The GA-Z97-HD3 has a trendy new BIOS (basic input output system) with a basic welcome screen from which you can select different views. We chose Smart Tweak H.D mode, as it provided overclocking and configuration functions that were accessible and fairly well laid out.
Although the Gigabyte Z97-HD3 uses the Intel Z97 chipset, it doesn’t make much use of it. There’s no support for M.2 or SATA Express drives, for instance, and there are just four USB-3 ports at the rear of the board. It is fairly cheap, though, and has fairly decent scope for expansion considering its modest 19.cm depth. There are two PCI-E x16 slots, but only one runs at x16, the second runs at x4 whether or not there’s a card in the first slot. There are also two PCI-E x1 slots and two legacy PCI slots. You will, however, not be able to use the two PCI-E x1 slots if you install a card in the second PCI-E x16 slot.
Form factor: ATX
Processor support: 4th generation Intel Celeron, Pentium, Core i3/i5/i7
Processor external bus: 100 MHz
North-Bridge Chipset: Intel Z97
South-Bridge Chipset: Intel Z97
Passively Cooled North-bridge: Yes
Integrated Graphics: None
Memory Type Supported: DDR 3
Maximum Memory Speed: PC3-23464
Memory Slots: 4
Maximum Memory: 32GB
Dual Channel Support: Yes
One of the BIOS options lets you overclock your system in 20 per cent increasing. We applied an 80 per cent operation increment, which overclocked our Intel Core i5-4670K processor to 4.6 GHz and our memory to 1,866 MHz. With our test PC running at these frequencies, our test PC scored 128 overall in our PC benchmarks, which is an excellent increase on its rather mediocre score of 106 with the processor and memory running at stock frequencies. This is especially true when you consider that it takes only a mouse click to enable these overclocks. It is worth noting that you’ll need a good third-party processor cooler if you want to make the most of the GA-Z97-HD3’s overclocking potential.
Voltage Adjustment: CPU/RAM
CPU Clock Maximum Adjustment: 166MHz
The first thing that strikes us when looking at the Z97-HD3 is how skinny it is. While its length is full-size ATX, its width measures just 7.5″ (19 cm), leaving Gigabyte’s engineers with 22% less area than a standard-width board. Despite this, the layout doesn’t feel overly cramped. Compared to Gigabyte’s higher-end boards, the HD3 presents a more subdued color scheme, with everything clad in either black or gray. If it weren’t for splashes of color on the front-panel header and the handful of Nichicon audio capacitors, you’d be forgiven for questioning whether you were looking at the world through grayscale lenses. Now is a good time to point out that we’re testing revision 2.0 of the board. Revision 1.0, while almost identical, has a bling-on-black color scheme with bright gold heatsinks. It also lacks the Nichicon caps and the LED lighting we’ll discuss shortly.
The GA-Z97-HD3 may not make the most of the Z97 chipset, but it does provide all the essentials you need for a typical build, and has some good automatic overclocking tools. If you just need a good-value board for your new Haswell processor then you’re likely to be happy with the GA-Z97-HD3.