Now that we’ve had a chance to take a look at the seriously budget friendly Gaming K3 from GIGABYTE, I think it is time to draw up a conclusion to help you to decide whether or not it is the budget motherboard of choice, or if it is one that you should avoid. GIGABYTE typically bring quality motherboard to the market, just like other vendors, but how does it really stack up against its competition from the others? Let’s compare and contrast here. When you’re limited to a budget, it’s hard to include every feature imaginable, but it’s a matter of taking the most important ones for your target market and incorporating them into the product. Have GIGABYTE done this with the Gaming K3?
First of all, it is imperative to have the M.2 PCI-E lane on any Z170 as that is a major selling point. Tick in the box, it’s there. Due to the serious limitations on the controllers from vendors, you’ve pretty much got a choice between Intel and Killer for your LAN port. GIGABYTE went with the Killer chip, which I think is a little more expensive compared to the Intel chipset. It’s nice to see that they went a little above and beyond rather than cutting costs in literally every aspect, so that’s another tick in the box. This isn’t to say that other manufacturers are cheap or that they aren’t doing their job as well, it’s just that some focus on different aspects. Please do not get the wrong idea and think that I am chirping nothing but positive words, because that would not be right. One thing which did strike me as a little disappointing was that two of the SATA ports weren’t at a right angle, but the majority of motherboards in this price range don’t have all of them situated like that either. Some say that I am just too set in my ways of higher end motherboards. I just like to see things how I’d want them if I were designing the motherboard.
The Gaming K3 wasn’t setting the world ablaze when it came to its performance, but the motherboard also did not situate itself at the bottom of the charts throughout the testing procedure either. Given that it is a slightly smaller motherboard with things being slightly closer together than a typical, full sized ATX motherboard; I had expected the performance to be a little higher, but smaller does not always mean faster or better. On the other hand, the board didn’t flat line either, the results were a little scattered – some good, some bad and mostly in the middle of the pack. If you were looking for top of the line performance at rock bottom prices, you’re in the wrong industry unfortunately. Price does, although not always, usually reflect how well a motherboard is going to perform. Given that the Gaming K3 is one of the cheapest motherboards I’ve tested on Z170 thus far, it doesn’t do all that bad for itself. I’ll give you the fact that yes, it was nearer to the bottom of the charts, but it isn’t going to make any flying bit of difference to 99% of you. The “slowness” only really shows itself in benchmarks and nowhere else.
The design of the motherboard does leave something to be desired when compared to higher end models, but you can’t have it all. If you look at it purely from a monetary standpoint and then consider the looks, it really isn’t all that bad. At least we no longer see the budget-brown (or insert your own expletive here) colour that we were once so familiar with not all too long ago. Instead, we are greeted with an all-black design as far as the PCB is concerned which is combined with the red, black and white design that GIGABYTE has decided to go with for this round of motherboards. If you flick back to my Gaming 7 review, you’d quickly discover that I am very fond of it and I am glad to see that someone is doing something a little different to the usual black/red design.
One thing that is missing, although understandable, is the customisable audio that you can find on the more luxurious products. The reason for the exclusion besides the obvious need to raise the price, is that the offerings higher up the chain will not hold much value in the market. There needs to be stuff cut out in order to make the next product up come across as more appealing. While I will not hold it against the Gaming K3, I just thought I’d let you guys in on a reason as to why some motherboards miss out things which may seem like they are such a cheap add-on (it isn’t in reality!)
What are my final thoughts on this board? For a budget motherboard, it brought a lot to the table. It brings you all of the features that you may be looking for in a Skylake motherboard, and it also offers everything that I feel it should have on a motherboard of this calibre. The Gaming K3 performed a little worse than I personally expected, but I can’t fault it for the fact that it is a motherboard at sub £100 including VAT. It will not be picking up any performance or design (sorry!) awards from me today, but it will snatch itself a value award and an editor’s recommendation (not an editor’s choice award) for a budget motherboard. At this end of the spectrum, it ultimately depends on which brand you favour. If warranty comes into it, then pretty much everyone offers three years as standard. However, in the UK, GIGABYTE are the only brand who offer a direct RMA and allow you to get your board back within 10 days rather than having to deal with the retailer.
As always, I’d like to end my review by expressing my gratitude to the manufacturer – GIGABYTE – for letting us take a look at their Gaming K3.