Intel Z170 LGA-1151 Motherboard Roundup

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Overclocking, Value And Final Analysis

Certain settings, such as multipliers beyond 83x on Skylake, can’t be set in hardware even when available in firmware. Other settings, such as 0.0 volts, won’t give a component any energy to operate. That’s why we take the range of overclock settings for each board with a grain of salt.

Overclocking Frequency & Voltage Settings

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Header Cell - Column 0 ASRock Z170 Extreme6MSI Z170A Gaming M7Supermicro C7Z170-SQ
BIOSL1.01L (07/21/2015)P1.42 (07/23/2015)1.0 (07/24/2015)
Base Clock90-600MHz (62.5kHz)70-290MHz (60kHz)0-655MHz (10kHz)
CPU Multiplier8x-120x (1x)8x-83x (1x)0x-83x (1x)
DRAM Data Rates800-4133 (200/266.6 MT/s)800-4133 (200/266.6 MT/s)800-4800 (200/266.6 MT/s)
CPU Vcore0.90-1.52V (5mV)0.60-2.15V (5mV)0-2.0V (1mV)
System Agent0.95-1.35V (10mV)0.60-2.00V (10mV)1.04-1.73V (1mV)
CPU I/O0.85-1.50V (5mV)0.60-2.00V (10mV)975, 1163, 1315mV
PCH Voltage0.90-1.30V (5mV)N/A1.00-1.32V (~58mV)
DRAM Voltage1.00-1.80V (5mV)0.60-2.20V (10mV)1.20-1.52V (~50mV)
CAS Latency4-31 Cycles4-31 Cycles0-31 Cycles
tRCD8-31 Cycles4-31 Cycles0-63 Cycles
tRP8-31 Cycles4-31 Cycles0-63 Cycles
tRAS28-63 Cycles28-63 Cycles0-64 Cycles

Several sources are reporting “safe” voltage limits for Intel’s Skylake processors from 1.40 to 1.45V, yet I personally have a tough time believing the company's engineers have improved voltage handling to a great extent in a single generation. Lacking the data to show how many months of reliability I could expect under 100% load at those high voltage levels, I stuck with 1.30V

ASRock and Supermicro achieved the top CPU overclocks, though only ASRock was prepared to use our DDR4-3600 memory samples. MSI is somewhat aggressive at firmware development, so we expect the race to tighten as we move on to review more mature products.

Then again, some motherboards use loose tertiary timings to increase memory overclock capability, losing performance in the process. Supermicro appears to lead the DDR4-2933 race only because its board couldn’t adjust timings automatically to increase stability. ASRock seems to lose this race while also leading the DRAM overclocking competition. And MSI’s middle position doesn’t look so bad when its two competitors swap places. Until someone does something extraordinary with their memory configurations, the rightful overclocking crown remains limited to CPU core clock where ASRock and Supermicro are tied.

A performance per dollar chart like the one above doesn’t compensate for the added cost of connectors, controllers and switches needed to turn a basic platform into a high-end motherboard. So MSI’s loaded-up $229 board looks like a modest value compared to ASRock’s more basic part. The question of whether the Z170A Gaming M7’s upgraded Killer e2400 network controller is worth more than the Z170 Extreme6’s extra SATA controller is probably best left to you and your needs. But MSI is very keen on its added Nahimic audio software, extra M.2 interface and one-year premium service upgrade for XSplit Gamecaster. The company's motherboard software is also far more advanced than ASRock’s, and the ASIC required for BIOS Flashback must be worth something. If you’re overclocking with LN2, the Slow Mode switch is invaluable as well. But are all of those differentiators worth $40?

Yes, they probably are. Of course, giving MSI a $40 credit without taking away some points for things that ASRock does right, such as its dual socket-mounted firmware and selection jumper, probably wouldn’t be right. And ASRock did win the overclocking competition.

So who gets the prize? ASRock might, except that I can't really give an award based on overclocking determined through beta firmware. MSI comes up next, except that it probably would have needed a little bit of that beta firmware treatment to overcome its slight overclocking deficit. So at this point, I’m going to reserve any awards for future products and use these $190, $210 and $230 boards as my baseline for comparing the improvements of our next round-up.

ASRock Z170 Extreme6

MSI Z170A Gaming M7

SuperMicro C7Z170-SQ

Update 8-07-2015

ASRock informed us ahead of time that its Z170 Extreme6 would be $180, but the cheapest launch-day price we found was $190 at Newegg. That vender has since lowered the price, as promised, to $180. This cost savings makes the Z170 Extreme6 an even better bargain for value seekers, particularly those who want to heavily overclock their memory.

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Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Cases, Cooling, Memory and Motherboards. Follow him on Twitter.

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Thomas Soderstrom
Thomas Soderstrom is a Senior Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware US. He tests and reviews cases, cooling, memory and motherboards.
  • salgado18
    You i7 is two cores? XD
    (Last paragraph of first page)
  • Crashman
    16403363 said:
    You i7 is two cores? XD
    (Last paragraph of first page)
    Read it again :-) Notice anything about capitalization?
  • danlw
    Glad to see the Extreme 6 I bought from Newegg the other day fared well. Now, about i7 6700K US availability... amazon.DE and both showed the 6700k for sale yesterday... why is the 6700K (and 6600k) MIA in the US?
  • ern88
    No ASUS boards!!!
  • jezzjc
    no ddr3 vs ddr4?
  • Eggz
    Good preliminary data!
  • TechyInAZ
    Those motherboards are cool, looks great!

    No ASUS boards!!!

    No GIGABYTE either!?? :D
  • AdviserKulikov
    Tom's staff,
    Please get rid of the arrows covering the charts.
    -The Readers
  • Calculatron
    ASRock scores another victory!

    It's a shame that Asus and Gigabyte didn't send in a competing board.

    (Dare I say anything about Biostar again?)
  • littleleo
    What no Windows 10? What about testing Skylake and DirectX 12?