ASRock, Biostar, Gigabyte, MSI H170 Motherboard Round-Up

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Biostar Hi-Fi H170Z3

Our second Biostar review sample—the Hi-Fi H170Z3—is a micro-ATX board.

The codec is the ALC892, the same as on the previous Biostar sample. It has been bolstered by a variety of superior supporting components and shielding, however, such that Biostar claims a 110dB S/N ratio for it. That is pro quality, so if sound quality is important to you, this board may be to your liking for this reason alone.

In the box, you get the board, a pair of SATA cables (more would be nice) and an I/O plate as hardware accessories. The manual measures 8 1/4 x 5 13/16 inches, like the previous example, and is staple-bound, so it will not lie flat. Available languages appear to be the same: English, German, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Russian and Arabic. There is of course a driver CD.

There appear to be seven VRM phases under those heat sinks, based on the number of chokes. The battery won't be blocked by a graphics card. I'm not sure why, but two of the SATA ports are broken out from the others, and are to the immediate left of the ATX power connector. These ports are not the ones that will be disabled if the M.2 slot is used; two if it's in PCIe x4 mode, and one (a different one) if it's in SATA mode.

In addition to the high-quality audio components, this board uses an Intel NIC, the I219V. Worth noting is that although the Hi-Fi H170Z3 has four DIMM slots, you'll only be able to use two of them at a time, either the DDR3L or the DDR4 slots, but not both. This does give you considerable flexibility, although it limits the maximum amount you can install. Later tests will look at both types.

Once again, I was unable to obtain BIOS screen shots—the board locked up each time I tried.

Joe Trott is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews motherboards, specializing in budget Intel chipsets.