Intel has released its new chipset, the Z97 which has left many people wondering what is new and the difference between the new platform and old Z87 platform, we explain the ins and outs and discuss if its worth rushing out to by a new 9 series motherboard. Lets start with a feature table;
Native SATA 6GB Ports
SATA Express Support
Intel 4th Generation CPU Support
Intel 5th Generation CPU support
Yes (with Bios upgrade)
Intel device protection with boot guard technology
Intel Rapid Storage technology
Max PCI-Express 3.0 lanes
Socket Type and CPU Support
In the past a new chipset introduced a new socket type, however the Z87 and Z97 platform now share the same socket type, LGA1150. 1150 pins in the same please means that the new Z97 chipset motherboards will support both the current Intel 4th Generation Processors as well as the New 5th generation "Haswell refresh" CPU's so you wont need to run out and buy a new CPU for your custom PC if you upgrade your motherboard. If you own a Z97 motherboard you can also fit a 4th generation CPU.
Native SATA 6GBs ports
Both Z87 and Z97 natively support the same amount of 6GBs SATA ports, 6 to be exact. Nothing new, and nothing exciting however it is worth bearing in mind some board partners such as Asus or Gigabyte may add more ports via a 3rd party controller.
Both Support a native RAM speed of 1600Mhz and of DDR3 technology. Zero change here.
This is probably the biggest difference that will matter the most to potential new Z97 users. Z97 includes M.2 port support, and I say "support" as it will not be 100% native to every motherboard out there as some board partners may not wish to add M.2 ports to their motherboards but given Intel make the technology available this type of new port is going to be very common ground especially as there are some M.2 storage devices on the market right now. Some higher end Z87 motherboards do have M.2 ports but was only found in rare cases so the tech has been around a while but expect to see much more of it now.
Z97 sees the new addition for support for MSATA ports. Z87 did not have this so its completely new ground. Exactly how common it will be will be up to the motherboard partners and given the manufacturing cost of implementing MSATA it will be pretty common ground. The problem comes where currently there are no MSATA devices on the market (expect this to change over the coming months after offical lanch on 8/5/14) so they are kind useless right now and effectively MSATA is the same kind of product as M.2 - A faster interface for fast storage devices such as uber speed SSD's so if you use one tech (unless you have more than one M.2 or MSATA device) your not going to use the other.
Both chipsets will allow cpu overclocking.
There is not much that is different between the two chipsets so if you have an existing custom or gaming PC I recommend you don't run out the door trying to get your hands on a new Z97 motherboard as the new features are not going to be worth it to 99% of people. The biggest difference with this update will come from the CPU's - 4th generation Vs 5th Generation rather than a Z87 VsZ97 as both CPU generations are both forward and backward compatible. If you are buying or building a new custom computer then given the small price difference between the two, a Z97 based motherboard should be your weapon of choice as it will give you that little bit more future proofing......you never know, MSATA may become the 'norm' and without Z97 in your life you will struggle to adapt to the ever changing industry.