The Z97X- SOC motherboard is Gigabyte’s affordable overclocking-centric Z97 motherboard that is not quite as tricked out as its big brother Z97X-SOC Force. That bigger brother is geared toward quad-SLI setups with its PLX chip and it also has twice as many phases for the CPU. But with half as many phases just how strong can the Z97X-SOC be? As I found out in testing this board is no slouch and will hold its own as well as any other under sub-zero even while having the lower phase count. It definitely proved it is more than capable of pushing the limits of the 4790K ES that I had paired it with and was only held back by not being able to go colder than -60C.
The board is designed and built from the ground up for overclocking and features a plethora of overclocking features both physically on the board and features via software and in the BIOS. The board itself features a socket that is 15μ gold plated which is five times the thickness of normal plating. The PCB that the motherboard is built out of is made of high quality 2oz copper PCB that helps it handle high power loads. The Z97X-SOC is one of the results of the evolution of the X58A-OC that started using the hardware controls for increasing the BCLK and Multi ratios. What we get here with the Z97X-SOC is a few generations of refinement and learning by the Gigabyte OC R&D team. It looks like it should be quite capable of overclocking today and I will be taking a look at this with some sub-zero tests and seeing just how useful these features are.
Here you can see the ATX form factor Gigabyte Z97X-SOC in all its glory ( with VRM heatsink removed). The color scheme is something that has been retained from the original X58A-OC board and has been made to stand out from the competition, as well as giving the Gigabyte Overclocking series their own color scheme. As far as overclocking competitions go, you’ll definitely notice when one of these boards is on the bench which adds to the branding for Gigabyte.
A close up of the VRM with the heatsink removed for your viewing pleasure. The overall layout is clean and simple which is ideal for those wanting to take this to the extreme under sub-zero conditions. You’ll also notice the power connectors around the board, with a 4-pin ATX, ATX 12V 2×4 for extra CPU power delivery and a further 6-pin connector below the CPU socket to provide extra auxiliary power to the PCI-Express lanes.
A close up of the OC Touch, OC Ignition, and other hardware-based overclocking features. There are also voltage read points as well as power and reset buttons. These buttons allow you to overclock “on-the-fly” which means that you can fine-tune your overclock while benchmarking without the need for restarting the system and entering the BIOS to tweak your overclock. The voltage points are a vital aspect for anyone overclocking, especially those looking to enter the sub-zero realm of cooling. Other switches and buttons include the ability to disable certain features, such as relevant PCI-Express lanes that are unneeded.
Two front facing USB ports are a bencher’s friend when you don’t have to reach all the way to the back to save those screenshots and scores for uploading for validation.
A view of the dual BIOS chips on the motherboard which allow you to fall back on the other if a problem arises with the BIOS you’ve have been using. It is a nice feature that means you are less likely to need to RMA your board or have a dead board. This can be vitally important if you’re participating in a competition where time is of the essence.