ASUS Z170-A RushKit Review
ASUS Z170-A Review
ASUS Z170-A Review
In the past Intel produced reference motherboards, which was very useful when it came to reviewing Intel's latest and greatest new CPUs, after all Intel would obviously know how to make a good motherboard for their own CPUs and that motherboard would therefore set a great standard for other manufacturers to follow.
Now this is not the case, as Intel has wound down their motherboard manufacturing, meaning that we had to source our own motherboard for which to review our first Intel Skylake CPUs.
A lot of though goes into the first motherboard which you use to review a new CPU, after all it becomes the benchmark by which all motherboards after it will be compared, so we decided to start off our review of Intel's Skylake CPUs with ASUS' Z170-A motherboard.
At first you many wonder why we wouldn't try Skylake with the best and most expensive motherboard we could find right out of the gate, but the answer is simple, why use a top of the line motherboard for your reference review? Everyone will be looking at this review to see what they can expect from Intel Skylake, and not everyone can afford such premium product. From the get go we wanted our reference review to be done on a motherboard which the majority of Z170 users can afford. Sure bigger and better boards are out there, but without comparison to something simple how can we say if it is good or worth the additional cost.
At the price of £116.99 the Z170-A is sure to impress anyone new to Z170.
While we do say that the ASUS Z170-A is a basic Z170 motherboard it is by no means lacking in features, when compared to similarly priced last generation Z97 motherboard the Z170-A has the majority of them beat hands down, with several new features like rear USB 3.1 and USB Type-C ports, M.2 connectivity with PCIe 3.0 lanes and a powerful digital 8-phase power delivery system.
Being a fairly basic motherboard, one would not expect it to look as great as it does, taking away the black and gold aesthetic of it's Z97 counterpart and instead opting for a very nice looking white, grey and black look, which makes this motherboard look much more expensive than it actually is.
What really sets this motherboard off is the white shroud which covers the rear IO, adding a lot of additional volume to the board and covering up the otherwise ugly rear IO section of the motherboard. This shroud is also seen on this motherboard's bigger brother, the Z170 Deluxe, giving this board a similar look and feel to it's much more expensive Deluxe counterpart.
When it comes to storage connections that Z170-A has more than enough to get by, with a single M.2 connector to connect ultra fast NVMe SSDs like the Samsung SM951 and plenty of SATA 3.0 ports for everything else. While this motherboard does not have the same number of SATA or SATA Express ports as other more premium boards, the Z170-A has more than enough for almost any basic user. How many people do you know who uses more than 9 different storage devices?
Moving to the rear IO you see something that looks fairly basic, but you would be wrong. On this rear IO there are two USB 3.1 ports, one of which is using the new USB Type-C connector, which was pretty much non-existent on motherboards until a few months ago, giving this highly affordable motherboard a nice new toy which is almost exclusive to Z170.
Alongside our two USB 3.1 ports we have two USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports, along with a PS/2 port, all your basic Audio ports and a wide range of connections to your CPUs integrated graphics which include HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, DVI and VGA.
When it comes to overclocking this motherboard is no slouch, enabling us to achieve some very impressive overclocks from both our i5 6600K and our i7 6700K.
With Intel Skylake BCLK overclocking is back, which when combined with traditional Intel multiplier overclocking has allows us to achieve overclocks which are well above the average that we would expect from the last generation Haswell or Devils Canyon chips.
On our i5 6600K we managed to overclock our chip all the way to 4.75 GHz, with a memory speed of 3300MHz and on our i7 6700K we managed to get a little higher, achieving an overclock of 4.8GHz with a memory speed of a mindblowing 3600MHz.
The biggest thing to note from this board, and overclocking on the Skylake platform in general is that Baseclock overclocking is back, meaning that achieving your maximum overclock will be a much more difficult task then when using most other modern Intel CPUs. This will mean that it will require much more time and effort to achieve your chips best overclock, but it will most certainly be worth it when you see how capable an overclocker Intel's Skylake is.
When looking at a new CPU platform, motherboards are always the unsung heroes of the day, providing us with all the tools we require to get the most out of the latest releases from both AMD and Intel. Without them we would not be able to overclock and without them we could never use or test an other piece of kit.
When we learned just how capable this bargain of a motherboard was, we simply couldn't let it fade into the background o our main Intel Skylake review, so we felt it was appropriate to also give this motherboard it's own dedicated review in order for it to simply get the credit that it deserves.
Overclocking wise this motherboard is very capable, bringing our i7 6700K to 4.8GHz with 3600MHz memory and our i5 6600K to 4.7GHz with 3300MHz memory which is not exactly a small feat. When comparing Intel Haswell to Intel Skylake we see that Skylake is a big improvement, gaining higher CPU overclocks, much higher memory overclocks and doing so while delivering higher IPC (instructions per clock) than it's last generation counterpart.
Skylake has proven itself to be a very capable CPU, both at stock and when overclocked and the ASUS Z170-A provided us with a fantastic user experience throughout our time testing with it.
For the bargain price of £116.99 this motherboard is no doubt a fantastic choice for anyone looking to jump on socket 1151, it looks great, overclocks well and has all the connectivity and features that you would expect from a board on Intel's flagship chipset. For these reasons the ASUS Z170-A is receiving the OC3D Gold award.