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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER is a mid-range socket LGA1150 motherboard based on the new Intel H97 chipset, supporting the fourth and the forthcoming fifth generation Core i processors. It brings high-end audio codec, six SATA-600 ports (allowing one SATA Express connection), and six USB 3.0 ports. Let’s take a good look at it.

The “new” Intel H97 chipset is a H87 chipset rebranded for marketing reasons. They are identical and, therefore, have the exact same specifications. Like in the previous 8-series, the H97 is very similar to the high-end chipset for this platform, the Z97, differing from it mostly by the lack of overclocking features. It has the same characteristics in regards to the number of SATA-600 and USB 3.0 ports (six of each). Another difference is that the H97 does not allow the bandwidth of the PCI Express 3.0 x16 to be shared with a second slot. It means that, in a system with no overclocking and only one video card, the H97 and the Z97 will offer pretty much the same set of features.

Like the Z97, the H97 supports RAID, Smart Response (installing an SSD as a cache for the main hard drive), Smart Connect (allowing the computer to receive emails and refresh webpages while in sleep mode), and Rapid Start (faster boot times) technologies.

Most motherboards based on this chipset support the new SATA Express and M.2 (successor to the mSATA) connectors, but these are mechanical features provided by the motherboard, not by the chipset.

You can see the ASUS H97-PRO GAMER motherboard in Figure 1. It uses the ATX form factor, measuring 12” x 9.6” (305 x 244 mm).

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 1: ASUS H97-PRO GAMER motherboard

[nextpage title=”Slots”]

The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER comes with one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 speed), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, and three PCI slots.

Only the first PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the CPU, so it is based on the 3.0 specification and does not share bandwidth with other slots, i.e. it always works at x16 speed. The second PCI Express x16 slot is controlled by the chipset (so it is based on the 2.0 specification) and shares bandwidth with the PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots: if one of them is used, the second PCI Express x16 slot works only at x2 speed, not x4.

The motherboard supports CrossFireX, but not SLI.

There is also an M.2 slot, supporting one SATA-600 or PCI Express SSD module.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 2: slots

[nextpage title=”Memory Support”]

Intel socket LGA1150 CPUs have an embedded memory controller, meaning that it is the processor, not the chipset, that defines what memory technologies you can have and the maximum amount of memory that is possible. The motherboard, however, may have a limitation as to how much memory can be installed.

The integrated memory controller from socket LGA1150 processors supports DDR3 memories up to 1,600 MHz. According to ASUS, the H97-PRO GAMER supports memories up to 1,600 MHz.

The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER has four memory sockets. You can install up to 32 GiB with this motherboard if you use four 8 GiB modules.

In order to enable the dual-channel mode, you must install two or four memory modules. On the ASUS H97-PRO GAMER, the first and third memory sockets are black, while the second and fourth are gray. When installing two memory modules, use two sockets with the same color.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 3: memory sockets; install two or four modules for the best performance

[nextpage title=”On Board Peripherals”]

The Intel H97 chipset is a single-chip solution, which is also known as a PCH (Platform Controller Hub). This chip has six SATA-600 ports, supporting RAID (0, 1, 10, and 5). The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER offers those six ports.

Notice that two left-most SATA-600 ports can be used as two standard SATA ports or as one SATA Express port.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 4: SATA ports

The Intel H97 chipset supports 14 USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports. The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER offers eight USB 2.0 ports, two at the rear panel and six available through three headers located on the motherboard. There are six USB 3.0 ports (four at the rear panel and two available through a header), all of them controlled by the chipset.

The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER does not support FireWire or Thunderbolt ports.

This motherboard supports 7.1 audio format, i.e., eight channels. On this motherboard, the audio is generated by the chipset using the Realtek ALC1150 codec (called “SupremeFX” by ASUS), which is an excellent audio codec, providing 115 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog outputs, 104 dB signal-to-noise ratio for the analog inputs, and up to 192 kHz sampling rate for both inputs and outputs, with 24-bit resolution. These specifications are good even for the user who wants to work professionally by capturing and editing analog audio (e.g., converting LPs to CDs or MP3, converting VHS to DVDs or any other digital format, etc.)

The codec chip is shielded against electromagnetic interference, and the whole audio section is separated from the rest of the board in order to minimize interference. The semi-transparent line that separes the audio section is illuminated by some red LEDs located on the solder side of the board, which gives a beautiful effect when the computer is powered on. The analog audio outputs are independent even if you use a 7.1 analog speaker set.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 5: shielded audio codec on the separated audio section

The portrayed motherboard has one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel i218V chip.

In Figure 6, you can see the motherboard rear panel with a shared PS/2 keyboard/mouse connector, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI output, optical SPDIF output, DVI-I output, VGA (D-SUB) output, four USB 3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet port, and the analog audio jacks.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 6: motherboard rear panel

In Figure 7, you can see the accessories that come with the ASUS H97-PRO GAMER.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 7: accessories

[nextpage title=”Voltage Regulator”]

The CPU voltage regulator circuit of the ASUS H97-PRO GAMER has eight phases for the CPU. The voltage regulator uses a Digi+ ASP1252 controller chip (digital design), and each phase uses one PSMN1R6-30BL (“6030DLB”) and one PSMN2R4-30YLD (“4030DLA”) MOSFETs.

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 8: voltage regulator circuit

The motherboard uses high-end “10K” solid capacitors and all coils on this motherboard are ferrite ones.

If you want to learn more about the voltage regulator circuit, please read our tutorial on the subject.

[nextpage title=”Overclocking options”]

The portrayed motherboard has several overclocking options. Below, we list the most important ones (2104 BIOS):

  • CPU Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Cache Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Graphics Voltage: From 0.001 V to 1.920 V in 0.001 V increments
  • System Agent Voltage: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Analog IO Voltage: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Digital IO Voltage: From 0.001 V to 0.999 V in 0.001 V increments
  • CPU Input Voltage: From 0.800 V to 2.700 V in 0.010 V increments
  • Memory Voltage: From 1.200 V to 1.920 V in 0.010 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) Core Voltage: From 0.700 V to 1.800 V in 0.0125 V increments
  • Chipset (PCH) VLX Voltage: From 1.200 V to 2.000 V in 0.0125 V increments
  • VTTDDR Voltage: From 0.600 V to 1.000 V in 0.0125 V increments
  • Memory CTRL REF Voltage: From 0.395x to 0.630x in 0.005x increments
  • Memory DATA REF Voltage: From 0.395x to 0.630x in 0.005x increments

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 9: overclocking options

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 10: memory timings adjusts

ASUS H97-PRO GAMERFigure 11: voltage options

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the ASUS H97-PRO GAMER include:

  • Socket: LGA1150
  • Chipset: Intel H97
  • Super I/O: Nuvoton NCT6791D
  • Parallel ATA: none
  • Serial ATA: six SATA-600 ports controlled by the chipset (RAID 0, 1, 10, and 5) supporting one SATA Express connector
  • External SATA: none
  • USB 2.0: eight USB 2.0 ports, two at the rear panel and six available through three headers on the motherboard
  • USB 3.0: six USB 3.0 ports, four on the motherboard rear panel and two available through a header, all ports controlled by the chipset
  • FireWire (IEEE 1394): none
  • Thunderbolt: none
  • On-board video: controlled by the CPU; one VGA (D-Sub), one DVI-D, and one HDMI connectors
  • On-board audio: produced by the chipset together with a Realtek ALC1150 codec (7.1+2 channels, 24-bit resolution, 192 kHz sampling rate, 115 dB SNR for the outputs, and 104 dB SNR for the inputs), on-board optical SPDIF output
  • On-board LAN: one Gigabit Ethernet port controlled by an Intel i218V chip
  • Buzzer: no
  • Infrared interface: no
  • Power supply required: EPS12V
  • Slots: one PCI Express 3.0/2.0 x16 slot, one PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot (working at x4 or x2), two PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots, three PCI slots, and one M.2 slot
  • Memory: four DDR3-DIMM sockets (up to DDR3-1600, 32 GiB maximum)
  • Fan connectors: two four-pin connectors for the CPU cooler and three four-pin connectors for auxiliary fans
  • Extra features: none
  • Number of CDs/DVDs provided: one
  • Programs included: motherboard utilities and drivers
  • More Information: https://www.asus.com/
  • Average Price in the U.S.: the motherboard is not yet available in the U.S.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

The ASUS H97-PRO GAMER is a good mid-range motherboard, targeted to the user who is building a computer using a “Haswell” CPU (fourth-generation Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processors) and wants it to be compatible with the “Devil’s Canyon” (enhanced fourth-generation) and “Broadwell” (fifth-generation) “Core i” processors, but does not intend to install more than one video card.

The highlights of this motherboard include the high-end audio interface and the support for M.2 modules and SATA Express devices.

The biggest limitation of this motherboard is its basic slot configuration, which is a surprise for a motherboard with the word “gamer” on its name. There is only one PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot. It supports CrossFireX configuration, but the second video card will work with a low bandwidth, which makes this motherboard recommended only if you will use a single video card.

The H97-PRO GAMER can be a good choice for building mainstream computers with only one video card, if it becames available at the correct price point.