Asus has lifted the veil off of its Z170 Express motherboards, which are available starting today at various retailers. The Signature Series Z170 motherboards offer support for Intel’s Skylake processors and employ the Z170 Express chipset, and they feature robust overclocking capability as well as USB 3.1 and M.2 PCIe SSD support.
Asus included a dedicated microprocessor with all Signature Series Z170 boards that helps tune the board for maximized stability. The bundled 5-way optimization software works with the microprocessor to automatically work out the best overclock, by optimizing the fan speeds, power delivery and CPU frequency.
Signature Series motherboards have traces built with Asus T-Topology technology, which Asus said reduces crosstalk and coupling noise with high frequency memory clocks. T-Topology improves stability by ensuring that signal transfer is time-aligned. Asus said this works at all frequencies, allowing for speeds upwards of DDR4-3733 MHz with all DIMMs populated.
Asus Z170 Signature Series boards make use of Asus’ Pro Clock technology. Asus said Pro Clock is a base-clock (BCLK) generator that allows for overclocked base-clock frequencies as high as 400 MHz and beyond. This technology works hand-in-hand with Asus' TurboV Processing Unit (TPU) for voltage and TPU control. Pro Clock technology is designed to help reduce boot times and increase stability at high base-clock frequencies.
Asus has made some changes to the UEFI for the Z170 Signature Series. You can now monitor SMART status on SSDs as well as perform a secure erase from inside the UEFI. A new feature called GPU POST has been added that lets you check on your GPU. EZ Flash 3 has also been integrated, allowing for easy updates through the Internet. The company said it has put a lot of focus into making the basic mode intelligently automate many advanced features, while letting advanced uses tweak what they want.
With overclocking a priority, cooling is also important. All Signature Series motherboards include fan controls that are paired with onboard thermal sensors. Each header is designed to react to different temperature diodes. All fan headers support 3-pin and 4-pin PWM or DC fans with hardware level control. Asus has also included a dedicated pump header that supports both DC and PWM pumps. This header is set to run at full speed by default, but it's also fully adjustable. Asus is also offering an optional accessory that provides three additional PWM headers with temperature probes. The Asus Fan Extension Card is available separately.
Signature Series motherboards come equipped with Crystal Sound 3, featuring separated left and right audio channels with independent shielding and electromagnetic protections for each side. Asus said it has designed a de-pop circuit and new power pre-regulator that help limit input power noise. An amplifier and premium capacitors are also included.
Asus bundled an Intel Ethernet adapter with LANGuard hardware-level protection and support for Turbo LAN packet prioritization. The Deluxe version also includes a 3x3 802.11ac WiFi adapter that also includes support for Turbo LAN.
The Asus Z170 Signature Series motherboards include a number of cutting edge connectivity technologies. Most Signature boards have support for USB 3.1, both Type-A and Type-C connections, and M.2 x4 PCIE Express 3.0, with support for NVMe SSD drives.
Asus has made sure that there is a board for everyone in this lineup, with eight different variants available. The Z170M-PLUS and Z170M-E D3 fill out the mATX options. The PLUS features six SATA ports, with one SATA Express, as well as a single USB Type-C port. The Z170M-E D3 board has eight USB 3.0 ports but does not include a Type-C connector. It also only supports four SATA ports and lacks a SATA Express port. This board is also limited to DDR3-3100, whereas the Z170M-PLUS supports DDR4-3466.
There are six ATX variations of the Z170 Signature boards. The Z170-P D3 is the ATX version for the Z170M-E D3. It lacks the USB Type-C and SATA Express ports and uses DDR3. The Z170-P supports DDR4-3466 MHz, and substitutes one USB 3.0 Type-A for a Type-C port. It only has four SATA ports, and it doesn’t have SATA Express support.
The Z170-K features DDR4 support, a single SATA Express port, and six SATA 6 Gb/s ports. It also features two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, along with five USB 3.0 ports (one of which is Type-C). The Z170-AR adds support for PCIe RAID. The Type-C USB port on this board is USB 3.1. The Z170-A has the same features as the AR model, with the addition of DVI-D and VGA ports.
Rounding out the top of the lineup is the Z170-Deluxe, which has support for DDR4-3733 MHz and includes eight SATA 6 Gb/s ports and two M.2 ports, as well as 3x3 dual band 802.11ac WiFi. The Deluxe also offers five USB 3.1 Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, and five USB 3.0 ports. The top board also includes a bundled Hyper Kit U.2, which provides the second M.2 slot. The Hyper Kit is an optional extra for the Z170-A, AR and K models.
New to this generation, Asus has included 256-color LED's on each Signature series motherboard. The lighting can be adjusted to suit any build, and can be set to represent CPU load or pulse to the beat of music.
You can check out our Intel Skylake review here.