- Packaging & Accessories
- Closer Look
- Want to see it in action? See our video on Youtube
- Bios Tour
- Test Setup and Overclocking
- Conclusion – TL:DR
It’s launch time and we carry on our benchmarks of Kabylake, with a closer look at the ASUS STRIX Z270E GAMING in the first of many reviews. The STRIX lineup has gone through some transitioning over the last year or so. With the move away from only GPU’s, to motherboards and into other areas such as peripherals. With RGB being the big craze in 2015-2016, it’s become one of the trademarks on most, if not all STRIX products recently.
Concerning features, we have support for DDR4 up to 3888 MHz, dual M.2 slots with Intel optane support, front USB 3.1, friendly ports, AURA Sync, The new S1220A audio codec, LanGaurd, 3D printer friendly design and so much more. As always it’s backed with an extensive software suite with a mass of useful tools, to further enhance its performance and usability compared to the competition. The STRIX Z270E GAMING has the looks, features, and a respectable price tag but how does it perform? Read on to find out…
Courtesy of ASUS
Packaging & Accessories
Much like the products themselves, the new STRIX gear is bold and enticing. It’s all about the visuals, and that’s apparent from the packaging too. A real emphasis on the STRIX logo, which is linked directly to their bright and colorful feature set. A clean breakdown of the actual feature set is found on the backside of the box.
Taking a look at the bundle now in no particular order, you’ll find the following:
- I/O Shield
- 4X SATA Cables
- Sticker Label Kit for cables
- User manuals/Quick start
- CPU Install Tool
- M.2 screws
- 3D Printer mount
- SLI HB bridge
- RGB header extension
- A ROG Coaster
- ROG Stickers
- 2T2R Dual-band Wi-Fi Antenna
- Misc documentation
For the price point, this is a very generous bundle.
We start our 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 simple 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 Z270 products are stunning. I didn’t think they could better an already winning design, but ASUS have done just that. While my personal taste leans more towards clean and low key, this is one is rather enticing!
Rather than a plain black PCB. Asus has gone for a mixture of black and grays with an angular pattern along the board. This is further tweaked, with beautiful accents on the new I/O shroud and brushed VRM heatsinks.
Likewise, the new heatsink over the Z270 chipset has branched into a new direction. All about being bold and different with an abstract shape, and more depth than previous versions.
Towards the end of Z170, ASUS launched a few products new lighting around the PCI-E slots, which was interesting for sure but they’ve not included it here on the ASUS STRIX Z270E. For multi-card users, the product will support both SLI and crossfire. ASUS Safe slot has been implemented on the first two slots, granting more strength and support for heavier cards. Which is a must these days, 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 the STRIX Z270, over previous generations. Now sporting the S1220A codec, which brings loads of new tech and features. As usual ASUS back their hardware with optimized and productive software, such as Sonic Radar and Sonic studio to unleash its potential and maximize usability
Remember when SATA Express was set to be the next big thing? No… Many won’t, as it was dead before it hit the ground and it’s sat idle since on lots of Z170 products. ASUS have gone for an all SATA approach, avoiding SATA Express. Instead, offers 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 / U.2]
M.2 took some time to filter into the market, and pricing to adjust accordingly. Now it’s become 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 board this is further enhanced with Intel optane tech. which you can read about
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/ storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
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 has a max of 2280.
ASUS have always provided more than most. The ASUS STRIX Z270E is no different with a total of 6 headers for system or CPU fans
1 & 2. Near DDR4 Banks
3. Above 24 pin POWER
4 & 5. Above PCIe Slots (AIO high amp friendly)
6. Bottom right of board
[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 Display Port
- 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)
2016 the year of RGB. It’s very much a love-hate device, but I must applaud the efforts from ASUS, unlike other brands they been very careful and smart with how and where they implemented the actual lighting. With Some brands, its crystal clear they’ve added lighting to their products just for the sake of having it.
It’s been done right here and on the many other RGB enabled products, dubbed as AURA we know even had certified cases and such to couple up, and to create a spectacular system.
That beautiful heatsink system is unleashed with the new and enhanced software here, and clever feature of AURA is the ability to sync. Meaning you can control your motherboard, GPU, keyboard and mouse all in one single app. ASUS has expanded the effects, and overall it’s much nice application to work with. On this particular board, the lighting is nothing short of brilliant, offering a mesmerizing light show, with tons of control to suit your needs.
Want to see it in action? See our video on Youtube
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
|Intel® 7700K (Kabylake)|
|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 more than the new CPUs from Intel.
We tested using the i7 7700K, which has 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. As was 5100 MHz but the heat was extreme… peaking close to the Tjmax even with a Noctua NH-D15!
Despite all the bad rep geared towards Intel for the rather toasty skylake gen, it would seem they’ve done zero to improve it. Which frankly is shocking…
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.
Pitting the new Z270 again its predecessor the gains are apparent but I want to emphasize that the CPU has a higher clock speed that Skylake, and the bulk of the improvement shown is directly linked to just that
-[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.
As I said above, with a higher clock speed out of the box, the 7600K & 7700K shows strength there.
Looking at the bigger picture from i5 all the wall to extreme i7, the Kabylake CPU isn’t exactly mind blowing, right?
Despite benching with the exact same kit of RAM, results on Z270 are better.
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.
Each new generation of chipset bring improvements, refinements and in turn more speed. Granted it is not much but it’s still an increase
M.2 for sure has been tweaked deliver the best drive scores I’ve seen from our Kingston Predator drive!
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 an 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.
Asus stick to what makes sense, and it does work. They opt to use an Intel Controller, and the number speak for themselves.
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! The new coded deliver great performance
Conclusion – TL:DR
So then conclusion time, over a year has passed since the Skylake launch. Is it time to upgrade? Well difficult to say… I talked at great length about my feelings towards Kaby Lake in this separate review. In short, it’s rather disappointing on the face of it. That said there are some gems under the hood. Particular its ability to overclock, and well. The new memory controller has seen a nudge from 2133 to 2400 and in turn, has allowed partners like ASUS to unlock frequencies of up to 4000 MHz and above. Those of you that want the most from your kit, can rejoice with the STRIX Z270E GAMING. The UEFI is a playground for tweakers. Inside you’ll find many offerings not seen elsewhere. Kaby needs to be tweaked and fiddled with to unleash its potential. A product like this one, is the logical choice to use alongside a 7600K or 7700K
Regarding what ASUS has done with Z270, I’m delighted. Visually this is a stunning product, and it has room to grow thanks to the 3d printer support. You can really make this your own in your next build. The RGB lighting has been implemented in a clever manner. By default, it’s eye-catching but certainly not distracting. As I touched on earlier, ASUS software is unique and so very different. It just works, and the apps are easy to use or resource hogs.AURA is a great feature that has been met with much positivity and can be coupled with the likes of cases and other components.
Pricing is always the talking point when it comes to mid and higher tiered products. I’m not skirting around the very fact some are more expensive. As I’ve shown in the past and it’s echoed again here today. The STRIX is well worth the extra money involved. The board is stunning, the bundle is great, the UEFI is amazing, and performance is solid as a rock. There are many things here you won’t find elsewhere, and for those reasons alone, the pricing is justified.
Thanks to ASUS for sending out the sample for this review.