EVGA Z170 FTW Motherboard Review

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Once again, I have the pleasure of reviewing a new installment from EVGA’s FTW motherboard series. This time it’s the Z170 FTW getting strapped on to the benching stand. With an all-new look, new features, and support for Skylake CPU’s with DDR4 memory, EVGA has had their work cut out for them revamping the FTW. Let’s see what they kept, improved, and dropped on this newest iteration.

Specifications and Features

Taking a quick look at the specifications of the Z170 FTW, there’s a few things that stand out. Among those is the 5 phase PWM power section, 3200 MHz DDR4 Dual-Channel support, and 4x PCIe 3.0 slots. The board supports SLI+PhysX in PCI-E 3.0 x8/x8/x4 configuration, has eight USB 3.0 ports (2 front/6 rear), and a much improved audio section.

EVGA Z170 FTW Specifications
CPU Intel® Socket 1151 for 6th Generation Processor Family
Chipset Intel Z170 Express Chipset
Memory 4x DIMM Dual-Channel DDR4 3200MHz+ (up to 64GB)
Expansion Slots 2 x PCIe 3.0/2.0 x16 (x16 or dual x8, gray)
1 x PCIe 3.0 x4
Graphics Integrated Graphics Processor – 1x DP 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4
SLI Support Supports NVIDIA® Dual GPU SLI™ Technology + PhysX PCI-E Slot Arrangement – 1×16, 2×8+1×4+1×1
Storage 6x SATA 6G on Z170 PCH – RAID 0, 1, 5, 10
1x M.1 / 1x Key M (Up to 32Gbps)
LAN 1x Intel® i219 Gigabit NIC
Audio Realtek 8 Channel High Definition Audio – ALC1150
USB 8x USB 3.0 / 2x USB 2.0 – Z170 PCH
Back I/O Ports 1 x PS/2 keyboard/mouse combo port(s)
1 x DisplayPort
1 x HDMI
1 x LAN (RJ45) port(s)
1 x USB 3.1 (black) Type-C
1 x USB 3.1 (red) Type-A
6 x USB 3.0 (blue)
1 x Optical S/PDIF out
5 x Audio jack(s)
1 x Clear CMOS button(s)
1 x USB BIOS Flashback Button(s)
OS Support Windows 7, 8, 8.1, and 10
Form Factor ATX Form Factor
Length: 12in – 304.8mm
Width: 9.6in – 243.8mm

The next table lists the high-level feature set of the Z170 FTW. All images and descriptions provided by EVGA.

EVGA Z170 FTW Features
2015-10-05 23_43_14-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf Full UEFI GUI BIOS Interface
– Focused on functionality
2015-10-05 23_43_28-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf E-LEET X Tuning Utility
– Adjust your overclocking in the OS
2015-10-05 23_43_35-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf M.2 Slot
– Next generation form factor
2015-10-05 23_43_40-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf Onboard CPU Temp Monitor
– Monitor CPU temps quickly & easily
2015-10-05 23_43_45-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf 6 Layer PCB
– Improved overclock stability and PCB cooling
2015-10-05 23_43_54-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf Higher Gold Content
– Lower inductance, better power delivery!
2015-10-05 23_44_01-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf Onboard Power, Reset, and CMOS Reset
– Power at your fingertips
2015-10-05 23_44_13-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf 2-Way SLI + PhysX Support
– Engineered to handle the most demanding video loads
2015-10-05 23_44_20-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf Passive Chipset Heatsink
– No fans, lower noise, longer lifespan
2015-10-05 23_44_30-www.evga.com_products_pdf_140-SS-E177.pdf 5 Phase PWM
– Cleanest variable power switching

Retail Packaging

Looking at the packaging I see a very similar design as the last iteration. Simple front with the brand/logo that will catch your eye, while the back is a full feature/specification listing. I’ve also shown the sides of the box, these contain extra information that isn’t as pertinent.

Retail Package – Front

Retail Package – Front

Retail Packaging – Rear

Retail Packaging – Rear

Retail Packaging – Top

Retail Packaging – Top

Retail Packaging – Bottom

Retail Packaging – Bottom

Retail Packaging – Right

Retail Packaging – Right

Retail Packaging – Left

Retail Packaging – Left

 

Opening the box, we find… a box! This is the one that keeps the motherboard and accessories safe during transportation.

Inside Box

Inside Box

Accessories

The Z170 FTW comes with a fairly standard, but thorough, accessory package including an SLI Bridge, two SATA 6G Cables, Manual, Driver CD, I/O Shield, and I/O Cover. This is plenty to get a new build up and running, even if you have multiple drives and GPU’s.

The I/O Cover is an aesthetic piece that bolts down with your motherboard. It keeps the bright boxes of the I/O area out of view when using a windowed case. It’s a nice touch to give an “attention to detail” look to a build.

Accessories - Unpacked

Accessories – Unpacked

Accessories

Accessories

Manual and Driver CD

Manual and Driver CD

The EVGA Z170 FTW

Finally it’s time to take a look at the motherboard itself. This version of the FTW is a departure from the typical red/black color scheme in favor of a classy, solid black scheme. Immediately seen are two beefy heatsinks and quadruple PCIe 3.0 x16 slots. Turning the board around it is seen that all four of the PCIe 3.0 x16 slots have all their lanes soldered in. Normally, with this many slots, the electrical connections will step down to x8 or x4 on lower slots (Note: Multiple cards still drop the board to x8/x8, but you can use any single slot at x16). All the heatsinks are attached with screws which is expected on a motherboard at this level.

Motherboard - Front

Motherboard – Front

Motherboard - Rear

Motherboard – Rear

 

Motherboard with I/O Cover

Motherboard with I/O Cover

A Closer Look

Taking a look at the lower right section of the motherboard first we see the six SATA III ports, the front panel connectors, and the front USB3.0 connection. Shifting to the lower left area there’s a supplemental PCIe power connection, the front audio header, an SPDIF header, two PWM fan headers, and a case speaker.

Motherboard - Lower Right

Motherboard – Lower Right

Motherboard – Lower Left

Motherboard – Lower Left

 

Climbing up to the top right corner we find the 4x 288-pin DDR4 DIMMs, a power and reset button, the debug/monitor display, the 24-pin motherboard power connection, and three PWM fan headers. Moving over to the upper left there’s the power delivery area of the motherboard with its respective heatsink as well as the 8-pin CPU power connection.

Motherboard - DIMM Area

Motherboard – Upper Right

Motherboard - Upper Left

Motherboard – Upper Left

 

Glancing at the I/O ports of the motherboard, all the rear connections are found. These include 2x USB2.0 ports, 6x USB3.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, DisplayPort, HDMI, 5x 3.5mm audio jacks, an S/PDIF port, and the CMOS Clear button. It’s good to again see EVGA’s forward thinking here by foregoing the PS/2, DVI, and VGA ports on this generation as well.

Motherboard - Rear I/O Ports

Motherboard – Rear I/O Ports

Stripping the FTW

Now we’ll take a look at what the Z170 FTW has hidden behind the heatsinks. The picture below shows the 5-phase PWM power delivery section to the CPU. Only solid state capacitors and EVGA branded chokes to be found here.

This VRM section is more of a 5+4+1 phase. This is said simply because it is broken up into 5 phases for the CPU, 4 phases for the iGPU, and 1 phase for the VCCSA. The CPU is fed power that is controlled by a pair of Internation Rectifier IR35201 chips, which are full digital PWM voltage regulation modules. Top notch equipment and design. The Z97 version of this board had a very good VRM, this one is also absolutely outstanding.

Motherboard - VRM Exposed

Motherboard – VRM Exposed

Now to take a look at the motherboard heatsinks and the contact made with the components. The heatsinks on this board are hefty and have plenty of metal to dissipate the required heat load. The CPU VRM heatsink is designed as an extruded flame shape, I’m loving this subtle touch on an overall simple design. Flipping the heatsinks over it can be seen that the components touched the thermal pads and TIM as designed.

Heatsinks - Front

Heatsinks – Front

Heatasinks - Rear

Heatasinks – Rear

One part of the FTW that received a big overhaul from the Z97 model is the audio section. The controller has been upgraded to the Realtek ALC1150, the section of the motherboard is isolated, and the capacitors are much higher quality. I’ve still seen better audio sections, but this one is plenty for almost anyone using a 3.5mm output.

Audio Section

Audio Section

Realtek ALC1150

Realtek ALC1150

 

Below is a picture of the Gigabit Ethernet controller on the board and it’s the newest Intel model currently in use, the i219.

Intel i219 Ethernet Controller

Intel i219 Ethernet Controller

Here’s a picture of the BIOS chip inside the holder. The nice thing about this holder is that you have a replaceable BIOS chip without having an open socket on the motherboard.

BIOS Chip Inside the Holder

BIOS Chip Inside the Holder

UEFI BIOS and Overclocking Software

Unlike the color scheme, the BIOS is almost identical to last generation’s user interface. In the first slideshow the Overclock and Memory tabs are shown. In the Overclock tab there’s control for CPU ratio, BCLK frequency, and system voltages. In the Memory tab there are settings for memory speed, timings, and voltages. This tab also lets you set an XMP profile for the system memory. As before there is control for primary, secondary, and tertiary timings in this BIOS.

I must take a minute to mention this as it is very disappointing as a heavy benchmarking user, there is no frequency or voltage setting for the iGPU. EVGA did a great job setting up the VRM to support the iGPU nicely, but didn’t give you the tool to push it harder. This leaves you with only the BCLK to increase the iGPU speed, but still no voltage compensation.

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The next slideshow details out the Advanced tab. This is where all the system tweaks that don’t belong in an overclocking setting are located. From here things such as power savings, fan controls, and onboard devices can be configured to user preferred settings, among many other features.

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Found in the third and final slideshow are the Boot and Save & Exit tabs of the BIOS. Here the user can set where to boot from along with other startup settings, save BIOS profiles, and override the boot device for a one-time boot.

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EVGA’s E-LEET X Tuning Utility has been around for a few motherboard generations at this point. On the Z97 board I had issues getting the software to function at all, but this time the program worked perfectly. It has features such as system monitoring, system information, and overclocking adjustability. There’s one key function that I found to be missing though, vCore control. The software allows you to set all the voltages and speeds that the BIOS does with the exception of vCore and memory speed. Screenshots of the software can be seen in the slideshow below.

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Test Setup, Benchmarks, and Overclocking

Listed below is the test system used for benchmarking.

Test Setup
CPU Intel 6700K @ Stock (for the motherboard – 4.0 boost to 4.2 GHz) , 4.7 GHz for Overclocking.
Cooler CoolerMaster Glacer 240L
Motherboard EVGA Z170 FTW
RAM 2×4 GB DDR4 GSKILL RipJaws4 @ 3000 MHz 15-15-15-35 2T 1.35v
Graphics Card EVGA GTX 980 K|NGP|N
Solid State Drive Samsung 850 Pro 256GB
Power Supply EVGA SuperNova G2 850W
Operating System Windows 7 x64 SP1
Graphics Drivers 353.30

We’ll perform our usual set of benchmarks which test rendering, memory performance, and single/multi-threaded CPU performance. For 2D benchmarks we’ll use SuperPi 1M and 32M, wPrime, Intel XTU, and PiFast. For rendering it’s Cinebench R11.5 and R15. Memory performance is checked against AIDA64 and MaxxMEM. For encoding we use x264 and PoV Ray. Stock testing is performed with the BIOS as you get it out of the box, which will vary from motherboard to motherboard. When overclocking, a CPU speed of 4.7 GHz will be used for testing purposes. Memory speed is unchanged.

Memory Bandwidth and Throughput Benchmarks – AIDA64 and MaxxMEM2

AIDA64 4.0

AIDA64 4.0

AIDA64 4.7

AIDA64 4.7

MaxxMEM 4.0

MaxxMEM 4.0

MaxxMEM 4.7

MaxxMEM 4.7

CPU Rendering Benchmarks – Cinebench R11.5 and R15

Cinebench R11 4.0

Cinebench R11 4.0

Cinebench R11 4.7

Cinebench R11 4.7

Cinebench R15 4.0

Cinebench R15 4.0

Cinebench R15 4.7

Cinebench R15 4.7

Single Threaded CPU Benchmarks – Super Pi 1M and 32M / Pifast

SuperPi 1M 4.0

SuperPi 1M 4.0

SuperPi 1M 4.7

SuperPi 1M 4.7

SuperPi 32M 4.0

SuperPi 32M 4.0

SuperPi 32M 4.7

SuperPi 32M 4.7

PiFast 4.0

PiFast 4.0

PiFast 4.7

PiFast 4.7

Multi-Threaded CPU Benchmarks – WPrime 32M and 1024M, x264, PoV Ray R3.73, 7Zip, and Intel XTU

wPrime 4.0

wPrime 4.0

wPrime 4.7

wPrime 4.7

X264 4.0

X264 4.0

X264 4.7

X264 4.7

POVRay 4.0

POVRay 4.0

POVRay 4.7

POVRay 4.7

7zip 4.0

7zip 4.0

7zip 4.7

7zip 4.7

XTU 4.0

XTU 4.0

XTU 4.7

XTU 4.7

Pushing the Limits

Here’s where I take it up a notch, this screenshot shows a run on Cinebench R15 and SuperPi 1M at 4.8GHz on the CPU and 4.4GHz on the RING. My only voltage change was to set the vCore at 1.42V in the BIOS. With my current cooling I couldn’t run Cinebench at 4.9GHz, looks like I’ll need to wait until winter to give enough voltage for that extra step.

Cinebench R15 and SuperPi 1M 4.8

Cinebench R15 and SuperPi 1M 4.8

Conclusion

Looking back at the negatives to this board first there are no iGPU frequency or voltage controls and the bundled software is missing vCore and memory frequency controls. While these aren’t deal breakers, there are other boards on the market with these features included.

On a positive note the board is definitely still loaded with features. Anyone looking for a solid gaming board, a photo editing machine, or something to overclock lightly are going to be pleased with their purchase. The new color scheme is a nice look after the past four generations of black and red.

Comparing with the previous generation this iteration of the FTW has gained a better audio section, a better Ethernet controller, and an extra fan header. EVGA also decided to change all the fan headers to PWM. With these nice gains there have been some serious losses on the features for the enthusiast overclocking crowd. Features that were cut are the Dual BIOS chips, PCIe switches, EZ Voltage Read Points, and 2x SATA ports.

After the success of the Z170 Classified and how well the Z170 FTW has performed, EVGA has yet again brought a successful new lineup of motherboards to their consumers. As with the last few iterations, the FTW is EVGA’s mid-range motherboard. Coming in at an MSRP of $189.99, this board is $10 cheaper than the Z97 FTW, but personally I’d like to see the overclocking features added back in for the extra few dollars.

Time to give a rating, but this one took me a while to decide. In the end, I’ll still give this board an “Approved” stamp, but I almost decided on a “meh.” rating. Even though the motherboard performed very well both stock and overclocked, there were a lot of features for the enthusiast overclocker that were removed. If the features stay away then I feel the price needs to drop further next generation to be more competitive with other motherboards.

 

ocapproved

Click the stamp for an explanation of what this means.

-Austin (ATMINSIDE)

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Discussion
  1. NZKshatriya
    On the 8pin......why can't they find a way to do a sideways mount with some sort of stylized bracket for support? It's always a vertical connection....


    Interference with top fans and tops of cases.
    Nebulous
    Come to think of it I'm torn as well, but I'm leaning towards the plus. I also really like they came back with the socketed bios chip. Sure helps when you have a borked bios and can purchase a new bios chip and just plop it in and you're back in business.


    I definitely like the socketed BIOS chip. Quite a few top-end boards have this while keeping dual BIOS capability in the same price range though.
    Come to think of it I'm torn as well, but I'm leaning towards the plus. I also really like they came back with the socketed bios chip. Sure helps when you have a borked bios and can purchase a new bios chip and just plop it in and you're back in business.
    Nebulous
    Nice write up Austin! :thup:I really like the looks of this board. What I like where the 8pin cpu power connector is located at now.


    Thanks Neb :)

    I actually meant to mention this in the review, I'm torn as to whether I like the new location or not.

    On one hand, it's much easier to get to than up in the corner. On the other hand, you need to be mindful with large tower coolers of the cable coming up.
    It is an absolutely stunning board to look at, the looks impressed me.

    Removing quite a few features for the power users though, that didn't.

    That said, I'm sure 90%+ of users didn't need DIP switches or voltage read points.