- Packaging & Accessories
- First Look
- Bios Tour
- Test Setup and Overclocking
- Conclusion – TL:DR
ASUS PRIME Z270-A Motherboard Review. Its launch time and we carry on our benchmarks of Kabylake, with a closer look at the PRIME Z270-A in the first of many reviews. You may notice the striking resemblance between this and the Z170-A, and there’s a good reason for that. It was praised and well received by the consumer in 2015, why not take what already works and tweak it?
In terms of features, the board is hovering around the entry level for pricing, and therefore the exotic features have been trimmed away. That said it offers what most really need from a system. DDR4 up to 3866 MHz, 5-Way Optimization, Crystal Sound 3, Dual M.2 with Intel Optane support, Super Speed plus USB 3.1, ThunderboltEX Card support, a new audio codec, and a great deal more.
Packaging & Accessories
A touch of Deja vu for those of us who are familiar, with the Z170-A. The box has seen a mild overhaul to show the new features that Z270 offers.
Taking a look at the bundle now in no particular order, you’ll find the following:
- I/O Shield
- 4X SATA Cables
- User manuals/Quick start
- CPU Install Tool
- M.2 screws
- 3D Printer mount
- SLI HB bridge
- Misc. documentation
For the price point, it’s about right.
We start out tour with a complete top down view, to absorb what’s on offer. As I said in past reviews, I thought Z170 was the turning point from plain and straightforward boards, to something much more appealing to the consumer. The Z170 range as a whole from ASUS was beautifully executed and well designed. The new products from Z270 are even better.
Let’s tackle the elephant in the room, yes it’s basically a lift and reuse design, but I’m ok with that. Because it was then and is now a stunning minimal and practical design. For many, those bold white accents are perfect to match up with some RGB lighting. The high gloss shroud really catches the light.
It’s odd seeing a premium feature on a product that priced at this level. The Z170-A was the go to board for many, and now this will surely take its place.
The Intel Z270 chipset heatsink has had a slight change, with a minimal but intriguing abstract design.
Towards the end of Z170 ASUS launched a few products with lighting around the PCI-E slots, which was interesting. But they’ve not included it on the PRIME. Lighting is implemented directly along the board edge, and can be controlled with Software, or directly in the UEFI. It will add a subtle glow but won’t light up your case
You can build up on the onboard lighting, with the 5050 headers, which can be synced to match the lighting on the board.For multi-card users, the product will support both SLI and crossfire. ASUS Safe slot has been implemented on the first two full-length slots, granting more strength and support for heavier cards, for your peace of mind!
- Supports NVIDIA® Quad-GPU SLI™ Technology
- Supports NVIDIA® 2-Way SLI™ Technology
- Supports AMD Quad-GPU CrossFireX™ Technology
- Supports AMD 3-Way CrossFireX™ Technology
- Expansion Slots
2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (Single at x16, dual at x8/x8
1 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (max at x4 mode)
3 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x1
Audio has been improved on Z270, over previous generations. Now sporting the the S1220A codec, which brings loads of new tech and features.
This CODEC features an unprecedented 113dB SNR linen and 120dB SNR line-out that allows users to stream and record with minimal noise. As well as internal headphone amplify with 2.1Vrms output capability and 600-Ohm high impedance
– Impedance sensing brings you the ability to sense line-out/headphone impedance while installing, and automatically determines the best amplify level for your speaker/ headphone. It’s either “Performance” for 0~50ohm, “Powerful” for 51~109ohm, or “Extreme” for 110ohm
and above. Lower amplify level can protect your low impedance output device from large driving hazard, while high amplify level increase a better driving ability for your high impedance product
Remember SATA Express the next big thing? No… Many won’t as it was dead before it hit the ground and it’s sat idle on lots of Z170 products. ASUS have gone for an all SATA approach, avoiding SATA Express. Instead, offering 6x SATA III 6gbps ports, which are all angled for cable neatness.
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s port(s),
- Support Raid 0, 1, 5, 10
- Intel® Rapid Storage Technology supports
- Supports Intel® Smart Response Technology
M.2 took some time to filter into the market, and pricing to adjust accordingly. Now being a mainstream product, and the desire to use more was apparent. Intel noted this and now offer the ability to run 2x products on a single product.
PRIME Z270-A features two M.2 slots (M key socket 3) with support for both PCIe 3.0 X4 32Gbps standard and SATA 6Gbps standard, supporting both NVMe and AHCI standard as well as compatibility of full spec supporting on form factors from 2242, 2260, 2280 to 22110
– Bringing you the fastest and the most flexible M.2 interface. PRIME Z270-A adopts two M.2 onboard. M.2_1 in supports form factor 2242 / 2260 / 2280 / 22110 in both PCIe 3.0 x4 and SATA mode; while M.2_2 supports 2242 / 2260 / 2280 with PCIe 3.0 x4 mode only.
(M.2_1 shares SATA mode with SATA port 1; M.2_2 shares PCIe x4 bandwidth with SATA port 5,6 )
On PRIME Z270-A the M.2 can be utilized for PCIe RAID purpose and also latest Intel® Optane Technology ready, especially great for those users who like to squeeze out the last juice of storage performance. To use the tech you’ll need a 7th gen Kaby CPU
it will make little no difference to most, but it’s worth noting, that the top slot can take a product up to 2210, while the lower had a max of 2280.
- 1 & 2. Near DDR4 Banks
- 3. Above 24 pin
- 4 & 5. Above PCIe Slots – 1 AIO high amp friendly
- 6. Bottom right of the board edge
[Other ports/ Features]
Along the motherboard base, you’ll find plenty of headers and the actual placement of everything is neat and well thought out.
Finishing up our tour of the board, looking at the I/O which consists of:
- USB 3.1 Type A + C
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
- 2 x USB 3.0
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF out
- 5 x Audio jack(s)
The UEFI bios loads to EZ Mode. From here you have a one-page layout, with readouts and access to the common settings. Rather than trawl through one page to next upon the first install, you can perform everyday tasks, such as setting the boot order, check CPU temps and configure fan curves.
An array of useful tools, such as the EZ Flash application for bios updates, Secure erase and ASUS SPD. Which presents information from your RAM, useful for manually setting timings.
Q-Fan Control, is a nifty little add-on, that allows the user to tweak or auto tune their fans. Finally, the help section is very robust and efficient
Test Setup and Overclocking
Proudly Powered by our Dimastech Mini V1.0 Test Bench
[TECHICIZE TEST SYSTEM]
|Intel® 7700K (Skylake)|
|Memory:||16GB Kingston Kingston Predator 16GB DDR4 PC4-24000C15 3200MHz Quad Channel Kit|
|Video Card:||AMD/ XFX 390|
|PSU:||Bitfenix Fury 750G|
|Hard Drives:||SSD – Kingston HyperX 3k240GB |
M.2 -Kingston M.2 HyperX 240GB
|OS:||Windows 10 X64|
We covered the i7 7770K and other Kabylake products in a much more detailed review, here we’ll be looking at much more than the new CPUs from Intel.
the i7 7700K, has had a mild boost in clock speed over the skylake 6700k, and features the new Intel 630 iGPU
Overclocking is no different to past generations, and with a little effort we set the clock to 5000 MHz, and ran 100% stable. We could NOT bench at 5100Mhz, which we did manage on the STRIX GAMING also from ASUS.
Our test method uses a large variety of software to determine the results and product award. For your viewing, these are broken down into the following categories
- General System
- CPU & Memory
- Storage & USB
- Audio &Networking
We start with a broader view of general system performance and then break it down, as we delve deeper with sub testing, where we can examine key areas.
-[PC Mark 8]
PCMark 8 from Futuremark. PCMark 8 is designed to test the performance of all types of PC, from tablets to desktops. With five separate benchmark tests plus battery life testing, PCMark 8 helps you find the devices that offer the perfect combination of efficiency and performance. It’s the complete PC benchmark for home and business.
The first test we run is PCMark 8, as we’re also able to gauge an all-around score. This test is heavily affected by all internal components rather than focusing on just one.
Nothing major gained coming from Z170 with a 6600K or 6700K. The nudge in performance comes from the higher clocked speed on kaby.
-[Performance Test 8]
Passmark PerformanceTest is an award winning PC hardware benchmark utility that allows everybody to quickly assess the performance of their computer and compare it to a number of standard ‘baseline’ computer systems. Find out if your PC is performing at its best, compare the performance of your machine to similar machines and make objective independent measurements on which to base your purchasing decision.
Pretty much the same again in Performance test, nothing significant in single threaded but other areas do benefit from Kaby and Z270
Cinebench is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.
The boose clock speeds push the scored up naturally.
Despite benching with the same kit of RAM, results on Z270 are better.
This is echoed In Aida, with the better of the scored on both the i5 and i7 setup.
Armed with a Nvidia GTX 1080, how does the new kaby processors affect FPS?
As expected, a few frames gained across our test titles, some games showing more gains than others.
The Z270 offers a little more from M.2 drives.
We don’t have any USB 3.1 (Gen2 ) devices at the time of testing, so will be focusing on 3.0/3.1 only. Be sure to understand the actual difference between USB 3.0/3.1 Gen 1 & Gen 2. As it’s something that not all brands have explained clearly.To measure speeds we use AS-SSD, with an SSD inside a USB 3.0 Caddy from Startech
The Kingston SSD has a theoretical limit of 499MB/s Write, when hooked up internally to a SATA 6GB/s port. Overheads and such we accept that some degradation occurs when used over USB 3.0/3.1
As expected the controllers have matured over time but differences in terms of speed between models, are minimal.
Using the in built network test for Performance test 8. The method is to install the software on two machines, that are on the same network. One acts as a client and the other as a server, a designated amount of data is sent across and then the min, avg, and max transfer speeds are outputted.
The Intel® Gigabit LAN Controller delivers brilliant and solid performance., bettering the more common Killer LAN seen elsewhere
We use RightMark Audio Analyzer, connecting “Line out” to “Line in” with a 3.5mm cable.
|Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB|| |
|Noise level, dB (A)|| |
|Dynamic range, dB (A)|| |
|THD, %|| |
|THD + Noise, dB (A)|| |
|IMD + Noise, %|| |
|Stereo crosstalk, dB|| |
|IMD at 10 kHz, %|| |
|General performance|| |
The Audio quality, as you would expect from ASUS, was fantastic!
Conclusion – TL:DR
So then conclusion time, more than a year has passed since the Skylake appeared. The launch pattern from Intel tends to be predictable regarding what to expect and when. We’ve seen it follow suit since Z68, Z77, Z87, Z97 and Z170. The latter of each series has generally been the better of the two on paper. (not always in reality, though…) While I don’t want to talk about the actual CPU side of things too much, these are so intertwined it’s difficult to escape. We have a separate review on Kabylake, so I’ll just echo what I said there. In short, it depends on your current system, in terms of appeal. If you still rocking Sandy or an Ivybridge, then for sure, Kaby Lake is a viable upgrade. Other users with more recent kit might want to skip this one. Coming from Skylake to kaby means almost nothing to gain, for the major of consumers. That aside, Instead we must focus on what ASUS has done with the Z270 platform
I personally reviewed many Z170 boards, and the ones that close to home was the ASUS Z170A, which I’ve used daily since its launch. It’s proved to be as solid as a rock, and offers exactly what I need. I’m delighted ASUS gas used that as a template to build upon for the Z270 PRIME. Side by side, their almost identical at first glance. Logically SATA Express has been dumped, and dual M.2 ports take its place, also sporting Optane tech. ( which needs a 7th gen kaby CPU!) Audio had been updated, visuals tweaked, and I/O reshuffled. It’s very much a refresh and improvement rather than a whole new product. Fair play to ASUS they had a winning design and have improved it as much as possible.
Regarding performance, again I don’t want to digress and talk about the CPU numbers too much, but the one of importance to touch upon is overclocking. The sample we played with had a limit of 5100 MHz, and this board was able to hold 5000 MHz, all day long. Considering where this product is set to sit, in the market against its more able brothers, that admirable! The ASUS Z170A was the best all-rounder board on the market, for its looks, features, and pricing. The PRIME Z270 will surely be its successor in 2017
It’s the little things that count, and I can’t skip past the BIOS on the board. Again it’s a recycled version, now slightly tweaked and refined. I feel it worth sharing my thoughts again on Z270, as ASUS without a doubt has the best UEFI on the market. Here on the PRIME it’s well laid out, clean and super easy to work with. ASUS offer you a plethora of tweaks and options, not often seen at the price point, so credit to them.
Finally, software is fantastic. I’ll be honest a few years ago, the idea of installing the free software from a DVD would be laughable. Why would you cripple your system with clunky bloat ware right? That’s never been the case with ASUS, and here in 2017, the software is highly tweaked, sleek and frankly brilliant. The applications are well worth installing to maximize your audio experience, and much more.
We would like to thank ASUS for providing the sample, and eagerly await more from them soon.