Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 Motherboard Review
* TAKEN FROM: 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 be looking at the second Z270 based Motherboard in the form of the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1. This is an Asus board from the TUF series and therefore it comes equipped with a 5 year warranty and it somewhat obviously supports Intel’s latest 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs. The Motherboard itself 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 three 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 and two Intel based LAN ports. While a Realtek® ALC S1220A 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 3 provides the on-board audio solution.
The Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 arrived at pcG in a smart black box with the front of the box sporting an outline image of a section of the Motherboard hiding within. In addition to the brand names and product name the front of the box also features the Aura logo as well as highlighting this TUF board’s 5 year warranty.
The back of the box shows a small image of the motherboard on the left along with an image of the rear I/O and various feature highlights: Intel Dual LAN, TUF Fortifier, TUF Detective 2 and TUF Components. In addition to this there’s a basic set of specifications (see Specifications/Features below) and Asus have also chosen to highlight the following:
On opening the box we can see that the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 rests in the top of the box in cardboard tray and is further protected by an anti-static bag. Also on the left in the top of the box is an additional accessories box. Beneath the Motherboard we find another section where we find the rest of the associated paperwork and accessories.
In the box, other than the Motherboard itself, we find a User Guide, 5 Year Warranty Notice, Certificate of Reliability, a TUF Inside sticker (barely visible in the image above left), Support DVD and 20% off CableMod Cables.
Accessories wise the Motherboard comes with x4 SATA cables, I/O shield, Dual SLI Bridge, Q-Connector, M.2 mount and a CPU Insertion Tool.
In addition to this hiding away in the box at the top we find all of the associated TUF accessories. This comprises of five PCIe covers and a vertical M.2 bracket.
At the time of review, the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 is retailing at Overclockers UK for approximately £218 and comes with an impressive 5 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 MHz Non-ECC, Un-buffered Memory
Dual Channel Memory Architecture
Supports Intel® Extreme Memory Profile (XMP)
* Refer to www.asus.com for the Memory QVL (Qualified Vendors Lists).
* The maximum memory frequency supported varies by processor.
Integrated Graphics Processor- Intel® HD Graphics support
Multi-VGA output support : HDMI/DisplayPort ports
– Supports HDMI with max. resolution 4096 x 2160 @ 24 Hz
– Supports DisplayPort with max. resolution 4096 x 2304 @ 60 Hz
Maximum shared memory of 1024 MB
DP 1.2 Multi-Stream Transport compliant, supports DP 1.2 monitor daisy chain up to 3 displays
- 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 (max at x4 mode)
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
1 x M.2 Socket 3, , with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (SATA mode & X4 PCIE mode)*1
1 x M.2 Socket 3, , with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280 storage devices support (PCIE mode only)*2
6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s), gray
Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
Intel® Rapid Storage Technology 15 support
Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology*3
Intel® Optane™ Memory Ready *4
Intel® I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller(s)
Intel® I211, 1 x Gigabit LAN
ASUS Turbo LAN Utility
Realtek® ALC S1220A 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC featuring Crystal Sound 3
– Impedance sense for front and rear headphone outputs
– Internal audio Amplifier to enhance the highest quality sound for headphone and speakers
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-streaming, Front Panel MIC Jack-retasking
– High quality 120 dB SNR stereo playback output and 113 dB SNR recording input (Line-in)
– Front panel audio connector (AAFP)
– Supports up to 32-Bit/192kHz playback *5
Audio Feature :
– DTS Connect
– DTS Headphone:X
– Audio Shielding: Ensures precision analog/digital separation and greatly reduced multi-lateral interference
– 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
– Unique de-pop circuit: Reduces start-up popping noise to audio outputs
– Power pre-regulator: Reduces power input noise to ensure consistent performance
Separate layer for left and right track, ensuring both sound deliver equal quality
Slowly but surely over the years I have warmed to Asus’ TUF boards and this is by far the best I’ve ever seen. In fact it’s so good that I’m tempted to say that I prefer it to the recently reviewed Strix board (Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming), but shh don’t tell anyone. Seriously this has to be the best built motherboard I’ve ever seen it’s not just TUF it is real tough; in a battle with a tank this Motherboard would win! And, most importantly of all this new TUF Motherboard looks better than ever too… 😉
Looking at what I would call the right side of the board and working left to right; in the far left corner we find four chassis fan headers, nicely placed on the edge of the board. Above that covered and held in the place by a single screw is the cover that hides one of two M.2 ports. Next up we have the six SATA 3 6GB/s ports above which you can see the main chipset heatsink hiding behind all of that TUF Armor. Inbound of this there are also five LED indicators for sensing (SB_PWR, BOOT_DEVICE, VGA, DRAM & CPU). To the right of this we find two further fan headers followed by the first of two USB 3.0 connectors and 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 OC. Just to the right of the 24-pin connector cleverly hidden under the plastic armor there is in fact a Mem_OK button, although after years of seeing these on Asus boards I’m still unsure as to what it’s really there for.
On the opposite side (left) we find the main I/O panel (detailed below) on the left. On the right we find nothing other than a large swathe of Thermal Armor, that logically hides the Realtek ALC S1220A audio solution etc.
Looking at the PCIe lanes we see that this ATX Motherboard features six PCIe 3.0 lanes that are split into three x16 length slots and three 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 x1 slot, 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 last x16 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 all of the Thermal Armor and the vast array of heatsinks and covers that further dominate this corner of the board and it looks great too. Working left to right first up we find a dedicated pump header and two further CPU fan headers and after a couple of capacitors we find an additional fan header. This in turn is followed by the secondary 8-pin CPU power connector. Total number of fan/pump headers is equal to ten, now that’s impressive and the most I think I’ve ever seen.
Looking at the bottom of the board and again working from left to right, in the far corner we find those rather yellow (that actually works quite well on this TUF board) capacitors supporting the Realtek audio circuitry. Next up we find the front panel audio connector followed by a Aura illumination header and a dedicated on-board power button. This in turn is followed by a single Thunderbolt header and a TPM header. Next up we have the second of two USB 3.0 headers and two USB 2.0 headers. Then we find the second of the two M.2 connectors, which is (as you can see) vertical and is supported by the supplied bracket. Now while it is nice to see that Asus have tried to include an additional M.2 bracket I’m unsure as to whether I would want to use a vertical bracket as it’s easily knocked and its aesthetic is well, a little odd! In the far right corner we find the extended front panel header that can be used with the supplied Q-Connector, always nice to see these.
Looking at the back of the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 we can see that not only do we have a lovely black PCB but there’s also a ‘TUF Fortifier’ here too. This further protects the back of the Motherboard and also adds further rigidity to the board. It kind of looks cool also…
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. As you can see from the image above left the socket area is dominated by this TUF board’s Thermal Armor. Note that the Thermal Airflow (see top embossed logo) is supported by an additional 40mm fan (not supplied) and that TUF board logo left of the socket not only illuminates but also supports Aura and RGB also.
By removing the two screws at the back of the board that sit above the I/O you can gain access to the area within. It is here you can fit the aforementioned additional 40mm fan (not supplied) to further aide airflow within this area. It’s seems a little odd that Asus have gone to the trouble of designing this feature but fail to supply an appropriate fan, especially considering the cost of the board…
Rather surprisingly the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 features just six SATA 3 6Gb/s ports, but I guess this is made up my the two M.2 ports. Plenty enough for your average Gamer though I guess.
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 horizontal port (above right M.2_1) also supports SATA based M.2 drives as well. The vertical port (that I’m not so keen on) only supports PCIe. What I really like though is the fact that this connector and its associated device can be hidden beneath a TUF Armor cover, especially as these devices are often not the best things to look at… 😉
A new build was put together to support the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 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 TUF Z270 Mark 1||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 TUF Z270 Mark 1 was as simple as one would expect helped by one of the best Motherboard layouts I’ve seen and a plethora (that’s ten) of well placed fan/pump headers.
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. A you can see from the image above right our test Samsung SM951 M.2 SSD fitted nicely inside the covered area and once covered over you’d never even know that it was there which is great as the SM951 is not what you’d call a looker! The entire Motherboard Assembly can be seen below.
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 TUF Z270 Mark 1 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 ) – V184.108.40.206
- On-Board Audio – V220.127.116.1162
- Nvidia Driver 376.33 WHQL
- AI Suite 3 – V1.01.57
- Asus AURA – V1.04.09
The Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 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.
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 (again) but with high voltages and high temperatures it was not feasible considering my minimal (Air) cooling. But still a very good result nonetheless.
- Benchmark Results Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 + Intel Core i7-7700K
|Benchmark||Result||Result OC (4.9GHz & 2400MHz)|
|Rise of the TombRaider||80.90||80.35|
|3DMark Firestrike (Extreme)||8389||8644|
- 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 TUF Z270 Mark 1 and a new Intel Core i7-7700K is just as fast (well maybe a little faster) than the last Z270 Motherboard we tested. 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 within 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 TUF Z270 Mark 1, 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 and the second is the Aura software that allows control over the motherboard’s RGB illumination.
Software (AI Suite 3/Aura)
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 TPU, Fan Control, Thermal Radar 2+ and EZ Update. Now while these applications are arguably useful the main one you’ll want to take a look at is TPU as this provides you with the ability to perform on the fly overclocking.
The Aura software allows for control over the Aura lighting aboard not only this Motherboard but also further connected illumination, connected via the Aura RGB socket aboard the MB. The illumination provided by the board, that’s hidden beneath the TUF logo just below the CPU socket is simple at best but works well enough. There’s full RGB control and there’s a handful of simple effects on offer also.
Other areas of performance include audio and M.2 performance. Audio performance courtesy of the Realtek® ALC S1220A 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC was pretty good but not as good (when using a Headset) as the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming tested previously. M.2 performance on the other hand was better (READ: 2.25GB GB/s & WRITE: 1.60 GB/s) slightly better than the Z270E board.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 is the best TUF Motherboard that Asus have produced to date. Yes in many ways it is very similar to the Z270E , but for me it is somewhat surprisingly, simply more desirable. Not only is it a super modern Motherboard packed with features it’s also not like any other board I’ve seen. That makes it more than just another Z270 board, that makes it special…
The Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 arrived at pcG in a smart looking black box with an outline image of the TUF series Motherboard hiding within. In the box other than the Motherboard itself there’s a whole host of accessories mainly thanks to the additional PCIe covers that is somewhat synonymous with Asus’ TUF motherboards. In addition to this and among other things there are four SATA cables, a Q-Connector, Dual SLI Bridge and a CPU Insertion tool.
Installation of the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 was as easy as one would expect with a regular ATX Motherboard such as this. I would have to say that for me the layout of the board is probably the best I’ve seen with ten fan/pump headers dotted all around the edge of the board. In addition to that we have the ability to fit an additional 40mm cooling fan (not supplied) and an covered M.2 port that’s simply genius in my mind and one of my favourite aspects of the board. That 40mm fan though should really be in the box if you ask me…
The Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 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. 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 a new Z270 based 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…
Now while the Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 shares many similarities with the recently tested ROG 270E Gaming, this board albeit more expensive I think is the better option. As simply put this TUF board is like no other I’ve seen and as soon as you get the board out of that anti-static bag you’ll know what I mean. It’s just so well made and it’s better to look at than every other TUF board I’ve seen. It’s also got a slightly better layout than the Z270E, probably due to the fact that almost all of the headers have been forced to the edge of the board by the TUF armor. Ok, so the on-board audio doesn’t seem quite as good and it’s shame that one of the M.2 sockets is vertically mounted but to be fair I can live with those minor niggles.
Performance of the new Intel Kaby Lake CPU and any new Z270 based Motherboard may not be a big deal for us Gamers. But this new Asus TUF Z270 Mark 1 is a very special Motherboard in my opinion and it earns itself a special place in my heart (yes I really do like it that much!). It also earns itself a much deserved Gold award.
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Many thanks to Asus for providing this sample for review