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Gigabyte Z170-HD3 Motherboard Review

What is a buyer to do after breaking the budget on a new Intel Skylake CPU? Perhaps Gigabyte’s low-cost Z170-HD3 could solve your financial woes...

Layout

The Z170-HD3 doesn’t even have the PCIe pathway switches needed to go from single x16 to dual x8 graphics modes, nor is it locked into dual x8 mode, so SLI certification would have been impossible. Instead, the second x16-length slot is fed by four of the chipset’s PCIe 3.0 lanes, but remember that the total bandwidth of this chipset’s CPU link is already limited to that same 32Gbps bandwidth as the second slot.

There’s also the six-phase voltage regulator, which will limit how much power can go into the CPU and thus prevent insane overclocked frequencies, at least at full CPU load. We’re anxious to see where its power limit kicks in.

All those feature reductions have allowed Gigabyte to significantly shrink the Z170-HD3 below the standard ATX specification — down to 7.8” front-to-back. Slots are still spread across the full ATX slot panel, though.

Proving that Gigabyte takes criticism extremely well, the firm has moved both USB 3.0 front-panel headers to the upper half of the Z170-HD3, where many of its previous products had at least one of those headers situated under a graphics slot. They’ve also slid the front-panel audio header forward by about a quarter-inch, which might make a few of those “too-short” front panel cables long enough.

The M.2 slot is slid up close to the CPU socket, which means that it'll probably be difficult to access with a large CPU cooler installed. We rarely need to access our M.2 slots anyway, so this was probably a good choice. Sliding it this close to the CPU socket means that there’s room for a PCIe x1 slot in the top position, rather than below the graphics card where it would get blocked by the GPU cooler.

Gigabyte was even courteous enough to put SATA-Express connectors on all six SATA ports, though you’ll lose one of those ports if you happen to be using a SATA-based M.2 drive.

Lacking any serious concerns regarding motherboard layout, we turn to the Z170-HD3 installation kit and find no worries again. Gigabyte includes only two SATA cables, but that should be forgivable for any motherboard that uses a Z-series chipset and costs only $115. At this price, the target market has but two drives.

  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    I would easily trade the soon-to-be defunct SATA Express port (real estate and/or extra cost for having them) for 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Type C and/or Type A.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16638546 said:
    I would easily trade the soon-to-be defunct SATA Express port (real estate and/or extra cost for having them) for 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Type C and/or Type A.
    I don't think SATA-E is going away, for the simple reason that it has two SATA ports built-in. People will continue to use off-board drives for a while, and most of that will not be U.2

    Reply
  • Crashman
    16639758 said:
    so, I noticed that at manual book cover have GA-Z170-HD3 DDR3 naming
    could it be that Gigabyte have DDR3 supported on Z170 based mainboard?
    it would be nice to see that substantial information in this article !
    Asus was first I saw to deliver DDR3 Z170 boards to sellers, but that board costs a little more. The price difference is actually more than the difference between 8GB of DDR3 and 8GB of DDR4.
    Reply
  • ykki
    Not that this is a bad mobo but I can almost see it in the medium budget build in the next SBM.
    Reply
  • chaosmassive
    so, I noticed that at manual book cover have GA-Z170-HD3 DDR3 naming
    could it be that Gigabyte have DDR3 supported on Z170 based mainboard?
    it would be nice to see that substantial information in this article !
    Reply
  • 2Be_or_Not2Be
    16638546 said:
    I would easily trade the soon-to-be defunct SATA Express port (real estate and/or extra cost for having them) for 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Type C and/or Type A.
    I don't think SATA-E is going away, for the simple reason that it has two SATA ports built-in. People will continue to use off-board drives for a while, and most of that will not be U.2

    Yes, but who would get something in a SATA Express version when they would most likely get a regular SATA connection for a 6Gbps SSD or M.2/U.2 for a PCI Express version?

    Surely the money spent on incorporating SATA Express - whether its just R&D, firmware, physical connectors, etc. - would be better spent on incorporating something that will actual be useful to the consumer in the future.
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16642997 said:
    16638546 said:
    I would easily trade the soon-to-be defunct SATA Express port (real estate and/or extra cost for having them) for 10Gbps USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, Type C and/or Type A.
    I don't think SATA-E is going away, for the simple reason that it has two SATA ports built-in. People will continue to use off-board drives for a while, and most of that will not be U.2

    Yes, but who would get something in a SATA Express version when they would most likely get a regular SATA connection for a 6Gbps SSD or M.2/U.2 for a PCI Express version?

    Surely the money spent on incorporating SATA Express - whether its just R&D, firmware, physical connectors, etc. - would be better spent on incorporating something that will actual be useful to the consumer in the future.
    ASRock and Asus are implementing the PCIe section for other devices such as front-panel USB 3.1.

    U.2 looks like a far-off proposition for onboard connectors due to its consumption of four SATA ports in a market flooded with single-port drives. I expect that M.2 to U.2 adapters will fill that role for quite a while the persistence of single SATA ports leads to the preservation of SATA-E.
    Reply
  • juanjostorreshernndez
    Newegg $799.99 G.Skill Ripjaws V 16GB DDR4-3600!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    CRAZY, insane price
    Reply
  • zzzxtreme
    hi guys. noob here.

    so, I can just get this motherboard, add some Kingston value ram, and those new Samsung ssd (m.2 slot), a dvdrw, skylake cpu, psu, monitor and I'm good to go ?
    Reply
  • Crashman
    16670408 said:
    hi guys. noob here.

    so, I can just get this motherboard, add some Kingston value ram, and those new Samsung ssd (m.2 slot), a dvdrw, skylake cpu, psu, monitor and I'm good to go ?

    You need a power supply.
    Reply