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GIGABYTE Z170X-GAMING 7 (Intel Z170) Motherboard Review

By: Steven Bassiri | Socket LGA 1150/1151 in Motherboards | Posted: Jan 8, 2016 8:39 pm
TweakTown Rating: 93%Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Packaging and Overview

 

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The Z170X-GAMING 7's box (and the rest of GIGABYTE's gaming lineup) display "Heroes of the Storm" marketing. It's an interesting move, as many others target features, quality, and neat graphical designs, but GIGABYTE is choosing a game. Either way, the box picture doesn't matter, what matters is the motherboard, and it is well protected by the packaging.

 

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Accessories include RGB LED IO Shield, 4x SATA6Gb/s cables (clear), G-Connector, video output dust covers, Do Not Disturb door hanger, feedback cards, SLI bridge, G1 gaming case badge, driver DVD, and manuals.

 

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The GIGABYTE Z170X-GAMING 7 has five fan headers. The single CPU fan header circled in green is a PWM mode header, and the four others circled in blue are voltage mod headers. Control of these headers is available through the UEFI and Windows.

 

The motherboard has a red and white theme that is super appealing. Most people like the white cover over the IO shield, but GIGABYTE has also extended it over the audio section of the motherboard and added RGB LEDs underneath the PCB and on the IO panel. GIGABYTE's PCI-E 16x slots are also supported by metal braces for heavy GPUs and are a single piece design for maximum durability. The back of the motherboard is bare except for some RGB LEDs that illuminate the audio PCB divide.

 

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The IO panel on the Z170X-GAMING 7 carries five USB 3.0 ports (two yellow are DAC-UP), PS/2 keyboard/mouse, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3.1 type-A, USB 3.1 type-C, two 1Gbit NIC ports, and S/PDIF with TOSLINK for audio output.

 

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The PCI-E layout is pretty straightforward. The first and second full sized PCI-E 16x slots are hard wired to the CPU and 8x of bandwidth will switch from the top slot to the middle slot if a GPU is installed. The other 16x slot (bottommost) is wired to the PCH, but shares 4x of bandwidth with the M.2 slot closest to it. All PCI-E 1x slots are hard wired to the PCH. PCI-E spacing is a bit lower to support larger CPU heat sink coolers.

 

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The Z170X-GAMING 7 has two M.2 slots, and they can be used in RAID at 32Gb/s of bandwidth each. There are also eight SATA6Gb/s ports. All PCH SATA ports are also in line with SATA Express connectors, but can be used as normal SATA if you aren't using them for SATA Express. There are two ports from an ASMedia controller. The topmost M.2 slot shares bandwidth with SATA ports 1-4 and the bottom M.2 slot also has an SATA link to one of these ports for RAID capability with the top M.2 slot. That is why GIGABYTE includes the extra SATA controller, because if you use both M.2 slots at 4x PCI-E 3.0, then you will only be left with two Intel ports, so GIGABYTE added the ASMedia controller so you will have four SATA6Gb/s ports if both M.2 slots are being used to their maximum. Not all four of those SATA ports will be disabled if any device is inserted; it depends on the requirements of the M.2 device and on page 32 in the manual there is a decent description of different configurations.

 

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There are two USB 3.0 internal headers located right below the 24-pin power connector. There are also a healthy amount of overclocking features, including power, reset, and clear CMOS buttons along with a POST Code display. Voltage read points are also present, which is a great thing since they are useful for Z170 overclocking. There is an OC button for a preconfigured overclock, and an ECO button in case you want to save power.

 

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There is a single BIOS mode switch used to disable the Dual BIOS link for debugging and quicker recovery during overclocking (especially BLCK overclocking, like with non-K SKUs).

 

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GIGABYTE has kicked the audio section up a notch. I looked at the Z170X-Gaming G1 many months ago, and its audio was top notch. Here we have a slightly similar, yet less powerful, offering. There is a DIP socket for the amplifier, and a CAP switch will allow you to change the amplifier gain in case of issues with the audio.

 

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Near the 8-pin power connector is an RGB header for the backpanel LEDs. This port is only meant to illuminate the few LEDs in the IO shield, but if you are a modder, you can probably hack into the header/ wires and get an RGB output for other uses.

 

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The heat sinks and shield are all screwed into the motherboard and the contact is great.

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