Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming Motherboard Review
So Kaby Lake then. Yes it’s here Intel’s latest 7th generation CPU and its associated chipset (Z270) landed at the beginning of the year. But what is it and what does it mean to us PC Gamers? Well first off there’s not a lot new in Kaby Lake when looking at the i7 and i5 CPUs, really the only major difference is an increase in CPU stock speeds and Turbo speeds. The new Kaby Lake CPUs use the same LGA 1151 socket and there’s no real architectural optimizations or enhancements to speak of! Apart from Intel’s own Optane memory storage system due any day soon, that will likely arrive in the from of an M.2 SSD. The bottom line is that this is just the latest 14nm CPU from Intel, but as it’s the latest and it will no doubt supersede Z170 over time we best take a look…
Today I will take a look at our very first Z270 Motherboard in the form of the ATX Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming. This is a ROG board with Asus’s additional Strix (Gaming) branding and somewhat obviously it supports Intel’s latest 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs. The motherboard itself also features Nvidia SLI support, AMD Crossfire support and also Asus’ own Aura Sync technology. In addition to this the board also features four DIMMs supporting DDR4 RAM modules up to 16GB and speeds up to an overclocked 3866MHz. There are two PCIe 3.0 x16 slots, one PCIe 3.0 x16 slot (x4 mode) and four PCIe 3.0 x1 slots. There are six SATA 6GB/s ports, two M.2 socket ports with one supporting both SATA and PCIe while the other simply supports PCIe, an Intel based LAN port and a ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A solution.
The Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming arrived at pcG in a smart black box adorned with a colourful (RGB) Strix logo. In addition to the brand names and product name the front of the box also features an image of the motherboard itself along with a handful of logos.
The back of the box shows a large image of the motherboard along with a list of features and specifications. In addition to this Asus have chosen to highlight the following features:
On opening the box we can see that the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming rests in the top of the box in cardboard tray and is further protected by an anti-static bag. Beneath the Motherboard we find another section where we find the associated paperwork and accessories.
In the box, other than the Motherboard itself, we find a User Guide, Strix guide, Quick Start Guide, ROG Cable Labels, 20% off CableMod Cables, a ROG coaster and a Support DVD.
Accessories wise the Motherboard comes with an I/O shield, CPU Insertion Tool, Dual SLI Bridge, M.2 mount, 3-D Printing Mount, x4 SATA cables, dual-band Wi-Fi antenna and an Aura RGB extension cable.
At the time of review, the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming is retailing at Overclockers UK for approximately £200 and comes with a 3 year warranty.
courtesy of Asus
Intel® Socket 1151 for 7th/6th Generation Core™ i7/Core™ i5/Core™ i3/Pentium®/Celeron® Processors
Supports Intel® 14 nm CPU
Supports Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0
* The Intel® Turbo Boost Technology 2.0 support depends on the CPU types.
* Refer to www.asus.com for CPU support list
4 x DIMM, Max. 64GB, DDR4 3866(O.C.)/3733(O.C.)/3600(O.C.)/3466(O.C.)/3400(O.C.)/3333(O.C.)/3300(O.C.)/3200(O.C.)/3000(O.C.)/2800(O.C.)/2666(O.C.)/2400(O.C.)/2133(O.C.) MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Hyper DIMM support is subject to the physical characteristics of individual CPUs.
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DVI-D/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
– Supports DVI-D with max. resolution 1920 x 1200 @ 60 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz *1
Maximum shared memory of 1024 MB
Supports Intel® InTru™ 3D, Quick Sync Video, Clear Video HD Technology, Insider™
Supports up to 3 displays simultaneously
- Multi-GPU Support
Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
- Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8)
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x4 mode)
4 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
Intel® Z270 Chipset :
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE mode only)*2
1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*3
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s)
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*4
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready *5
ROG GameFirst Technology
- Wireless Data Network
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Supports dual band frequency 2.4/5 GHz
ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A
– Dual Headphone Amplifiers
– Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking
– High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input
– SupremeFX Shielding Technology
– Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *6
Audio Feature :
– SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Dedicated audio PCB layers: Separate layers for left and right channels to guard the quality of the sensitive audio signals
– Premium Japanese-made audio capacitors: Provide warm, natural and immersive sound with exceptional clarity and fidelity
– Sonic Radar III
– Sonic Studio III
Wow that’s some aggressive styling, especially the heatsinks around the CPU socket. But I like it. Overall the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming is a good looking Motherboard, the charcoal grey colour scheme fits in well with most Rig builds as there are no accent colours on show (well apart from all of those yellow capacitors). Well, not while the board is powered off anyway, when powered on it looks awesome… 😉
Looking at what I would call the right side of the board and working left to right; in the far left corner we find the first of two M.2 ports, both of which are described in more detail below. Next up we have the six SATA 3 6GB/s ports above which you can see the main chipset heatsink. Next up we find a single USB 3.1 port followed by the main 24-pin power connector. Above this you can see the four DIMM slots supporting DDDR4 RAM with capacities up to 16GB and speeds up to 3866 MHz. Just to the right of the 24-pin connector there are four small LED indicators that sense for CPU, DRAM, VGA & Boot. This is followed by a 3D Printer mount point and a single power LED indicator, that is to the left of the first of four(ish) chassis fan headers. In the far right corner we find the first of two Aura based RGB headers (cable supplied).
On the opposite side (left) we find the main I/O panel (detailed below) on the left. On the right we find the second 3D Printer mount followed by the Supreme FX audio chip and circuitry that’s isolated from the rest of the board.
Looking at the PCIe lanes we see that this ATX Motherboard features seven PCIe 3.0 lanes that are split into three x16 length slots and four x1 length slots. The top one (nearest the CPU) is a x1 slot this is then followed by the first of three x16 slots. Next up we have another two x1 slots, followed by the next x16 slot. Note that when using these two x16 slots both SLI and Crossfire is supported. Next up we have the last x1 slot and the last x16 slot, note that this slot supports x4 mode only therefore triple Crossfire is supported but not triple SLI.
Looking at what is effectively the top of the board we can see that it’s dominated by not only the LGA 1151 socket, but also the vast array of heatsinks and covers that further dominate this corner of the board. Working left to right first up we find two CPU fan headers followed by a rather nicely designed heatsink. This in turn is followed by the secondary 8-pin CPU power connector.
Looking at the bottom of the board and again working from left to right, in the far corner we find those rather yellow capacitors supporting the audio circuitry, that do look a little out of place on this otherwise understated (grey) Motherboard. Next up we find the Front Panel Audio Connector followed by a Serial Port connector. Next to this we find the second of two Aura RGB ports. Next up we find the TPM header followed by the ROG Extension connector. This is turn is followed by a single USB 3.0 header and two USB 2.0 headers. Finally we have the second of four(ish) chassis fan headers and the Front Panel header. NOTE: The other two fan headers are to be found behind the I/O cowl, (top left) in the image above right, but these have been labelled ans set up as high amp fan and pump, specifically with AIO CPU Coolers in mind.
Looking at the back of the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming we can see there’s not much to see other than that lovely black finish. What is worth pointing out though is just how many of the components are screwed to the Motherboard, always nice to see. Also in the image above you can also clearly see the isolated audio circuitry in the top right corner of the board.
Taking a quick tour around the Motherboard let’s first take a look at the main LGA 1151 socket, that’s still the same as the old Z170 based socket. Note the new Z270 based boards still accept the older 6th Generation CPUs such as the 6700K and the 6600K. Also we can see from the image above left that this area is dominated by the heatsinks and the cowl at the back cover the I/O. The cowl itself supports both Aura and RGB illumination and simply looks great when illuminated.
The chipset heatsink (above centre) looks a little odd in my eyes, good but odd. Odd because it would appear (to me that is) that the upper sticky ROG cover seems to be the wrong shape for the heatsink below!?
This latest Motherboard from Asus also supports an updated Supreme FX audio codec. This 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A features: Dual Headphone Amplifiers, Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs, Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel Jack-retasking, High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input, SupremeFX Shielding Technology and up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback. Still not sure about those yellow capacitors though…
One of the best features about the new Z270 chipset is the support for additional high speed storage and the addition of a further four PCIe 3.0 lanes. Asus have put this to good use with this board supporting two M.2 devices both of which are capable of x4 PCIe 3.0 speeds. The first port (above left M.2_1) also supports SATA based M.2 drives as well. These M.2 drives are not only small, but there fast too (if you get the right one) and there’s no additional cabling either. I’m a big fan and really appreciate the fact that there’s two… 😉
Rather surprisingly the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming features just six SATA 3 6Gb/s ports, but I guess this is made up my the aforementioned M.2 ports. Plenty enough for your average Gamer though I think.
A new build was put together to support the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming Motherboard with a new Intel Core i7-7700K Kaby Lake CPU and DDR4 memory in the form of 16GB of G.Skill RipJaws 2400MHz. The following components were also used:
|Case||Cooler Master HAF XB||Power Supply||SilverStone Strider Platinum 750W|
|Motherboard||Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming||CPU||Intel Core i7-7700K (Kaby Lake)|
|CPU Cooler||Noctua NH-U12S||RAM||G Skill Ripjaws 4 16GB|
|Graphics Card||EVGA GeForce GTX 980Ti Classified||SSD||Samsung SM951 512GB M.2|
Installation of the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming was as simple as one would expect helped by a good Motherboard layout and plenty of fan headers. Although I have to admit I would still like to see more of the headers on the edge of the Motherboard and not inbound like Headers H_AMP_FAN and AIO_PUMP.
For this test we will be using one of Intel’s new Kaby Lake CPUs in the form of a Core i7-7700K (above right). This CPU has a default clock speed of 3.8GHz and a Turbo Clock speed of 4.2GHz. Memory remains the same G.Skill DDR4 2400MHz x4 4GB modules. These will use the board’s XMP setting to ensure the 2400MHz speed. The entire Motherboard Assembly can be seen below complete with the Samsung SM951 Pro M.2 drive inserted into the board’s M.2_2 port.
It’s impressive to think that at this point you have a fully working PC, just add power… 😉
Now it’s time for some testing…
For all of our Z270 testing we will be using Windows 10 (DirectX 12), therefore a new installation of Windows 10 64Bit was performed and the following Drivers were installed. The latest Asus Drivers were used and these can been obtained (here). Although the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming has its Drivers and Utilities available on the supplied DVD, we here at pcG try to keep up with the latest Drivers and software where possible.
* The latest BIOS (0701) was downloaded an installed (via EZ Flash within the UEFI) prior to testing.
- Chipset – V10.1.1.38
- On-Board LAN ( Intel ) – V188.8.131.52
- On-Board Audio – V184.108.40.20660 (Sonic StudioIII V220.127.116.11752) BETA!?
- Nvidia Driver 376.33 WHQL
- AI Suite 3 – V1.01.56
The Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming Motherboard booted first time and without issue, which is always a good start. Once into the UEFI I could see that everything attached had be recognized correctly by the BIOS. The new Kaby Lake Core i7-7700K was clocked at 4.2GHz, while the 16GB of G.Skill 2400MHz RAM was running at the default clock of 2133MHz. We can also see from the screenshots above that the Samsung SM951 Pro M.2 drive had also been picked up, although we needed (after prompting by the UEFI itself) to increase the mode from x2 to x4 for optimal performance. NOTE: The SanDisk Cruzer Blade shown in the screenshots was the USB drive I was capturing the screenshots on…
Overclocking the new Intel Core i7-7700K CPU was easy and I was able to get 4.9GHz by just changing three settings in the UEFI. These can be seen above right and they were Ai Overclock Tuner = XMP, CPU Core Ratio = Sync All Cores and 1-Core Ratio Limit = 49. I tried to push for 5GHz and I was close but with high voltages and high temperatures it was not feasible considering my minimal (Air) cooling. But a very good result nonetheless.
- Benchmark Results Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming + Intel Core i7-7700K
|Benchmark||Result||Result OC (4.9GHz & 2400MHz)|
|Rise of the TombRaider||81.47||81.77|
|3DMark Firestrike (Extreme)||8379||8419|
- Benchmark Results Biostar Racing B150GTN + Intel Core i5-6600K @ 3.9GHz +8GB RAM @ 2133MHz
|Rise of the TombRaider||79.68|
|3DMark Firestrike (Extreme)||7885|
- Benchmark Results Asus Sabertooth 990FX R3.0 + AMD FX 8350 @ 4.5GHz + 8GB RAM @ 1800MHz
|Rise of the TombRaider||73.57|
|3DMark Firestrike (Extreme)||7506|
What we can say from looking at the performance metrics above is that this system equipped with an Asus Z270E and a new Intel Core i7-7700K is the fastest system we’ve seen here at pcG. And, while that may be a good thing the difference between this system with this MB and CPU and an older Z170 system with a stock clocked Core i5-6600K is with in reason very small! Even when heavily and impressively overclocked to 4.9GHz the new Kaby Lake system struggles to differentiate itself between the older system, especially when looking at the Gaming benchmarks.
As per usual there’s a whole host of software that can be acquired for the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming, but for the most part it is unnecessary and does nothing more than eat up storage and slow down your Gaming Rig further. There are however two applications that are worth installing and talking about here in this review. The first is Asus AI Suite 3 (Dual Intelligent Processors 5) and the second and maybe the most important is the Aura software that allows for control over the RGB lighting.
Software (AI Suite 3)
AI Suite 3 provides monitoring and control (including overclocking) over your PC and very good it is too. AI Suite itself is a host to various other features like EPU, Fan Xpert , PC Cleaner and EZ Update. Now while these applications are arguably useful the main two that you’ll want to look at are Dual Intelligent Processors 5 and TPU. The former DPI5 provides a good overview of what’s going on, while TPU allows for on the fly overclocking.
Other areas of performance include audio and M.2 performance. Audio performance courtesy of the ROG SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC S1220A was excellent and it was apparent that the dual headphone amplifiers aboard really did help with power delivery. M.2 performance on the other hand was good (READ: 2.24GB GB/s & WRITE: 1.53 GB/s) but not great and notably not quite as good as the Biostar Motherboard recently tested.
Asus has put together a great Motherboard in the form of the new Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming. The Z270E features a good layout a whole host of features, like the dual M.2 ports and probably the best RGB illumination yet seen on a Motherboard. But if you’re looking for a Gaming performance upgrade over a Z170 based system, Z270 is not necessarily the best place to start…
The Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming arrived at pcG in a smart looking black box with a large image on the front showing off the Motherboard’s RGB credentials. In the box other than the Motherboard itself we find plenty to get excited about including a WiFi adapter. In addition to this other notable accessories are the inclusion of a dual SLI Bridge, a 3D Printing Mount and an additional RGB LED extension cable.
Installation of the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming was as easy as one would expect with a regular ATX Motherboard such as this. Overall general layout was good, although I wish there were more fan headers on the edge of the board and not inboard of the edge. Asus have also moved the regular position of a USB 3.0 header from the right side of the board to the bottom. This did not cause me any issues, but it’s worth noting I feel.
The Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming booted first time and within the UEFI I could see that everything was picked up correctly by the BIOS. Our new Intel Core i7-7700K was running at 4.2GHz while our 16GB of G.Skill DDR4 RAM was running at the default speed of 2133MHz. Our Samsung SM951 Pro M.2 drive was also picked up and the speed was set (by me) to x4 mode as x2 is the default. After some initial testing at stock speeds I set about overclocking both the CPU and RAM. With just a handful of tweaks (see main review) in the UEFI I was at 4.9GHz, impressive stuff and I could have pushed a little harder but voltages and temperatures were getting a little too high for my liking, especially as this was on Air!
But if there was an Achilles heel to all of this showcase of new CPUs, Chipsets and GHz it’s the real world Gaming performance that this setup offers. Now don’t be too alarmed when I say that really, when looking at what this MB and CPU combo offers over our Test Rig (Z170 & 6600K), there’s really no difference. Now before you all run off shouting obscenities, just look at the benchmark results and you’ll see what I mean. Only the 3DMark result shows some real gains and this is only due to the fact that it contains some CPU specific tests. As for the Gaming results there’s next to nothing in it. Now this is the problem and it’s not down to this MB or down to Asus and to some degree it’s not even down to Intel. It’s simply down to the fact that we are (in PC Gaming) generally GPU bound most of the time, having more CPU power simply doesn’t help us that much…
Other aspects of the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming that are worth mentioning is the excellent Aura based illumination, that’s the best yet seen on a motherboard. The excellent Audio delivery thanks in part to the twin Headphone amplifiers and the Good but not Great M.2 performance and of course the fact that there’s two M.2 ports.
When looking at the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming on its own it’s undeniably a great Gaming based Z270 Motherboard. The board is well laid out and it’s beautifully put together, there’s a whole host of features including a WiFi adapter, 3D Printing support and great Aura illumination. The only real issue is that when looking at PC Gaming we can build a PC that performs just as well for £100 less, or even £200 less if you include the Core i7-7700K CPU. There in lies the rub…
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Many thanks to Asus for providing this sample for review