ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING/AURA Review. Today on the bench is a Z170 motherboard from ASUS. Sporting an all black/gray design, it is perfect for any consumer theming a sleek rig. The aura lighting is an interesting take on the current RGB phase, which matches many other ASUS products. Feature-wise, it’s rich with the likes of 2 way SLI and Crossfire, USB 3.1 (type C), M.2, and DDR4 frequency up to 3466 MHz. For those eagled eyed out there, this is indeed a new revision of the the original. The standout element is the 3d printer add-on support, allowing you to customize and make the product 100% unique!
[ASUS Z170 PRO GAMING/AURA Main Features]
- LGA1151 socket for 6th-generation Intel® Core™ i7 / Core i5 / Core i3, Pentium® and Celeron® processors
- Dual DDR4 3466 (OC) support
- True gaming aesthetics: 3D-printing friendly and Aura RGB lighting
- Easy and stable overclocking: Pro Clock technology, 5-Way Optimisation and 2nd-generation T-Topology
- SupremeFX: Flawless audio that makes you part of the game
- Sonic Radar ll: Scan and detect your enemies to dominate
- Top-speed protected networking: Intel Gigabit Ethernet, LANGuard and GameFirst IV
- RAMCache: Speed up your game loads
- Ultra-speedy transfers for faster gaming: USB 3.1 Type-A/C & M.2
- Gamer’s Guardian: SafeSlot, highly-durable components and smart DIY features
Courtesy of ASUS, see FULL specifications[nextpage title=”Packaging & Accessories”]
The new ASUS packaging has had a rethink, moving toward a super clean design. With a real emphasis on the lighting, around the back, the vast array of features are precisely detailed.
Taking a look at the bundle now in no particular order, you’ll find the following:
- Velcro Strap
- I/O Shield
- 4X SATA Cables
- Sticker Label Kit
- User manuals/Quick start
- CPU Install Tool
For the price point, it’s about right. Comparing it, to the competition this is more enticing
The first impressions are great; this is exactly the kind of board I’ve been hoping for! Finally, a board that ticks all the boxes, simplistic, low key and dark! Sure, that’s been done before, but they tend to be on the cheaper boards, and the end results average. Not here, this has been styled to perfection. The amount of black and greys are immense, and that’s exactly what I and many others want. The silver accents are low key, and don’t spoil the design.
The trace lines along the PCB are a nice touch, and the heatsinks blend well, the Intel Z170 heatsink, is made up with lots of accented, and hard edges. The two-part heatsink over the MOSFETs is a unique approach, with an aggressive and oversized feel.
Plenty of choice on this board for the graphics card setups.
- 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
SupremeFX 8-Channel High Definition Audio CODEC
– Supports : Jack-detection, Multi-recording, Front Panel Jack-retasking
– High quality 115 dB SNR stereo playback output
Audio Feature :
– SupremeFX Shielding™ Technology
– Optical S/PDIF out port(s) at back panel
– Sonic Radar II
Geared towards gamers, clues in the product name!. ASUS have gone for an all SATA approach, avoiding SATA Express, which let us face it..is dead already
- 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]
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3, with M Key, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (both SATA & PCIE mode)*1
An interesting design element is a 3D printer friendly feature. Shown above is the M.2 cover, for those that don’t intend to use any drive!
A total of 5 headers for system or CPU fans
1 & 2. Near DDR4 Banks
3. Near 24 pin POWER
4. Above PCIe Slots
5. Base 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.
- 1 x USB 3.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 2 USB 3.0 port(s) (19-pin)
- 3 x USB 2.0 connector(s) support(s) additional 6 USB 2.0 port(s)
- 1 x M.2 Socket 3 with M Key design, type 2242/2260/2280/22110 storage devices support (Supports both SATA & PCIE SSD)
- 1 x COM port(s) connector(s)
- 6 x SATA 6Gb/s connector(s)
- 1 x CPU Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
- 1 x CPU OPT Fan connector(s) (1 x 4 -pin)
- 3 x Chassis Fan connector(s) (3 x 4 -pin)
- 1 x 24-pin EATX Power connector(s)
- 1 x 8-pin ATX 12V Power connector(s)
- 1 x Front panel audio connector(s) (AAFP)
- 1 x System panel(s)
- 1 x Thermal sensor connector(s)
- 1 x CPU OV
- 1 x Clear CMOS jumper(s)
- 1 x 5-pin EXT_FAN(Extension Fan) connector
- 1 x ROG extension (ROG_EXT) header(s)
- 1 x 14-1 pin TPM connector
Finishing up our tour of the board, looking at the I/O which consists of:
- 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x D-Sub
- 1 x DisplayPort
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
- 1 x USB 3.1 (red)Type-A
- 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
- 4 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Optical S/PDIF out
- 5 x Audio jack(s)
ASUS has added lighting along the right edge of the PCB. It’s not the same caliber as the implementation the ASUS X99 we recently reviewed. That said it does offer a subtle glow, which is what most prefer in my experience anyhow.
Test Setup and Overclocking
Proudly Powered by our Dimastech Mini V1.0 Test Bench
|Intel® i5 6600K (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|
In a nutshell, we have 4 physical cores, DDR4 and DDR3L support, a new IGPU in the form of Intel® HD Graphics 530, the 14nm architecture, and a base clock of 3.5 GHz, which can boost to 3.9 GHz
After so many Z170 reviews, I just want to jump in and talk numbers today. Our CPU has a limit of 4800Mhz. we hit that target and held stability with no issue.
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.
PC Mark shows this board, as one of the strongest we had in for review!.
-[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.
Fantastic results here
AIDA64 Extreme Edition is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for home users. AIDA64 Extreme Edition provides a wide range of features to assist in overclocking, hardware error diagnosis, stress testing, and sensor monitoring. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory.
Strong results again, from the product, tailing the Maximus HERO
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.
Superb 6600K result in cinebench
The 3000Mhz kit performs well, placing where I expected it would
Different testing methods show the RAM in a better light with Performance Test 8.
We tested a selection of games, and the product delivered brilliant performance, narrowly missing the top spot! For the price point, this is unprecedented.[nextpage title=”Storage & USB Results”]
Almost top of our charts, with SATA III speed.
Both Read and Write performance on the Z170 PRO GAMING/AURA are strong,
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® I219V, 1 x Gigabit LAN Controller delivers brilliant and solid performance.
We use RightMark Audio Analyzer, connecting “Line out” to “Line in” with a 3.5mm cable.
The Audio quality, as you would expect from ASUS, was fantastic!
|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|| |
[Conclusion – TL:DR]
So then conclusion time, almost a year has passed since the Skylake launch. Availability of actual processors was low, and motherboard choice at launch, somewhat underwhelming. In turn, there just wasn’t that massive surge of interest that we tend to see with a new lineup. Over time the CPU prices have settled, as has the RAM more so. Back when DDR4 launched, the asking price was hard to digest. Now in mid-2016, they’re almost giving it away. Ok slight exaggeration… on a serious note, the upgrade prices from AMD or even older gen Intel kits, are now at the sweet spot. As with past chipsets, we have the entry, mid and high-end. This product sits at the mid-range level but borrows features from a product of a higher caliber.
Before we even talk performance, we have to chat about the visuals. ASUS have taken an existing product, that was fine and gave it a spit and polish. RGB is at the heart of everything in 2016, and rather than give it the full treatment, that we’ve seen on like of X99. This offering is somewhat timid, but still, it ought to please most. Visually nothing has changed a great deal, and I’ve no issue with that, as the design was solid beforehand. The decision to drop SATA express was the right move, and the new 3D Printing support is super impressive. Offering the consumer the much-needed bridge between an idea and reality. Those with no intention of using M.2 could make use of that section and add your rigs name of whatever you want. Those feeling more adventurous ought to take advantage of the 3d Mounting points and then go nuts. See here and here for the templates and discuss the possibilities
We would like to thank ASUS for providing the sample, and eagerly await more from them soon