Intel Z270 Express and H270 Express Chipsets Support Kaby Lake, More PCI-E 3.0 Lanes

Subject: Motherboards | December 2, 2016 - 08:19 AM |
Tagged: Intel, z270, h270, intel z270, kaby lake, Optane, PCI-E 3.0

Details on Intel’s upcoming Z270 and H270 chipsets surfaced last month that fleshed out the new platform and its capabilities including the inclusion of additional PCI-E 3.0 lanes and out-of-the-box support for 7th Generation Intel Kaby Lake processors versus the current generation Z170 and H170 chipsets.

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An alleged Z270 motherboard from ASUS (STRIX Z270G GAMING) per Wccftech.

TechPowerUp reported that Intel’s 200-series chipsets – which would be used on motherboards with the LGA 1151 socket – would feature incremental improvements over their current generation equivalents including the upgrade to Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) version 15, support for Intel Optane Technology, and additional downstream PCI-E 3.0 lanes. The Z270 and H270 chipsets each have four extra lanes compared to their 100-series predecessors. These “downstream lanes” allow for additional high bandwidth connections that hang off the chipset (which does appear to still be ultimately limited by the physical four PCI-E 3.0 lanes that make up the DMI 3.0 link between the CPU and PCH). Examples include extra Thunderbolt, USB 3.1, and PCI-E slots for NICs, capture cards, storage controllers, or even graphics cards.

Intel Z270 Express will feature 14 general purpose PCI-E lanes versus 10 on Z170 Express along with a total lane budget of 30 versus 26 (16 of those lanes are reserved for CPU to one or two PCI-E 3.0 x16 slots (electrically 1x16 or 2x8) and the others come from the chipset but really connect back to the CPU over a DMI 3.0 link that is equivalent to four lanes of PCI-E 3.0. H270 also features 14 general purpose lanes versus what appears to be six on H170. H270 and H170 have 16 PCI-E 3.0 lanes coming from the CPU for graphics so it is a total lane budget of 30 versus 22 respectively.

  Z270 Z170 H270 H170
High Speed IO (HSIO) 30 26 30 22
PCI-E 3.0 Lanes 24 20 20 16
Maximum M.2 slots 3 3 2 2

H270 will see the biggest benefit from the additional PCI-E lanes which could mean systems like HTPCs and budget desktops where overclocking and multi-GPU setups are not a concern using H270 chipset motherboards could still support a full range of external IO and fast storage.

One interesting thing I noticed from the table is that Z270 and H270 do not support additional M.2 slots. The maximum number of M.2 slots remains the same as their 100-series counterparts at three and two respectively.  After talking with Allyn, this makes sense because of that limiting factor that is the four lane DMI 3.0 link to the CPU and memory. Specifically, he explained:

“Think of the chipset as a means of fanout to individual things that won't simultaneously consumer more than x4. You can use the extra lanes for other stuff, like additional USB 3.1 controllers, Ethernet, audio, etc. Heck, you can route them to the last PCIe slot if you wanted.”

Further, Intel will continue to differentiate the Z270 Express and H270 Express by supporting multiplier overclocking and multi-GPU setups solely on Z270-based motherboards. H270 will be single x16 slot boards that do not allow multiplier-based overclocking at best and more than likely any CPU overclocking. The tradeoff being that H270-based boards should be much cheaper.

Intel Optane support is compelling, but will not be a reason to upgrade quite yet as drives are still a ways off and when they do arrive are sure to be very expensive. Rumors do suggest that Intel may introduce a small 3D XPoint-based Optane SSD up to 32GB alongside the rollout of Kaby Lake and new motherboards but as that is not large enough for an OS drive it will remain more of a niche thing at first. As larger drives come out at lower price points, the support for them on Z270 and H270 would help make the case for enthusiasts running Z170 and H170 boards to make the jump.

Of course, that brings me to my main thought surrounding Z270 and H270 based motherboards which is that while someone looking to build a new PC could justify going straight to the newer chipset-based motherboards, users running existing Z170 and H170 motherboards – many of which will support Kaby Lake processors with a BIOS update – have little reason to jump at an upgrade. Budget builds might even justify going to the older and cheaper boards if they don’t need the new features and putting the saved money towards something like more memory or a better CPU cooler.

For the highest end (save HEDT) builds, Z270-based boards should offer more connectivity options for Thunderbolt and USB 3.1 ports and the ability to dive into XPoint storage when it fully rolls out is nice. There are arguments to be main on both sides.

What are your plans for Kaby Lake? Will you be upgrading to the new processor, and if so will be using a Z170/H170 or a new Z270/H270 board?

Also read:

Source: TechPowerUp

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December 2, 2016 | 08:21 AM - Posted by Tim Verry

Sorry this article took so long to get out everyone, this month has been a bit crazy for me. I thought it was worth banging out still though as I am curious about your thoughts on the upcoming boards and if the small improvements are worth upgrading for. If anything we get some good discussions going :-).

December 2, 2016 | 11:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Optane support seems to me the biggest thing about the new chipset.

Rest of it is very ho hum IMO and not worth upgrading to for most people.

December 4, 2016 | 09:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Aren't all the PCI-E Lanes going to be v3.0 with the z270 chipset where as previously only the PCI-E Lanes dedicated to the video card slots were PCI-E v3.0 and everything else used PCI-E v2.0 lanes?

So there's effectively double the bandwith for SSD, sound chips, network cards, USB, etc.?

December 4, 2016 | 03:41 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Even if they are higher speed, aren't you still limited by pci-e x4 link to the CPU? If you want enterprise class storage (or any io really) performance, Intel is going to try to make sure that you have to pay for it.

December 4, 2016 | 06:03 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Yeah Intel has to protect HEDT / X99 (what comes next X100?).

December 6, 2016 | 01:28 AM - Posted by quest4glory

Technically...X119, so of course Skylake-X will run on X2x9.

December 2, 2016 | 09:47 AM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Curious if Z270 is more likely to support Coffeelake/Cannonlake which will be useful upgrades just because of extra cores..

December 3, 2016 | 08:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Doesn't sound like the Z270 will from article at wccftech, says "Intel X299 Chipset Platform To Power Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X Processors". The X299 will come with a new LGA 2066 socket, and span three generations of processors: Skylake, Kabylake and Cannonlake.

December 4, 2016 | 03:43 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

I think that refers to the X processors specifically unless the mainstream socket is going away ..

December 4, 2016 | 06:06 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Hmm good question. I dont remember if Coffee Lake/Cannon Lake are still 1151 or not? Man I'm getting old, i dont think it m was that long ago i wrote about what we know so far heh 

December 2, 2016 | 11:06 AM - Posted by Anonymously Anonymous (not verified)

Still rocking a 2600k!

December 2, 2016 | 12:47 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

High Five - me too. bought on launch day Jan 2011, P67 motherboard. I didn't agree with all of the sites saying "upgrade to 6700K"..

December 2, 2016 | 01:16 PM - Posted by remc86007

Yeah, the performance improvement jumping to Skylake is real, but if you've held out this long, I'd wait for Zen to push the mainstream core counts past 4.

December 2, 2016 | 02:46 PM - Posted by Anonymously Anonymous (not verified)

When it comes to gaming, if you are going to stay at 1080 or lower resolutions, then the sandy bridge chips will be the bottleneck if you are running a beefy gpu like a 970 or a 390 or higher. But for 1440 or higher resolutions, there really isn't any need since the GPU becoems the bottleneck again.

Watch this video to see what I am talking about:

December 2, 2016 | 02:48 PM - Posted by Anonymously Anonymous (not verified)

**there really isn't any need to upgrade the CPU because the GPU becomes the bottleneck once again. The video I linked shows that at 1440, the performance difference between 2600k + 970 and a 6700k + 970 is very small.

December 2, 2016 | 02:50 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

If by real you mean 35-40% faster when OC'd yeah.. that used to be progress we would see every year.. SB is now 6 years old. 2600K at 4.6 GHz is still enough to keep my 980ti OC fully occupied with the only exception of Project Cars in VR.

I'd like to see what Zen has to offer. Otherwise it's coffeelake for me as I want 6 cores if I'm going to bother upgrading.

December 2, 2016 | 03:02 PM - Posted by remc86007

I remember the good old days...the performance boost going from a crappy P4 netburst part to an I7-920 was awe inspiring.

December 4, 2016 | 06:10 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Definitely! Heck even the jump from pentium 4 to I7 860 was tremendous! I'm still rocking that chip haha. I went from an OEM PC with a Pentium 4 to  my first DIY build with an E6600 then the ol' i7 860k. I have neen itching to upgrade to Haswell and then Skylake and now I am in wait-and-see mode again as I wait to see what AMD's Zen can do.

December 4, 2016 | 08:09 PM - Posted by BT (not verified)

That's Odd I also went P4 to i7-860, planned on skylake, but I'd really like the 3DxPoint window to stay open for when it moves to 128gb in a year, I also like the Vp9 video processing efficiency gains, another nice future proofing. I've bought nearly all the new rigs pieces while on sale beyond the MB CPU GPU and Case. That way if I decide I like the micro-atx option or the pricing sinks on one of the four I can do that.
From what I surmise Zen should be competitive in the price to performance ratio but will lose out by about 20% in efficiency and not grant the same stable thermals of Intel. I will of course give it a great deal of consideration but it's not looking likely atm.

December 6, 2016 | 12:56 PM - Posted by quest4glory

Good old physics.

December 2, 2016 | 11:43 PM - Posted by jccalhoun (not verified)

ha! me too! I'm looking to upgrade next year though and might spring for kaby lake.

December 2, 2016 | 11:07 AM - Posted by razor512

Any info on how latency sensitive devices connected to the PCH will behave when the DMI 3.0 is saturated?

It seems that they are sharing DMI 3.0 with a large amount of components that will increasingly need higher levels of throughput.

December 2, 2016 | 12:54 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Just curious - could you give a few examples of latency sensitive devices (that aren't necessarily high bandwidth)?

(Could you attach them to the CPU's second or even primary PCI-E slot as that would be even lower latency than going through the chipset/hub?)

December 2, 2016 | 04:05 PM - Posted by Paul A. Mitchell (not verified)

> could you give a few examples of latency sensitive devices

NVMe hardware RAID controllers e.g. Highpoint RocketRAID 3840A, are presently the ONLY way to circumvent the DMI 3.0 bottleneck.

x16 PCIe 3.0 lanes @ 8 GHz / 8.125 bits per byte = 15.75 GB/s

Compare DDR3-1600 x 8 = 12.8 GB/s

The Zen specs and the AM4 chipset should allow us to do close comparisons mid-December with Intel's latest.

December 2, 2016 | 07:36 PM - Posted by John H (not verified)

If you used non-NVMe RAID controllers (even if attached to the CPU) you'd end up with crossing over to DMI for some reason?

December 2, 2016 | 04:21 PM - Posted by razor512

Capture cards, soundcards, USB based SDRs such as the hackRF.
Suppose someone has 2 Samsung 960 pro SSDs installed along with a PCI express sound card, and a capture card. In such a situation the DMI 3.0 link will lack the throughput needed to satisfy the needs of each device, but since there is no QOS, it is hard to determine which components will suffer the most. An SSD dropping from 3500MB/s to 3100MB/s is not going to bother you as much as a capture card getting a 400MB drop in throughput.

December 3, 2016 | 06:55 AM - Posted by John H (not verified)

Interesting. I suppose Intel's answer would be to use x99 and the CPU lanes for m.2 storage.. but yeah could be a good test to show limitations big DMI.

December 2, 2016 | 02:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The following paragraph:

These “downstream lanes” allow for additional high bandwidth connections that hang off the chipset (which does appear to still be ultimately limited by the physical four PCI-E 3.0 lanes that make up the DMI 3.0 link between the CPU and PCH).

Exposes this "upgrade" as nothing more than smoke and mirrors bullshit designed to increase a number for the mouthbreathers out there who always think "bigger number = better". Intel is sinking to new lows with this cynical (but, sadly effective) preying nonsense.

December 4, 2016 | 04:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For most consumer applications, x4 is going to be enough for IO. It is a market segmentation tactic though. If you are doing things that require more IO, Intel wants you to pay for a higher end platform. I don't mind this that much, since pretty much all of the high IO use cases are actually professional applications.

I really think they should stop segmenting the market on ECC DRAM though. Even for consumer use, we don't get storage solutions without a minimum level of error protection. The problem is, everything on your storage devices goes through system memory to get there. I had a bad memory module with a single bit error that wasn't causing any symptoms except corruption of files. A single bit error doesn't sound like that big of an issue, but if you are dealing with compressed files like images or video, it can make them unreadable. I ended up with a large number of corrupted files before the bad memory was noticed and replaced. Using higher levels of error protection on the storage than on system memory just doesn't make sense to me.

I need a new system soon, but I am waiting to see what AMD Zen has to offer. I might get server level components such that I can use ECC memory. I don't see that much of a reason to overclock these days anyway. It just doesn't make much sense with the small changes in user perceivable performance. The video card would still have non-ECC memory, which could cause a crash, I guess, but it shouldn't generally cause file corruption. This is changing though with the video card used to accelerate all manner of things. I could see video encoding becoming an issue; an undetected memory error could cause intermittent file corruption, without the user knowing that the video card has bad memory.

December 4, 2016 | 06:13 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

Dang that sucks :-/. Where you able to recover any of your photos from the camera sd card or anything?

December 3, 2016 | 05:31 AM - Posted by Moyeni (not verified)

"An alleged Z270 motherboard", whose designer thought "more PCIE lanes, better remove some PCIE slots !". Not for Intel 750 owners I guess...

December 3, 2016 | 06:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Do these have native USB 3.1 gen2 finally?

December 4, 2016 | 03:12 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Looking to finally upgrade my trusty i5-2500k and escape the Asus P8Z68-V-PRO I've always struggled with.

So Z270 for me with a Kaby Lake CPU and back into PC gaming, 4K style!

December 8, 2016 | 11:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does anybody know if Windows 7 will run on a Z270 motherboard with i7-6700K processor? I know i7-7700K will only run Windows 10 but don't know about the Z270 motherboards.

January 13, 2017 | 09:00 PM - Posted by Paul Anderegg (not verified)

I know the Asus website lists Windows 7 drivers for their Z270 motherboards...

February 9, 2017 | 11:00 AM - Posted by Gabriel Omana (not verified)

I intend to create a rig to mine cryptocurrency. Can I use the new Z270 to connect 6 video cards (RX 470 Nitro) so they are working at the same time? With the Z170 only 4 GPU could be connected, because with the 5 or 6 GPU the PC froze or generated some other error, hence the question. It is important to clarify that the 6 Gpu are connected by Riser 1x.

In summary, does the Z270 have enough pci lanes so that 6 GPUs are connected and working at the same time, without affecting the performance of the motherboard by the saturation of the bandwidth?

Thanks in advance

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