The Asus Prime Z270-A & GIGABYTE Z270X-Ultra Gaming Motherboard Reviewby E. Fylladitakis on July 18, 2017 10:45 AM EST
Asus Prime Z270-A Board Features
This particular design from Asus appears to be an attempt to entice the bulk of advanced users, gamers and overclockers alike, by attempting to combine practical features, RGB lighting, and advanced configurability. In order to keep the retail price competitive, Asus’s engineers did not install any features and/or technologies that are of little interest to the average user - such as those that currently display very low adoption rates like SATA Express and U.2 connectors. On the other hand, we can see that the engineers are focused on boosting the primary selling points of the motherboard.
|Asus Prime Z270-A|
|Warranty Period||3 Years|
|Memory Slots (DDR4)||Four DDR4
Up to 4133 MHz
|Memory Slots (DDR3L)||None|
|Video Outputs||HDMI 1.4
|Network Connectivity||Intel I219-V|
|Onboard Audio||Realtek ALC1220|
|PCIe Slots for Graphics (from CPU)||2 x PCIe 3.0 (x16/x0, x8/x8)|
|PCIe Slots for Other (from PCH)||4 x PCIe 3.0 x1
1 x PCIe 3.0 x16 (max x4 mode)
|Onboard SATA||Six, RAID 0/1/5/10|
|Onboard SATA Express||None|
|Onboard M.2||2x PCIe 3.0 x4 or SATA, RAID 0/1, NVMe|
|USB 3.1||1 x Type-A on back panel, ASMedia ASM2142
1 x Type-C on back panel, ASMedia ASM2142
|USB 3.0||4 x Rear Panel
2 via headers
|USB 2.0||6 via headers|
|Power Connectors||1 x 24-pin ATX
1 x 8-pin CPU
|Fan Headers||1 x CPU (4-pin)
1 x Pump (4-pin)
3 x CHA/SYS (4-pin)
|IO Panel||4 x USB 3.0 (USB 3.1 Gen 1)
1 x USB 3.1 Type-A
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C
1 x Network RJ-45
1 x DisplayPort 1.2
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x DVI-D
1 x Audio Jacks
1 x Optical SPDIF Out Port
|Other Features||COM/Parallel Port Header
Front Audio Header
RGB LED Connector
In The Box
We get the following:
- Driver Disk
- Rear I/O Shield
- Three black SATA cables (two straight, one with a 90° connector)
- CPU installation tool
- Quick case cable connector
- Two-way SLI bridge
Asus is not particularly generous with their bundled items but that is understandable considering the price range of the Prime Z270-A. The user’s manual is only printed in English but is very detailed. A QR code at the front of the manual brings the user to a basic but adequate DIY guide. Asus also includes a “CPU installation tool”, which is just a plastic holder that can be used to place the CPU into the socket without touching it with bare hands.
The quick connector (Q-Connector) is a simple but handy item for users that allows them to connect all of the case’s cables in a single move. The rest of the items consist of the typical DVD with the drivers and other software, a standard I/O shield, and three black SATA cables. Three is an interesting number not often seen in motherboard bundles, but facilitates a set of boot SSD, storage HDD and optional ODD.
Asus’s designers had to make the Prime Z270-A a motherboard that is both functional and also aesthetically pleasing, given the price and the target market. They hit the nail on the head with the placement of the headers and connectors, placing all of the internal headers across the bottom and the SATA connectors to the lower right corner of the motherboard. The only exceptions are the internal Thunderbolt header and one of the USB 2.0 headers, which are right above the third full-length PCIe slot.
A physical switch right above the headers at the lower right corner of the motherboard is an interesting addition. This switch allows the user to force the RAM modules to activate their XMP settings regardless of any BIOS settings, removing the need to go into the BIOS (which very few users do). The first two full-length PCIe slots feature a metal brace that assists in rigidity, preventing wrapping and damage due to excessive force, weight, or the combination of the two. This brace also indicates the slots most suited for GPUs. The third full-length PCIe slot and the DIMM slots do not feature such a brace.
Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, but we feel that Asus crossed some lines here. As a motherboard that features RGB lighting, the colors of the motherboard need to be neutral and its design simple, effectively matching any lighting color selection. Black and white are both neutral colors, yet the use of both on the same motherboard is highly contrasting, and the presence of silver/chrome parts makes matters even worse. The design of some parts, such as the plastic cover over the rear I/O ports, feels unnecessarily complex. Although the LED lighting is very well applied and bright and with virtually no dead spots around the motherboard, its physical design may be too extravagant for some.
The space between the two primary PCIe ×16 is arranged in an expanded setup, allowing for better cooling when two large cards/GPUs are installed. The third full-length PCIe slot can operate up to ×4 mode and, considering that it also lacks a metal support, the designer meant it to be used for devices other than GPUs, such as PCIe SSD drives or RAID controllers. SSD drives installed on the third full-length PCIe slot can be included in Intel RST/RAID configurations with the onboard M.2 slots, as all the drives will come from the chipset. Typically, the top M.2 slot is right above the first PCIe ×16 slot and can support devices up to 80 mm long (2280 type). Using an SATA drive on the first M.2 slot will disable one of the SATA ports, but PCIe drives will have no such effect. The second M.2 slot is below the motherboard’s chipset and supports devices up to 110 mm long (22110 type). This slot shares its bandwidth with two of the SATA ports and will disable them if a PCIe ×4 drive is installed.
Asus installed five fan headers. Two are meant for the CPU (primary fan plus an auxiliary fan) and are placed between the CPU and the DIMM slots. There are three headers for case fans, one at the top right corner and two next to each other at the middle left of the motherboard. Note that the two headers to the left of the motherboard are “high amp” headers, meant for powerful fans and/or liquid cooling pumps. There are no fan headers anywhere near the bottom of the motherboard.
The rear panel of the Asus Prime Z270-A may appear incomplete to some users, as the designers decided not to include any USB 2.0 ports and there is a bit of dead space near the top of the board. There are three display ports, one DVI-D, one DisplayPort 1.2 and one HDMI 1.4a. The HDMI port is limited to 30Hz @ 3840 × 2160 or 24Hz @ 4096 × 2160, but the DisplayPort 1.2 is capable of 60 Hz @ 4096 x 2304. We can also see one USB 3.1 Type-C and one USB 3.1 Type-A (teal) ports from the ASMedia ASM2142 controller, four USB 3.1 Gen 1 ports (blue), five 3.5 mm analog audio jacks, one optical SPDIF port, a legacy PS/2 port and the LAN cable port.
Asus went slightly overboard with the thickness of the thermal pads that they are using, which appears to be a good thing considering how good the contact between the heatsinks and the chipset/VRMs is. Unless very severe overclocking is going to take place, these heatsinks are more than adequate for the cooling needs of the motherboard.
The company painted and rebranded most of the components, which makes some of them difficult to identify. We could only identify some of the black polymer capacitors to be Nichicon FPCAP products. The only exception is the small audio capacitors at the bottom left corner of the motherboard, which are clearly branded and supplied by Nichicon. At this point, we should note that the audio circuitry is on a section of the PCB that has been mostly physically separated in an attempt to minimize noise and distortion from other components.
The VRM circuit is a 10-phase (8+2) design, with the phases distributed to the four different input voltages that the modern 1151 CPUs require (Core, I/O, Graphics, and System). The DIGI+ VRM controller is unique to Asus. The 4C06B and 4C09B MOSFETs are supplied by ON Semiconductor, which is common on recent Asus motherboards.
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A5 - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkA good comparison review of products that people will actually buy instead of the $500 monstrosities we normally see. Thanks.
theuglyman0war - Friday, July 21, 2017 - linkThe only reason I invested in flagship enthusiast bait was to bet on the components being built to last and stand up to harsh worst case scenarios.
Considering they were built to handle punishment under ln2 extremes.
But they usually went on sale fairly quickly after the initial release. ( the rampage extreme III I am still sitting on I bought for well under $400 in about 3 months after release )
I assume those days are over?
Which is a shame considering the punishing volt experiementation and water accidents I have had...
Hedging my bets on the expensive caps and mosfets have seemingly bought me longevity to wait out this incremental expensive hell!
In the interim on client builds...
I been getting the mil spec bait instead.
A comparison between the mil spec branded stuff between gigabyte and asus would be interesting as well as an honest exploration whether as much is actually of a grade that might guarantee longevity/abuse? Or manufacturer ad nauseam abuse that offers no value compared to server grade branded stuff? ( asus prime ).
Is there a mil spec ansi standard that is legally meaningful?
The relative cheap price compared to the gaming flagship bait seems reasonable.
But I am not even sure about server grade claims? Compared to say...
The expense of Super Micro?
I close my eyes n just buy the cheapest "tuf" branded boards n cross my fingers.
OddFriendship8989 - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkI can't comment about these two boards specifically, but I've used the Gaming K7 and Maximus IX Hero, and while I feel Gigabyte tends to be more generous in features, as someone who overclocks, I really need the Adaptive voltage setting that's missing from GIgabyte boards.
RiZad - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - link"The default boot time of both the Asus Prime Z270-A and the GIGABYTE Z270X-Ultra Gaming is very good, with 12.6 seconds for the former and 13.4 seconds for the latter" something is wrong with the graph for that because thats not at all what is shown. it seems to have the default and stripped reversed. the other 2 points of comparison show default on top, stripped under.
jbrl - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkWould have really liked to see a comparison to a 170 board with the updated bios. Otherwise, why should I drop a few hundred extra on a new board?
A5 - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkIf you're already on a Z170 board there is no reason to upgrade.
jbrl - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkThanks, that is what I was thinking. I guess they can't put that in the review because asus will stop sending them samples.
shabby - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkUltra gaming tactical pro sli ftw edition... this is getting a bit absurd.
MajGenRelativity - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkWhile there is certainly a proliferation of longer names, I feel these motherboard names are not excessively long. Sure, they could be shorter, but I feel that it doesn't give off an "Ultra gaming tactical pro sli ftw thor odin lightning edition" vibe
Bullwinkle J Moose - Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - linkBoot Times look Horrible!
I wish Intel would streamline their chipset for speed
I remember how a 1st gen ATOM motherboard with IDE/serial and parallel ports and 2GB Max Ram booted several seconds faster than the 2nd Gen ATOM with 4GB Ram due to the chipset features
Faster CPU's require faster chipsets streamlined for speed freaks!
A stock install of Windows XP on a sammy 840 or 850 Pro boots in 3 seconds on a 35 Watt dualcore Sandy Bridge
A stock install of Windows 10 takes alsmost 10 seconds longer to boot on the same system
disregarding the O.S., chipset features and BIOS should advance with the CPU to match the boot speeds of ancient systems
Why is no-one questioning what is actually limiting the boot speeds on newer systems?
I don't think you can "really" fix this with a different brand of motherboard
We can see that some brands do better than others, but I would think that a sammy 960 Pro booting Win 10 on a new 4+Ghz quadcore CPU could (or should) beat an ancient dualcore system at half the clockspeed in boot times
After all, Win 7 was optimized and advertised as booting faster than XP
Win 8 was optimized and advertised as being faster than Win 7
and Windows Spyware Platform 10 was supposed to be faster than Windows 8.1
This is DEFINITELY not fake news!