In the past few years motherboard manufacturers have very much realised that consumers have a hugely varied set of needs when building systems. From the key aspects such as how many GPUs are needed, the cost of the product, etc to more fine detail such as the ability to upgrade op-amps on the audio portion of the board. This has resulted in a huge number of Z170 boards hitting the market since launch and today we take a look at one of Gigabytes latest in our Gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 Review.
Gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 Review – Packaging and Bundle
The Z170-Gaming K3 arrives in a box which heavily features the red, black and white design used on the motherboard itself. We get a note of a few features and a fuller explanation of the boards specifications elsewhere on the box. Inside we find a decent bundle, a starter code (bonus items) for World of Warships, drive cables, block to assist with the wiring of our system (G Connector), case sticker, good quality back panel, software disc, product documentation and the all important door hanger.
Gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 Review – The Motherboard
The Z170-Gaming K3 is compact ATX board measuring 30.5cm x 23.1cm. It is of course a socket 1151 board, supporting the latest Intel CPUs including the high end i7-6700K. Key to the design are the black and red items and Gigabyte add a bunch of LED tracks down each side of the board as you will see below. This is not the first time we have seen this done however Gigabyte go a bit further than the competition by including the ability to have the LEDs react to the audio that is playing.
What else helps the K3 stand out from the competition, main PCIe slot which is reinforced with metal, Killer NIC, 115dB Audio, gold plated CPU socket and dual BIOS.
As far as our PCIe slots go, Gigabyte opt for 1x, 16x, 1x, 4x, 1x, 1x on this board and also add a single M.2 slot (Gen3 4x/32gb/s) between our top PCIe 3.o slot and the CPU socket. Our audio portion of the PCB is separated from the rest of the board and features Chemicon high end audio capacitors as well as Realtek ALC1150 7.1 controller and amp running through the back panel audio connectors.
Gigabyte have this to say about their audio solution:
The ALC1150 provides ten DAC channels that simultaneously support 7.1-channel sound playback, plus 2 channels of independent stereo sound output (multiple streaming) through the front panel stereo outputs. Two stereo ADCs are integrated and can support a microphone array with Acoustic Echo Cancellation (AEC), Beam Forming (BF), and Noise Suppression (NS) technologies. The ALC1150 incorporates Realtek proprietary converter technology to achieve Front differential output 115dB Signal-to-Noise ratio (SNR) playback (DAC) quality and 104dB SNR recording (ADC) quality.
Then round at the bottom right of the board we find six SATA 3.0 ports along with two SATA Express. All key RAID modes are available, including 0 and 1.
Moving up to the top right of the board we find a front panel USB 3 header, our 24pin power connector and the four DDR4 memory slots. The board supports up to 64GB of memory with speeds in excess of 3400Mhz. An 8pin power connector can also be found on the top edge of the board and in the I/O area we have PS/2, four USB 3.0 ports, two USB 3.1 ports (red), DVI, HDMI, GB LAN (Killer E2201) and 3.5mm audio connectors.
With the Gaming K3 Gigabyte go with a nice plain BIOS which is intuitive and responsive. All of the key functionality we would expect is available, including the ability to overclock, or update the BIOS from a USB drive. Additionally, Gigabyte have also recently updated their software suite, bringing their key applications into one place called “App Central”, allowing us to monitor, maintain and tweak the board over time.
Gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 Review – Performance
i7-6700K, Z170/H170/B150, 2x8GB DDR4-2666 (Corsair)
i7-4790K, Z97, 2x8GB DDR3-2666 (Corsair)
GTX 980 Ti OC
Corsair H100 Series Cooler
Corsair AX1500i PSU
Samsung 850 Pro SSD (SATA Testing)
And Samsung T1 SSD (USB Testing)
Gigabyte Z170 Gaming K3 Review – Conclusion
Starting with the build quality of the board we have a model which utilises the tried and trusted Gigabyte Ultra Durable tech and adds to the standard we expect with tweaks such as that reinforced PCIe slot. Design wise the layout is good, headers intelligently placed, some top notch LED work and nice little touches such as the extra space beneath the main PCIe slot allowing us to use dual width cards without covering up a 1x PCIe.
USB 3.1 support is present, keeping our system up to date, as is M.2 and SATA Express…so all the latest connectivity that we would need. It would have been ideal for the second of the full length PCIe slots to be 8x rather than 4x for those who want to benefit from CrossFire/Multi-GPU though.
As far as performance goes. The K3 sits exactly where we would expect a good quality Z170 board to sit, just above the H170 and B150 while offering the full features of Z170/socket 1151 systems. Overclocking was also decent, our CPU hitting over 4.7GHz without issue.
Summary: A good quality Z170 board with all the key features the average gamer needs.