Introduction & Closer Look
Model: Z170 Pro Gaming ATX
Price: £ 117.99 (At time of review)
The anticipation has drawn to a close as the long awaited Skylake, Intel’s latest generation of processors, is now upon us. The 6th generation Skylake i5 and i7 processors have been unleashed and come with a plethora of very viable benefits such as more M.2 SSD support, the latest dual channel DDR4 memory compatibility and of course, that lusted over easy access “overclocking” support which K CPU’s have given enthusiasts and gamers alike for the last 4 generations of Intel i5 & i7 processors. Skylake is more than just an upgrade, it’s a total game changer and the usher of the new generation of hardware. ASUS have presented us with their brand new budget friendly – but certainly not low spec – ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming motherboard which of course caters towards the gamer, and although not purely designed for overclocking, certainly should push Skylake to the wall in air/water cooling scenarios.
To test today’s newest Skylake ASUS Pro Gaming motherboard, we are using Intel’s 6th generation Intel Core i5 6600K complimented by a set of the finest Corsair Vengeance LPX 2666MHz 16GB (2x8GB) dual channel DDR4 memory kit. To top this off, we have the budget friendly XFX R9 380 4GB graphics card to show off gaming performance and of course, emulate a “true” gaming system for optimal and honest performance ratings.
So what’s the big deal about Skylake and what have ASUS brought to the table with the LGA 1151 socket? Well, first of all, aside from the aforementioned improvements, Intel have gone all out with their new on-board graphics in the shape of the Intel HD 5000 graphics.
So focusing on today’s feature and brand new review of the ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming ATX motherboard, first of all, we have a “ROG” style theme with a distinctive red and black design. The heat sinks themselves have a ROG feel to them and it isn’t surprising given this board’s target, gamers! We have 3 x PCIe x 16 slots with Crossfire and SLI both supported on this particular model; this is in compliment to the inclusive 3 x PCIe x 1 ports designed for network adapters, sound cards and other PCIe x 1 devices.
With 10 Digi+ VRM/MOSFETS on board, the ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming Skylake supported motherboard has a lot going for it in the specifications department and is surely bang for buck too! The heat sinks feel very premium and providing you have ample airflow, should allow for some nice overclocking if that is your cup of tea; it certainly is ours!
Here we have 1 x 8pin 12v CPU power connector which given the i5 6600K’s 95w TDP, should have absolutely no qualms about keeping the CPU fed with juice; boards with more than an 8pin are usually designed for overclocking, with some cheaper smaller boards only utilising 1 x 4pin 12v socket.
While Intel’s X99 socket supports quad channel DDR4 memory, Skylake only supports dual channel, but don’t be worried as it makes no difference in “real world” applications such as gaming. The Z170 Pro Gaming sports 4 x DIMMs and supports up to 64GB of DDR4 with speeds of up to around 3400MHz depending on your CPU or memory’s potential!
Want to run with a pretty hefty storage array? Well the ASUS Z170 Pro Gaming has 6 x SATA 6GB/s ports, 1 x SATA Express port and 1 x desirable M.2 socket; RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 are supported via the SATA3 ports as per usual with any Intel board of this calibre.
ASUS have always been really good with onboard audio and the Pro Gaming Z170 board is no different. A Supreme FX audio processor has been included which includes a cover with isolation, but still uses the Realtek ALC 1150 sound chip to create sweet, sweet music. In conjunction with ASUS Sonic Radar II, it’s designed to offer gamers precise positional audio and with it being one of the best on-board chips around, is designed to offer great sound tonality without spending extra on a sound card; ASUS also do some of the best dedicated PCI sound cards on the market too.
On the rear of the motherboard, we have a pretty interesting and wide array of ports available which include:
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type A
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type C
- 1 x Intel RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet Port
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x VGA
- 8 Channel Audio (3.5mm jacks)
- 1 x PS/2 (Mouse & Keyboard)
- 1 x SDPF out
A pretty decent amount of USB ports on the rear with an additional 2x USB 3.0 and 6 x USB 2.0 available via front panel headers; good for the price too! Also the option to use virtually any mainstream method of connecting your monitor with the big 4 (VGA, DVI, DP & HDMI) all being supported, this offers greater accessibility to Intel’s new HD 5000 graphics; providing you are planning on using onboard of course!
So we have seen the board itself, seen what it “should” be capable of, but let’s take a look at the specifications and features on the next page; see what ASUS have hiding under the hood of this Pro Gaming motherboard…