This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the GIGABYTE Z170X-SOC Force.
Loaded with OC Features: The Z170X-SOC Force might just have the most buttons, switches, and ports I have seen on an overclocking motherboard. Not only does it have the record breaking number of buttons and switches that the Z97X-SOC Force provided, but it adds an extra one called SOC Link which allows for external on-the-fly overclocking by tethering through a phone (SOC LINK/HW-OC). I tried out the OC features, including the buttons and HW-OC, and everything works as it should.
While the OC features are welcomed by overclockers, some of the features can help avoid headaches for those using multiple video cards and water cooling. When you have multiple video cards installed with custom water blocks, it is pretty hard to remove them, but the Z170X-SOC Force has features to avoid headaches. There are DIP switches to disable individual PCI-E slots to determine if a single card is bad, OC Ignition allows for running pumps (leak test) without powering up critical motherboard systems, and CBAT makes it so that you never have to remove the CMOS battery (usually under GPUs) again to totally clear the CMOS memory.
4-Way SLI and Three M.2 32Gb/s Slots: There are less than five Z170 motherboards on the market that support 4-way SLI and less than five Z170 motherboards that support three full speed M.2 slots, but the Z170X-SOC Force is the only motherboard to have both. The Z170X-SOC Force is designed to take the crown when it comes to crazy connectivity features, if you want the ability to run 3-way SLI, 4-Way SLI or CrossFireX at 8x per slot, and you want to run three 4x PCI-E 3.0 M.2 drives then this is the board you want. While three of the latest M.2 drives will saturate the 4x DMI 3.0 bus, there are other benefits to RAID 0 including expanded capacity, and there is always RAID 5 which offers slightly higher speeds and redundancy.
High-Quality VRM: We all know that high-quality components tend to run cooler and thus last longer, and the Z170X-SOC Force carries a very high-quality VRM. The PEX8747 (PCI-E lane bridge) and Alpine Ridge controller add a decent amount of heat to the motherboard PCB, and the high-quality VRM parts ensure that the motherboard's VRM won't overheat. The VRM runs very coolly because of its high quality 8/16 phase design along with the latest in digital PWM technology. The VRM is also well tuned, minor rails are all using 40A power stages, and LLC is some of the best I have seen so far.
Excellent Overclocking: The Z170X-SOC Force overclocked everything I threw at it with ease. Four DIMMs/32GB memory at 2666MHz, four DIMMs/16GB at 3200MHz, and two DIMMs/8GB at 3600MHz are no match for this overclocking motherboard. I expect all overclocking motherboards to hit these marks, and the Z170X-SOC Force does so without anything other than just enabling XMP. The CPU also overclocks quite well due to the strong VRM and great LLC, and tuning options are widely available.
High Cost: The Z170X-SOC Force should come in close to the $400 mark making it one of the more expensive Z170 motherboards on the market. While it does carry 3-way and 4-way SLI capabilities, a hefty VRM, Intel USB 3.1, the most OC features, and well-placed orange LEDs, it is still a steep price to pay considering the top CPU for the platform costs under $400. Many people will not use all the features and ports the Z170X-SOC Force offers, so if you don't need the features then the price might be too steep.
Expansion Has its Caveats: I mentioned earlier that some of the performance scores about single GPU usage were lower than other Z170 motherboards, and that is because of the PLX bridge that expands lanes. There is also the fact that all Intel SATA and M.2 slots have to go through quick switches which also reduces their scores a little bit in benchmarks. While many users won't notice any negative impact in real life, there is an impact in benchmarks such as PCMark and 3DMark if you treat it like any other Z170 motherboard and install only single M.2 drive and GPU. Bottom line; the more you install, the more benefits you shall see.
The Z170X-SOC Force is built to be the largest, and most equipped overclocking motherboard GIGABYTE has to offer for Skylake, and it lives up to its legacy. The Z170X-SOC Force is the result of a long line of predecessors that filled in the same price range and feature set, and while there aren't many people who might make use of all its features, many people still look at it as their dream motherboard. The aesthetics of the Z170X-SOC Force are possibly the best of any OC series motherboard from GIGABYTE thus far.
Its overclocking features save time and Aspirin, but just like every motherboard, it does have its downsides. A high price might be prohibitive to many consumers, and the expansive feature set might not be the best if underutilized. The Z170X-SOC Force is aimed at two different segments of the enthusiast population; those who want crazy amounts of GPUs and M.2 storage, and those who want strong overclocking features and performance. The Z170X-SOC Force is currently one of the better options if you are going to go for Z170 multi-GPU world records on HWBot, or if you want to build a super equipped gaming rig with the latest in storage technology.
Product Summary Breakdown
|Performance (including Overclocking)||93%|
|Quality including Design and Build||95%|
|Bundle and Packaging||95%|
|Value for Money||85%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||93%|
The Bottom Line: If money is of no concern and you want 3-Way or 4-Way SLI, three Ultra M.2 slots, and a plethora of OC features, then look no further than the GIGABYTE Z170X-SOC Force.
PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.
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- Page 1 [Introduction, Specifications, and Pricing]
- Page 2 [Packaging and Z170X-SOC Force Overview]
- Page 3 [GIGABYTE Z170X-SOC Force Circuit Analysis]
- Page 4 [GIGABYTE Z170X-SOC Force Circuit Analysis Continued]
- Page 5 [BIOS and Software]
- Page 6 [Test System Setup]
- Page 7 [Overclocking]
- Page 8 [CPU, Memory, and System Benchmarks]
- Page 9 [System IO Benchmarks]
- Page 10 [Thermal Imaging and Power Consumption]
- Page 11 [What's Hot, What's Not & Final Thoughts]
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