Intel Core i7-6700K And Z170 Chipset Review: Skylake For Enthusiasts

The Z170 Chipset and Asus Z170-Deluxe

The Z170 chipset is being announced today, alongside Intel’s Skylake-based desktop processors, but there are other 100 series chipsets coming down the pipeline as well. We’ll be able to tell you more about this in the coming weeks. The main differences between the various 100-series chipsets is in their support for things like overclocking, Intel Smart Response Technology, and management and vPro-related features. Some of the chipsets also offer support for flexible PCI Express lane configurations and vary in their number of available SATA and USB ports.

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Z170 Chipset Block Diagram

The high-level block diagram above gives a good visual representation of the Z170 chipset’s main features. Like the previous-gen Z97 (and a few generations to come before it), the new Z170 chipset is essentially an I/O hub, as all of the traditional Northbridge functionality previously found in a Northbridge chip has been integrated into the processor itself. Some of the new features include additional display output flexibility and support for DDR4 or DDR3 memory, depending on the type of processor connected to the chipset. There will be low-power version of Skylake that use DDR3L memory.

We used an ASUS Z170-Deluxe for all of our Skylake testing. As is typically the case with ASUS’ “Deluxe” motherboard, the Z170-Deluxe is absolutely loaded with features. In addition to exploiting all of the features inherent to the Z170 chipset, the Z170-Deluxe offers built-in 802.11ac WiFi and BT 4.0 connectivity, a multitude of SATA 6Gbps ports (8 total, with 2 ports from SATA Express) and an M.2 socket 3. In addition to the on-board M.2 socket, the Z170-Deluxe also includes an add-in card dubbed the “Hyper M.2 X4” which gives users the ability to plug an additional M.2 drive into an available PCI Express slot. An NVMe U.2 adapter is included as well.
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The ASUS Z170-Deluxe

The Z170-Deluxe is also packing its traditional “Dual Intelligent Processors”, with 5-way optimization. These consist of ASUS’ EPU unit, which we’ve covered in the past, and the TurboV processing unit (TPU). The processors work together with the Z170-Deluxe's all digital VRM (DIGI+ Power Control) and give users the ability to monitor and adjust power delivery across multiple sections of the board. According to Asus, the combination of the programmable digital VRM and Dual Intelligent Processors results in superior efficiency and longevity, lower operating temperatures, and quieter fan operation, as well as better power delivery than previous generation products.

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The Z170-Deluxe's Slot Configuration Can Accommodate Multiple GPUs

The Z170-Deluxe Deluxe also supports SLI and CrossFireX support, Crystal Sound 3 with better isolation and power delivery than older products, and ASUS includes a copy of their AI Suite software as well, which gives users easy access to all of the ASUS-proprietary features mentioned here in a single software package. In addition to the aforementioned features, the Z170-Deluxe is also outfitted with an excellent UEFI with one-click overclocking, per-header fan controls, and many of the changes introduced with the 8-series chipsets for Haswell. The updated design and layout of the UEFI on this board is absolutely top-notch. ASUS also offers a few more of their proprietary features like their MemOK! and USB BIOS Flashback, which can help you recover in the event of a bad flash.

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Display Outputs, Wi-Fi, USB 3.1 Ports, Audio, And Dual LAN Jacks

As we've come to expect from Asus, the Z170-Deluxe ships with an extensive accessory bundle, and like other enthusiast-class boards from ASUS, this one is highly tuned for overclockers. Not only is the layout user-friendly, but the board sports heavy-duty passive cooling, integrated power and reset switches, a POST code error reporter, plenty of I/O connectivity (including dual Intel Gigabit LAN controllers and 802.11ac), lighting (including a light on the M.2 socket), and stylized shrouds over the I/O ports and audio circuitry.

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The ASUS Z170-Deluxe's Accessory Bundle

Another standout feature of the Z170-Deluxe is USB 3.1 support with a USB Type C port. There are actually six USB 3.1 ports in total.

Overall, this is one great looking board in our opinion, with a feature set that perfectly targets enthusiasts. In our short time with the board, we found it to be rock solid, stable, and easy to work with. ASUS has done a good job with this one.

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