There are plenty of affordable Z97 motherboards on offer, in the UK they start from about £70-80 while in North America they can be had from about $110. However, these entry level Z97 motherboards tend to be fairly basic in their feature set, styling and specifications. If you’re looking for a gaming motherboard at that price point you simply won’t be able to afford one. The reason is that the Z97 chipset costs motherboard vendors quite a lot. However, H97 is a cheaper chipset so motherboard vendors can make a much higher quality H97 motherboard for the same price as an entry level Z97 motherboard because they have lower chipset costs so can afford to allocate more funds to other aspects of the board like buying better power components, better networking components, better audio components and so on. As a result gamers at the really budget price points are better off buying gaming motherboards that aren’t of the “flagship” Intel chipset. We saw this logic applied last year when ASRock released their Fatal1ty B85 motherboardfor a a diminuitive £70~ and yet it contained all the “gaming features” of significantly more expensive motherboards such as a Killer NIC, high quality audio, XSplit gaming software and that typical gamer styling. Today we have something very similar to that based on the Intel H97 chipset, the Fatal1ty H97 Performance motherboard. This motherboard takes advantage of the cheaper H97 chipset to offer up a gaming motherboard at the very attractive price of $100, or about £75. If anything this board is quite a step up over the B85 Fatal1ty board from last generation coming with more CPU VRM phases, an improved audio design, Intel Gigabit LAN and more SATA III ports, all while being at a very similar price.
Packaging and Accessories
The packaging is nothing out of the ordinary for an ASRock Fatal1ty product, this board is very clearly positioned as a gaming product from the moment you look at the box.
The back details the key features of this motherboard, some of them seem a bit dubious to call “gaming features” such as Orbweb.Me cloud software or Super Alloy power components. I think ASRock would benefit more from focusing on things like the Intel networking and high quality audio as this is definitely something Gamers will find more alluring.
Included is a user guide, software user guide, ASRock Cloud setup guide, a driver/utility DVD and XSplit Broadcaster 3 month premium certificate.
The accessory pack is very basic: a plain unlabelled I/O shield and a pair of SATA cables. At this price point this is really to be expected.