Test Settings, Results, And Final Analysis
The Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 is uncontested in both features and price, so we’re instead using the top boards from previous reviews. These include MSI’s Z270 Gaming M5, Asus’s ROG Strix Z270E, and the cheaper Aorus Z270X-Gaming 7. Each board also has a similar range of available overclock settings:
Test System Configuration
|CPU||Intel Core i7-7700K (Kaby Lake): 4.2-4.5 GHz, 8 MB L3 Cache, LGA 1151|
|Sound||Integrated HD Audio|
|Network||Integrated Gigabit Networking|
|Graphics Driver||GeForce 372.90|
Synthetic Benchmark Results
With its additional PCIe component placed between the CPU and graphics card, the Z270X-Gaming 9 is slightly down in graphics performance in 3D Mark compared to directly-connected boards. That really can’t be helped since the “multicast” switch is a requirement for either 3-way or 4-way SLI. More surprising is that the board is also down slightly across PCMark 8’s basic tests, other than Storage, which is the only one that counts towards our final performance totals.
Sandra shows the Z270X-Gaming 9’s CPU performance as perfectly on par, which means that this is a fair comparison, since the only way to gain is to cheat, and the only way to lose is via misconfiguration. Cinebench and Compubench aren’t so happy with its heavily laden configuration, building anticipation for our actual game and real-world application tests.
The Z270X-Gaming 9 surges ahead at the lower benchmark setting of Ashes and F1 2015, which is primarily CPU or DRAM constrained. While the board drops to merely average performance at increased graphics load, we don’t see any serious performance problems in these titles that could be attributed to its added PCIe switch.
Unlike the other games, Metro performance takes a big hit on the Z270X-Gaming 9. I’m not quite ready to blame the PCIe switch, however, since the board’s SBX Pro Studio software includes opponent-tracking Scout Mode. Compare the Z270 Gaming M5, which took a big loss in Talos when its Nahimic audio solution was enabled.
The Z270X-Gaming 9 takes a little longer to complete several tasks, most notoriously the GPU-based Blender render. This appears to be one of the few places where the additional PCIe switch required to enable 3-way and 4-way SLI slightly hinders GPU performance.
Power, Heat, And Efficiency
Gigabyte has been updating firmware to eliminate the formerly-observed fixed-core-voltage behavior (we discussed it first here, under the Power, Heat And Efficiency section), but the added hardware of the Z270X-Gaming 9 still has additional components eating power during its awake-but-idle baseline. Reduced consumption at full load almost makes me wish I had the time to retest its Z270X-Gaming 7 with similar updates. Almost.
The Z270X-Gaming 9’s “hybrid” voltage regulator cooling device does a great job of controlling temperatures even without having a water line connected. Unfortunately, the extra power needed for active devices in our awake-but-idle test puts this high-end board behind its lesser-equipped rivals in efficiency.
The Z270X Gaming 9 matches other boards in CPU overclocking, since any additional frequency would require drastic increases in voltage and cooling. It handily wins two-DIMM DRAM overclocking stability, but falls slightly behind Gigabyte’s own Aorus Z270X-Gaming 7 when four DIMMs are installed.
Performance-per-dollar loses its “value” component when it doesn’t account for the number of installed components. Comparing it to the second-most-expensive Z270X-Gaming 7, we find an extra $80-$100 in controllers including the PEX8747 and ASM1184e, second Killer E2500 and 1535 Wi-Fi, and upgraded ZxRi audio controller. And that’s after retail markup. If we were to guess that the upgraded op-amps and extra audio caps add another $50 and that the enhanced installation kit adds at most $10 in retail value, we’re still looking at a $400 board that sells for $500. The only way a buyer is really getting ahead on value is if that buyer values the water block at full retail price.
Momentarily setting aside the value debate, this board produced the highest two-DIMM overclock I’ve seen and is most likely to become my next DRAM testing platform, since most of the memory I test is two-DIMM kits. I’m also that guy who wrote those odd PCIe, SLI, and CrossFire scaling articles a few years back, and if I wanted to update those I’d choose this board for the obvious reason that it supports more than two cards. At this point, that makes Gigabyte’s Aorus Z270X-Gaming 9 the most likely board I’d choose for testing other components, earning it an Editor’s Choice award.
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