf_142-HR-E977.pdf M.2 Slot – Next generation form factor.

Retail Packaging

The retail packaging is exactly what you would expect from EVGA, simple yet attractive. You get a very modern design on the front and a full feature set listed on the back. The sides of the box are also shown, which contain supplementary information about the motherboard.

Retail Package – Front

Retail Package – Front

Retail Packaging – Rear

Retail Packaging – Rear

Retail Packaging – Top

Retail Packaging – Top

Retail Packaging – Bottom

Retail Packaging – Bottom

Retail Packaging – Right

Retail Packaging – Right

Retail Packaging – Left

Retail Packaging – Left

Inside the outer retail package is…. a black box! This one does the real job of protecting the motherboard while the outer box is for visual design and product information.

Inside Box

Inside Box

Accessories

The Z97 FTW comes with a fairly standard accessory package including an SLI Bridge, 4x SATA Cables, Manual, Driver CD, I/O Shield, and I/O Cover.  This will get your new motherboard up and running… and then some!

The I/O Cover is an aesthetic piece that bolts down with your motherboard. It keeps the bright boxes of the I/O area out of view when using a windowed case. It’s a nice touch to give an “attention to detail” look to a build.

Accessories on Top

Accessories on Top

Accessory Package

Accessory Package

The EVGA Z97 FTW

Here we take a look at some overall views of the motherboard. This board has a tasteful refresh of the same color scheme from the previous generation. The four PCIe 3.0 x16 slots are immediately obvious, as well as two large heatsinks. Looking at the back of the board it is seen that all four of the PCIe 3.0 x16 slots have all their lanes soldered in. Normally, with this many slots, the electrical connections will step down to x8 or x4 on lower slots. All the heatsinks are attached with screws which is expected on a motherboard at this level.

Motherboard – Front

Motherboard – Front

Motherboard – Rear

Motherboard – Rear

Motherboard – Alternate

Motherboard – Alternate

A Closer Look

Looking first at the lower right section of this motherboard, there’s all eight SATA III ports, the front panel connectors, the front USB3.0 connection, PCIe DIP Switches, a fan header, and the dual BIOS switch. Rotating around to the lower left area of the motherboard there’s a supplemental PCIe power connection, a front audio header, an SPDIF header, two fan headers, the front USB2.0 connection, and a case speaker.

Motherboard – Lower Right

Motherboard – Lower Right

Motherboard – Lower Left

Motherboard – Lower Left

Moving higher up on the motherboard there are DIMMs to be found! In this area there’s a power and reset button, a debug display, the 24-pin power connection, a CMOS Clear button, a few fan headers, and the EZ Voltage Read Points. These voltage read points can be connected to the EVGA Probe-It Connector for easy voltage monitoring with a multimeter. Looking at the socket area, there’s the power section of the motherboard and its heatsink, the CMOS battery, the 8-pin CPU power connection, and a couple of fan headers.

Motherboard – DIMM Area

Motherboard – DIMM Area

Motherboard – Socket Area

Motherboard – Socket Area

Glancing at the I/O ports of the motherboard, all the rear connections are found. These include 4x USB2.0 ports, 4x USB3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI, 5x 3.5mm audio jacks, an S/PDIF port, and another CMOS Clear button. Some users may miss the PS/2, DVI, and/or VGA ports, but it’s nice to see a manufacturer pushing modern (read: digital instead of analog) interfaces as standard.

Motherboard – I/O Ports

Motherboard – I/O Ports

Summing up this section, the Z97 FTW has all the features almost any user could utilize and then some. Moving forward to more modern interfaces means this motherboard will stay compatible with devices such as monitors for longer than boards still using old connections, at the cost of possibly not having a connection for an older device.

Stripping the FTW

Now we’ll take a look at what the Z97 FTW has hidden under the hood. The picture below shows the 6-phase power delivery section to the CPU. Only solid state capacitors and EVGA branded chokes to be found here.

Motherboard - VRM Exposed

Motherboard – VRM Exposed

And here’s a few pictures of the motherboard heatsinks and the contact they made contact with their components. Both the CPU VRM heatsink and the PCH heatsink are beefy and very capable of dispersing the heat they need to. Flipping them over, indents in the thermal pads and the TIM can be seen from contact with the components they cool.

CPU VRM Heatsink

CPU VRM Heatsink

PCH Heatsink

PCH Heatsink

CPU VRM Heatsink - Rear

CPU VRM Heatsink – Rear

PCH Heatsink - Rear

PCH Heatsink – Rear

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

As with the color scheme, the BIOS is a refresh of the previous generation’s user interface. Seen first is the Overclock tab, which contains all the CPU Speed Control and System Voltage Control options. Next is the Memory tab which contains all the memory frequency and timing settings. Many people will never touch more than the first few memory settings, but people who understand the secondary and tertiary timings will appreciate this level of control.

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Up next is the Advanced tab. This is where all settings related to compatibility and general device configuration are located. It can be used to do things such as set custom fan profiles, enable/disable ports and controllers, and set the power saving features.

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Last up are the Boot and Save tabs. Here you can select your boot device order, configure Security settings, and Save/Restore user profiles. This section is also where the BIOS can be updated.

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EVGA ELEET-X Software

As of this writing EVGA is working on producing a functioning ELEET-X for the Z97 FTW. I ran into glitches with the software that neither EVGA nor myself were able to fix.

Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking

Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.

Test Setup
CPU Intel i7 4770K @ 4.0 GHz and 4.5Ghz
Motherboard EVGA Z97 FTW
RAM 2x4GB G.SKILL Ares 2133MHz CL9 11-10-28-2T
Graphics Card Club3D R9 280X RoyalQueen
Solid State Drive 256GB Samsung 840 Pro
Power Supply EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP1
Graphics Drivers Catalyst 14.4

In the coming screenshots there are results for 4.0 GHz and 4.5 GHz CPU speeds. Included are results using the latest versions of SuperPi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M, AIDA64, MaxxMEM, Cinebench R11.5/R15, and PiFast. There will be a later comparison table that includes an ASRock Z97 Extreme6 and an Asus Maximus VI Hero for reference.

CPU Benchmarks – SuperPi, wPrime, PiFast, and Cinebench

SuperPi 1M – 4.0 GHz

SuperPi 1M – 4.0 GHz

SuperPi 1M – 4.5 GHz

SuperPi 1M – 4.5 GHz

SuperPi 32M – 4.0 GHz

SuperPi 32M – 4.0 GHz

SuperPi 32M – 4.5 GHz

SuperPi 32M – 4.5 GHz

wPrime – 4.0 GHz

wPrime – 4.0 GHz

wPrime – 4.5 GHz

wPrime – 4.5 GHz

PiFast – 4.0 GHz

PiFast – 4.0 GHz

PiFast – 4.5 GHz

PiFast – 4.5 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.0 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.0 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.5 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.5 GHz

Cinebench R15 – 4.0  GHz

Cinebench R15 – 4.0 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.5 GHz

Cinebench R11.5 – 4.5 GHz

Memory Benchmarks – AIDA v4.30.2900 and MaxxMEM v2.01

AIDA – 4.0 GHz

AIDA – 4.0 GHz

AIDA – 4.5 GHz

AIDA – 4.5 GHz

AIDA – 4.0 GHz

AIDA – 4.0 GHz

MaxxMEM – 4.5 GHz

MaxxMEM – 4.5 GHz

Benchmark Comparison Chart

The graphs below show a brief comparison to an ASRock Z97 Extreme6 and an Asus Maximus VI Hero (Z87 Chipset), for the purpose of verifying data. All the motherboards were tested with the CPU set to 4.0 GHz. It looks like all the results are in-line with what they should be for the FTW!

SuperPi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M, and PiFast Comparisons

SuperPi 1M/32M, wPrime 32M/1024M, and PiFast Comparisons

Cinebench R11.5/R15 and MaxxMEM Comparisons

Cinebench R11.5/R15 and MaxxMEM Comparisons

Pushing the Limits

With some nice tweaking I ended up at 4.9GHz once again. Here’s the SuperPi 1M and wPrime 32M runs. This board took a vCore of 1.46V to achieve this 4.9GHz mark.

SuperPi 1M – 4.9 GHz

SuperPi 1M – 4.9 GHz

wPrime 32M – 4.9 GHz

wPrime 32M – 4.9 GHz

Conclusion

EVGA has once again brought a successful lineup of LGA 1150 motherboards. The Z97 FTW is of the ATX form factor and falls right in the middle of the set which includes the mITX Z97 Stinger and the EATX Z97 Classified. Currently on EVGA’s website the FTW has an MSRP of $199.99, but it can be found on Newegg for $169.99 ($149.99 after rebate) at the time of this writing.

Looking at the bad first, the ELEET-X software didn’t function properly. Other than that there were no issues during the review of this motherboard. Truth be told, if some (optional) software glitches are the biggest downside to a motherboard you’re doing well.

On the good side, this is a motherboard that has a competitive feature set for its pricing. The FTW is built to push any i5 or i7 Haswell CPU as far as any ambient cooling method will take you. There are a few extra troubleshooting features that most motherboards don’t exhibit, including the PCIe lane switches and EZ Voltage Read Points. The black and red color scheme is a fairly common choice these days, and there will be no issues finding other components and accessories to match this motherboard in a windowed case.

Time to give this board a rating. In the end we have a stable motherboard that’s attractively styled and won’t break the bank. Even if something happens to this board you’ve got EVGA’s 3-year warranty on it. All of this in one package leaves only one rating to give:

ocapproved

Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Austin  (ATMINSIDE)

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