The launch of the Z170 chipset and accompanying CPUs didn’t exactly set the industry on fire, yes there were advances but for most enthusiasts it was an evolution rather than a revolution. That said, we can see from the interest in our previous Z170 articles that there are a whole load of consumers who want to move to the new platform so today we take a look at another board in our Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review.
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review – Packaging and Bundle
The Z170X-Gaming 7 arrives in a box which very much stands out. We get some of the key features listed but this is all about the G1/Gaming branding. Inside we find product documentation, software disk, poster, cables, padded i/o shield and small items which help make wiring easy along with port dust covers.
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review – The Motherboard
The Z170X-Gaming 7 is shown above and as with many high end boards it uses a black PCB adding some style through extra components such as shields, heatsinks and slots. As the name suggests this is a Z170 chipset based board and that means we have the 1151 CPU socket which supports the latest Intel CPUs such as i7-6700K.
Down at the bottom left of the board our first area of note is the PCIe slots which start with 1x before running through 16x, 1x, 8x, 1x ending in a 4x slot which shares bandwidth with the M.2 connectors. To the left of this we have our audio circuitry along with shield and separated PCB (with variable colour LED lighting). This is a Creative Sound Core3D based, quad core 7.1 audio solution which also has dedicated audio capacitors and a headphone amp to maximise our sound.
The audio features continue with upgradable op-amp, gain control, USB socket designed to offer the best quality for DAC’s and Creative software panel. Also located in this area, just above the 16x PCIe slot is our Killer NIC lan, one of two GB LAN solutions on the board with the other one being Intel based.
Moving over to the right edge of the board we find our drive connectors and Gigabyte dont hold back on that front. Eight SATA 3 ports, 3 SATA Express and thats on top of the 2x M.2 slots which sit around our PCIe area (All length M.2 @ 32gb/s).
Further up on the right edge of the board we find two USB 3.0 headers along wiht our main power socket, 24pin as expected with an additional 8pin on the top edge. Onboard power, reset and CMOS buttons are present as are quick OC/Eco buttons and a debug LED is located here, allowing us to quickly diagnose any issues.
The Z170X-Gaming 7 has four DDR4 slots split over two channels. These can support speeds in excess of 3800Mhz with capacities up to 64gb. Then round at the back panel we find plenty of gold plated connectors for audio and video (DisplayPort/HDMI 2.0) along with optical audio too. The other connectors are PS/2, 5x USB 3.0, USB 3.1 (Type A and Type C) and dual GB LAN.
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review – Bios and Software
Gigabyte offer plenty of software for the Gaming 7 board, including LED configuration and smartphone/tablet control of our PC however most users will find the EasyTune application of most use. It allows us to tweak and monitor our board quickly and easily from within Windows. Maximising power efficiency and performance to suit our needs.
As far as the BIOS goes, all the usual settings are available through Gigabytes easy to use, intuitive interface. Most users will find themselves in the M.I.T screen for major tweaking/overclocking but Q-Flash is another useful feature, allowing us to update our BIOS from USB drive with ease.
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review – Performance
i7-6700K, Z170X-Gaming 7/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)
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)
Gigabyte Z170X-Gaming 7 Review – Conclusion
As is always the case with Gigabyte we have a board which has a high level of build quality to build around. In the case of the Gaming 7 it’s Ultra Durable components which include the likes of gold plated CPU socket pins, solid capacitors and enhanced PCIe slots with metal covers which provide strength and protection over time. The audio solution too is high spec, a Creative chip, upgradable op-amp, dedicated audio capacitors, amp and dedicated control panel. Gigabyte also offer voltage read points, dedicated tuning IC (Turbo B-Clock) and high spec Network controllers.
Thought has also been given to the board layout, for example having extra space between the main PCIe and the slot below it. This allows us to install dual slot GPUs (SLI/Crossfire are supported) without losing a slot. Connectors are located in sensible areas, the USB 3.0 connectors on the right edge making wiring easy as one example and Gigabyte add some extra style (and quality) via gold plated connectors and back panel LED lighting.
Connectivity is good, both internal and external. We could pick fault that there are three SATA Express connectors because no-one uses them… but seriously, its nice to have them and not need them than to need and not have. Eight SATA ports will be more than enough for most and two high speed M.2 connectors means we have more than enough storage options overall. Back panel connectivity is ideal, all USB 3.0/3.1 (with backwards compatibility for 2.0) and Dual high spec GB LAN ports.
Combine all of the above with solid overclocking, support for the latest components, good software suite and class leading performance and we have a board which is more than worthy of our gold award. An exceptional Z170 board.