Our first EVGA motherboard review was of the Z75 SLI, a board that had a very solid foundation, but was held back a bit by an odd chipset choice. Today we’re looking at EVGA’s midrange full ATX board, the Z87 FTW. Unlike the former, it uses the fully capable Z87 chipset, and aims to provide an excellent overclocking experience, giving users more control over their system than just about everyone else in this price range.
The Z87 FTW sells for about $220 right now, a good $30 more than the Gigabyte Z87X-UD4H we awarded with an Editor’s Choice last month. In fact at $220, the Z87 FTW is competing with the likes of the Z87X-UD5H and Asus Maximus Impact IV. We know that the Gigabyte at least is a solid board, so EVGA have their work cut out for them to compete at this level.
EVGA Z87 FTW Review
To know if it is worth looking at compared to these giant brands with even bigger reputations, we’ll have to look at the Z87 FTW very closely. Here’s a quick look at what we will be considering in this review.
- Motherboard layout – is the Z87 FTW designed well for enthusiasts? We’ll consider clearances, how well it can accommodate multiple cards, etc
- VRM details – Although not as much as it used to be with Haswell, the VRM is still the most important part of a motherboard, and we look into everything in detail.
- Component Tour – We will go over the Z87 FTW with a fine tooth comb, and look at just about every component on the board in full detail. This board uses some interesting components, so this will be fun to go through.
- EVGA software – This is one area where EVGA is quite behind of the rest, since they don’t have a huge lineup of motherboards
- Overclocking – The main goal of the Z87 FTW is to provide the best overclocking capabilities in this price range. We take it to the test with our Core i7 4770K that has only reached 4.8 GHz on one board…
- Software performance – since chipsets are highly integrated nowadays, we will quickly go over performance numbers to make sure everything is running correctly. There is no need to do anything more, unless something is not working properly.
- Peripheral performance – More importantly, we test every integrated component on the Z87 FTW thoroughly. This includes ethernet performance and efficiency, USB performance, SATA performance, DPC latency, and audio quality.
There probably isn’t a lot of coverage for EVGA motherboards, but we aim to be the only resource you’ll need to know if it is a good product or not. Read on to see how it performs!
Z87 FTW Specs
EVGA’s product page for the Z87 FTW isn’t particularly highly detailed. Luckily we have a standard specs list that we post on all our motherboard reviews. Click below to see it:
|Chipset||Intel Z87 PCH|
|Memory Slots||Four DDR3 DIMM slots supporting up to 32 GB
Dual Channel, 1333-2666 MHz
|Video Out||HDMI, DisplayPort 1.2|
|Onboard Ethernet||Intel i217v|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek 898|
|Expansion Slots||1 x PCIe x16/x8 Gen3 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x8/x4 Gen3 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x4 Gen3 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x1 Gen2 (Full Length)
1 x PCIe x1 Gen2 (x1 length)
|Onboard SATA/RAID||6 x SATA 6 Gbps (Intel PCH), Support for RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
2 x SATA 6 Gbps (Marvell 9220), Support for RAID 0, 1
2 x eSATA 6 Gbps (Asmedia ASM1061)
|USB||6 USB 3.0 ports (4 back panel, 2 from header)
6 USB 2.0 ports (4 back panel, 2 from headers)
|Internal Headers||8 x SATA 6 Gbps
1 x USB 3.0 Header
1 x USB 2.0 Header
6 x Fan Headers
1 x Front Panel Header
1 x FP Audio Header
1 x SPDIF Out
Power/Reset/Clear CMOS Buttons
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX connector
1 x 8-pin 12V connector
1 x PCIe Pin connector (for PCIe AUX Power)
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU Fan Header (4-pin)
1 x CPU2 Fan Header (4-pin)
4 x AUX Fan Header (4-pin)
|Rear Panel||1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
4 x USB 2.0
4 x USB 3.0
1 x Ethernet
5 x Analog Audio
1 x SPDIF Optical Out
1 x CMOS Reset Button
1 x Bluetooth Antenna
2 x eSATA Ports
Z87 FTW Layout
First things first – the Z87 FTW looks fantastic. It has a very nice red/black theme that is consistent throughout most of, if not all the components. The red has a slight hint of yellow in it, which sets it apart from the Z87X-UD4H for instance. The black PCB is what I like to call “true matte” as it doesn’t look like a glossy brown under light, like some “black” boards. My only suggestion would have been to use black caps instead of silver, but at least these have red marks on them.
PCI-E expansion gets pretty tricky to describe on today’s motherboards, since the connectivity depends on what you install. First of all, there are four full length slots on the Z87 FTW, perhaps making it suitable for litecoin mining.
The top three slots share the 16 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 from the Haswell CPU. When only the top slot is used, it’s an x16 slot. When the top two are used, they each get x8 lanes. When all three are used, the top slot gets x8 lanes, while the other two get x4 lanes each. This is a good use of the bandwidth provided by the 3rd generation PCI-E provided by Haswell. Remember that x8 PCI-E 3.0 provides the same bandwidth as X16 PCI-E 2.0.
Having the two “main” slots so close together is probably going to lead to heat issues with the top graphics card if using SLI or Crossfire, as there will be nowhere for it to draw air from. It would be a much better idea to use the top slot and the third slot. In this case, the cards would be in an 8x and 4x configuration, but the truth is that there should be plenty of bandwidth in this mode, especially with Gen3 PCI-E. It’s just too bad EVGA didn’t account for this in their layout; it would have given users peace of mind of having each card running on 8 lanes of PCI-E 3.0 bandwidth.
The bottom two slots are x1 each – in fact the bottom x1 full length slot is labeled as a “PhysX Card” slot. Since using a GPU in a pure computational scenario doesn’t require much bandwidth, this makes sense. I suppose it could have also been called a “Mining Card” slot.
Moving to the SATA port area of the Z87 FTW, we get a look at the ultra low profile, yet very wide PCH heatsink. The Z87 FTW uses right angled ports for all eight of its SATA connections. Six connect to the Z87 PCH, and two connect to a Marvel 9220 2 port controller, which we’ll take a closer look at later.
As we like to see, all of the internal header connectivity is placed along the bottom edge of the board. On the very left is a PCI-E Auxiliary port which we’ll take a closer look at on the next page.
You may note that there is only one USB 2.0 internal header, which means the Z87 FTW leaves some of the USB ports unused. Z87 supports up to 14 USB 2.0 ports, and this board only has six (four on the back, and two from the internal header). Two ports are being used by the integrated Bluetooth adapter as well (well only one is, but USB ports have to be used in pairs).
Aside from that, everything is clearly labeled, including the color keyed front panel header. There is even an onboard speaker, something we rarely see anymore.
It’s a tight fit in the CPU area, as the top PCI-E port is the main graphics slot which puts the video card right up against the CPU area. The DIMM slots are single-tabbed versions that make up for the tight fight against long video cards though.
The CPU socket sits right against the DIMM slots (you can see the white box around the CPU socket, which is supposed to leave room for the cooler), so if you have a large heatsink, you will need to make sure your memory modules use low profile heatsinks if you need to use all four slots. When using the Noctua NH-U14S, the first DIMM slot would be blocked with taller memory heatsinks. This is a specific example, but something to keep in mind. I rarely recommend memory with tall heatsinks anyway, as they just cause more problems than they solve.
Finally we get to the rear panel, which is somewhat limited in terms of video connectivity. Not that most people would be using onboard video with this board anyway, but I think that DVI should be a minimum on motherboards and video cards. It’s basically today’s version of a digital “legacy” connection. At the very least, an adapter should be included.
What you do get are four USB 3.0 ports direct to the PCH, four USB 2.0 ports, and a Bluetooth adapter. The eSATA ports connect to an Asmedia ASM1061 controller. The little red button is a clear CMOS button, which can come in handly. Finally, you have 5 ports of analog audio connectivity, and a TOSLINK Optical Output.
The Z87 FTW doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles, although it does have a neat looking rear panel shroud. This is for looks only, and totally optional. It is just the kind of thing you expect to see on a $220 motherboard, and I think EVGA fans expect things like it.
Before we move on, one last look at the heatsinks. These are quite well designed – the VRM heatsink makes full use of whatever surface area it can muster up in that area. The PCH heatsink is huge, but very flat, and adds to the aesthetic look of the board.
Speaking of the VRM, let’s take a close look at what the Z87 FTW has to offer. It’s always interesting to see how different manufacturers tackle this task.