Some PC parts -- CPUs and GPUs -- have tangible benefits: x FPS gained, double-precision performance increased, loading times halved, or similar. Other parts, like PSUs and motherboards, may not have as obvious of advantages. These components are necessary and important parts of a PC, and choosing well enables everything else in the system. For those confused or simply wanting a guide, we occasionally create lists of components – like motherboards – for different needs.
With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, we thought it might be helpful to come up with a gaming motherboard buyer’s guide for overclocking and non-overclocking boards. Anyone curious about the specific differences between the Skylake chipsets, check out our coverage here.
This is the Intel-only version of our guide. Another motherboards guide will look separately at AMD's FM2+ motherboards.
Not every machine needs a Z170 motherboard. This fact is often overlooked by builders concerned with potentially limiting themselves in expansion options or framerate – a valid concern – but in instances where overclocking and multi-GPU arrays are not intended, B- and H- chipsets work perfectly. The chipset structure provides a hierarchy of prices for different target markets, with H170, B150, and H110 offering particularly compelling solutions for mainstream gaming PC builds.
Our previous motherboard review looked at Biostar's H170-Z3 board, which uses the H170 chipset and hosts both DDR3L and DDR4 memory slots. Today's review looks at the MSI B150A Gaming Pro motherboard, a business chispet-equipped board targeting the gaming market. MSI's B150A Gaming Pro hits the market at around $120 MSRP, justifying some of its price hike over competing boards by way of RGB LEDs.
This review looks at the power consumption of the B150A Gaming Pro, boot times, board layout, and UEFI power afforded to the user.
Skylake's launch caused some initial curiosity because of its split RAM compatibility. The Skylake memory controller is capable of running both DDR4 and DDR3L memory – but not both simultaneously – and is compatible with platforms hosting both memory slot types. Importantly, DDR3 is not the same as DDR3L (low voltage), so just re-using Z97 platform DDR3 sticks won't necessarily (but could) work with Skylake boards.
Biostar's Hi-Fi H170-Z3 motherboard is among the first options to support both DDR3L and DDR4. With four DIMM slots and two per memory type, you're limited to a single DIMM per channel (dual-channel supported) with a maximum of 2 sticks per configuration. Using DDR4, a maximum memory configuration of 32GB (16GB per slot) is supported, with just 16GB (8GB per slot) on DDR3L.
Today we're reviewing the Hi-Fi H170-Z3. We've gone through the board design, UEFI, and some basic objective tests. Being that the board uses the H170 chipset, overclocking was not possible and not tested.
ASUS is reasonably well-known for their motherboards and graphics cards at budget and high-end price ranges. Today’s topic is the latest ROG motherboard – so it fits into the high-end category – and graphics card. ASUS showed off their Z170 ROG Maximus VIII Extreme/Assembly alongside their Matrix GTX 980 Ti Platinum at IFA in Germany.
EVGA's Z170 Stinger ($200) motherboard, something we reported on months ago, markets itself on enthusiast-level features in a mini-ITX form factor. The motherboard hosts Intel's newest “Performance” Z170 chipset, meaning it supports the latest i7-6700K, i5-6600K, and all the other forthcoming Skylake CPUs.
The Z170 Stinger is inherently restricted by opting for a mini-ITX form factor, but attempts to make the best of the space available with careful selection of supported I/O through the chipset. The unit hosts a single PCI-e slot and two memory slots – standard for mITX – along with a set of four SATA ports. This is reserved compared to larger motherboards, but allows a 6.7” x 6.7” size for use in SFF or gaming HTPC system builds.
Our review of the EVGA Z170 Stinger gaming motherboard will run through the specs, cooler clearances, BIOS, and relevant tests. Aesthetics aren't really something we like to discuss – the photos do that – but we'll talk through a few key points on that front, too.
PAX now behind us, we've returned to our new-found efforts of addressing direct reader questions via YouTube and twitter comments. This new series has been dubbed “Ask GN” and, to our great satisfaction, has thus far yielded excellent discussion points on current topics. A couple of article ideas have emerged from the questions, too, so keep them coming!
The list for episode 3 saw inclusion of open vs. closed liquid cooling loop discussion, cable brief management tips, device controllers on a motherboard, and whether or not a motherboard impacts the gaming experience.
We recently got to visit CyberPower's offices in California, where the company had a few Z170 motherboards on display in a conference room. We're not talking Skylake specifics for a little while yet, but we did want to share these ASRock and Gigabyte Z170 motherboards with everyone.
Details and photos of the new ASRock and Gigabyte Skylake-S Z170 motherboards are below. No prices yet exist for any of these boards, though they likely parallel their 9-series counterparts.
Note that these boards may be incomplete versions, so some specifications could change in the final production run. The Gigabyte board is bare and not fully outfitted, but gives an initial look at the platform.
Z170 is around the corner. The new Intel chipset will succeed Z97, which was launched alongside the Devil’s Canyon and Haswell Refresh CPU lines, and Z87, launched with Haswell. Z170 is expected to offer similar features to Z97, including lane count, and will continue to perform well for overclocking without massive VRMs.
Following our massive Fury X and Z170 motherboard feature pieces, we thought we'd take a moment to revisit some simpler how-to topics. Today's guide shows how to jump a motherboard without connecting the PWR_SW header that goes to the case power button.
Intel’s newest CPU, Skylake-S, is coming up soon -- early August, rumor has it. Alongside a new CPU comes a whole new chipset and series of motherboards. The motherboard manufacturers are all showing off their latest Z-series Intel motherboards of late, hosting the newest Z170 chipset for the next iteration of Z-class motherboards for Intel CPUs.
Skylake isn’t the topic of discussion for this article as it is unreleased (and little is publicly sharable), so we’re instead focusing on the current information of the newest LGA 1151 Z170 chipset for Intel’s Skylake.
ASUS, ASRock, Biostar, EVGA, Gigabyte, and MSI have all shown off their latest products – each not wanting the other to steal the spotlight. We have compiled the specs for the new Skylake Z170 chipset motherboards for our latest round-up. Our previous guide was the Z97 roundup. I suppose a yee-haw is in order.
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