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Intel Z270 Motherboard Roundup

With the launch of Coffee Lake, Intel's Kaby Lake products have started the slow march towards exiting the market. But there is still value in the aging platform, and the 200-series chipsets and the associated Kaby Lake processors still offer a lot of performance for your everyday needs.

Intel's Z270 chipsets is the most feature rich solution for Kaby Lake processors. It is nearly identical in every detail to the newer Z370 chipset, but it does not support the newer Coffee Lake CPUs, despite sharing the same LGA 1151 socket. Compared to the other 200-series chispets, Z270 has more HSIO lanes, PCIe lanes, and USB 3.0 ports, and it is the only 200-series chipset that supports overclocking CPUs. The Z270 chipset is also the only 200-series chipset that can divide the CPU's PCIe 3.0 lanes between multiple graphics cards.


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Intel Z270 Motherboards


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Motherboards have dozens of specs that may vary from one board to the next, but there are four key variables that outweigh the rest: CPU, chipset, memory, and power delivery system. Now, depending on your own specific uses, other factors such as the USB support or networking options may be prioritized, but the importance of these other features will vary considerably from one person to the next, whereas everyone should carefully consider the four key variables.

Typically, you first decide if you want to build your new PC around an AMD or an Intel CPU. Next, you'll need to pick a chipset based on its feature set and price. Because this article is focused on Z270 motherboards, we will proceed under the assumption that you've selected an unlocked Intel Kaby Lake processor and the Z270 chipset. If you don't plan to overclock, you may want to consider a lower-end chipset and CPU.

You should also consider the system's memory support. Unless you're building a compact PC, you want to have four DIMM slots to support higher quantities of memory. The maximum memory frequency is also important if you plan to use high-performance DDR4. Officially, Kaby Lake only supports DDR4 at speeds up to 2400MHz, but a Z270 motherboard may support DDR4 DIMMs operating at speeds of 4233MHz or higher.

When selecting a Z270 motherboard, it's crucial to pay attention to the power delivery system, especially if you plan to overclock. An insufficient number of power phases or inadequate cooling can limit your overall system performance and cause the CPU to throttle. In general, a greater number of power phases and larger heatsinks over the MOFSETs, the better. While eight phases is typically sufficient for most, boards with more may produce better overclocking results.

Extended ATX Intel Z270 Motherboards

Reasons to buy

+
3- and 4-way SLI
+
Dual Ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi
+
Enthusiast-class ZxRi audio with three high-end, upgradeable Op-Amps
+
Highest-yet two-DIMM DRAM O/C
+
Great layout
+
No major connector conflicts
+
8 high-capacity fan outputs with auto detection and manual PWM/Voltage selection
+
EK “hybrid” chipset water block equally effective with cross-draft CPU coolers

Reasons to avoid

-
Price
-
Minor performance impact for additional onboard components
-
Minor energy penalty for additional onboard components
-
Port resource sharing in spite of additional switches
-
PCB is slightly oversized ATX

Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9

ATX Intel Z270 Motherboards

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent basic overclocking
+
Several additional features for advanced overclocking
+
Eight 4-pin fan headers, plus a breakout header for a four-fan adapter
+
Supports next-gen USB 3.1 front-panel connections

Reasons to avoid

-
High price-to-features ratio

Asus RoG Maximus IX Hero

Biostar Racing Z270GT9

Reasons to buy

+
Includes high-end X550AT 10GbE networking
+
Includes bonus Intel 600P 256GB M.2 Drive
+
Second (Gigabit) Network Controller is also Intel (for teaming)
+
Ultimate flexibility of six x16 slots providing 8-4-8-4-4-4 lane connections
+
Entire package costs less than the combination of its 10GbE network controller and 256GB SSD

Reasons to avoid

-
The two CPU-fed slots are only two, rather than three, spaces apart
-
Not SLI capable (no license)
-
Not CrossFire validated (this should have been easy for a manufacturer)
-
Three of the four-lane slots steal storage connections (U.2, SATA)
-
Minor firmware bug exposed when using our alternative M.2 SSD as a system drive
-
Mediocre CPU overclocking (at our hard voltage limit, which is heat-constrained)
-
Poor DRAM overclocking when using our samples

Biostar Racing Z270GT9

Reasons to buy

+
Performance
+
Overall feature set
+
Energy efficiency
+
Price

Reasons to avoid

-
No Digital Audio Optical output
-
No POST code display
-
No backup firmware ROM

MSI Z270 SLI Plus

Reasons to buy

+
Great DRAM overclocking
+
Triple NVMe support via dual M.2 plus PCIe
+
Dual Gigabit Ethernet with teaming
+
Added Key E M.2 support for Wi-Fi modules
+
Two extra SATA ports
+
Triple-zone RGB lighting plus RGB output header.

Reasons to avoid

-
Voltage regulator protection limits our Core i7-7700K to 4.60 GHz
-
Dual M.2 shares resources with four SATA ports

ASRock Fatal1ty Z270 Gaming K6

Reasons to buy

+
Triple NVMe support via dual M.2 plus PCIe
+
Added Key E M.2 support for Wi-Fi modules
+
Two extra SATA ports
+
Dual-zone RGB lighting plus RGB output header

Reasons to avoid

-
Mediocre overclocking
-
Mediocre default efficiency
-
Dual M.2 shares resources with four SATA ports

ASRock Z270 Extreme4

Reasons to buy

+
Onboard Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
+
Great memory overclocking
+
Good efficiency
+
Frequent discounts provide purchase incentive

Reasons to avoid

-
Temporary discounts don’t apply to value charts
-
No “extra” slot for a third PCIe x4 NVMe drive
-
No Gen 2 USB 3.1 controller
-
Single-zone lighting outclassed by a different ASRock product

ASRock Z270 Killer SLI/ac

Reasons to buy

+
Supports 3-way and 4-way SLI
+
Includes dual Thunderbolt 3 connections
+
Combines dual Gigabit at 5 Gb/s and Wi-Fi networking
+
Includes right-angle front-panel audio header for better card clearance
+
Triple M.2

Reasons to avoid

-
Requires M.2 adapters to support U.2
-
Reduced-price Wi-Fi rated to only 433Mb/s
-
Mid-tier overclocking

ASRock Z270 SuperCarrier

ASRock Z270 Taichi

Reasons to buy

+
Good Overclocking
+
Dual Gigabit, plus Wi-Fi networking
+
Improved slot configuration flexibility
+
Triple NVMe M.2 interfaces

Reasons to avoid

-
List price places it in a value tie rather than a win
-
Won’t O/C our CPU to the expected 48x 100 MHz (but can do 47x 102)
-
Dual front-panel USB 3.0 headers share the bandwidth of one port
-
No I/O panel USB 2.0 (which are still useful for keyboards and mice)

ASRock Z270 Taichi

Reasons to buy

+
Good CPU overclocking
+
Good efficiency
+
Good software suite
+
Good per-feature value
+
Good Wi-Fi controller
+
Front Panel (Gen2) USB 3.1 connector

Reasons to avoid

-
No diagnostics code display
-
Mediocre DRAM overclocking

Asus ROG Strix Z270E Gaming

Reasons to buy

+
Exceptional DRAM overclocking
+
Great CPU overclocking stability
+
Triple NVMe support via dual M.2 plus U.2
+
Triple NVMe support via single M.2, PCIe, and U.2
+
Dual Gigabit Ethernet with both Intel and Killer controllers
+
Multi-zone LED lighting with LED-strip controller output

Reasons to avoid

-
This firmware revision defaults our Core i7-7700K to fixed voltage operation
-
Odd resource sharing between M.2, SATA, and PCIe requires careful build planning
-
Network Device Teaming not possible with dissimilar Ethernet controllers

Gigabyte Aorus Z270X-Gaming 7

Reasons to buy

+
Great DRAM overclocking
+
Good CPU overclocking
+
Triple NVMe support switches between U.2 and PCIe third interface

Reasons to avoid

-
High-end product price
-
Placing any card in bottom PCIe slot disables the U.2 interface

MSI Z270 Gaming M5

ECS Z270-Lightsaber

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent selection of onboard switches
+
Multi-function 3-character digital status display
+
Dual BIOS with manual selection
+
Conflict-free HSIO resources

Reasons to avoid

-
No loadline compensation (for CPU overclocking)
-
Poor DRAM overclocking
-
Limited fan control options
-
No RGB strip headers
-
Previous-gen audio and USB 3.1 controllers
-
Poor retail availability

ECS Z270-Lightsaber

Mini-ITX Intel Z270 Motherboards

ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac

Reasons to buy

+
High-end integrated Wi-Fi controller
+
Above-average performance
+
Onboard Thunderbolt 3 controller

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor CPU overclocking
-
Thunderbolt 3 controller is half-bandwidth
-
Only one USB 3.1 Gen2 capable port (via Thunderbolt 3)

ASRock Z270 Gaming-ITX/ac

Reasons to buy

+
Inexpensive
+
Dual Gigabit Ethernet
+
Energy Efficient
+
Relatively high CPU overclocking stability
+
Includes support kit for adding your own Wi-Fi mini card

Reasons to avoid

-
Poor availability
-
No Ethernet teaming
-
Requires alternative overclocking methods
-
No 10Gb/s USB interfaces

ECS Z270H4-I

Michael Justin Allen Sexton is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He covers hardware component news, specializing in CPUs and motherboards.
  • samer.forums
    why this round up now ? very few will buy a Z270 motherboard now .
    Reply
  • Crashman
    Not enough data to do Z370 roundup :D
    Reply
  • John Philips
    Where is the Strix z270i , the only itx board with 2 m.2 nvme ssd?
    Reply
  • joz
    Why is inclusion or lack of U.2 ports a consideration on motherboard scoring at all? There's all of ONE SSD in the consumer market that uses u.2 natively - the intel 750 series ( I think, searching for u.2 SSDs brings me nowwhere.)
    Reply
  • joz
    Why is inclusion or lack of U.2 ports a consideration on motherboard scoring at all? There's all of ONE SSD in the consumer market that uses u.2 natively - the intel 750 series ( I think, searching for u.2 SSDs brings me nowhere.)


    If anything, I'd say u.2 inclusion is a negative, as it just adds additional cost to a component of the motherboard that no one is every going to use going forward.

    There's m.2 and there's SATA, and that's it for consumers. u.2 died. flipped, flopped, and then burned.
    Reply
  • samer.forums
    20285161 said:
    Why is inclusion or lack of U.2 ports a consideration on motherboard scoring at all? There's all of ONE SSD in the consumer market that uses u.2 natively - the intel 750 series ( I think, searching for u.2 SSDs brings me nowhere.)


    If anything, I'd say u.2 inclusion is a negative, as it just adds additional cost to a component of the motherboard that no one is every going to use going forward.

    There's m.2 and there's SATA, and that's it for consumers. u.2 died. flipped, flopped, and then burned.

    If you want >2TB NVME SSD your only option is U.2 2.5 inch SSD. and you are mistaken about only one available , Almost all companies offer U.2 NVME SSDs not only Intel.
    Reply
  • joz
    Besides Intel, could you please link an actual for-sale SSD product that has a u.2 interface - and not just a seperate m.2 to u.2 or sata to u.2 adapter or something. I just checked a whole ton of websites, newegg, amazon, crucial, wd, samsung, etc...

    Go ahead, I'll wait.
    Reply
  • samer.forums
    20285665 said:
    Besides Intel, could you please link an actual for-sale SSD product that has a u.2 interface - and not just a seperate m.2 to u.2 or sata to u.2 adapter or something. I just checked a whole ton of websites, newegg, amazon, crucial, wd, samsung, etc...

    Go ahead, I'll wait.

    1- Samsung SSD PM963 U.2

    2- Seagate Nytro XF1440 U.2

    3- Micron 9100 U.2

    4-HGST Ultrastar SN200 U.2

    5- Samsung SSD PM1725a U.2

    the capacity varies upto 6 TB if you can afford paying for it.

    Plus Intel U2 as well
    Reply
  • joz
    PM963 - $800+ for ~1tb
    XF1440 - $700 - 800GB
    9100 - ~$1000 - ~1.2B
    SN200 - $6-10k - ~$1k per ~TB
    PM1725a - $7-15K - 3.2-6.4TB

    And while I concede that there are...some U.2 drives.

    They aren't consumer drives. Were as this article is all about consumer level motherboards.

    I stand by my point that u.2 on consumer level hardware is pointless and shouldn't be scored against for not having.
    Reply
  • samer.forums
    20285944 said:
    PM963 - $800+ for ~1tb
    XF1440 - $700 - 800GB
    9100 - ~$1000 - ~1.2B
    SN200 - $6-10k - ~$1k per ~TB
    PM1725a - $7-15K - 3.2-6.4TB

    And while I concede that there are...some U.2 drives.

    They aren't consumer drives. Were as this article is all about consumer level motherboards.

    I stand by my point that u.2 on consumer level hardware is pointless and shouldn't be scored against for not having.

    depends on your budget buddy ... depends on your budget. U.2 are not meant for cheap drives , and you can use even cheaper motherboards with U.2 as well. no one said the Z series motherboards are consumer level only , you can build a $6000 PC using Z motherboards , actually B chipsets can also have U.2 ports .

    Reply