Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of MSI
Unique is a word I don't throw around much with motherboard reviews, but the latest revision of MSI' XPower series is nothing if not unique. The Z170A-XPower Gaming Titanium Edition features a stunning silver and black aesthetic for a look unlike any of its competition in the LGA1151 realm, featuring a silver colored PCB and black and red accents in some key areas of the board for some additional eye-catching value. The board features branding on its VRM and chipset heat sinks as well. By integrating the Intel Z170 chipset, the motherboard supports the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. With an MSRP of $299, the Z170A-XPower Gaming Titanium Edition sits at a competitive price point for the features it offers.
Courtesy of MSI
Courtesy of MSI
Courtesy of MSI
To give the board some teeth, MSI paired up the Z170A-XPower Gaming Titanium (Ti) Edition motherboard with its Military Class 5 component architecture. This latest iteration includes a 16-phase digital power delivery system with DrMOS 3-in-1 chip MOSFETS, Titanium chokes, and a mix of Hi-c and DARK capacitors to ensure stable operation under the most extreme circumstances as well as the greatest degree of power efficiency possible. MSI also integrated a high quality audio subsystem, centered around their Nahimic sound technology with Chemi-Con sourced audio capacitors and headphone amplifiers on an isolated PCB. MSI chose to integrate the following features into the Z170A-XPower Gaming Titanium Edition board: four SATA 3 ports; two SATA-Express ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable ports; an Intel I219-V GigE controller; four PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; a 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, BIOS Flashback, and Game Boost buttons; Multi-BIOS, Hotkey, and PCI CeaseFire switches; OC Dashboard device support; BIOS Flashback+ BIOS updater; integrated V-Check voltage measurement points;dual HDMI video ports; a DisplayPort video port; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Subject: Motherboards | October 9, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, SFF, ROG, motherboard, mini-itx, Maximus VIII Impact, lga1151, asus
ASUS has announced their latest mini-ITX offering in the Republic of Gamers series, and the Maximus VIII Impact motherboard packs an outrageous number of features into one formidable little 6.7-inch square. In fact, short of the second PCIe slot afforded the larger mATX form-factor, the newest Impact board looks to be every bit as powerful as the recently released Maximus VIII Gene motherboard.
"To push performance even further, Maximus VIII Impact has a full-scale voltage-regulator module (VRM) dubbed Impact Power III vertically-mounted onto the tiny board, allowing you full access to digital power management for ultra-precise and stable overclocks with your processor and memory. ROG has also managed to squeeze in 5-Way Optimization auto-tuning and Pro Clock technology so you can get the most out of your 6th Gen. Intel processor and overclocked DDR4 memory which goes up to 4133MHz or higher."
Let’s check out the specs on this new Impact board:
- CPU: LGA1151 socket for 6th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3/Pentium/Celeron processors
- Chipset: Intel Z170 Express
- Memory: Dual-channel memory architecture
- 2x DIMM, max. 32GB DDR4-4133(OC) non-ECC, un-buffered memory
- PCIe Slot: 1x PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (supports x16 mode)
- Graphics: Integrated Intel HD Graphics Processor
- HDMI 1.4b
- Intel InTru 3D/Quick Sync Video/Clear Video HD Technology/Insider
- Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac supports dual frequency band 2.4/5GHz; MU-MIMO
- Bluetooth: V4.1, 4.0LE
- USB: 2x USB 3.1 ports (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C) powered by Intel USB 3.1 controller; 6x USB 3.0 ports (2 at mid-board)
- Storage: 1x U.2 port (PCIe x4, 32Gb/s), 4x SATA 6Gb/s ports. Supports Intel Smart Response Technology
- LAN: Intel® I219-V Gigabit LAN with Anti-surge LANGuard, ROG GameFirst Technology
- HD Audio: SupremeFX Impact III
- ROG SupremeFX 2015 High Definition Audio Codec
- ESS® ES9023P DAC with Hyperstream™ Architecture
- 2Vrms Headphone Amp into 32-600 Ohms
- SupremeFX Shielding Technology
- Optical S/PDIF output at back panel
- Sonic Studio II; Sonic Radar II; Sonic SenseAmp; DTS Connect
- Fan headers: 2x 4-pin onboard; 3x 4-pin on daughter card
- Form Factor: Mini-ITX, 6.7" x 6.7" (17 cm x 17 cm)
Update, 10/11/15: The ASUS ROG Maximus VIII Impact motherboard is now available at Newegg.com for $248.99.
Subject: Motherboards | October 9, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, ROG, overclocking, motherboard, Maximus VIII Extreme, lga1151, asus
While a little less flashy looking than some of the performance motherboards we’ve seen lately, opting for an understated gray/red color scheme over a black PCB, there is nothing subtle about the new Maximus VIII Extreme. From the specs it looks to be the most overbuilt gaming/overclocking motherboard possible for the Intel Z170 chipset, and that’s exactly what the ROG Extreme motherboards are made for.
Here are the (very lengthy) specifications:
- CPU: LGA1151 6th Generation Intel® Core™ i7/i5/i3/Pentium®/Celeron®
- CPU Cache Ratio Tuning
- Turbo Ratio OC
- BCLK OC (Pro-Clock)
- iGPU OC
- DRAM: Spec supported 4x DIMM, max. 64GB
- DDR4 3866(O.C.) non-ECC, un-buffered memory, XMP 2.0
- Extreme Overclocking
- OC Zone: Retry button, Safe Boot button, LN2 mode, Slow Mode switch, Probelt, PCIe x16 lane switch, DRAM channel jumper
- OC Gadget: OC Panel II
- OC Design: ASUS PRO Clock Technology
- Optimize System
- Power Design: Extreme Engine Digi+
- DRAM Layout: 2nd Generation T-Topology
- Performance Optimization
- Intel® Quick Sync Video
- Intel® Smart Response Technology
- USB 3.1 Boost
- HW Fast Boot support
- Network: Intel® I219-V NIC with LANGuard Anti-surge
- Network bandwidth management: GameFirst III + GameFirst IV (Beta)
- Intel® Rapid Start Technology
- Intel® Smart Connect Technology
- Expansion Slots:
- PCIex16 @ x16 - 1x Max. @Gen3
- PCIex16 @ x4 - 1x Max. @Gen3
- PCIex16 @ x8/x4 - 1x Max. @Gen3
- PCIex16 @ x4 - 1x Max. @Gen3 via PCH
- PCIex1 @ x1 - 2x Max. @Gen3
The included OC Panel II fits in an open 5.25” bay
- BIOS: CPU-Free Update/USB BIOS Flashback/UEFI Level Update/EZ Flash 3/BIOS Flash Protection/CrashFree BIOS 3
- BIOS feature:
- All fans including pump header are DC and PWM mode compatible
- Wizard for simple OC and RAID
- SSD Secure Erase
- My Favorite & Shortcut
- Boot Logo Size Adjustment
- F12 BIOS Print
- Power Solution:
- Full Digital 8 Phase CPU Power Design
- 4 Phase for iGPU
- 2 Phase Digital DRAM Power Design with ASUS DRAM Power Utility
- System Agent Power: 1 Phase for VCCSA
- Extreme Engine Digi+
- Dual PWM Controllers, 1 for Vcore, 1 for VGT
- 10K Black Metallic Capacitors
- MicroFine Alloy Chokes
- OptiMOS™ MOSFET
- Real-time adjustment: ASUS DIGI+ Power Control Utility
- Anti-Surge Protection
- Mass Storage:
- 1x M.2 socket 3 with M Key; Supporting form factor 2242, 2260, 2280, 22110, PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA mode, PCIe RAID
- 1x U.2 connector (sharing PCIe with M.2)
- 2x SATA Express via PCH (SATA-E 1 share SATA with M.2)
- 8x SATA 6Gbps (2 via PCH native; 4 via SATA-E; 2 via ASM1061)
- RAID: RAID 0, 1, 5, 10 via iRST 14
- USB Support:
- 4x 3.1 (1 Type-A and 1 Type-C via Intel Alpine Ridge; 2 Type-A via Asmedia USB 3.1 controller)
- 4x USB 3.0 (4 rear, 4 mid) via PCH
- 6x USB 2.0 - 6 mid via PCH, two shared with ROG extension (ROG_EXT) port
- Bundled Software
- AI Suite 3 (Real-Time OC); ROG GameFirst III + GameFirst IV (Beta); ROG Keybot II; RAMCache; ROG RAMDisk; USB 3.1 Boost; ROG CPU-Z; ROG MemTweakIt; Lighting Control
Pricing and availability were not immediately available.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
As the flagship board in their Intel Z170-based G1 Gaming Series product line, GIGABYTE integrated all the premium features you could ever want into their Z170X-G1 Gaming motherboard. The board features a black PCB with red and white accents spread throughout its surface to make for a very appealing aesthetic. GIGIGABYTE chose to integrate plastic shields covering their rear panel assembly, the VRM heat sinks, the audio components, and the chipset and SATA ports. With the addition of the Intel Z170 chipset, the motherboard supports the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. Offered at at a premium MSRP of $499, the Z170X-Gaming G1 is priced to appeal to the premium user enthusiasts.
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
GIGABYTE over-engineered the Z170X-Gaming G1 to take anything you could think of throwing at it with a massive 22-phase digital power delivery system, featuring 4th gen IR digital controllers and 3rd gen IR PowerIRStage ICs as well as Durable Black solid capacitors rated at 10k operational hours. GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z170X-G1 Gaming board: four SATA 3 ports; three SATA-Express ports; two M.2 PCIe x4 capable port; dual Qualcomm® Atheros Killer E2400 NICs; a Killer™ Wireless-AC 1535 802.11AC WiFI controller; four PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, ECO, and CPU Overclock buttons; Dual-BIOS and active BIOS switches; audio gain control switch; Sound Blaster Core 3D audio solution; removable audio OP-AMP port; integrated voltage measurement points; Q-Flash Plus BIOS updater; integrated HDMI video port; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.
Subject: Motherboards | September 28, 2015 - 05:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, M.2, LGA 1151, Intel Skylake, asrock
ASRock (the Taiwan-based manufacturer currently owned by Pegatron) recently revealed its take on miniature Skylake motherboards with the Mini ITX form factor Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac.
The new SFF motherboard uses an 8-layer PCB with high quality Nichicon capacitors and the company’s Digi Power 8-phase power delivery feeding the LGA 1151 socket. The board has a red and black aesthetic with red VRM and Z170 chipset heatsinks, memory slots, and PCI-E slot adding a bit of flair to the otherwise all-black PCB and connectors. Very little space is wasted on this board save for the top edge. To the right of the CPU socket are two DDR4 memory slots (maximum 32GB at 4,000 MHz) and a single SATA Express connector. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac further features four SATA III 6 Gbps (in addition to the two ports used for SATA Express) ports.
Expansion slots include a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, a M.2 slot with four lanes of PCI-E 3.0 mounted on the underside of the board, and a half-size Mini PCI-E slot that is used for the pre-installed 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card
ASRock is using an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, a 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio, and Realtek ALC1150 audio codec on this board. Keeping in line with the “Fatal1ty” theme, the board supports, using software, and adjustable USB polling rate on a certain rear port from 1 Hz up to 1,000 Hz with the default being 500 Hz.
On the back of the motherboard, it provides the following I/O options:
- 1 x PS/2
- 5 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 3.0 “Fatal1ty Mouse Port” (adjustable polling rate up to 1,000 Hz)
- 2 x USB 3.1 (one Type-A and one Type-C)
- Video outputs:
- 2 x HDMI (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio output
This board looks to be a solid base for a tiny gaming system (perhaps paired with the R9 Nano in a svelte living room friendly chassis even without going in for the Fatal1ty gamer-centric branding, if that's your thing. I am expecting this board to be priced competitively with or to come in slightly less than the Asus Mini ITX Z170 motherboard I wrote about yesterday. The audio and overclocking potential, at least in theory and bare specifications, appear to be a bit cut back on this board in comparison, but in exchange for that it's (hopefully slightly cheaper while still giving you most of the essentials. We'll have to wait for actual reviews where they are both put to the test to see for certain though!
For those curious, check out the manufacturer's page with photos and specifications as well as our previous coverage of the board from CES before we had the details on pricing and confirmation of 4K@60Hz HDMI and the Ultra M.2 slot support (and the user discussions).
Subject: Motherboards | September 26, 2015 - 05:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, SATA Express, mu-mimo, mini ITX, M.2
Small Form Factor (SFF) enthusiasts will soon have another Mini ITX option for Skylake-based builds in the form of the recently launched Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard. The Z170I Pro Gaming packs a ton of features for its size including all of the latest storage and networking technologies.
Asus is not wasting any space on the PCB with this new board. The LGA 1151 socket is surrounded by two red and black heatsinks covering the Digi+ VRMs (which looks to be 10-phase power delivery which isn’t bad for a SFF board), two DDR4 memory slots (up to 32GB at 3400 MHz), the PCH/Southbridge (part of the Z170 chipset), and a single PCI-E x16 slot along the bottom edge.
Storage options include two SATA III (6Gbps) ports, a single SATA Express port (which holds two SATA III ports of its own), and a M.2 slot on the underside of the motherboard supporting four PCI-E 3.0 lanes.
Other components on the board include an ASMedia USB 3.1 controller, and an EMI shielded SupremeFX 8-channel audio solution that is comprised of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, isolated circuitry and an EMI cover, Nichicon capacitors, a dedicated 5V power supply, and a 300-ohm headphone amplifier. Asus is further including a 2x2 MU-MIMO capable 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 radios, and an Intel 1219V Gigabit Ethernet NIC.
Rear IO on the Z170I Pro Gaming includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A (ASMedia controller)
- 4 x USB 3.0 (2 additional ports via internal header)
- 2 x USB 2.0 (2 additional ports via internal header)
- 5 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio out
The Z170I Pro Gaming is a nice looking board that incorporates many of the features of its Z170 Pro Gaming (ATX) brother. This miniaturization comes at a price, however. While Asus has not yet released official pricing and availability, expect it to be out soon at least $200 USD.
Check out more Mini ITX hardware at PC Perspective!
Also, if you have not already, please consider reading our review of the Intel Core-i7 6700K "Skylake" Processor.
Subject: Motherboards | September 25, 2015 - 08:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gigabyte, Z170X Gaming 7, Z170, LGA 1151, opamp
Gaze upon the empty space surrounding the Gigabyte Z170X Gaming 7's LGA 1151 socket, enough to fit brand stamps and a huge CPU cooler. The only thing impinging on it is the second M.2 slot, if you were so inclined to use it instead of leaving PCIe lanes free for the three PCIe 3.0 16x slots or the three SEx ports. There are five fan headers onboard including one designed for use with a water pump. It also comes with an Intel SSD 750 connector, perhaps you can afford one as this board is not as expensive as many Z170 models on the market. Check out the performance and features, including a KillerNIC and Creative Sound Core 3D with OPAMP at [H]ard|OCP.
"GIGABYTE's G1 series represents the pinnacle of GIGABYTE's engineering prowess and is targeted squarely at the gamer and overclocking enthusiasts alike. To that end the Z170X Gaming 7 offers almost everything a gamer could want and more. The G1 series gets a new look and evolves in some unexpected ways."
Here are some more Motherboard articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte's Z170X-Gaming 7 @ The Tech Report
- GIGABYTE GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 @ Bjorn3d
- Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 @ Modders-Inc
- MSI Z170A Gaming M5 Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Gigabyte Z170XP-SLI @ eTeknix
- MSI Z170A XPower Gaming Titanium Edition @ Kitguru
- BIOSTAR GAMING Z170X Motherboard Review @ Madshrimps
- Biostar Z170X Gaming Commander @ Modders-Inc
- ASUS Maximus VIII Hero Motherboard Review @ Hardware Canucks
Subject: Motherboards | September 9, 2015 - 04:16 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Z170X-UD5 TH, USB 3 Type-C, thunderbolt 3, motherboard, gigabyte
Intel announced Thunderbolt 3 at Computex back in June, and now the technology comes to the desktop enthusiast market with the first Thunderbolt 3 certified motherboard, Gigabyte's Z170X-UD5 TH.
"Powered by Intel’s own Thunderbolt controller the new Thunderbolt 3 protocol, which is available over two USB Type-C connectors on the back I/O of the GIGABYTE Z170X-UD5 TH, brings an unprecedented single-wire bandwidth of up to 40 Gb/s -- twice more than the previous generation of Thunderbolt! This incredible increase in bandwidth is also accompanied with support for different protocols such as DisplayPort 1.2 and USB 3.1, which is backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, opening up a world of new possibilities."
Supporting dual 4K/60Hz displays (or one 5K display), the Thunderbolt 3 over USB Type-C offers Power Delivery 2.0 for up to 36W, and you will be able to daisy-chain up to 12 devices given the dual USB Type-C ports.
The Z170X-UD5 TH also features HDMI 2.0 output for the Intel processor graphics, support for PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 and SATA Express storage, and 2-Way SLI or 3-Way CrossFire multi-GPU support.
Some more of the featured specs from Gigabyte include:
- Thunderbolt 3 brings Thunderbolt to USB Type-C at speeds up to 40 Gbps
- Intel USB 3.1 with USB Type-C support Power Delivery 2.0 for up to 36W
- 3-Way Graphics Support with Exclusive Ultra Durable Metal Shielding over the PCIe Slots
- PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 Connector with up to 32Gb/s Data Transfer (PCIe & SATA SSD support)
- 3 SATA Express Connectors for up to 16Gb/s Data Transfer
- HDMI 2.0 for 4K@60Hz and 21:9 aspect ratio provide the finest viewing experience
- 115dB SNR HD Audio with Built-in Rear Audio Amplifier
- High Quality Audio Capacitors and Audio Noise Guard with LED Trace Path Lighting
- Intel GbE LAN with cFosSpeed Internet Accelerator Software
- Gold Plating for CPU Socket, Memory DIMMs with 2X Copper PCB
Pricing and availability for the Z170X-UD5 TH are not yet available.
AM3+ Keeps Chugging Along
Consumers cannot say that MSI has not attempted to keep the AM3+ market interesting with a handful of new products based upon that socket. Throughout this past year MSI has released three different products addressing multiple price points and featuresets. The 970 Gaming was the first, the 970 KRAIT introduced USB 3.1 to the socket, and the latest 990FXA-Gaming board provides the most feature rich implementation of the socket plus USB 3.1.
AMD certainly has not done the platform any real favors as of late in terms of new CPUs and architectures to inhabit that particular socket. The last refresh we had was around a year ago with the release of the FX-8370 and 8370e. These are still based on the Piledriver based Vishera core that was introduced three years ago. Unlike the GPU market, the CPU market has certainly not seen the leaps and bounds in overall performance that we had enjoyed in years past.
MSI has taken the now geriatric 990FX (based upon the 890FX chipset released in 2010- I think AMD might have gotten their money out of this particular chipset iteration) and implemented it in a new design that embraces many of the top end features that are desired by enthusiasts. AMD still has a solid following and their products are very competitive from a price/performance standpoint (check out Ryan’s price/perf graphs from his latest Intel CPU review).
The packing material is pretty basic. Just cardboard and no foam. Still, fits nicely and is quite snug.
The idea behind the 990FXA-Gaming is to provide a very feature-rich product that appeals to gamers and enthusiasts. The key is to provide those features at a price point that will not scare away the budget enthusiasts. Just as MSI has done with the 970 Gaming, there were decisions made to keep costs down. We will get into these tradeoffs shortly.
Subject: Motherboards | September 2, 2015 - 01:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Skylake, motherboard, LGA 1151, Intel Q170, Intel H170, Intel H110, Intel B150, asus
ASUS has announced a number of new motherboards today, all of which feature new Intel chipsets for LGA 1151 processors.
We've seen quite a few Z170 motherboards show up on the market in the past month, and now prepare for the onslaught of the alphabet soup of variations. In addition to Z170 you will now be seeing H170, B150, H110, and Q170 (and who knows what else might manifest itself?). Fortunately, ASUS has announced boards with all of these new chipsets so you can find one precisely tuned to your build's needs - since we don't all need overclocking or multi-GPU support after all.
The boards will be segmented into a couple of classes, Signature and Pro Gaming. As ASUS describes:
- ASUS Signature: H170, B150, H110 and Q170 chipsets in ATX, mATX and mITX, with 5X Protection II, USB Type-C, and LED-illuminated audio
- ASUS Pro Gaming: High-value H170 and B150 boards with gaming-optimized audio and networking, USB 3.1 and M.2 connectivity, and smart DIY features
Taking a look at the Signature series first, the H170-PRO, H170M-PLUS, and Q170M-C motherboards all require DDR4 memory, each supporting up to 64 GB 2133 MHz DDR4 RAM with 4 DIMM slots. The H170I-PLUS D3, on the other hand, makes use of the existing DDR3 standard for a less expensive upgrade path to Skylake, which natively supports both DDR3L (1.35V) and DDR4.
All four boards have Realtek ALC887 audio, and both “PLUS” boards offer Intel NICs with the Q170M-C sporting Intel vPro Gigabit LAN.
Moving down to the B150-PRO D3, B150M-PLUS D3, H110M-PLUS D3, and H110I-PLUS D3 we find a series of lower-cost boards that all make use of DDR3 memory, the same Realtek ALC887 audio, and Realtek Gigabit LAN. Both Intel B150 based boards also feature USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type-C along with standard USB 3.0 ports.
Finally, we have the Pro Gaming tier, with the H170 PRO GAMING and B150 PRO GAMING D3. As you might have guessed the PRO GAMING D3 uses DDR3 memory, while the H170 version uses the new DDR4 standard. Both motherboards feature Intel NICs, Realtek ALC1150 audio, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-A and Type-C.
Specifics on pricing and exact availability have not been disclosed, but the boards will be available “soon”.