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ASUS Z170-A (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Jan 7, 2016 2:40 pm
TweakTown Rating: 91%Manufacturer: ASUS

Packaging and Overview

 

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The Z170-A's box and packaging are simple and do their job; the motherboard is well protected from the elements.

 

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Accessories include 3x SATA6Gb/s cables, small SLI bridge, Q-Connector, CPU installation tool, M.2 screws, IO shield, case badge, manuals, and driver DVD.

 

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The ASUS Z170-A has seven fan headers circled in red, which can be set as voltage mode or PWM mode headers. The CPU fan header detects which type of fan is installed and will configure itself. A fan extension card header is also included for ASUS's fan expander card. An onboard temperature sensor port is circled in green. The motherboard's PCB has a coat of black on it, but it is not as black as ASUS's high-end models. However, you still get that elegant white IO shield cover and the modern heat sinks that add to the white aesthetics.

 

The PCH heat sink is quite beautiful and looks better in person than in these shots. The ports are a mix of gray and black, and you want to install your basic hardware into the gray ports, so they will most likely be covered up when the motherboard is in use. The positioning of the CMOS battery above the first slot provides easy access in case you need to clear the CMOS memory, and it looks like the PCI-E slots are shifted a bit lower to accommodate larger CPU heat sinks. The back of the motherboard PCB is pretty much bare except for a few MOSFETs and some LEDs for the audio PCB divide.

 

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The IO panel on the Z170-A carries two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, PS/2 keyboard/mouse, HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort, D-SUB(VGA), USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, 1Gbit NIC port, and S/PDIF with TOSLINK for audio output.

 

The PCI-E layout is pretty straight forward. The first and second full sized PCI-E 16x slots are both wired to the CPU and can operate at 16x/0x or 8x/8x. The last full sized slot (bottommost) is wired to the PCH and shares bandwidth with SATA ports 5 and 6 (the manual says it supports PCIE RAID with the M.2 drive). All the 1x slots are also wired to the PCH, and there is a sole PCI slot.

 

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The Z170-A has six SATA ports directly from the PCH. There is even a sticker pointing to the port you should use for the OS drive. There is a SATA Express connector, which can be used for two normal SATA6Gb/s drives. The SATA Express also shares an SATA link to the M.2 slot in case you want to use RAID between the M.2 slot and the last full sized PCI-E 16x slot. There are two USB 3.0 internal headers; the first is located right below the 24-pin power connector for easy access for a front USB 3.0 port.

 

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The second USB 3.0 internal header is at the bottom of the motherboard near the white fan expansion card header. The EZ_XMP switch is useful if you want to enable XMP without entering the UEFI, and the TPU modes are for if you want an auto overclock without entering the UEFI. Front panel headers are also located here, and the M.2 slot is located right between the TPU switch and the PCH heat sink. There are two jumpers right above the front panel header; one is for DirectKey and the other for Clear CMOS. There is also a jumper near the 8-pin CPU power header for unlocking higher voltage ranges. There is a DRAM LED and a MemOK button located right above the 24-pin header for DRAM diagnostics.

 

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ASUS has included a power button at the bottom of the motherboard. The BIOS ROM sits in a DIP socket for easy replacement. A custom header is located near the BIOS ROM, which can be attached to an external device that facilitates USB BIOS flashing without having to power on the system. The Thunderbolt 3.0 GPIO header is also located here for a Thunderbolt 3.0 card.

 

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The VRM heat sinks are using pushpins while the PCH heat sink and IO cover utilize metal screws. Contact between all the heat sinks and the motherboard is excellent.

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