As with the Asus Z97IPlus, the Gigabyte’s modest £106 price doesn’t mean you get an ugly board. Its black PCB is highlighted by smart red heatsinks, and the bright chunks of metal don’t encroach on the CPU socket – in fact, the area around the LGA1150 socket is the clearest of any board this month, which means chunky heatsinks won’t be too tricky to install.
The Gigabyte impresses in several important areas too. Its networking is given a boost with Qualcomm’s Atheros Killer Gigabit Ethernet, and there are five SATA 6Gbps ports – one more than most of the boards on test, and with one connector soldered sensibly to the righthand edge. The Realtek audio chipset has been given a boost with Creative’s SoundBlaster X-Fi software too, and it has premium audio capacitors and isolated audio circuitry with a built-in rear audio amp. The layout is consistently impressive as well. The 8-pin power socket and two fan connectors are unhindered along the top edge, and the front panel connector and another fan header lie on the right-hand side.
Meanwhile, the Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip sits vertically behind the rear I/O. The back of the board itself has four USB 3 connectors but just two USB 2 ports, and it also offers the standard loadout of single optical S/PDIF and PS/2 ports. It’s the only board on test to offer eSATA too, and it also sports six audio jacks. The price means there are a couple of omissions though. There’s no SATA Express and, more importantly, there’s no M.2 – so super-fast SSDs are out of reach. The board also has six power phases rather than ten.
This gaming board punched above its price in our benchmark tests. Its application benchmark result of 115,064 is the best on test, and it equalled the expensive Asus Maximus VII Impact with its minimum and average frame rates in our Shogun gaming benchmark. In Skyrim, the Gigabyte was the quickest board again. Elsewhere, the Gigabyte wasn’t as impressive though. Its SATA speed was among the worst on test, and its stock speed load power draw of 154W was the highest of any board on test too. It was then time to overclock the board, and the Gigabyte’s EFI is thankfully easy enough to navigate. Sadly, though, the Gigabyte was also the only board in the Labs that couldn’t take our test processor to 4.8GHz – instead, we had to use a 1.3V vcore to get our sample CPU to run at just 4.7GHz.
Not surprisingly, the poor overclocking speed had a detrimental effect on performance. The Gigabyte’s overclocked application benchmark score of 120,430 is the slowest from any Intel board in this Labs test, and it was similarly behind the competition in our revised games tests. In Shogun, both its results were 1fps behind the nearest rival, and in Skyrim, it was 1fps behind the next best board, but more than 10fps behind some others. What’s more, despite not matching the overclocked frequency speed of its rivals, the overclocked Gigabyte was also the only Intel board on test that required more than 200W from the mains when running at load.
Conclusion The Gigabyte is a good-looking and well-designed board that offers some good features, especially when it comes to networking and audio, but we’re disheartened by the lack of an M.2 slot and the disappointing overclocking performance. Speed was mixed too, with great stock speed results that gave way to disappointing overclocks and high power consumption. The Gigabyte Z97N-Gaming 5 isn’t bad – it’s just up against some stiff competition from MSI and Asus, both of which offer similarly priced boards with better features and smoother overclocking.