Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming ATX Kaby Lake Motherboard Review

Asus Strix brings moderate prices to its ROG product series, and the Z270E Gaming adds user-friendly features like 802.11a/c Wi-Fi. Is this the formula for a mid-budget mid-feature overclocking legend?

Strix is a mid-market branding subseries within Asus’s already gaming-branded ROG series, so it really shouldn’t matter if we call the Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming that, Strix Z270E Gaming, or just the Z270E Gaming. And now that everyone knows all the things I might call it throughout the review, let’s take a look at what makes this board special.

The first thing we notice from an oblique view of the ROG Strix Z270E Gaming is the unusual arrangement of its I/O panel ports, followed by the presence of two Wi-Fi antenna ports on the back of Asus’ custom riser. Inside the riser is the venerable Qualcomm Atheros QCFNA364A M.2 Key-E WiFi module, which has been around for a couple years and occasionally gives non-Windows users a little grief until they finally figure out that it uses Qualcomm’s QCA6174A 801.11ac 2x2 (867 mb/s) controller. We also see four USB 3.0 ports (aka USB 3.1 Gen 1), two USB 3.1 (Gen 2) ports, an Intel i219V-fed Gigabit Ethernet port, three graphics outputs, analog and digital-optical audio. More details on these are in the chart above, including the use of ASMedia’s ASM2142 PCIe 3.0 x2 based USB 3.1 controller for the connected Type-C and Type A ports.

Builders also get the new USB 3.1 front-panel cable connector, which is supposed to pass through a signal amplifier on a new generation of cases to provide uncompromised cable length to two 10Gb/s ports. That connector gets its bandwidth from a second ASM2142 controller, and resides opposite the 24-pin power connector from a group of four status mode LEDs.

Zooming out reveals a very traditional layout, with two PCIe x16-length connectors that automatically switch from x16/x0 to x8/x8 modes whenever a card is detected in the second slot. Those 16 lanes come from the CPU’s onboard PCIe controller, and the same two SLI-capable slots are reinforced with four extra heavy-duty pins and two side shields (per slot) to reduce the risk of damage from a heavy graphics card. The slots are also spaced far enough apart to support triple-slot GPU coolers.

Other PCIe slots include four x1 and one four-lane of x16 length, which could theoretically be used for a third graphics card but will more likely be used for a third NVMe drive. The x1 slots directly beneath each of the reinforced x16 slots borrow lanes from the USB 3.1 front-panel controller, preventing the slots and the controller from functioning simultaneously. All of the slots and controller also share a mere four lanes of DMI 3.0 bandwidth to the CPU, due to the limitations of Intel’s Z270 chipset interface.

The Strix Z270E Gaming includes two RGB case fan headers, which are easily identified by their white color above. The front-panel HD Audio header has been moved forward slightly from the traditional bottom-rear corner in order to make more room for audio capacitors, and this also provides a small benefit to builders whose front-panel cables might have otherwise been half an inch too short. I’ve never figured out why it’s so often a mere half-inch difference, but Asus has that much covered on this model.

Most builders won’t have a case designed to use the new front-panel USB 3.1 header, and will instead find their needed USB 3.0 header at the Z270E Gaming’s bottom edge. To the rear of it is Asus ROG_EXT header for use with compatible ROG bay panels, and moving forward we find two USB headers, a fan header, and a revisited dual-pattern front-panel group connector. That last part could be important, because Asus has been the only major holdout over the past decade and a half to not use Intel’s FP-LED, HDD-LED, PWR_SW, and RST_SW layout. If every major company had standardized, we would have had a one-piece connector by now.

The Strix Z270E Gaming includes six PWM fan headers, and all six are switchable to voltage-regulation speed control. A seventh fan header is proprietary with five pins, and compatible with Asus’ four-fan extension hub module.

A look at the ROG Strix Z270E Gaming mini site reveals a page of downloadable 3D models to allow builders to print out a few accessories, such as fan brackets and cable covers. Associated images show the purpose of the various soldered-on nuts that otherwise wouldn’t align to anything.

The Strix Z270E Gaming includes documentation, an applications and drivers disc, four SATA cables, an RGB LED extension, two sticker kits, a CPU holder to help prevent accidental angled drops into the LGA contacts, a magnetic dual Wi-Fi antenna, an HB-style SLI bridge, M.2 drive screws with mini standoffs, mounting hardware for the 3D-printable accessories, and a drink coaster.

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  • DookieDraws
    Wonder why we don't see debug LEDs on more motherboards today, especially on the more pricier boards? I find them useful.
  • Eximo
    I think a lot of it was cosmetic this time. Rather than using something like a small color LCD, they typically use 7 segment displays. On my motherboard that means no matter what I set the RGB colors to, I still have a red display easily visible. I don't think I can turn it off either.

    It would have been neat if they went with a plain LCD with an RGB backlight actually, though I doubt that is commercially available.
  • Stiggy042
    Technically it comes with 2 drink coasters if you count the driver disc.

    Joking aside thanks for closer look at this board, I'll probably end up using it in my next build.
  • Howard_18
    Just got this board, it doesnt POST.
  • Crashman
    2418633 said:
    Just got this board, it doesnt POST.
    You should start a new thread on that in the forums, I bet at least three guys are itching to help you figure out why :)
  • Dazrin
    So, what cases use the new USB 3.1 header?
  • Hellfire13
    One of the best value for money Z270.
  • Crashman
    419188 said:
    So, what cases use the new USB 3.1 header?
    I don't know! I was told Thermaltake was developing one at the end of November but maybe I missed the announcement? I think you'll going to need for "Gen 2" labels, like this:
  • Supporter
    "limitations of Intel’s Z270 chipset interface" I cant stand the limits imposed by intel. Can't wait until there is an all out board with no limits.
  • Celestialode1
    Always an ASUS user yet not a fanboy however MSI seems to have the upper hand unless you're an overclocker
  • Crashman
    2420145 said:
    Always an ASUS user yet not a fanboy however MSI seems to have the upper hand unless you're an overclocker
    It's a solid board but I think it needs to be clear that we're enabling all the CPU's specified "green" features and disabling turbo "enhancements" (fixed turbo ratio) to make sure everyone has an equal opportunity in all the tests.That annoys some manufacturers who are always looking for a way to game the system, but putting all settings on par is a particular benefit to overclockers because they can see that at the same frequency, the same CPU will provide extremely similar performance across most boards.

    Similarly, since everyone has a slightly different definition of what 1.35V is supposed to be, we actually set the DIMM to 1.35V measured at the slot. Everyone understands that a voltmeter reading changes slowly so it's actually an average over a short duration of time, but doing this for all boards gives everyone the same opportunity in overclocking. This annoys MOST motherboard manufacturers because this memory, which is supposed to be capable of DDR4-4000 or more, usually requires more than 1.35V to get there.

    Finally, our CPU reaches a certain temperature at a certain overclock with this cooler. More voltage makes it run hotter, less voltage allows it to run cooler, and we're thus able to verify that the core voltage we set is the one we get, without constantly poking around the rest of the board. We haven't had any problems recently with mid-grade or better boards, all push the CPU to 4.80 GHz at 1.30V. Since there haven't been any problems, nobody should be ticked-off about this stuff, yet some still are (probably carrying over hurt feelings from items 1 and 2 above).

    Hurt feelings are not exclusive to Asus, but your comment reminded me of a recent conversation with my boss.
  • akula2
    Well, as a long term large IT hardware buyer, I recently thrashed Asus Engineering guys (e-mail) for dropping one of my favorite single GPU boards aka ROG Ranger. Those guys made a silly mistake, and I miss my Ranger!