Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 Reviewccokeman -
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Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 Introduction:
Over the years, I have looked at a wide selection of Gigabyte motherboards. One of my all time favorites had to be the X48-DQ6 back in 2008. Since that time, we have seen chipset and CPU launches year over year with fully capable options from Gigabyte's product stack. Gigabyte's product stack includes the GSM series (Gigabyte Stable Model), Ultra Durable series, G1-Gaming, and Overclocking series boards. Each has its target audience, with the Ultra Durable line being one that targets the mainstream user base. The GA-Z170X-UD5 is part of the company's Ultra Durable line-up as a feature rich motherboard designed for long term stability. Features include 2oz copper layers, dual M.2 slots for up to 32 Gb/s worth of data throughput, USB 3.1 with Type C connectivity, dual Intel Gigabit LAN, and more. Currently priced at $169 after rebate, the Z170X-UD5 is very price competitive. Let's see if the performance delivered makes this a great value.
Gigabyte Z170X-UD5 Closer Look:
Scanning the front panel of the packaging, the partnership with Blizzard and Gigabyte is evident - Gigabyte is the exclusive motherboard partner for BlizzCon. Heroes of the Storm branding dominates the front panel, but you get a wealth of other data to chew on as well. More specifically that this motherboard is part of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable series, is built for use with Intel 6th generation Core series processors, and USB 3.1 connectivity. The back side of the box hits on the USB 3.1 connectivity, but also talks about the pair of Gen 3 x4 M.2 drive sockets that deliver up to 32 Gb/s data transfer speeds per connector. Further down you get into the Ultra Durable specifications, showing the board is equipped with 2oz copper layers in the PCB, Durablack solid capacitors, and the stainless steel shielding on the 16x PCIe slots. Opening up the box shows the board is kept in an anti-static bag sitting in the top enclosure of the box. Underneath you get a good look at the accessory bundle included with the GA-Z170X-UD5.
The accessory bundle at times can make or break the motherboard if you don't get what is needed to get the hardware up and running. Thankfully, Gigabyte has us covered with the bundle. A comprehensive manual, driver and software disk, multi-lingual installation manual, Heroes of the Storm "Do Not Disturb" door tag, Gigabyte Ultra Durable Case badge, and a product registration one-pager that puts you in the running for Gigabyte hardware and exclusive Heroes of the Storm content. The hardware included is pretty much standard for a mainstream motherboard these days: a painted I/O shield that identifies the ports; an SLI bridge connection, if you choose to run a pair of NVIDIA GPUs in an SLI configuration (CrossfireX is supported); four SATA 6Gb/s cables; dust plugs; and a feature I have not seen before, the G-Connector. Much like the ASUS' Q-Connector and MSI's M-Connector, the G-Connector is used to make connecting the front panel plugs an easy process. Where the G-Connector differs is that the cable plugs actually lock into the G-Connector instead of pushing onto pin extensions on the ASUS and MSI solutions. It's an interesting take on the function.
Gigabyte's GA-Z170X-UD5 is built for use with an Intel 6th generation Core Series processor like the Core i7 6700K I am using for my testing. The board has a gold and black theme that looks quite good. At the heart of this board is Intel's Z170 PCH, which manages board functionality. It seems that the layout is standard for the mid range Z170 based boards I have looked at so far. Where Gigabyte differs from most is the use of 2oz copper layers in the PCB to improve signalling through the traces, remove more of the generated heat from the onboard components, and increase the voltage that the traces can support.
Starting the walk around the board at the I/O panel, we get to see that Gigabyte offers up a mix of connectivity options. From the left are a pair of USB 2.0 ports stacked over a PS/2 mouse/keyboard port. Followed up are a DVI-D port and DisplayPort 1.2 port, which supports 4K resolutions at 60Hz. A pair of Intel-controlled Gigabit LAN ports that support teaming are used for maximum throughput. Underneath the LAN ports are a Type C USB 3.1 connection on the left and a USB 3.0 port in blue on the right. Next are a pair of USB 3.0 ports with an HDMI 1.4 port underneath so you can use up to three separate displays. Audio connectivity includes an Optical S/PDIF output and the analog connections for the Realtek ALC 1150 High Definition 7.1 audio solution.
Expansion capabilities include three 16X PCIe Gen 3 ports that support up to 3-way CrossFireX and 2-way SLI multi-GPU solutions. These slots run at 16x x 8x x 4x when populated. Additionally there are four PCIe 3.0 1x slots for additional devices. The bottom 16x slot shares bandwidth with the M2H_32G connector. When a disk drive is connected, the 16x(4x) slot will become unavailable for use with any devices. One of new Ultra Durable bits on this board is the use of PCIe Shielding that provides up to a 1.7x increase in shear strength and an up to 3.2x improvement in socket retention strength to support the onslaught of heavy video cards. Cards like my Devil 13 R9 290X would be a prime example of this. Down the edge of the PCB are the shielded Intel Gigabit LAN controllers and the Amped-Up Realtek ALC1150 codec. Gigabyte is using an Audio Guard path to protect the audio signalling through the PCB. This pathway is lit and can be set up to blink or pulse with music. Nichicon audio capacitors are used to improve audio quality.
Along the bottom of the PCB, connectivity starts with the front panel audio header that hides the S/PDIF header, a serial port header, Thunderbolt add-in card connection point, Trusted Platform Module connection, a pair of USB 2.0 headers, the SB button for use when switching between the pair of 128Mbit flash ROMs, a fan header, and the front panel connection that is used in conjunction with the G-Connector.
A pair of M2H_32G connections are used between the 16x PCIe slots and support Socket 3, M key, type 2242/2260/2280 SATA and PCIe x4/x2/x1 SSDs. Additional drive connectivity from the Z170 PCH includes three SATA Express connectors that can be broken down into six SATA 6Gb/s connectors, which offer support for RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 10. The furthest right connectors are controlled by an ASMedia® ASM1061 chip and only supports AHCI mode. Further up the board is a SATA power connection that is used to provide additional power to the PCIe slots when multiple graphics cards are installed. Behind this power plug is a USB 3.0 header for added front panel connectivity. A 24-pin ATX power connection supplies power to the board. Up to 64GB of DDR4 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 memory modules are supported on this board. ECC and Non-ECC UDimms are supported, but run in Non-ECC mode. At the top right of the PCB are the Quick buttons. The big red button is the main onboard power switch, while the Eco and OC switches set predefined clock speed profiles. The OC Profile sets a modest 4.4GHz overclock. Behind these two buttons are the Clear CMOS button (white) and the reset button (black).
Across the top edge of the board, you normally do not get a lot of added connectivity outside of the CPU fan header. In this case, right above the DIMM slots are some voltage check points to validate the applied voltages. A pair of fan headers are next, including the CPU fan header and the optional header that can be used with an All-In-One liquid cooler to control the pump. Under the heat pipe interconnected VRM heat sink are some of the ultra-low ESR 10K Black capacitors that make up the power control circuit. An 8-pin EATX power connection is followed up by another 4-pin system fan header.
Built around the Z170 PCH for use with Intel 6th Generation Core series processors, this board is equipped with an LGA 1151 socket. As part of Gigabyte's Ultra Durable design, the pins in the CPU socket and DDR4 DIMM sockets get a 15-micron thick layer of gold plating that should prevent any corrosion from ruining your day. Surrounding the socket is a pair of heat pipe interconnected heat sinks using an all new design that is said to improve cooling performance under load. The Z170 PCH is also covered with a matching heat sink to improve thermal performance. Gigabyte looks to be using an 11-phase power circuit for the CPU in this board.
Looking at the hardware on its merits, it looks like the GA-Z170X-UD5 is set up to be a very solid and dependable board that should last you a while based on the work that Gigabyte has done on the Ultra Durable feature set. Dependability is great, but how does it really perform when put through its paces? That's the question that still needs answering.