The Hi-Fi Z97Z7 has the appearance of being superior to most of Biostar’s previous product offerings by incorporating a re-envisioned black and gold style. This look goes a long way into making it a contender for the gamer or system builders on a budget that wants to showcase more than the typical blue or red offerings. Were these just touches superficial, or a hint at the Hi-Fi Z97Z7 being a turning point in Biostar’s overall long term plans? At the end of the day looks alone can not carry a product to success; the underlying design, components and usability are key.
When it comes to features, the Z97Z7 covers the majority of basis for a mainstream product by having just enough SATA3 connectors: USB 3.0 ports, AMD Crossfire support, SATAe and most importantly a M.2 slot. The addition of M.2 SSD will allow a rapid boot speed and quicker application access. Not having SLI support is a small ding but nothing major as high end gaming wasn’t on the Hi-Fi “to do” list. To make the Hi-Fi Z97Z7 stand out as more of a preferred audiophile product there should be advanced output features including coaxial or optical ports. If you are using a headset or surround PC speakers for audio you will be fine but for those that use a full range system it may not be as easy to take advantage of the Hi-Fi hardware. As each day passes more people are cutting the cord to go in an streaming online consumption model, going to need killer sound to go with it.
All around performance was surprisingly better than we had expected as speeds across all ports and interfaces was on par with the published specs including the M.2 SSD. On top of the stock showing, stable CPU overclocking was an unforeseen bonus and a huge step in the right direction for Biostar. We wouldn’t suggest trying to set world records with the Z97Z7 but it wouldn’t hurt to squeeze a little extra out of a “K” series chip. Memory didn’t go as smoothly as the CPU overclocking. This may have been the memory used or something a BIOS update could improve on in the future. The XMP profiles will be more than sufficient for almost everyone that picks up this board. Gaming, Movies, Music or a general all around desktop are within the capabilities of the Hi-fi Z97Z7.
The hard part about this board will be finding one to purchase. It is a limited availability part, and how limited is up in the air. We were able to locate a few overseas and a few more on Ebay, but was unable to spot one at any of the major online E-tailers. The release prices was expected to be in the $100-120US range but we see $90-100 being more realistic. Anything over $105 places the Hi-Fi smack dead in the lions den of performance mid range products where it may get overlooked. Placing this board at or just under $100, the Z97Z7 may rule as there are very few Z97 boards in this price range that haven’t been opened, fondled and returned to the place of purchase. Biostar would be facing off against H97 and B85 based products. Of course this would also place Biostar in a heated battle with its own lower cost offerings. All and all this is one of the better boards from this maker in some time and we feel comfortable giving it the PureOverClock Great Hardware Award.