A Closer Look & Layout Analysis
The Biostar Hi-Fi Z97WE has a fairly unique aesthetic with yellow and black PCI lanes, browny-gold heatsinks and a brown PCB as well as blue audio capacitors and a blue audio light on the EMI shielding and PCB separation. Put simply the colour scheme is rather confused and garish so you will most definitely be buying this motherboard because of its features and pricing, not because of its looks. The layout of the motherboard is spot on and Biostar haven’t tried to do anything too fancy. All the power connectors are located in their ideal locations, all the other connectors and fan headers are mainly around the edge of the motherboard to allow for better cable management with the exception of one fan header located near the centre for any rear case fans. This is definitely one of the better motherboard layouts I have seen for Z97, even the onboard buttons and debug/temperature LED are in their ideal locations. I am also pleased to see a reasonable sized PCH heatsink, quite honestly I get annoyed when some motherboard vendors dump huge great big heatsinks on their motherboards and then have to move things (like SATA ports, USB 3.0 headers, etc) into stupid locations because the heatsink takes up all the space.
The CPU socket has a 10 phase VRM although there appear to be another 2 phases hidden behind the main heatsink. I get the feeling this could be a 12 phase VRM but I couldn’t get confirmation on this.
Behind the CPU VRM heatsinks there are two CPU fan headers and the CPU 8 pin power.
A USB 3.0 header, motherboard 24 pin power and system fan header are located near the memory banks.
There are no additional third party SATA controllers on this motherboard to keep the costs down so there are only six SATA III ports all provided by the Z97 chipset.
Near the bottom right we find a clear CMOS jumper, the BIOS chip, front panel connectors, power and reset buttons, a system fan header, a debug LED which turns into a CPU temp reader after the motherboard posts and of course we have the small gold PCH heatsink which is easily removed with a screwdriver.
Other connectors along the bottom include front panel audio, a system fan header, a CIR header for an infrared remote, a COM header, a TPM header and two USB 2.0 headers.
The PCIe config makes use of two full 16X gen 3 slots, two gen 2 1X slots and two legacy PCI slots provided by an ASM1083 conversion chip. There’s also an M.2 port in the middle with various screw down points for M.2 devices of different sizes.
The audio comes on a separated PCB with EMI shielding and audio-grade capacitors. The EMI shielding and the PCB separator line are both lit by blue LEDs.
The rear I/O has the following ports:
- 1 x PS/2 Keyboard
- 4 x USB 3.0 Port
- 2 x USB 2.0 Port
- 1 x HDMI Connector
- 1 x DVI Connector
- 1 x VGA Port
- 2 x RJ-45 Port
- 5 x Audio Connector
- 1 x S/PDIF Out Port
The PCB is a glossy brown colour which is similar to what we’ve seen on other budget Z97 motherboards like the ASUS Z97-A or the Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI.