Today we’re looking at Biostar’s Hi-Fi Z97WE it’s another motherboard based on Intel’s Z97 chipset that’s aimed at entry-level workstation builds. The first thing you’ll notice about this ATX motherboard is the endearing 1970’s style heat-sinks. With lots of straight lines, hard edges, and a gold with silver highlights color scheme it has a decidedly retro appearance. Which is an interesting choice on Biostar’s part given how modern the hardware is on this motherboard.
Starting with the Z97 chipset this motherboard offers support for Intel’s upcoming Devil’s Canyon chips in addition to all currently available Haswell CPUs. It supports features like USB 3.0, M.2, and Dual Gigabit LAN and has a specific focus on the quality of the front panel audio out hardware to improve the experience for users who want to plug their headphones into this board. In our testing we found the quality of this motherboard’s front-panel audio to be equivalent to the back panel audio with the added bonus of having user configurable gain settings.
There are two PCI-E 3.0 slots that run at 8x+8x in Crossfire or SLI. They are spaced three slots apart which is a good decision from a cooling perspective. There are also two PCI slots and a pair of PCI-E 1x slots. Biostar has wisely chosen to forgo adding an expansion slot below the first PCI-E slot. As it is today almost all graphics cards have dual slot coolers which means that the lower slot is never used.
As with all decent motherboards the Hi-Fi Z97WE has an error code reader, power, and reset buttons. It’s also got a pile of front panel headers and six fan headers.
Like Gigabyte and MSI, Biostar has physically isolated the audio related section of this motherboard to reduce the possibility of EM interference. They’ve also added an onboard amplifier and Realtek’s latest audio codec. The back panel on this board is well endowed with HDMI, VGA, DVI and six USB ports, an audio block, dual Ethernet ports, and a single PS2 port.
Overall this is a solid offering from Biostar. It was totally stable the entire time we used it, and coped well with hardware changes. It’s not nearly as high-end as the motherboard we looked at from Gigabyte earlier this week but it’s also $65 less. At $125 Biostar’s Hi-Fi Z97WE offers you everything you need, and almost everything you could want. From a value perspective it is a choice that makes a lot of sense. It’s not a spartan offering like ASRock’s Pro3, but it doesn’t break the bank like MSI $400 XPOWER motherboard. The Hi-Fi Z97WE is solid, value Z97 motherboard that has really nice front and rear panel audio outs to boot.S|A
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