The Z170X-SOC Force LN2
The Z170X-SOC Force LN2 has not officially been released, and if what I am hearing is true, it might not be if the demand is not high from the community. Many might remember the Z97X-SOC Force LN2, the motherboard that took multiple memory frequency WRs at live competitions and was widely acclaimed as the must have board for Haswell overclocking. What made the Z97X-SOC Force LN2 special was its memory section. The motherboard had no mounting holes since they interfere with the memory traces, only had two DIMMs, and used SMT DIMMs. The lack of mounting holes posed a big issue for 24/7 use, but with the Z170X-SOC Force LN2, GIGABYTE has solved the dilemma of the mounting holes.
Yes, the mounting holes are significantly closer together than Intel's LGA1151 specification. In fact, the mounting on the board is actually AMD mounting, so it will work with current CPU pots and it will not interfere with the memory traces! You will also notice that from the waist down, the Z170X-SOC Force LN2 is identical to the Z170X-SOC Force (except no PLX bridge chip). From the waist up, there are major differences.
The VRM is in a straight line instead of an "L" shape, making it easier to insulate. All power stages are IR3553 power stages (40A), and there are three digital PWMs from IR in this picture, and there is zero phase doubling. The CPU will get eight true phases from one IR35201, and the iGPU will get four true phases from another IR35201. A smaller IR3570 digital PWM powers some extra phases for the VCCIO and VCCSA.
The OC Touch area seems to be unchanged, except for the presence of beefier memory voltage rails. The board also has dedicated VCCPLL_OC and VCCST rails. Notice how close the memory DIMMs are to the CPU socket and how much room is left between the DIMMs and the OC Touch buttons. Even when we overclocked memory under LN2, there was no noticeable issue with the buttons frosting up.
The audio section is unchanged from the Z170X-SOC Force.
The PCI-E layout differs from the Z170X-SOC Force because it does not have a PEX8747 for 3-way and 4-way SLI. In fact, the removal of this bridge would make the board much more affordable if it hits the market. The M.2 layout remains unchanged to the naked eye. I really hope that GIGABYTE moves this motherboard into the retail space. The inclusion of mounting holes is a big plus, and the removal of the PEX8747 should make the board much more affordable. Products like these are what develop and sustain the overclocking marketplace, offering real improvements over counterparts and true production differentiation.
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