Does adding 802.11ac Wi-Fi endow a mainstream gaming motherboard with better value?
Is ASRock’s Z270 Killer SLI/ac a one-trick pony, as its name implies? A quick look shows it has only two PCIe x16 slots, although the third slot of competing boards is typically limited to four lanes. The board otherwise appears mostly normal, apart from a gaping blank section on its I/O panel. The board isn’t lacking any primary features, with the expected pair of M.2 connectors, but outside of its Wi-Fi controller this motherboard looks a little basic.
The Z270 Killer SLI's pedestrian design is obvious just by looking at its specs. For example, we don’t even find a Gen2 USB 3.1 controller, and the Type-C connector is simply fed one of the chipset’s 5Gb/s ports. And while we occasionally see readers complain that competing boards have too many ports, it wouldn’t have cost much more for ASRock to provide the rest of us with a pair of USB 2.0 ports on the I/O panel, just to fill it out. Keyboards and mice still use these technologies, despite the protests of the minority.
Yet the only real downgrade we see compared to other $150 motherboards is the older Realtek ALC892 codec, where others typically have the newer ALC1220 codec. Formerly a high-end codec, the money-saving ALC892 is still widely considered good enough for the vast majority of users. If you need an onboard Wi-Fi/Bluetooth controller, or even if it’s just convenient, that’s not much of a tradeoff.
Of course the Z270 Killer SLI/ac isn’t just a $150 Z270 board with Wi-Fi. It’s on a near-continuous discount cycle that can get the board into the hands of many buyers for only $130. And we’ve even seen mail-in rebates on top of that cyclic discount. It’s too bad for ASRock that we don’t use temporary discounts and rebates in our value calculations.
The two long PCIe x16 slots operate in the expected modes: x16/x0 when only the upper slot is filled and x8/x8 when a card is detected in the lower slot. The PCIe x1 slots are open-ended to support longer cards, so a three-card CrossfireX configuration might work, but we can’t think of anyone who would want to CrossFire cards in x8/x8/x1 mode. It’s not even recommended by the manufacturer.
The lack of any four-lane bottom slot and the paucity of third-party controllers means there aren’t many configuration limits resulting from resource sharing. Both M.2 slots share SATA resources with a SATA port, but installing a PCIe-based M.2 card eliminates that issue.
ASRock reduces the number of fan headers to four, and only one of these can be switched between PWM and voltage-based speed control. That one header is upgraded to 1.5A capacity, compared to the 1.0A max output of other three. Other reductions include LED lighting only for the PCH sink, only a single RGB header for case fans, and the board is even cut 8.8” (224mm) deep, down from the ATX standard of 9.6”. That means it won’t reach the third column of standoffs in your ATX case.
Simplicity has eliminated most other potential fitment concerns, though the front-panel audio connector is pushed all the way back into the corner, where the cables of certain poorly configured cases won’t reach. At least the USB 3.0 connector is above the top slot, so that it won’t block any cards.
After carefully considering the plethora of ways ASRock economized the Z270 Killer SLI/ac, we’re pleased to see that it at least includes an SLI bridge; specifically, the HB-style SLI bridge required for GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 graphics cards. Money saved on the board could be put towards graphics, should this model live up to our enthusiast-centered expectations.
Z270 Killer SLI/ac buyers also get a pair of SATA cables, a pair of Wi-Fi antennas, an I/O shield, a driver disc, and full printed documentation.
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