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Detailed specifications
We've covered the most important elements of the Z97 Gaming 7 already, but here's the full spec sheet with all the gory details:

Platform Intel Z97 Express, socket LGA1150
DIMM slots 4 DDR3, 32GB max
Expansion slots 3 PCIe 3.0 x16 via CPU (x16/x0/x0, x8/x8/x0, x8/x4/x4)
4 PCIe 2.0 x1 via Z97 Express
Storage I/O 1 M.2 via Z97 Express (SATA and PCIe)
6 SATA RAID 6Gbps via Z97 Express
4 SATA 6Gbps via ASMedia ASM1061
Audio 8-channel HD via Realtek ALC1150
Surround virtualization via Creative software
Ports 1 PS/2 keyboard/mouse
2 HDMI via CPU
1 DisplayPort via CPU
2 USB 3.0 via Z97 Express
2 USB 3.0 via internal headers via Z97 Express
4 USB 3.0 via Z97 and ASMedia ASM1074 hub
2 USB 3.0 via ASMedia ASM1042
2 USB 2.0 via Z97 Express
4 USB 2.0 via internal headers via Z97 Express
1 Gigabit Ethernet via Qualcomm Killer E2205

1 analog front/headphone out (amplified)
5 configurable analog ports
1 digital S/PDIF out
Overclocking All/per-core Turbo multiplier: 8-80X
CPU ring ratio: 8-80X
CPU strap: 1, 1.25, 1.66, 2.5X
Base clock: 90-300MHz
DRAM ref clock: 200, 266MHz
DRAM: 800-3200MHz

VCCIN voltage: 1.2-3.04V
CPU core voltage: 0.8-2.1V
CPU ring voltage: 0.8-2.1V
System agent voltage: 0.8-1.85V
CPU analog I/O voltage: 0.8-2.0V
CPU digital I/O voltage: 0.8-2.0V
Analog/Digital I/O boost: -0.15 - +0.3V
DRAM voltage: 0.24-2.77V
PCH 1.05V voltage: 0.7-2.32V
PCH 1.5V voltage: 0.8-2.77V
Fan control 2x CPU, 3x SYS fans
Predefined default, full-speed profiles
Manual profile with four temp/speed points per fan

See what I mean about not-so-engaging reading? Yeah. Anyway, here are the socket clearance measurements promised earlier in the review:

If you dig these sorts of details, then you might also be interested in a picture of the system we used for testing.

Our testing methods
We used the following system configurations for testing.

Processor Intel Core i7-4770K
Motherboard Asus Z87-PRO Asus Z97-A Gigabyte Z97X-UD5H MSI Z97 Gaming 7
Firmware revision 1802 0604 F6b 1.1B1
Platform hub Z87 Express Z97 Express Z97 Express Z97 Express
Chipset drivers Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Chipset: 10.0
RST: 13.0
Audio Realtek ALC1180 Realtek ALC892 Realtek ALC1150 Realtek ALC1150
Memory size 16GB (2 DIMMs)
Memory type Corsair Vengeance Pro DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz
Memory timings 9-9-9-27-1T
Graphics Asus GeForce GTX 680 DirectCU II with 335.23 drivers
Storage Corsair Force Series GT 120GB
Samsung 830 Series 256GB
Power supply Corsair AX850 850W
Operating system Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro x64

Thanks to Intel, Corsair, Samsung, and Asus for providing the hardware used in our test systems. And thanks to the motherboard makers for providing those.

We used the following versions of our test applications:

Some further notes on our test methods:

  • All testing was conducted with motherboard power-saving options enabled. These features can sometimes lead to slightly slower performance, particularly in peripheral tests that don't cause the CPU to kick into high gear. We'd rather get a sense of motherboard performance with real-world configurations, though; we're not as interested in comparing contrived setups with popular features disabled.

  • DiRT Showdown was tested with ultra detail settings, 4X MSAA, and a 1920x1200 display resolution. We used Fraps to log a 60-second snippet of gameplay from the demo's first race. To offset the fact that our gameplay sequence can't be repeated exactly, we ran this test five times on each system.

  • Power consumption was measured at the wall socket for the complete system, sans monitor and speakers, using a Watts Up Pro power meter. Our video playback load used this 1080p YouTube trailer for the movie Looper. The full-load test combined AIDA64's CPU stress test with the Unigine Valley DirectX 11 demo running in a 1280x720 window.

  • The Force GT 120GB SSD was used as the system drive for all tests. The Samsung 830 Series 256GB was connected as secondary storage to test Serial ATA and USB performance, the latter through a USAP-compatible Thermaltake BlacX 5G docking station. The Samsung SSD was secure-erased before each test that involved it. The Corsair drive was also wiped before we loaded our system image.

  • Ethernet performance was tested using a remote rig based on an Asus P8P67 Deluxe motherboard with an Intel 82579 Gigabit Ethernet controller. A single Cat 6 Ethernet cable connected that system to each motherboard.

  • Analog audio signal quality was tested using RMAA's "loopback" test, which pipes front-channel output through the board's line input. We tested while the system was loaded with Cinebench's multithreaded rendering test, the Unigine Valley benchmark, and a CrystalDiskMark 4KB random I/O test running on the Samsung SSD attached via USB 3.0.

  • Power consumption was tested using a Watt's Up Pro power meter. Our idle measurement represents the low over a five-minute period. For YouTube playback, we reported the median power consumption for the length of the video. For our full load test, we reported the peak power consumption during the Cinebench benchmark run.

The tests and methods we employed are publicly available and reproducible. All tests except power consumption were run at least three times. Unless otherwise indicated, we reported the median result for each test. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to talk with us about them.