Intel released Kaby Lake, a 7th-generation processor architecture, as a successor to the 6th-gen Skylake on January 3rd, 2017. With this they released a series of new motherboard chipsets, the 200 series, with two consumer and three business options.
While Intel’s proprietary motherboards are nothing spectacular, offering only marginal upgrades over previous motherboards and with the most significant changes coming from upgrades to the chipset, here we’ll compare some of the features of various third-party Z270-specific motherboards on the market.
The Maximus IX Formula is the most recent iteration in the Republic of Gamers series of motherboards, and was designed specifically with Kaby Lake processors in mind. It offers a variety of improvements over the Maximus VIII Formula while maintaining the same sleek look – including improved support for water-cooling and additional USB and M.2 slots.
The most significant improvement, however, is the cooling system: the CrossChill EK II, which allows for both water- and air-cooling. The improved water-cooling block offers both an increased flow rate as well as increased surface area in contact with the board – translating into a significant overall increase in cooling efficiency.
Also included are additional aesthetic options: 3D-printing templates are included to offer a greater range of customizability, and the LED system offers a full range of color-control, with nine preset lighting schemes.
While the Maximus IX Formula is not a sweeping improvement over the Maximus VIII, it does offer a wide array of new features and improvements, which places it firmly among the best 270 motherboards.
The Asus Prime Z270-A combines a high-performance threshold without the cost of much more expensive options. Though the Z270-A is in many respects, keeping in line with the history of Intel chipsets, an incremental upgrade over prior models, the Asus Prime Z270-A is still a notable improvement: bigger, better, faster.
The Z270-A Prime is equipped with two M.2 ports, allowing support for some storage options like smaller solid-state drives – this also allows for impressive speed, without having to resort to RAID memory.
Prime Z270-A has six USB ports: four are USB 3.0 compatible, with an additional two being USB 3.1 compatible. It also primarily comes equipped with support for an all-in-one liquid cooling setup, as well as additional support for partial air-cooling.
The Prime Z270-A makes use of Asus’ dynamic 5-way optimization. This system allows the motherboard to read and react to changes in temperature, optimize CPU usage based on real-time usage, and generally get the most out of the CPU.
This motherboard has a wide array of excellent features.
It has multi-point temperature control, monitoring different parts of the board’s temperature and allowing it to react to changes dynamically. Asus T-Topology and OC Pro Clock technology enable it to reach excellent speeds when overclocked. And finally, integrated support for Intel’s Optane Memory modules offer superior boot speed and responsiveness.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 stands somewhere between the more budget-oriented and premium-quality boards in terms of both price-point and capabilities. While it’s not the top of the line, it does its job well at an affordable price.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 board is on the cheaper end of the spectrum of 270 motherboards. It has a customizable design with a sleek black and white look and an LED system that can be set to your preferences or disabled via BIOS.
The ASRock board’s cooling system features a dedicated pump header for liquid cooling, with support for 1.5 amps of power and variable voltage. It also comes equipped with the Purity Sound4 system, which ASRock describes as “a combination of several hardware and software solutions”, with “the latest Realtek ALC1220 audio codec… and other technologies”. These solutions work together to offer the crispest sound possible.
The ASRock Z270 Extreme4 features a variety of storage options, including two M.2 slots for SSDs, two USB 3.1 slots (for both Type-A and Type-C USB devices), and a number of PCIe slots.
Additionally, it comes bundled with Quad SLI HB bridge for compatibility with Nvidia cards, as well as AMD 3-Way CrossFire X. All of these features together make the ASRock Z270 Extreme4 a very flexible yet affordable device.
The Z270X Gaming 5 is another affordable motherboard option for 200-series chipsets.
Like the other motherboards on this list, the Z270X Gaming 5 comes with a number of aesthetic options to add onto its already sleek design. Amongst these is the RGB Fusion system, which Aorus claims is the “most advanced LED system on the market”.
Lights are spread out around the motherboard, including as trim around the edges of the board and under the cooling system, and in some other strategic positions. This system, which can be controlled through the RGB Fusion mobile app, offers a full array of colors and styles which can be changed on a whim through the app.
The lights can be fully programmed, and made to synchronize with music, or change color in response to changes in temperature. On top of that, the Z270X Gaming 5 comes with a number of accent overlays that can be used to add further visual flair to the board, and supports aftermarket RGBW strips with its relocatable RGB pins for maximum compatibility.
The Z270X Gaming 5’s audio quality is also top-notch. The on-board ALC 1220 120dB SNR HD Audio codec offers up to 120 decibel SNR, giving it exceptionally good sound quality.
It also features the Smart Headphone Amp, which detects and adjust sound levels based upon your headset’s impedance, preventing issues like noise distortion and low volume. This board also comes with the Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5 software, a suite of tools designed to allow the user to customize their audio to give them the fullest possible experience.
This motherboard also offers support for up to three NVMe PCIe SSDs – offering exceptionally fast read and write speed that meets or exceeds typical transfer rates. With its two M.2 slots, memory can also be tied together in a RAID schema.
200-series chipset features
While both the H270 and Z270, the two consumer versions of the series-200 chipsets, offer broadly comparable features, the Z270 and its motherboards comes with a few additional bonuses, on top of the general minor improvements made over the 100 series chipsets. These include such things like support for overclocking. The H270 equipment, on the other hand, is cheaper.
Skylake processors are cross-compatible with 200-series chipsets, and vice-versa for Kaby Lake processors and 100-series chipsets. 100-series compatible motherboards can also be rendered compatible with the 200-series via a BIOS update. And being that all of the chipsets and motherboards make use of the LGA 1151 socket, they are all totally cross-compatible, making for a very flexible platform.