In a lot of ways, the Hi-Fi Z97WE looks like a pretty good deal. It offers an affordable path to Intel's high-end Z97 chipset and takes advantage of all the associated perks, including support not only for next-gen storage devices, but also for future Broadwell CPUs. Despite its budget price tag, the board is no slower than its pricier peers. And it's a capable overclocker, at least for the multiplier tuning preferred by most folks.
The Z97WE doesn't have a stripped-down spec, either. You get dual GigE connectors, solid M.2 storage support, beefed up audio, and a smattering of little touches typically missing from motherboards in this price range. Getting all that for only $124.99 looks like the good kind of cheap.
The thing is, motherboards are more than just checkmarks on a feature list and numbers in a benchmark spreadsheet. They're central to the experience of building and tuning a PC, a process that relies heavily on firmware and software. The Z97WE's firmware covers the basics for overclocking, but the fan controls are somewhat limited, and the interface is uninspired.
At least the firmware is better than the software, which is several years old in some cases. Biostar's Windows tweaking utility and parts of its Android app don't work for us. A handful of other bundled applications do, but they add little value to the overall package.
The Hi-Fi Z97WE's competitive hardware is ultimately let down by the accompanying firmware and software. Those rough edges are likely to frustrate less experienced users, and they'll disappoint anyone who has played with Z97 boards from the biggest names in the business. Using the Z97WE is a little like being in a time warp. You get the latest and greatest hardware in a product that feels one or two generations behind.
That combination might be tolerable to folks with specific hardware requirements and strict budgets, but I don't recommend it. You're better off spending a little bit more for a superior overall experience.
32 comments — Last by Euro_Bucks at 12:08 AM on 09/15/14
|Gigabyte's Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard reviewedCoffee Lake gets wings||25|
|The Tech Report System Guide: September 2017 editionHog heaven at the high end||99|
|Asus' ROG Strix Z270E Gaming motherboard reviewedSleek and stealthy||11|
|Gigabyte's Aorus GA-Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard reviewedFinding the sweet spot between high-end and excess||26|
|Computex 2017: Gigabyte's latest and greatest gearMotherboards and eGPUs and laptops, oh my||19|
|Intel's Core X-series CPUs and X299 platform revealedSkylake-X and Kaby Lake-X make their debut||245|
|The Tech Report System Guide: May 2017 editionRyzen 5 takes the stage||111|
|A Bridge too far: migrating from Sandy to Kaby LakeA Core i7-7700K and Asus Z270-A upgrade story||161|
|Aerocool's Project 7 P7-C0 Pro case reviewed||2|
|Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is rolling out to PCs worldwide||36|
|Sharkoon AM5 Silent arrives boasting loud finishes||10|
|GeForce 388.00 drivers are ready to meet Destiny 2||10|
|EK builds a full-coverage X399 waterblock for Asus boards||6|
|Razer Kiyo and Seiren X set the stage for streaming excellence||23|
|MSI Cubi 3 Silent and Silent S can be seen but not heard||13|
|Massdrop's Vast 35" VA display lives up to its name||44|
|Spitballing the performance of Nvidia's purported GTX 1070 Ti||23|