Upon first look the Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 uses a deep black PCB compared to most standard motherboards that label their PCB as black, only for it to be brown. The board measures 9.6″ X 9.6″ which is the standard for the mATX form factor. Gigabyte’s color choices are somewhat questionable for this board design, as they use black and red which compliment each other very well but use accents of gold for the back panel. Although this in now way is a major impact to the board’s performance and is purely aesthetic it would have been nice to see a more uniform color scheme. Where this odd color choice does have an impact to the user is that all the audio ports are gold rather than the standard audio port colors. This wouldn’t be an issue is the ports were labeled more clearly on the I/O port, and may require the end user to visit the included manual to properly identify the ports.
Gigabyte also steps up the features of the board by including the SATA Express feature which is seen more on motherboards in the $200 dollar range as well as the addition of M.2 port make this board much more favorable compared to its budget priced, budget quality competitors. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the Killer E2200 controller on the NIC was actually functional and not a simple placebo. I noticed that even on my subpar internet connection, I was able to play Evolve with very minimal lag, but when I played on another system I have, I would constantly be kicked from the game due to my connection. This is mostly due to the Bigfoot software software allowing the user to control the priority of types of internet traffic the system may encounter.
Although at times the App Center utility can feel a bit like bloatware at first glance, over all it has features that would normally only be found in the bios. The EasyTune App can control the control the OC of a systems CPU, memory and even comes with six profiles already set up ranging from a power savings profile to an extreme OC profile. The Cloud Station App has several features that are a bit gimmicky such as the ability to communicate to your smart phone, but the one that stood out to me was the ability to pair it with your tablet via wireless connection to remote into your system.
The Game Controller software is a decent addition to the software bundled with the motherboard, but honestly feels like filler as most gaming motherboards already ship with a hotkey software designed for them. A bit of warning however on using the Sniper Mode in multiplayer games, due to this being a software assisted performance perk, some servers may pick it up as a hacked player and boot you from the game, but in single player I did notice that it worked quite well. Overall this motherboard is worth every bit of its asking price and more. From personal experience the GA-Z97-Gaming 5 barrels over mATX motherboards that are in the $175-$200 dollar range. Overall the build quality and performance this board brings, more than makes up for the small complaints I had with the boards aesthetics. Next time you are looking at building an mATX rig and think you need a $200+ board to set your rig apart from the rest, save yourself about $75 dollars put it into your GPU or a bigger SSD, and look no further than the Gigabyte GA-Z97MX-Gaming 5 motherboard.