Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 Oversized-ATX Motherboard Review

Featuring Four-Way SLI, Killer DoubleShot-X3 Pro networking, Creative Sound Blaster ZxRi audio, and an EKWB water block covering its 22-Phase CPU voltage regulator, can the Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 design and firmware live up to its lofty specs?

The Triple Quad Miracle?

There isn’t really anything astounding about a high-end motherboard, since it’s technically possible to continue adding features until you run out of ideas, rather than space. The ATX specification is large enough to throw just about any single CPU configuration into, and manufacturers are able to either spread out beyond the standard depth or add more layers of circuits when too many traces are packed too closely together. Gigabyte opts for the former in its Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9, extending the front edge an extra 0.5” (12.6mm) beyond ATX spec to a final 10.375” (263.5mm) depth.

The extra space means that we’re not even witnessing a packaging miracle.

Designed to fit most ATX cases and requiring only the ATX-standard nine standoffs, the Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 is still endowed by Gigabyte with the E-ATX label. This deviation is sure to cause arguments among builders, which is why I’ve brought back my previously-discussed ATX+ label. The + is not an official form factor but instead indicates that this board is larger than ATX, and that builders should actually read the dimensions. Since it’s far closer to ATX than to E-ATX, it’s more accurate to say that it’s oversized ATX rather than undersized E-ATX.

The Triple part (from our section heading above) comes from the three Killer Network controllers that are able to work together as a team, intelligently placing the most demanding apps (usually game packets) on the lowest latency connection and using packet prioritization to assure that they’re first to be processed. In a configuration dubbed Killer DoubleShot-X3 Pro, the controllers include two Killer E2500 Gigabit Ethernet and one Killer 1535 802.11ac, all connected via PCIe. Other rear-panel connections include Thunderbolt 3 over Type-C, USB 3.1 over the same connector, USB 3.1 Type A, five USB 3.0 (aka USB 3.1 Gen1), DisplayPort, HDMI, Digital Optical audio, analog audio, and PS/2 serial.

Audio is provided by Creative’s Sound Blaster ZxRi chip, fed through three upgradable Op-Amps (OPA2134 front, NJM2114 left and right rear), using both Nichicon and WIMA capacitors. A pair of gain switches select 2.5x or 6x for front-panel and rear-panel headphones, and the circuit is Sound Blaster certified by Creative to produce at least a 120:1 decibel signal-to-noise ratio.

Opposite the audio section is the overclocking section, with a set of voltage detection points along the top edge, and a set of buttons along the front edge. The nondescript buttons are CLR_CMOS and Reset, and two digital panels display debug codes and programmable status readings such as CPU temperature. Another set of LEDs indicate initiation of the CPU, DRAM, graphics, and boot process. Also visible in the photo is one of two 2-pin jacks for included thermal sensor leads.

The Z270X-Gaming 9 is packed with M.2 slots, two U.2 ports, and eight SATA ports. Six of those SATA ports are even paired up to a PCIe 3.0 lane for SATA-Express. While all of that connectivity sounds fantastic by Z270 standards, it’s important to remember that all of the bandwidth is shared over a four-lane interface to the CPU. Furthermore, these can’t be filled simultaneously, as the upper M.2 slot steals resources from SATA ports 3 and 4, while the lower M.2 slot shares its SATA interface with SATA port 0. The lower M.2 slot also shares two PCIe lanes with the upper U.2 connector, dropping both to x2 mode. And there’s no free lunch on the two SATA ports added via ASMedia’s ASM1061, since both of those ports share the controller’s single PCIe 2.0 x1 interface.

Around the bottom corner from the U.2 ports, a pair of BIOS mode switches allow users to disable Gigabyte’s dreaded auto-reflash function and instead select manually between two firmware ROMs.

The Z270X-Gaming 9 uses a PEX8747 to repeat the CPU’s 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes to two slots, after which a set of automatic lane switches allows the board to support four cards in x8 mode across its four PCIe x16-length slots. The controller’s “Multicast” function repeats data to two or four cards without running into any bandwidth sharing concerns, since all of the cards in an SLI or CrossFire array require identical data. The same can’t be said for the board’s second PCIe switch, the ASM1184e, which splits one PCIe 2.0 lane across both PCIe x1 slots.

Since most graphics cards have double-slot brackets, four-way SLI configurations typically require eight-slot cases. Two-way SLI is an easier fit, and users benefit from the added space it provides for graphics coolers up to 3.1” (78mm) thick.

Layout concerns are few and minor, such as the front-panel HD Audio header being located in the bottom-rear corner, just barely beyond reach of the cables of certain poorly-configured cases. Placing a graphics card in the lower slot will conceal several switches and headers, but the cables that go to those headers can usually be smashed flat without breaking the connection. Fan cables often have longer plastic ends, but the two affected headers are pushed all the way to the front of the bottom edge. And since the wires of USB 3.0 cables can’t be bent over, those headers are both located above all the expansion cards.

The EKWB water block that covers the CPU voltage regulator and PEX8747 multicast PCIe switch is also designed to work with air-based cross-draft CPU coolers, just in case you don’t have an open loop yet.

The Z270X-Gaming 9 includes a lighted I/O shield, two RGBW case-LED extension cables, an Aorus case badge, a G-Connect front-panel cable clip, HDMI and DisplayPort dust plugs, an alternative LED cover for the motherboard’s forward edge, six SATA cables with braided sleeves, two cable straps, a CrossFire bridge, SLI bridges in HB, 4-way, and 3-way configurations, a Wi-Fi antenna, two temperature monitor cables with thermistor tips, a variety of cable stickers, a “keep out” doorknob card, and a full set of printed documentation.

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  • sillynilly
    Mmmm not so sure here. Not much gain for double the price and SLI when Nvidia is moving away from it? I just don't get the point of this mobo. It has some cool features, but the number one thing listed - SLI - is kind of supported these days?
    2
  • none12345
    Man thats a lot to spend on a 4 core platform.....
    1
  • stairmand
    Hang on, how much! That's just for a motherboard right?
    0
  • spunner5
    "A fool and his money are soon parted"
    0
  • redgarl
    Motherboards are becoming so expensive. They cost the double of what they were costing 5 years ago. So many useless gadget are now offered out of the box that drive the price up. My personal limit was always 200$ and I am going to stick to it. Optimal OC doesn't worth 100$. Better upgrading the CPU at that price.
    1
  • Eximo
    I went with the Gaming 5, it has more features than I need. A distinct lack of accessories in the box I suppose, but I really didn't need anything beyond the board itself. Still thought it was expensive. Might just be inflation though.
    0
  • Phillip Wager
    yeah your money is much better spent on a six core system
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    Mmmm not so sure here. Not much gain for double the price and SLI when Nvidia is moving away from it? I just don't get the point of this mobo. It has some cool features, but the number one thing listed - SLI - is kind of supported these days?
    I'm not sure what you mean by "kind of supported", but this might have been an incomplete expression of a greater thought. And if you're thinking "Three way SLI has been phased out on the most-recent cards, and two-way SLI is supported without the extra components", then you're thinking like a responsible spender.

    It's the top LGA 1151 board for overclocking and testing various configurations, so it wins. If I had to pay for it, I would have likely chosen a lesser board.
    0
  • turbotong
    So Poll - who actually upgrades their motherboard op amps? My motherboard came with the feature, but I don't ever plan to do so.
    0
  • ttt_2017
    I miss the old days when motherboards came without onboard sound ... Today Motherboards come with everything onboard that you almost never use the expansion slots ...

    What is the point of 7 slots when you never use all of them ? I think it is better to let us choose the sound card , the LAN card instead of forcing us to accept what the company put onboard when it comes to 7 slots motherboards (ATX)

    The fun is gone all together.

    IMO onboard components should be on mATX and ITX mobos , because it is hard to add cards .. but for ATX ? make them cheap and let us choose the other hardware parts please. much more better .

    For Example , Creative Z cards used on this motherboard are good , but what If I want Asus Xonar high end card ? and still want this motherboard ? Why pay twice for audio chip ?

    What if I want better Lan chip ? Wifi ? Etc ?

    What is the point in buying a motherboard with 7 slots other than adding hardware of choice ?
    What if I want a better USB3.1 chip ? instead of Asmedia I get Intel ?

    we want High END motherboard (best OC , RGB leds , Best cooling) but Empty as well so we add the hardware we want as we wish. like the old times.
    0
  • Crashman
    Anonymous said:
    I miss the old days when motherboards came without onboard sound ... Today Motherboards come with everything onboard that you almost never use the expansion slots ...

    What is the point of 7 slots when you never use all of them ? I think it is better to let us choose the sound card , the LAN card instead of forcing us to accept what the company put onboard when it comes to 7 slots motherboards (ATX)

    The fun is gone all together.

    IMO onboard components should be on mATX and ITX mobos , because it is hard to add cards .. but for ATX ? make them cheap and let us choose the other hardware parts please. much more better .

    For Example , Creative Z cards used on this motherboard are good , but what If I want Asus Xonar high end card ? and still want this motherboard ? Why pay twice for audio chip ?

    What if I want better Lan chip ? Wifi ? Etc ?

    What is the point in buying a motherboard with 7 slots other than adding hardware of choice ?
    What if I want a better USB3.1 chip ? instead of Asmedia I get Intel ?

    we want High END motherboard (best OC , RGB leds , Best cooling) but Empty as well so we add the hardware we want as we wish. like the old times.
    But if you wanted 4-way SLI, you wouldn't have any slots left. If you wanted 3-way SLI, you'd only have one slot left. And half of the top-model graphics cards I'm seeing have coolers that are just a little more than two-slots thick, so if you wanted to have two of those on a six-slot board, you'd have no slots left. Why only six slots? Because manufacturers figured out way back in the old days that omitting the top slot gave them much more room around the socket, and many reviewers actually PRAISED motherboard manufacturers for doing this because it freed up space around the DIMM latches.

    I was always dubious of leaving out the top slot, because that same idea destroyed the market for slim ATX cases. You know, the ones that used a riser card. In the top slot.
    0
  • razor512
    Everything behind that DMI3.0 connection is going to be massively starved for bandwidth if a user attempts to utilize even half of those features.
    0
  • ttt_2017
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    I miss the old days when motherboards came without onboard sound ... Today Motherboards come with everything onboard that you almost never use the expansion slots ...

    What is the point of 7 slots when you never use all of them ? I think it is better to let us choose the sound card , the LAN card instead of forcing us to accept what the company put onboard when it comes to 7 slots motherboards (ATX)

    The fun is gone all together.

    IMO onboard components should be on mATX and ITX mobos , because it is hard to add cards .. but for ATX ? make them cheap and let us choose the other hardware parts please. much more better .

    For Example , Creative Z cards used on this motherboard are good , but what If I want Asus Xonar high end card ? and still want this motherboard ? Why pay twice for audio chip ?

    What if I want better Lan chip ? Wifi ? Etc ?

    What is the point in buying a motherboard with 7 slots other than adding hardware of choice ?
    What if I want a better USB3.1 chip ? instead of Asmedia I get Intel ?

    we want High END motherboard (best OC , RGB leds , Best cooling) but Empty as well so we add the hardware we want as we wish. like the old times.
    But if you wanted 4-way SLI, you wouldn't have any slots left. If you wanted 3-way SLI, you'd only have one slot left. And half of the top-model graphics cards I'm seeing have coolers that are just a little more than two-slots thick, so if you wanted to have two of those on a six-slot board, you'd have no slots left. Why only six slots? Because manufacturers figured out way back in the old days that omitting the top slot gave them much more room around the socket, and many reviewers actually PRAISED motherboard manufacturers for doing this because it freed up space around the DIMM latches.

    I was always dubious of leaving out the top slot, because that same idea destroyed the market for slim ATX cases. You know, the ones that used a riser card. In the top slot.



    Thanks for your reply ,

    I am not saying cancel the Multi GPU (3 and 4) Motherboards concept with onboard chips .. I am saying give us one FREE OPEN and BEST Quality Motherboard as well .

    That is , when you release a Motherboard like this one reviewed here , make two of them , one for Multi GPU people , and one OPEN and cheap for the rest. but the SAME MOTHERBOARD Quality .. not entry level .

    For example , The Z270 Chipset has 24 lanes ...

    I would expect an Empty motherboard like this :

    Slot 1 : X4 PCIe to Z270
    Slot 2 : X4 PCIe to Z270
    Slot 3 : X16/X8 PCIe to CPU
    Slot 4 : X4 M2 to Z270 (so 2 slots GPU can fit)
    Slot 5 : X16/X8 PCIe to CPU
    Slot 6 : X4 M2 to Z270 (so 2 slots GPU can fit)
    Slot 7 : X8 PCIe to Z270

    as you see this configuration takes advantage of ALL 16 CPU lanes , and ALL Z270 24 Lanes , while giving you x8 slot , and two X4 slots and two X4 M2 slots... 24 total !!!

    and no one needs stupid X1 pcie slots ... X4 can take x1 cards ... putting x1 slots means not all Z270 lanes are connected !!! and means no USB3.1 cards , no Multi LAN cards , etc

    As for the spacing you talked about , it is easy to solve ,

    Once there is not much onboard devices , the Back I/O will be VERY SMALL and TINY , the whole I/O Space can be used for space around Dimm Latches !!!

    in an Empty Motherboard the i/o Area moves to the SLOTS .

    or if you insist on 6 slots only for space , cancel slot 1 or make it another M2

    This is the Motherboard I want to see ...

    where I can use ALL the 24 lanes of the chipset and choose any hardware I want. PLUS 2 dual slots GPU !!!

    people who want 3 and 4 GPU are almost 0.1% .... they can have their expensive Motherboard ...

    Edit : Actually using this idea , by eliminating the back i/o ports andmoving them to slots , they can make DUAL XEON ATX motherboard as well with ease and more DIMM SLOTS on a small ATX motherboard instead of EATX or EEATX . that is 4 dimms per Xeon , dual xeons , no need for narrow sockets , proper cooling , AND on ATX only
    0
  • ttt_2017
    Anonymous said:
    Everything behind that DMI3.0 connection is going to be massively starved for bandwidth if a user attempts to utilize even half of those features.


    Yes and no ...

    the point here is that you have more hardware in the system, not to use all the hardware at the same time...

    I doubt any one can use all the DMI3.0 connection bandwidth at once continuously ... and if one needs that he can move to X99 platform and get 40 lanes CPU.
    0
  • sillynilly
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Mmmm not so sure here. Not much gain for double the price and SLI when Nvidia is moving away from it? I just don't get the point of this mobo. It has some cool features, but the number one thing listed - SLI - is kind of supported these days?
    I'm not sure what you mean by "kind of supported", but this might have been an incomplete expression of a greater thought. And if you're thinking "Three way SLI has been phased out on the most-recent cards, and two-way SLI is supported without the extra components", then you're thinking like a responsible spender.

    It's the top LGA 1151 board for overclocking and testing various configurations, so it wins. If I had to pay for it, I would have likely chosen a lesser board.


    Thank you, yes - that's why you get paid for your thoughts!
    0
  • Nintendork
    So for the same price you can get an R7 1700 + Asus X370 Pro motherboard, cpu that blows the 7700K and also the 6850K out of the water, pretty much a 6900K.

    z270 and x99 are dead platforms, 4 core + HT cpu's are peasant level that do not worth more than $150. Why pay $500 for an obsolete platform????
    -1
  • ttt_2017
    Anonymous said:
    So for the same price you can get an R7 1700 + Asus X370 Pro motherboard, cpu that blows the 7700K and also the 6850K out of the water, pretty much a 6900K.

    z270 and x99 are dead platforms, 4 core + HT cpu's are peasant level that do not worth more than $150. Why pay $500 for an obsolete platform????


    Z270 and X99 are no way dead ... All what Intel needs to do is lower their prices and it is coming soon.

    AMD is just pricing their products right ... Intel has a CPU ready already for each of the AMD CPU ... and even better , Intel has a 10 cores i7 as well that can be priced around $700 to take the lead.

    here is what I am expecting :

    1- i7 7700k : $250
    2-i7 6800K : $350
    3-i7 6900K : $500
    4-i7 6950X : $700
    0
  • daglesj
    To be honest as an enthusiast I would love a board that actually strips a lot of things off so we can have better electrical isolation and better traces. More resources for the core components and less stuff to fail or interfere.
    0
  • jrhansen
    Also all these onboard accesories, like 4 way Sli, 3 networks, creati.. crap sound, M.2 u.2 and 8 Sata slots.
    Board makers need to be realistically.
    The people that chooses these boards are not idiots, and have no need of 8 Sata slots and 3 networks that will never reach their full potential because of bus sharing
    I would honestly rather have a sturdy board with just 1 U.2 and 4 Sata that were all able to run at full speed.
    These boards are only for people that like to boast thatthey have too much money. And the test shows that it, overall is slower than most of the other boards based on same chipset, and cost almost 3x as the cheapest ones...
    1
  • WhyAreYou
    Quite expensive I'd say
    0