ASUS Z270-A Prime Review
The Z270 motherboards are finally here and, more importantly, the date after which we're allowed to let you see them has also passed. Hopefully you've all had a great Festive season and have just about got rid of the New Year hangover. We've been super busy as you can see, so without further preamble let's get down to business.
As the Intel chipsets have been refined to a metaphorical high-gloss sheen, so the ability of a motherboard manufacturer to make theirs stand out is much more a case of the components used, the additions made, and the raw aesthetics of the board itself than it has ever been. Long gone are the days when the chipset did the barest minimum and add-on chips played a massive role in what a motherboard could do. Now with so many USB, PCI and even LAN techs forming part of the chipset, it's in the sauce rather than the meat of the dish that the differences will be found.
The Z270-A Prime feels like an old friend, despite being at the very cutting edge of motherboard technology. Those of you who remember our Z170 reviews will know that we started those with the Z170-A and it found itself regularly at the top of our graphs even until the end of our time with it. With plenty of motherboards offering a variety of different takes upon the Z270 concept we have to start somewhere as our baseline model, and the Z270-A Prime is our chosen model.
Of course we're not suggesting that it's not worthy of serious consideration. After all, as we've said, its predecessor ended up being one of the best performers of the previous generation. It's rather that this is the plain model in the ASUS range, not being equipped with either the Strix nor the Republic of Gamers branding, but just the simple ASUS stylings.
Don't let that dissuade you though, as we're about to find out the Z270-A Prime has everything you need to leap on the Kaby Lake train.
For a few generations now Intel chipsets have been a serious of incremental evolutions rather than wholesale sweeping revolutions and the Prime Z270-A is no exception. Many of the specifications and features are things we've grown accustomed to in the last iteration, but in keeping with the evolution theory they are all bigger, better, faster, more. The same can be said for the unique ASUS technologies, with an endless cycle of refinement bringing their enormous development capabilities to bear.
To cherry pick a few examples of this ethos, the Prime is equipped with two M.2 ports. M.2 drives have quickly established themselves as the go to storage option for those who want the very fastest speeds without resorting to RAID, and so increasing the amount available from one to two makes perfect sense. Rear USB ports are now solely of the USB 3.0 type, and additionally the Prime Z270-A has a couple of USB 3.1 ports, should you have a high bandwidth device on hand. Lastly the markets move away from air coolers towards All-In-One (AIO) CPU cooling solutions is demonstrated by the dedicated AIO pump header on the motherboard, something which crept into the high-end Z170 motherboards but now appears on the standard - if such a word can be used - Prime.
We know you're itching to take a look, and we know that there is a lot of Kaby Lake content to get through, so let's move on to seeing the Z270-A Prime in the flesh.