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Sunday | December 11, 2016
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ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake)

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake)

It’s Intel launch day and that means a bunch of new stuff for us to play with. Next on our test bench is a new board based on the Z170 chipset and socket 1151. Welcome to our ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Sylake).

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake) – Packaging and Bundle

asus-z170-a-review-box asus-z170-a-review-bundle

ASUS go with a nice simple box decide on the Z170-A, giving us a clear image of the board along with a note of several key features. Inside we get product documentation, software disc, IO shield, various cables and connectors (including SLI bridge) along with a small tool which is designed to make CPU installation as simple as possible.

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake) – The Board

asus-z170-a-review-board asus-z170-a-review-socket

The Z170-A is one of ASUS midrange boards for Z170/1151 and uses a black PCB with white and grey highlights. This is a standard ATX board and fully supports the latest Skylake CPUs, including the high end i7-6700k as well as up to 64GB of DDR4.

Other points of note include a dedicated fan header for liquid cooling pumps, one touch overclocking, Internet based BIOS updates (without Windows) and a suite of features called “5-way Optimisation” which includes TPU, EPU, DIGI+ VRM, Fan Xpert 3 and Turbo App to maximise performance and efficiency.

asus-z170-a-review-pcie asus-z170-a-review-sata

Down at the bottom left edge of the board we find the PCIe slots which run from 1x through 16x, 1x, PCI, 8x, 1x and 4x (full length). Also present in this area is the Realtek ALC892 with Crystal Sound 3 tech (power pre-regulator, EMI protection/shielding, de-pop circuit and separate audio layers). High end audio capacitors are also present, as is an amplifier, then turning round to the SATA area we find plenty of connectivity. This starts with the M.2 slot and along with that are 6x SATA 3.0 and a single SATA Express (NVMe is also supported).

asus-z170-a-review-mem asus-z170-a-review-io

Further up the right edge of the board we find a second USB 3.0 front panel header along with 24pin power socket (additional power through an 8pin at the top edge of the board). The four memory slots present on the Z170-A are split over two channels and support DDR4 modules at 3400 MHz+.

Turning round to the I/O area we find two USB, DisplayPort, HDMI, VGA and DVI. These sit alongside PS/2, USB 3.0 3.5mm/optical audio and an Intel I219-V LAN port. Also present are type a and type c USB 3.1 ports (beneath the LAN).

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake) – Software and BIOS

asoft

Our main control and monitoring on the Z170-A from within Windows occurs from the ASUS software shown above. In here we can view every key aspect of the board as well as tweak fans and overclock in real time. We also get LAN optimisation and when combining the software with the hardware based clock generator we can easily switch between performance profiles e.g. low power, max performance etc. ASUS also bundle media streaming, PC cleaning and cloud/remote based functionality applications.

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ASUS provide a mouse and keyboard compatible BIOS interface on the Z170A and it allows us to tweak all of the key aspects of the board/components. ASUS add functionality such as enhanced fan control, easy overclocking/RAID setup, USB BIOS updates and even the ability to secure erase our SSDs.

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake) – Performance

Test systems:
i7-6700K, Z170-A/Z170A GM7, 2x8GB DDR4-2666 (Corsair)
i7-4790K, Z97, 2x8GB DDR3-2666 (Corsair)
i7-5960X, X99, 4x8GB DDR4-2800 (Corsair)
FX-9590, 990FX, 4x8Gb DDR3-2133 (Corsair)

All with:
Windows 10
GTX 980 Ti OC
Corsair H100 Series Cooler
Corsair AX1500i PSU
Samsung 850 Pro SSD (SATA Testing)
Plextor M6e (M.2 Testing)
OCZ Revodrive 350 (PCIe Testing)
And Samsung T1 SSD (USB Testing)

On a Dimastech EasyXL Test Bench with the BenQ BL3201 4k Display

benq-bl3201pt-review-screen

asus-z170-a-review-cinebench  asus-z170-a-review-memory

asus-z170-a-review-m2asus-z170-a-review-pcie (2) asus-z170-a-review-sata (2) asus-z170-a-review-usb asus-z170-a-review-3dmark asus-z170-a-review-bfh asus-z170-a-review-dota2r-igpu  asus-z170-a-review-music

Overclock

asus-z170-a-review-cinebench-OCa

ASUS Z170-A Review (i7-6700k Skylake) – Conclusion

When creating the Z170-A ASUS were clearly looking to find a good balance of price, performance and features for enthusiasts on a budget. Overall they have succeeded. Starting with the build quality and design of the board we have a great looking product which looks that bit different to the usual Black/Red models which are common nowadays. The lighter metal should look great in a LED lit case, though it is a shame that (no doubt to keep costs down) there are no significant onboard LEDs.

The overall layout of the board is good, plenty room for the largest M.2 drives for example. 3 slot GPUs are supported too, due to intelligent placement of the PCI slot which few people will use and high quality components are used across the board, including those in the audio  area.

As far as value goes, with an RRP of £115 the Z170-A is a very competitively priced product with all the key features we need for this platform. These being DDR4 support, PCIe Gen.3, USB 3.1, M.2, Skylake CPUs and decent audio/LAN controllers.

That brings us to performance where the Z170-A can often compete with a high end X99 board. It looses out in some obvious areas (CPU based performance, memory bandwidth) but elsewhere in areas such as PCIe speed, USB speed and the like the experience is the same. The board tends to outperform Z97 (while having more advanced features too) and easily passes the AMD equivalent. In comparisons with another Z170 based product, and a more expensive one at that, the Z170-A offered near identical results with our CPU topping out at 5.0Ghz (liquid cooled) on this board when manually overclocking.

Performance Award

 

And there is more… soon…

asus-new

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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