This is where you can fast forward to the final section of the review, and get a quick recap and points on the BIOSTAR GAMING Z170X.
Connectivity is plentiful and strong: The GAMING Z170X is full of features, and the majority of them are from Intel. BIOSTAR uses all Intel USB 3.0 for all six of the back-panel ports and the internal header (PCH supports more than six), and re-drivers are used for the back-panel USB 3.0 to ensure strong signal strength. Two NICs provide variety and choice between Intel and Killer, and both have extra surge protection modules that provide protection and filtered signaling. The board has USB 3.1 Type-C for the future. There are three SATA Express ports and two M.2 slots that run at 32Gb/s. There is even an M.2 slot only for WIFI/BT cards.
Audio with GAMING COMMANDER: BIOSTAR is the only brand using the ALC898 (higher output on all channels) with both a pre-amp and an amplifier for the back-panel IO gold plated audio outputs. If that wasn't enough, they also provide audio-grade film and audio grade electrolytic capacitors. The GAMING COMMANDER front panel box offers something different and unique, with a CMedia codec inside the box and buttons to control its features and functionality. The box provides something many don't think about, a digital extension of audio instead of analog extension.
With typical front panel devices, the audio is routed in its final form (analog) through long wires that are vulnerable to external influences. With this implementation, digital audio signals (which are much more resilient over longer distances) are routed to a CMedia codec, instead of the onboard Realtek, and are then processed into analog audio through the PCB instead of wires. BIOSTAR still allows users to use the Realtek instead by pressing the "Mix" button. This versatility is unique to BIOSTAR so far. The two types of onboard codecs provide a wider assortment of features as well.
OC Features with Capacitive Touch: BIOSTAR provides a healthy amount of OC features including on-the-fly BLCK and Ratio adjustment through a capacitive touch panel. This is the first time I have seen such a novel method for replacing buttons. There is also an LN2 switch and an XMP enable button for both novice and expert users. BIOSTAR is also actively working on bettering the OC through the UEFI, and they did add things I asked for and even things I didn't. They added the ability to disable the RSR register as well.
The reliability stress restrictor register is designed to maintain the chip's life and performance by actively monitoring power and frequency characteristics throughout the entire life of the chip. And it can lower frequency or increase voltage to maintain performance, but it can have a negative impact on overclocking and BIOSTAR lets you disable it if you want.
Full Modular Shield: Don't like seeing the circuits and chips? BIOSTAR has you covered with a full cover for the motherboard. If you want the motherboard just to fade into the background, then the GAMING Z170X has you covered. If you only want certain eye-sores like the IO panel covered up, then you are in luck; the shield is modular.
Only CrossFireX, no SLI: BIOSTAR is one of the few motherboard manufacturers that don't support NVIDIA's SLI technology.
Must use Internal LLC, no External LLC: External LLC isn't provided by Intel in the stock AMI source code for the Z170 BIOS, so some manufacturers didn't have it in their UEFIs at launch. However, Intel does provide internal load line controls that BIOSTAR has made available. This internal LLC is a little tricky, and I described how to use it in the OC section. You should use a digital millimeter if you have one for VCore verification instead of readings in-OS (read points provided in OS section).
It's a decent motherboard; every feature that a consumer might expect from a $220 motherboard is present. There is a ton of connectivity, no hubs, two re-drivers for far away signals, NIC protection, and a wide variety of storage options. Audio is heavily upgraded, and the external box might seem like it's a gimmick, but it does offer another audio codec with its own set of features on top of the standard Realtek implementation, which is excellent for front-of-case audio use.
The GAMING Z170X does have its little quirks, and the one that bugs me the most is the lack of external LLC, which is something that a few other manufacturers also lack. The lack of SLI capabilities is purely a licensing thing, but you can't buy an SLI license for the motherboard. So, if you are planning on more than one NVIDIA GPU, then you might want to look at another product. However, BIOSTAR offers solid fan control among other well-implemented features that are impressive for a motherboard from a much smaller enthusiast motherboard manufacturer.
Overall performance was solid, the VRM was good, and quality was what I expect from a $200-$220 product.
Product Summary Breakdown
|Performance (including Overclocking)||88%|
|Quality including Design and Build||91%|
|Bundle and Packaging||91%|
|Value for Money||93%|
|Overall TweakTown Rating||91%|
The Bottom Line: BIOSTAR's GAMING Z170X motherboard is a loaded product with a good amount of functionality and a solid feature set all at a fairly affordable price.
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 the GAMING Z170X]
- Page 3 [BIOSTAR GAMING Z170X Circuit Analysis]
- Page 4 [BIOSTAR GAMING Z170X 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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